Latest News and Comment from Education

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Campbell Brown Has Blocked Me From Twitter | deutsch29

Campbell Brown Has Blocked Me From Twitter | deutsch29:

Campbell Brown Has Blocked Me From Twitter

Yep. I haven’t been on Twitter for two months yet, and I have been officially blocked by none other than Campbell Brown.
By blocking me, Brown is trying to prevent me from even viewing her Twitter page. However, in such a situation, all one must do is sign out of one’s own Twitter account to view any page from which one is blocked.
So, that’s what I did in order to access her page to write this post.
Brown recently stopped posting on Twitter.  On May 20, 2016, she stated why:

Brown’s exit immediately follows a situation that she brought upon herself with the statement that “two out of three eighth graders in this country cannot read or do math at grade level,” which happens to be Brown’s grossly misinterpreting the meaning of NAEP proficiency. Here is that story in Slate as Brown posted it:

I did respond to her insistence that she was right. Apparently, here are the tweets that I wrote and that offended her:

Utah charter schools spend public funds on private companies

Utah charter schools spend public funds on private companies:
Utah charter schools spend public funds on private companies

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's charter schools are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on the services of private companies, according to a Salt Lake Tribune analysis.
A study of expense reports shows two companies received nearly $7 million from the state's charter schools last year for providing administrative and academic functions, the latest in a trend in recent years.
Unlike public schools, charter schools are their own districts and rely on private charter-management businesses for needs such as information technology and human resources departments. These companies are not obligated to disclose how they spend any public money, according to the newspaper.
Any surplus funds are kept for profit and not returned to the schools.
Carolyn Sharette, executive director of the Draper-based American Preparatory Schools, disputed speculation that she and other charter management companies earn million-dollar salaries. American Preparatory Schools operates five American Preparatory Academy campuses in Utah. So, school administrators at those campuses are not considered school employees. The company charges $900 a student — or $4 million in 2014 — for managing operations and curriculum.
"If a school-management company is able to provide that richness of programming in the lowest-funded state in the country and still find profit, then perhaps they shouldn't be criticized," Sharette said. "Perhaps we should be delving into what on earth they are doing to be able to do it."
Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said the state has a long history of joining with private companies on public services. He compared the practice to contractors who pour concrete on Utah roads.
"I just don't see anything terribly remarkable about any of these relationships," Van Tassell said.
Concerns about charter schools' spending of public funds also stem from the relationships some lawmakers have with the companies. The Tribune found in three years of expense reports that several high-earning private companies are owned by or employ current or former state lawmakers and their family members.
Virginia-based K12 Management gets $4.5 million per year for running Utah Virtual Academy. The head of the school is Stacey Hutchings, wife of Kearns Republican Rep. Eric Hutchings. He serves on the House Education Committee. However, Stacey Hutchings says she does not lobby him on anything that affects her charter school.
"He has his work, and I have mine," she said. "We keep it pretty separate."Utah charter schools spend public funds on private companies:

Jersey Jazzman: Charter School Realities: Morris, NJ

Jersey Jazzman: Charter School Realities: Morris, NJ:

Charter School Realities: Morris, NJ

I was fortunate to participate in a great academic conference at Rutgers this week: Education Reform, Communities and Social Justice: Exploring the Intersections. I'll try to get to some of my impressions later, but for now I want to thank Julia Sass Rubin for inviting me and congratulate her and her staff on doing such a wonderful job (looking forward to next year!).

One of the presenters was Paul Tractenberg of the Rutgers School of Law - Newark. Paul was a key player in the landmark Abbott v. Burke cases, which led to New Jersey's overhaul of its school financing system (sadly, the state has recently retreated from its commitment to funding equity). 

Paul Tractenberg, Rutgers Conference on Education Reform, 5/20/16
photo courtesy of Sarah Tepper Blaine

Paul's presentation was about the Morris, NJ school district, a textbook case of what happens when the courts order school desegregation. Paul wrote about Morris back in 2013:
If we could get beyond our fetishistic attachment to home rule, there are many ways to consolidate districts, either on an individual or statewide basis. Examples of both abound. The Morris School District was created in 1973 out of the adjacent Morristown and Morris Township districts, one increasingly black and lower-income, the other overwhelmingly white and middle to upper income. It was created primarily for racial balance and allied educational reasons. 
Despite initial start-up issues, 40 years later the Morris School District is an amazing success story. It may be the most racially and socioeconomically balanced district in the state, it sends 93 percent of its students on to higher education, and it is widely considered to have been primarily responsible for Morristown’s ability to flower as the state’s leading county seat.
Yet few New Jerseyans are even aware of the existence of the Morris School
- See more at:

Charter school advocates flood Sacramento education races with $300,000 | The Sacramento Bee

Charter school advocates flood Sacramento education races with $300,000 | The Sacramento Bee:

Charter school advocates flood Sacramento education races with $300,000

Charter school advocates have spent nearly $300,000 backing candidates for three seats on the board of the Sacramento County Office of Education, positions that once were considered sleepy political outposts.
Besides providing oversight for Sacramento County school districts, the education board reviews the charters of countywide charter school systems and hears appeals from charter schools whose applications have been rejected by local school districts.
In recent years, the California Charter Schools Association has emerged as a major player in supporting candidates for the board. This year, the advocacy group has focused its donations on three candidates: Joanne Ahola, who works for the association, Heather Davis, who is married to Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, an employee of the charter schools group; and Roy Grimes, a former county education board member challenging an incumbent who has voted against reauthorizing charter schools.
Carlos Marquez, senior political director for the charter schools association, said it views the Sacramento County Office of Education as “a really strong safeguard, a strong backstop for (preventing) politically motivated denials (of charter schools) at the local level.”
“We are happy with the board,” he added. “It’s really important right now that we maintain continuity.”
The county office of education has so far chartered five schools – all part of a network operated by Margaret Fortune that focuses on closing the achievement gap between African American and other students. Fortune recently finished serving as a California State University trustee and was an adviser for former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis.
“I think it’s unfortunate that they are throwing so much money into this race,” said Orlando Fuentes, 65, who is running for the Area 6 seat to represent the south county, including Elk Grove. “It’s clear to me that the California Charter Schools Association is eager and willing to put up this kind of money to get charter school advocates on public school boards.”
Unlike the expensive 2012 races for three SCOE board seats, teachers unions haven’t spent heavily so far, though the charter school spending hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I’m not surprised to see the Charter Schools Association spending money on candidates of their choice,” said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association. “They are an organization that has an agenda. They ..... support candidates that push their agenda.”
The charter advocates gave the most support – $131,700 – to Grimes, 66, who has served on both the county board and that of the Sacramento City Unified School District.
He is running against incumbent Harold Fong, the only member of the county board of education to vote in December against reauthorizing the Fortune schools for another five years. The Area 7 seat occupied by Fong includes much of south Sacramento.
Fong said the donations from the charter schools association to Grimes represent “a lot ofCharter school advocates flood Sacramento education races with $300,000 | The Sacramento Bee:

Read more here:

WTF: Washington State PTA to Members: Not Qualified to Talk about Money for Education

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Washington State PTA to Members: Not Qualified to Talk about Money for Education:
Washington State PTA to Members: Not Qualified to Talk about Money for Education

There was a speech that was delivered by Duncan Taylor, the interim Legislative Director, at this weekend's PTSA convention in Yakima.  I heard about it from several PTA people who told me they were quite surprised at what he said.  He skipped going over what happened at the last legislative session in Olympia which is surprising. 

So the lessons learned from this past legislative session were not so important to talk about for Mr. Duncan. Unfortunately, there was one key thing that it would behoove all ed groups to understand - bring the kids.  It certainly was the tipping point for some Democratic legislators for charter law legislation. 

What did he say?

Basically, Mr. Duncan is saying PTSA shouldn't advocate for money for public education for two reasons.

One, all those numbers are too big and complex for parents to understand.

Two, it's not their mission as a group.

 He said that for the last 30 years that the issue of full-funding for public ed has been on their list and why was that?

I'll bite; that education keeps costing more money because of mandates from the state and the need for more student supports? Let's look at the PTA website;here's their mission statement:

Our Mission:
PTA is 

  • a powerful voice for children,
  • a relevant resource for families, schools and communities, and
  • an advocate for the well-being and education of all children.
 Mr. Duncan apparently said that PTA isn't a org that works on tax issues.  He said that kind of work wasn't part of their mission.  And, that parents don't have the expertise to talk about it to legislators.

    He's probably right on that exact point - taxing"  but under "History" they say,"here are some specific examples of PTA successes right here in Washington"(partial)

    Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints – Exceptional Delaware

    Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints – Exceptional Delaware:

    Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints

    I will be emailing all Delaware Superintendents, Heads of School, and the DOE on this tomorrow, but I wanted to put it out there now.  If any of you have ANY data walls with kid’s names on them or anything that could make a student easily identifiable by the peers in their class, you have until the end of the day on Thursday to get rid of them.  If you don’t, I will start filing FERPA complaints against each and every one of the schools that ignore this.  I don’t mean to play hard ball here, but you are violating the most sacrosanct part of education, the rights of the child.
    I highly recommend ALL Delaware parents contact their schools and ask if they have these data walls in their child’s school.  I also suggest they ask the principal or assistant principal to make sure their child IS NOT ON IT.  I don’t care if you think your kid is the next Einstein.  It is wrong to do this.  I don’t care if it is the best charter school, magnet school, or regular school out there.  It is a violation.
    If you want to kill a child’s self-esteem, there is no easier way to do it than data walls.  This latest disgusting and sick craze of schools is an actual posting in school hallways or a classroom of a child’s progress.  Whoever thought this was a good idea is one sick individual.  I’m sure it is great for the smart kids who are always on top.  But for those who struggle it is a demeaning and humiliating experience.  For priority schools in Delaware, this is a requirement.  From the minds of those with no soul in the education reform world who don’t give a crap about children and their needs.  For students with disabilities, this is Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints – Exceptional Delaware:

    Stop Fighting Social Media. Start Working with Students + Teachers to Integrate It Into Learning!

    Lisa Nielsen: The Innovative Educator: Stop Fighting Social Media. Start Working with Students + Teachers to Integrate It Into Learning!:

     Stop Fighting Social Media. Start Working with Students + Teachers to Integrate It Into Learning!

    Many students and teachers are in districts like Wake County where they are subjected to policies, guidelines, and mandates that they rarely have any say in. It doesn’t have to be that way and in New York City it isn’t. Instead the newly released social media guidelines for students 12 and younger incorporated the participatory design process and were developed with rather than for students and teachers. These guidelines serve as a companion to the 13 and older guidelines and have been positively received by stakeholders.  

    When we spoke with teens for the 13+ guidelines they provided useful input. They said they wanted the guidelines in infographic form as that is how they like to consume information. They also said they wanted to hear from real-world experts and that they wanted relevant stats cited. They wanted the district to recognize that students are using social media for academic and career success and respect their use of these platforms.  The resulting guidelines which got the thumbs up from teens, incorporated all feedback.  

    Pre-teens wanted something different.  They said they’d prefer to have the guidelines in an activity book format. They told us their favorite uses of social media. This included making  movies in MovieStar Planet, watching YouTube videos, and having discussions on learning platforms like Edmodo, Schoology, and Google Classroom.  They were concerned about students being kind to one another and wanted to ensure no one’s feelings are hurt because of what takes on social media.

    The resulting guidelines incorporated their feedback and were created in the suggested format. The activity book contains fortune teller games, crossword puzzles, word search, and more. Teachers tested them on students and the students were pleased with the results.  
    Screenshot 2016-05-21 at 4.33.44 PM.png

    The guidelines help teachers and parents become comfortable with using social media to support student success in career, college and citizenship. In addition to the guidelines there are also parent and teacher guides for primary and secondary school aged children as well as professional development for teachers, parent coordinators, and guidance counselors.  You can access everything at

    The guidelines and accompanying materials were developed in partnership with Common Sense Lisa Nielsen: The Innovative Educator: Stop Fighting Social Media. Start Working with Students + Teachers to Integrate It Into Learning!:

    What Guides My Thinking on School Reform: Pulling the Curtain Aside * | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

    What Guides My Thinking on School Reform: Pulling the Curtain Aside * | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:
    What Guides My Thinking on School Reform: Pulling the Curtain Aside *

    From time to time readers will ask me what I believe should be done about teaching, learning, and school reform. They usually preface their request with words such as: “Hey, Larry, you have been a constant critic of existing reforms. You have written about schools not being businesses and have pointed out the flaws in policymaker assumptions and thinking about reform. And you have been skeptical about the worth of new computer devices, software, and online instruction in promoting better teaching and faster learning. So instead of always being a critic just tell us what you think ought to be done.”
    Trained as a historian of education and knowledgeable about each surge of school reform to improve teaching and learning over the past century, I cannot offer specific programs for school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and voters to consider. But I do embrace certain principles that guide my thinking about teaching, learning, and reform. And also this blog for the past six years. These principles come out of my five decades of being a teacher, administrator, and scholar. These principles come out of my school experiences and as a site-based researcher. Most readers will be familiar with what I say. No surprises here. But these principles do steer my thinking about teaching, learning, and reform.
    Context matters. Suggesting this program or that reform for all math classes or urban districts or elementary schools is impossible because the setting in of itself influences what happens in the school and classrooms. There is no  reform I know of aimed at improving classroom teaching and student performance that should be applied across the board (e.g., school uniforms, teaching children to code, project-based learning). Policies and programs delivered to teachers need to be adapted to different settings.
    No single way of teaching works best with all students. Because students differ in motivation, interests, and abilities, using a wide repertoire of approaches in lessons and units is essential. Direct instruction, small groups, whole-group guided discussions, student choice, worksheets, research papers, project-based instruction, online software, etc., etc., etc. need to be in teachers’  tool kits. There are, of course, reformers and reform-minded researchers who try to alter how teachers teach and the content of their instruction from afar such as Common Core State Standards, the newest version of New Math, New Science, New History, or similar curricular inventions. I support such initiatives as long as they rely upon a broad repertoire of teacher approaches to content and skills. When the reforms do not, when they ask teachers to adhere to a certain best way of teaching (e.g., online “personalized” lessons, project-based teaching, direct instruction) regardless of context, I oppose such reforms.
    Small changes in classroom practice occur often and slowly; fundamental and rapid changes in practice seldom happen. While well-intentioned reformers seek to basically change how teachers teach reading, math, science, and history, such 180 degree changes in the world of the classroom (or hospital, or therapist’s office, or law enforcement or criminal justice) seldom occur. Over the decades, experienced teachers have become allergic to reformer claims of fast and deep changes in what they do daily in their classrooms. As What Guides My Thinking on School Reform: Pulling the Curtain Aside * | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:



    ICYMI: May Winds Down

     Boy, it is hard to find the time to read it all. Here are a few choice samples from the week

    We Must Not Be Defeated 

    Jose Luis Vilson reflects on where we stand on the anniversary of Brown v. Board, with a particular eye toward what we can do in the classroom. I can't really do this justice in a capsule-- just read it.

    Chris Christie Loves Segregated Schools

    If you are not a regular reader of Mark Weber's Jersey Jazzman blog, you should be. His gift is for making a case with actual data. Here's his explanation of what Christie is really supporting when the gov gets out his charter school pom poms.

    Great Reading Must Be Felt, Not Standardized

    Steven Singer makes the case for the realm experience of literature in the classroom

    Are Grades Destroying My Six Year Old Kid

    William Ferriter talks about watching the real impact of policies on his own child. Time to talk about how we measure student progress.

    Four Things Worse Than Not Learning To Read in Kindergarten 

    Makes a nice companion piece to the previous post. 

    Stars Reflect on Arts Programs That Shaped Their Success

    There's now a Tony for arts education. Here Playbill talks to several successful theater folks about the arts education that helped them get where they are today.

    What Is a Community School 

    Sarah Lahm takes a look at the definition of a community school. 

    Being Black at America's Elite Public High Schools

    If you remember how things were going in Boston during the contentious days of busing in the seventies, this article may not shock or surprise you. But This is still worth a read-- a good, solid look at how racism is still alive and kicking at even the top tier of US public high schools. Discouraging, but necessary.

    CURMUDGUCATION: Is There an Education Uber?

    CURMUDGUCATION: Hawaii Cuts the Testing Cord

    The Debate Over Opting Out of State Testing Continues - The Atlantic

    The Debate Over Opting Out of State Testing Continues - The Atlantic:
    A Status Update on All Those Testing Opt-Outs

    Many families this year have chosen to boycott state-mandated assessments as an act of civil disobedience, and the consequences are—and continue to be—complicated.

    With state testing season wrapping up, the decision by some families to skip the K-12 exams in protest this spring has once again sparked widespread discussion—and news coverage around the country.
    In San Diego, for example, teachers handed out fliers to parents earlier this month informing them of the right to keep their children from taking state tests, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. A local teachers’ union official cited worries about the amount of testing, as well as its relevance and accuracy for gauging student learning.
    In Tennessee, where the opt-out movement appeared to be gaining steam this spring, as reported by Chalkbeat Tennessee and other outlets, it became a moot point after the bulk of state testing for grades three through eight was canceled altogether in April. That decision followed a series of problems with the administration of the assessments for English-language arts and math.
    The actions come as concerns have risen about the volume of standardized testing at the K-12 level, its perceived impact on instruction, and its use in evaluating schools, students, and teachers.
    It will likely be some time before the volume of students skipping state exams this year is clear, and whether the number is higher or lower than in spring 2015, when the issue hit the national education radar in a big way.
    In the meantime, debates over the wisdom of having students skip the exams continue to rage.
    “Many opt-out leaders see what they’re doing as an act of civil disobedience,” said Robert Schaeffer of the advocacy group FairTest, during an Education Writers Association seminar in Los Angeles earlier this year.
    Schaeffer, who has worked closely with opt-out activists around the country, cautioned that parents and others promoting the cause do not speak with a uniform voice, nor do their agendas necessarily align.
    “The opt-out movement needs to be understood as not a top-down thing, but a genuine grassroots, bottom-up movement in which different people in different states have different agendas,” said Schaeffer. He sees opting out as a powerful strategy to build pressure to reduce testing, remove “high stakes” from assessments, and “create space for the development of new and better forms of assessment and accountability.”
    Chris Stewart, the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, has sharply criticized the push for families to sit out state tests.
    “You can’t close the achievement gap by erasing the data,” Stewart said at the Education Writers Association event, arguing that opting out especially hurts students of color. He describes the efforts as reflecting an alliance of “unions, The Debate Over Opting Out of State Testing Continues - The Atlantic:

    Frustrated, talented teachers leave Florida classrooms in droves - Orlando Sentinel

    Frustrated, talented teachers leave Florida classrooms in droves - Orlando Sentinel:

    Frustrated, talented teachers leave Florida classrooms in droves

    Noah David Lein has always loved teaching.
    And if you believe the state of Florida, the honors English teacher at Winter Springs High School is precisely the kind of instructor we want in our classrooms.
    He sparks kids' curiosity and was among only 4 percent of the region's teachers to receive the "Best and Brightest" bonus for "highly effective" teachers last year.
    Lein still loves opening students' minds and introducing them to complex thoughts.
    But not in Florida.
    Not in a state that continually beats teachers down.
    So next week, when the school year ends, Lein plans to walk out of the classroom for the last time ... and in to a career in sales.
    It wasn't an easy decision. To put it bluntly, Lein said: "I kind of threw up in my mouth at the thought of abandoning the profession I always wanted."
    But Florida politicians keep pushing good teachers away.
    With a lack of respect. With obsessing about standardized testing over learning. And with cruddy salaries.
    Lein32, said he started working in 2007 with a salary of $37,000. Nine years later, he makes $40,300 for his family of three — and started working weekends at a catering company to make ends meet.
    "I've spent my last ounce of energy to make a difference to my students, but it isn't making a difference to me and my family,"he said. "I'm exhausted, I'm bitter, and I'm grasping for something to be hopeful and positive about."
    If you care about public education, Lein's loss should depress you.
    But it should disturb you even more to know that he's not alone. Rather, he's part of a trend — of Florida teachers leaving the profession they once loved.
    The exodus is so intense that state records show that 40 percent of new teachers leave within five years after they start.
    Florida's attrition rate for new teachers is 15-20 percent higher than the national average, depending on the year.
    They are teachers like Lein. And like Lisa McIntosh, who will also leave her job next week as a third-grade teacher at Wekiva Elementary School.
    "It saddens me to see the current state of education, but the increase in testing and the focus on testing has taken a great deal of the joy out of teaching," she said. "At this point, I no longer want to be a part of this situation."
    McIntosh is leaving to work for a nonprofit that focuses on combating drug abuse.
    Now, multiply that story over and over until you get thousands of teachers leaving every Frustrated, talented teachers leave Florida classrooms in droves - Orlando Sentinel:

    Local legislative races become battleground in statewide fight over education

    Local legislative races become battleground in statewide fight over education:

    Local legislative races become battleground in statewide fight over education

    Davis and surrounding areas that make up two legislative districts are becoming a Ground Zero of sorts in a battle over the future of public education in California.
    Assembly District 4 and Senate District 3 have seen nearly $1.6 million pumped into the campaigns of two candidates by EdVoice, a foundation that supports charter schools and tying student test scores to teacher evaluations, among other reforms.
    EdVoice has spent more than $1 million in support of Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa, in his bid for the state Senate and more than $500,000 on Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s bid for the Assembly. No other legislative candidates in California have benefited as much from EdVoice funding.
    The California Teachers Association — one of the most politically powerful unions in the state Capitol and a traditional foe of EdVoice — has endorsed Davis Mayor Dan Wolk in the Assembly race, but has remained neutral in the Senate race.
    The CTA has contributed money to Wolk’s campaign but has not reported any independent expenditures on his behalf, nor had any other Super PACs — until this weekend.
    That’s when the “Coalition for a Healthy Community Supporting Wolk and Opposing Aguiar-Curry for Assembly 2016, Sponsored by Teachers and Consumer Attorneys Organizations,” reported spending $20,000 in support of Wolk’s campaign, and $40,000 in opposition to Aguiar-Curry’s. Additionally, Pace of California School Employees Association reported $17,888 in support of Wolk’s campaign.
    That’s still a tiny fraction of the $1.34 million in independent expenditures fueling Aguiar-Curry’s campaign so far, but may be a sign of things to come in the final two weeks of the primary campaign.
    The California Teachers Association has seen two tough legal challenges just in the last year alone and may need all the allies it can get in the state Capitol.
    Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court, reduced to eight justices with the death of Antonin Scalia, deadlocked 4-4 on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, giving the teachers’ union a victory for the time being.
    The case challenged the CTA’s requirement that all teachers pay union fees. Under California law, public employees who choose not to join unions pay a fair-share service fee close to the amount union members pay in dues. Those fees, currently mandatory, pay for the costs of collective bargaining as well as some political activity like lobbying, though non-members can obtain refunds for campaign spending and other political activities.
    The fees go a long way toward funding the CTA’s agenda in Sacramento, where the union spends millions of dollars supporting or opposing ballot initiatives and helping to elect friendly legislators, primarily Democrats.
    Legal front
    The case against the CTA was brought by the Center for Individual Rights, representing 10 California teachers as well as the Christian Local legislative races become battleground in statewide fight over education:

    Pennsylvania seniority bill advances the war on teachers — NewsWorks

    Pennsylvania seniority bill advances the war on teachers — NewsWorks:

    Pennsylvania seniority bill advances the war on teachers

    I’ve watched with a mix of amazement and chagrin as the blame for a crumbling school system has been callously laid at teachers’ feet.
    To be sure, there are bad teachers within the profession, and they should be culled from the ranks. But in my experience, most teachers choose their vocation because they genuinely care about children. And for those who find their calling in the classroom, a long career can give them the opportunity to literally change their students’ lives.
    Still, teachers have found themselves facing unrelenting attacks from conservative politicians and their allies. In Pennsylvania, the latest salvo in the war on teachers is the so-called “Protecting Excellent Teachers Act,” a Republican-backed bill that aims to make teacher seniority a thing of the past. Gov. Wolf has vetoed the bill, and Republicans have responded by threatening to hijack the state budget process, a move that could once again throw our state into economic chaos.
    The legislators pushing the “Protecting Excellent Teachers Act” will tell you it’s about improving educational outcomes for children by putting the best teachers in classrooms. I’m not buying it. I think it’s a cynical ploy to gain political advantage by crippling the teachers unions that typically support Democrats.
    Tom Wolf knows the power of those unions. The teachers, after all, played a key role in helping Wolf to make Republican Tom Corbett the first incumbent Pennsylvania governor to lose reelection in 40 years.  
    The Republican attack on teachers is bigger than Pennsylvania, however. It's a national effort to neutralize teachers as a political force. If Republicans can successfully push unionized teachers aside, they will do much more than weaken a key Democratic constituency. They will come one step closer to privatizing public education. 
    Without well-funded and politically engaged teachers unions, it’s easier to pass voucher legislation and put public money into private schools. It’s simpler to turn over public schools to for-profit companies. It’s easier to cut salaries and benefits for teachers in order to enrich corporate interests.
    But nobody would want to do those things if public education was universally successful, so Republicans—sometimes working in concert with right-leaning Democrats—have come up with what I believe to be a national strategy. Its elements include defunding public education at the state level, fighting teachers unions through legislation and litigation, and blaming the resultant mess on teachers.
    It’s a brilliant scheme, really. We’ve seen it play out in court cases, including Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association. In that case, a teacher, backed by the right-leaning legal nonprofit, Center for Individual Rights, sued to be exempted from paying union dues because she did not share the union’s political bent. Had she won her case, the union’s ability to collect dues would have been decimated, and their political strength would have been sapped. The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on the case.    
    However, the blame-the-teachers scheme isn’t limited to the courts. It’s also playing out in Chicago, where recalcitrant state lawmakers have refused to fairly fund the nation’s third largest school district. We’re seeing it in Detroit, where teachers resorted to sickouts after the School District told them they might not be paid for their work. 
    We’ve seen it in Pennsylvania, where the state legislature has fought to open more charter schools, which tend to have non-union workforces. This despite Pennsylvania seniority bill advances the war on teachers — NewsWorks: