Latest News and Comment from Education

Thursday, July 4, 2019

It's our time to show the world what democracy looks like - Lily's Blackboard

It's our time to show the world what democracy looks like - Lily's Blackboard

It’s our time to show the world what democracy looks like

Lily’s remarks on July 4th, 2019 to the delegates of the  98th NEA Representative Assembly, in Houston, Texas.
(As prepared for delivery)
Welcome to the biggest family reunion EVER! This is Red/White and Blue joy! You all look so wonderful and so weird… but as much fun as we’re having, you know the serious business that brings us here. On this 4th of July, you know we are here to stand up for something we’ve taken for granted.
Well, at least I’ll own it. I’ve taken it for granted that in an open, democratic society the moral arc of the universe would always bend towards justice; that our country would keep finding ways to be more inclusive of folks who had been excluded; that we’d be looking for ways to give opportunities to folks who had so little; that we’d see more ways to appreciate our diversity of cultures and languages and races and our LGBTQ communities.
I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I know it doesn’t just happen on its own. The moral arc of the universe needs people to put their backs into pushing that sucker towards justice.
Because there are folks out there who are determined to take us back to when people knew their places: Women got the coffee; people of color sat at the back of the bus; LGBTQ people trembled in fear in dark closets where they didn’t bother anybody.
Public schools and educators and the students and families who rely on them were supposed to accept year after year more funding cuts; program cuts; class sizes exploding; the family of educators to support that whole student being laid off, and being told that told the solution is not more funding, it’s to learn how to Do More With Less – or so say the people who have never done our jobs.
The moral arc of the universe needs us now to put our backs into Education Justice.
Who here has ever heard of a little thing called Red for Ed? (I told my mom on Tuesday we’re all wearing Red for Ed on Thursday. She said, “Who’s Ed?”)
Stand up and shout if you have personally marched, rallied, held a picket sign and been visible standing up for your students and your profession this year! You showed up, and it’s made a difference. You’ve changed the narrative.
Reporters began asking different questions all of a sudden. They’d ask me if it’s true that teachers and support staff have to pay for their own supplies sometimes? (Who knew?)
Are there really classrooms with 35 or 40 kids in them? (Oh Yeah)
They ask me if it’s getting harder to convince young people to aspire to become teachers when they won’t be able to pay off their student loans on a new teacher’s salary.
They ask me about the growing inequality of service and support for students who live in our poorest communities which are still – and not coincidentally – overwhelmingly our black and brown communities; our immigrant communities.
They’re finally asking the right questions.
That’s because of your collective voice lifting up the truth and that truth is getting results.
In February 2018, West Virginia became a Verb: We can all now say – Don’t make me go all West Virginia on you… and folks know what you’re talking about.
And you know what happened next, of course: Oklahoma and Arizona and North Carolina and Kentucky and Colorado. We celebrated all of them this time last summer.
And then in the fall, came an election. Every Congressional House seat was up; important governor’s races, state legislators, mayors and school boards… all over the country in places that had Red for Ed action and a lot of places that didn’t.
All over this country, politicians ran on being the best candidate for… (wait for it)…better public schools! And some of them were telling the truth. And some of them were big fat liars.
Does it just make you smile that Scott Walker had to clean out his desk because he was beaten by an educator? Good times.
Does it just make you smile that the first African American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress was up on this stage as the National Teacher of the Year and NEA member Jahana Hayes!?
Does it make you smile that in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and Idaho we elected pro-education governors. (And let me say this again – In Idaho we elected a pro-education REPUBLICAN governor.)
And with the assistance of NEA training of our own members, I’m proud to report that over 1,000 educators were elected to local, state and federal offices across the country.
The Red for Ed movement in 2019 has continued in locals like Los Angeles and Denver and Oakland and Sacramento and in states like Texas, Virginia, Oregon, South Carolina and Michigan.
And in other states – even without a march – this movement will open up surprising doors. Politicians who usually said, “Talk to the hand,” reached out to our leaders and said, “Let’s talk. We would so rather you not go All West Virginia on us.”
This movement has created something better for millions of students and educators – but it’s bigger than that. We’ve created something better for communities. For this country that we love.
And that scares the DeVos family and the Walton Family and the Koch Brothers. I’ve noticed billionaires who have plans to privatize our public schools, hardly ever paint a picket sign and rally on the capitol steps (‘cause there’d be like four of them and their limo drivers.)
Oh, no no. They’re so much more civilized. They plan their Education Industry takeover where no one can see them. They sit and sip at the country club and decide the fate of students they will never see.
I want you to know, I have never taken a politician to a country club. I take them to a school cafeteria for corn dogs. I want governors and senators and mayors to meet you – and see the love and the professionalism in YOU. I want them to listen to the people who know what they’re talking about.
Because the people who THINK they know EVERYTHING are so annoying to those of us who actually do.
The Koch Brothers will never take their case to the public because the public’s not stupid. They have to hide their agenda. Because their agenda is profoundly un-democratic; and un-American.
They want a permanent and institutionalized system where mega-wealth and mega-corporations rule. Donald Trump was not their favorite candidate four years ago, but he is now. He’s delivered their tax cuts; he’s accepted their preferred list of corporate-friendly judges; and he’s placed their cronies in key government positions expressly to sabotage agencies that were set up to protect consumers, the environment, health care, workers, and, of course, education.
We try very hard to find Democratic friends and Republican friends and independent friends. We believe that support for public education and public services should never be partisan.
I am not being partisan when I tell you that Donald Trump disqualified himself for our consideration many times and in many ways, but most particularly on education issues, he disqualified himself with two words: Betsy DeVos.
He put the least qualified person to ever hold a cabinet position in charge of protecting children’s access to quality, equitable public education. To protect the rights of girls to have the same opportunity as boys; to protect immigrant students and English language learners; to protect LGBTQ students and poor students and students with disabilities and students everywhere against racism and discrimination. So, it won’t surprise you that just the other day she CONTINUE READING: It's our time to show the world what democracy looks like - Lily's Blackboard

An Open Letter to Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers Regarding the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border | Common Dreams Views

An Open Letter to Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers Regarding the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border | Common Dreams Views

An Open Letter to Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers Regarding the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border
Let us carry the torch reignited by the CTU and the UTLA to illuminate the collective imagination and the bold dream for justice

During their 2012 strike, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) popularized the slogan “Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.” CTU demonstrated the necessity of genuine solidarity and cleared the way for the return of social justice unionism. They stood shoulder to shoulder with students, parents and community members to fight school closures, racial inequality, and the privatization of public education. Writing for Jacobin Magazine, Micah Uetricht summarizes the significance of CTU’s approach, “When a union like the CTU can establish itself as a body that fights not just for its members’ own narrow interests but for the entire working class, it can become the vehicle for a much broader leftist agenda.” In short, it can affect change beyond the confines of the contract; it can deliver a broader slice of justice. 
Teacher’s working conditions are students’ learning conditions. The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) understood this when they launched a strike earlier this year, winning not only pay increases and smaller class sizes but also an end to “stop and frisk” policies within the schools and the addition of an immigrant defense fund to support undocumented families. In these instances, education unions have embraced the interests of the entire working class, and in doing so, they have helped unleash a collective imagination that has raised the expectations of communities everywhere.
That collective imagination, that boldness to dream, is exactly what is needed in this moment of national crisis when families and children are being detained at the border, kept in squalid conditions and held, in what Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rightly calls, concentration camps. 
The physical and psychological harm that the Trump administration’s immigration policies inflict on our communities directly impedes our ability to succeed in this work.
Being an educator is about more than raising test scores, supporting knowledge acquisition or skill development. Public educators, from pre-K to college, are gifted with the opportunity to shape lives, influence values and give voice to ideals. Our working conditions extend far beyond the classroom walls, as do a student’s learning conditions. The physical and psychological harm that the Trump administration’s immigration policies inflict on our communities directly impedes our ability to succeed in this work. Mass deportation rips parents from their citizen children, leaving youth homeless, hungry and sometimes hopeless. Moreover, the psychological warfare of these policies has a CONTINUE READING: An Open Letter to Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers Regarding the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border | Common Dreams Views

Langston Hughes and "Let America Be America Again"| Owlcation

Analysis of Poem "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes | Owlcation

Langston Hughes and "Let America Be America Again"

"Let America Be America Again" focuses on the idea of the American dream and how, for many, attaining freedom, equality, and happiness, which the dream encapsulates, is nigh on impossible.
The speaker in the poem outlines the reasons why this ideal America has gone, or never was, but could still be.
For the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden, the reality of day to day existence makes the dream a cruel illusion. The poem explores the darker areas of life, the history of exploitation for example, and outlines the unique struggles of those who make up America, both black and white.
Whilst pessimistic and hard hitting, the poem does have an optimistic ending and lights the way forward with hope.
Langston Hughes was going through a difficult period in his life when he wrote this poem. He knew he wanted to earn a living through writing, but couldn't sustain his efforts, despite poetry book publication, most notably The Weary Blues.
It was on a train journey through Depression-struck America in 1935 that inspired him to pen this classic plea for a resurgence of the true American spirit.
Publication followed in the Esquire magazine and Hughes went on to become a noted if controversial figure in the world of black literature, following his earlier work in the so-called Harlem Renaissance, an upbeat black artistic movement peaking in the 1920s.
"Let America Be America Again" reflects the many influences in Hughes's poetry - from the expansive work of Whitman to street language, from jazz rhythm to the steady iambic lines of earlier black poets such as Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s,
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes, I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

A different kind of school-choice mess in DeVos’s home state of Michigan - The Washington Post

A different kind of school-choice mess in DeVos’s home state of Michigan - The Washington Post

A different kind of school-choice mess in DeVos’s home state of Michigan

When you think of school choice, it is highly likely you think first, or only, about charter schools as well as voucher and other programs that use public money for private and religious education. But school choice — ways that families can send their children to a school that is not their neighborhood district school — comes in other forms as well.
One of those ways is the ability to send a child to a school within the district in which a family resides but not to the one to which that child is assigned. That’s called intradistrict choice. Inter-district choice is when students are allowed to choose a public school in a district outside of the one in which they live. Some states have mandatory policies; others are voluntary.
The National Center for Education Statistics says that according to the latest data, from 2017, there are 30 states that allow districts to voluntarily decide to admit of students from other districts and 23 states that mandate districts accept students from other ones.
Some states have had open-enrollment policies for several decades. Supporters say it allows families the freedom to pick a school they think best suits their child and that it creates pressure on school districts to improve and ensure that students in their zone will stay. Critics say these programs work only for people with resources who can get their children to a different school, and some districts are significantly harmed when students leave and take funding with them, making it harder to improve.
There is no definitive research on how these programs affect students and the districts.
Jennifer Berkshire, a freelance journalist and new teacher in Massachusetts who is writing a book about the dismantling of public education, recently went to Michigan to see how it’s open-enrollment policy is working. Michigan is the home state of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is a big supporter of all manner of school choice, having once said that traditional public schools are “a dead end.”
More than 100,000 Michigan students attend school in a district other than where they live. The outflow of students has pushed urban districts to the brink and spawned a competition for enrollment among rural and suburban districts.
Berkshire hosts a podcast called “Have You Heard” with Jack Schneider, a scholar of education history and CONTINUE READING: A different kind of school-choice mess in DeVos’s home state of Michigan - The Washington Post

A True American Patriot and a Hero of Public Education | Diane Ravitch's blog

A True American Patriot and a Hero of Public Education | Diane Ravitch's blog

A True American Patriot and a Hero of Public Education

Neema Avashia learned that her middle school in Boston was going to close. She decided that she would stand and fight. She did. She is a true patriot. She made a difference. She defeated the powerful. She is a hero of the Resistance. She joins the honor roll of this blog.
She writes:
My gloves came off the day representatives of my school district told us they would be closing our school. Our students would be sent to a turnaround high school that had never taught middle school students. Recently arrived immigrant students in language-specific programs, which the high school did not offer, would be dispersed across the city. As for our staff, the representative from Human Capital glibly told us, “We have no plan for you.”
What does it mean when the school system that you’ve poured your heart into doesn’t have the decency to consider a thoughtful transition plan before making the decision to close your school?
It means they never saw you as human in the first place.
It means that your job, then, is to make it impossible for them to look away from your humanity.
I went home from work that afternoon and opened a Twitter account. Opponents of other district proposals had successfully used Twitter to shame city leadership into CONTINUE READING: A True American Patriot and a Hero of Public Education | Diane Ravitch's blog

Mike Klonsky's Blog: 4th of July Quotables

Mike Klonsky's Blog: 4th of July Quotables

4th of July Quotables

There are lots of good reasons to oppose and resist Trump's ultra-militarization and ultra-politicization of Independence Day, including the cost. But if cost is your only concern, chill out. It's a drop in the bucket when compared to using these same warplanes and tanks to invade or bomb other countries.

"The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam, 1967

“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.”
-- Thomas Paine, Common Sense

“Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.”
– James Bryce

Langston Hughes
O, yes, I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
-- Langston Hughes

"You can't have a United States if you are telling some folks that they CONTINUE READING: 
Mike Klonsky's Blog: 4th of July Quotables

Why an 1852 speech by Frederick Douglass should be taught to students today - The Washington Post

Why an 1852 speech by Frederick Douglass should be taught to students today - The Washington Post

Why an 1852 speech by Frederick Douglass should be taught to students today
“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” offers a window into slavery and the experiences of black Americans.

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” That’s the revelatory title of a speech that black statesman and abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered July 5, 1852, in Rochester, N.Y.
It is an oration that students should learn along with the history of how the Continental Congress, meeting July 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, declared independence from Britain and then on July 4 approved the document stating the reasons for the action.
Douglass delivered the speech in Corinthian Hall to white members of the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. He expressed respect for the country’s Founding Fathers, calling them “brave” and “truly great.” He compared the way they were treated by the British before independence to the treatment of slaves and urged them to view slaves as Americans.
(You may remember that on Feb. 1, 2017, President Trump made comments to honor Black History Month and spoke about Douglass as if he were still alive: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Presumably, someone has told Trump by now that Douglass is long gone, although his work has always been appreciated.)
The Civil War was less than a decade away when Douglass gave this speech, in which he referred to Independence Day celebrations that took place the previous day:
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory....
Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July!
The speech is a reminder of how enslaved Americans viewed the Fourth of July in the mid-19th century, and it continues to resonate today amid a renewed national discussion about reparations for slavery.
“It provides a different view of what that moment in history meant to hundreds of thousands of Americans; that black people are forgotten on CONTINUE READING: Why an 1852 speech by Frederick Douglass should be taught to students today - The Washington Post

Jonetta Rose Barras on July 11 Education Town Hall – Education Town Hall Forum

Jonetta Rose Barras on July 11 Education Town Hall – Education Town Hall Forum


We are privileged to have as our guest in studio for the July 11 Education Town Hall Washington, DC, journalist and political analyst Jonetta Rose Barras. She will engage with Thomas Byrd, the show’s creator and host, on a wide-ranging discussion of the state of DC’s public schools. Listen at 11 a.m. EASTERN on Thursday, July 11, via TuneIn or by visiting We Act Radio and clicking on arrow at upper left (NOTE: Not all “listen” buttons are working at present). 
Jonetta Rose Barras is a New Orleans native and long-time DC resident whose acclaimed work has included investigative journalism, political commentary, three books exploring African American families and leadership, radio shows, and a column for the local news source, The DC Line. A trenchant observer of DC public education for decades, Barras has recently written about persistent underfunding of DC schools in the poorest wards of the city and DC charter school leaders ignoring the law. She also has a blog, The Barras Report, in which she explores topics of concern to DC residents.

Jonetta Rose Barras, photo from her website

The Education Town Hall with Thomas Byrd
broadcasts from Historic Anacostia
in Washington, DC, on We Act Radio,
Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern
New programming 2nd and 4th Thursdays, alternating with classic shows.
Listen live via TuneIn.
Shows are archived for convenient listening shortly after broadcast.
After years of weekly broadcasts, the program now focuses one show each month on local issues and one on “the BUS,” organized by BadAss TeachersUnited Opt Out, and SOS March.
Jonetta Rose Barras on July 11 Education Town Hall – Education Town Hall Forum

CURMUDGUCATION: When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down

CURMUDGUCATION: When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down

When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down

As noted earlier this week, the Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that could blow a hole in the wall separating religion from public schools. Lots of folks are salivating at the prospect, from hard-core libertarians to the Dominionist folks who think the church should take back the school system.

So let me say again what I have said many times before-- if the wall separating church and state comes down, people of faith will rue the day.

June provided an example of exactly why rue-age will ensue. The Kenai Peninsula Borough council decided it would try to work its way around the establishment clause since, like many local government bodies around the country, it really wanted to get some prayer into its meetings. But not just any prayer-- so they whipped up a policy saying that only chaplains serving in the military, law enforcement agencies, or representatives of local established religious organizations could offer a pre-meeting prayer. The Alaska Superior Court, because they've read the Constitution and are not dopes, ruled that policy unconstitutional. The board tried to broaden its policy, feeling the heat from an atheist, a member of the Satanic Temple and a representative of the local Jewish community. They were unsuccessful.

And that's how members of the council and the public ended up walking out on their own meeting CONTINUE READING: 
CURMUDGUCATION: When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down