California’s embattled public school teachers received good news Thursday in the form of a state appellate court reversal of the controversial Vergara v. California decision.
April 1 was a historic day for public education in the U.S. Joined by diverse community groups and other workers, Chicago’s public school teachers took to the streets demanding more from city and state leaders.
This afternoon both sides currently engaged in contract talks announced a tentative accord that will postpone a threatened strike by the 26,000-member California Faculty Association.
Members of the 26,000-strong California Faculty Association (CFA) are threatening to carry out their first system-wide, simultaneous strike in the event contract talks with the California State University administration (CSU) reach a stalemate.
A report released March 15 by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Civil Rights Remedies revealed jaw-dropping figures about school discipline at charter schools.
During the 2011-12 academic year—the first year charter schools were required by the federal government to report school discipline data—black students were four times as likely to be suspended from charter schools as white students. And of the 5,250 charter schools studied, 235 suspended more than 50 percent of their enrolled students with disabilities.
National Average Suspension Rates for Charter Schools at Elementary and Secondary Levels, by Subgroup, 2011-12
We should be deeply troubled by these statistics at any public school, charter or not. But there’s a crucial difference between charter and traditional public schools: Despite being publicly funded, many charter schools are managed by private groups unaccountable to the public.
Three weeks ago Students Matter, the nonprofit group behind the Vergara v. California lawsuit, began prominently touting United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta’s support for that suit on its website. The subhead of the group’s press release boldly claimed the labor icon was one of the “Voices of Vergara,” a collection of pro-lawsuit testimonials that appear on Students Matter’s website and on YouTube. The release stated that “the longtime California labor leader and civil rights activist” endorses the lawsuit and quotes her as saying, “I think it’s awesome that the Vergara lawsuit was filed. There is no excuse why we can’t have equality in education. I think we have the resources to do it, we’ve just got to have the will.”
There was only one problem: The press release’s statement wasn’t true.
On February 3 Huerta sent a strongly worded “cease and desist” letter to Students Matter’s public relations firm,
Many charter school advocates — often guided by a “free market” ideology — claim that charter schools force traditional public schools to innovate and provide better education. But in Detroit, where teachers and parents this week performed “walk ins” to show support for the city’s ailing public schools, the exact opposite has been true.
Detroit’s schools are in rough shape. The city’s traditional public school district, Detroit Public Schools (DPS), could face bankruptcy by April. On a recent tour of DPS schools, Mayor Mike Duggan found crumbling facilities, dead rodents, and children wearing coats in freezing classrooms.
But even though Detroit’s residents elected him, Duggan can’t do much to help. DPS has been under state control for seven years, ruled by a series of “emergency managers” with unchecked authority over democratically elected local officials. The same tactic of “running government like a business” played a crucial role in the Flint water crisis.
Last Monday was an important day for America’s shrinking middle class. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that could impose radical new limits on the rights of public-sector workers—like teachers, nurses and firefighters—to join together to win better lives for their families and communities.
What’s at stake is a basic democratic principle: All public workers that benefit from collective bargaining should be required to pay their fair share for those efforts.
So it’s no surprise that the Friedrichs lawsuit was filed by the Center for Individual Rights, a law firm with ties to anti-worker special interests—like the Koch brothers and ALEC.
These are the same interests that have spent decades campaigning to weaken the ability of working people to join together against corporate power and the interests of the One Percent.
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the latest struggle over workers’ rights, a case whose oral arguments were heard Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court, clearly means different things to different groups. The passionate rhetoric around Friedrichs, and most of its proponents’ legal arguments, have focused on individual liberties and freedom of speech. “Paying fees to a union should not be a prerequisite for teaching in a public school,” Harlan Elrich, one of the plaintiffs, wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “No one in the U.S. should be forced to give money to a private organization he or she disagrees with fundamentally.”
But the main goal of those funding the case is, likely, to reshape the political landscape by neutralizing the power of organized labor. The broad impact of a successful suit will be to drain the union of dues,
Get this. In some states, charter school operators can purchase school buildings from public school districts — using taxpayer money. That’s right. The public pays twice for a building it no longer owns.
This scheme and many others are detailed in the National Education Policy Center’s new research brief on charter school policies. Through a study of policies from across the country, Bruce Baker and Gary Miron reveal how many charter operators use existing laws to profit from the privatization of public assets.
Their conclusion: Many current policies allow new actors into public education who skim profits from the system, pocketing money that might otherwise be spent on direct services for children.
These policies have serious costs. In Florida for example, a recent analysis by the Associated Press found that now-closed charter schools in 30 school districts had received more than $70 million in taxpayer money for capital needs.
Faculty and students from the 23 campuses of the California State University (CSU) system will demonstrate today over a contract fight that they say is critical to the future of higher education in the Golden State. The actions will be highlighted by a march through downtown Long Beach, ending at the state chancellor’s office, where the CSU Board of Trustees is to meet.
The long-running conflict intensified last week, as the California Faculty Association (CFA) announced that 94 percent of its members who voted agreed to authorize a strike. Faculty have been frustrated by what they say is under-investment in teaching: stagnant wages and the CSU’s move towards cheaper part-time teachers rather than tenure-line faculty, while at the same time hiring and giving raises to non-academic supervisors and top management. Student fees increased multiple times over that period. The result, say CFA members, is that students face a tougher path to graduation,
Did you know that one of the fastest growing sectors of the charter school industry is the “virtual” charter school, where K-12 students learn from home in front of their computers? No school buildings, no recess with friends, no shared learning. It’s true. The largest virtual charter company, a publicly traded corporation called K12, Inc., provides education to over 120,000 public school students across the country. Last year, it made more than $900 million in revenue, most of it taxpayer money earmarked for public education.
But virtual charters are starting to pile up bad news and serious questions about their priorities. A study released last week by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that students attending virtual charters learn significantly less in math and reading than similar students attending brick-and-mortar schools. So significantly less that the Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton wrote,
Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools were recently exposed for having a “Got to Go” list of students, which singles out the children they would like to see leave through suspensions, counseling-out, or by not sending annual re-enrollment forms.
Charter schools receive taxpayer dollars under the premise that they will provide an education for all children. When charter schools accept the money but weed out, suspend or discourage students from attending their school using “zero tolerance” disciplinary codes, they hurt children, their families and the community — while perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline.
This is why we’re glad to support Fatima Geidi, a mother of a Success Academy Charter School student, who has started a petition to Tell the U.S. Department of Education to Stop Funding the Kindergarten to Prison Pipeline.
Moskowitz’s aggressive suspension policies are part of a national trend of criminalizing black and brown youth,
Last month, the Los Angeles Times released a terrifying confidential roadmap for privatizing L.A.’s schools that was produced by billionaire Eli Broad. Broad plans to raise and spend $490 million to create enough privately operated charter schools to house half of the city’s public school students.
The “Broad Plan” is an ambitious, all-sided assault on public schools, potentially funded by money from a who’s who of the nation’s billionaires, including the Walton heirs, Elon Musk, and Steven Spielberg.
Broad’s strategy is to compete directly with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for what he calls “market share,” by more than doubling the number of charters already in the city. Diane Ravitch writes that Broad wants to “decimate the remaining public schools by draining them of students and resources.” Former LAUSD board president and state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg calls it a plan to “privatize and destroy public education.”
Just imagine what these resources—which are in the Broad Plan budget—could do for L.A.’s existing public schools:
“It is too far gone, let’s start over again.” That is the growing consensus of opinion after years of rising tensions and escalating concerns about the methods and practices of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The organization has accredited California’s community colleges for more than 50 years, but now faces losing the authority to put its stamp of approval on the two-year colleges.
In a major policy shift, California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris and a task force of administrators, faculty, trustees and accreditation liaisons have called for “the investigation of all available avenues for establishing a new model for accreditation.” In other words: Find a new commission. The recommendation is contained in the Chancellor’s Report on Accreditation, released in August.
“The time has come,” the report pointedly concluded,
If there were still any doubt about Eli Broad’s desire to gut traditional public education, it has been erased by his much-discussed “Great Public Schools Now” initiative, a draft of which LA Times reporter Howard Blume obtained last month.
Broad’s 44-page proposal outlines plans to replace half of LAUSD’s existing public schools with charter schools. “Such an effort will gather resources, help high-quality charters access facilities, develop a reliable pipeline of leadership and teaching talent, and replicate their success,” states the document. “If executed with fidelity, this plan will ensure that no Los Angeles student remains trapped in a low-performing school.”
According to the proposal, Broad wants to create 260 new “high-quality charter schools, generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats and reach 50 percent charter market share.”
(Actually, LAUSD has 151,000 kids in charters now: 281,000 out of 633,000 LAUSD students is 43 percent. This isn’t the only imprecision in the proposal.)
The estimated cost of this LAUSD transformation would be nearly half-a-billion dollars.
Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) released striking data about the rapid turnover of charter schools. CMD’s state-by-state list of closed charters shows that, since 2000, these schools have failed at a much higher rate than traditional public schools. And over this time, millions of federal dollars went to groups planning to start charter schools that never even opened.
Instead of giving children the ‘disruption’ of a school closure, we should do everything we can to give every child access to a great school.
Earlier this month, teachers and school staff in Seattle did just that. After a five-day strike, they won a better education for students at traditional public schools across the city. Elementary school students now have guaranteed daily recess, which many parents had wanted, and special education teachers will teach smaller, more individualized classes.
There now is a flow of fresh cultural monuments in Los Angeles that runs from the High School of the Arts over to Disney Hall. This includes, of course, the 36-year-old Museum of Contemporary Art, with which billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad was once deeply involved, and which Broad’s new art museum now competes with. All of a 30-year sudden, we have a cultural downtown center, complete with a hinterland of new bars, stores, costly restos and so on.
Little is left of the downtown of 40 years ago – or of its scruffy arts bohemia. But that is the way of these things: Yupster egg joints are replacing the old Grand Central Market stalls that sold fruit for 20 cents a pound, new buildings arise on former parking lots where dead people sometimes turned up in the cars of those who worked overnight nearby.
The Broad museum (it’s officially called “The Broad”) looks like a mammoth white-enameled Claes Oldenburg version of a Sur La Table cheese grater.
“We’re not here because Mr. Kaplan helped us do better on standardized tests,” said one of the nearly one thousand students, former students, teachers, and friends gathered Sunday in the auditorium of Hamilton High School on Robertson to honor the beloved teacher Alan Kaplan who died August 29th.
Mr. Kaplan taught history and psychology in Hamilton’s Humanities Magnet program for 33 years. Through his teaching Kaplan was determined to do something about the achievement gap between white students and students of color. “He was devoted to helping students understand the process, the psychology and the history of racism in our country, believing it would be therapeutic,” said a colleague. Using “The Peoples’ History of the United States” by Howard Zinn as his history text, Kaplan’s lesson plans connected students to what was happening beyond the school walls. “He opened up the world to us” was how a former student,