Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare.
— Seamus Heaney, “Beacons at Bealtaine”
During a time of political optimism in Northern Ireland when the peace process was beginning to take hold, Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney gave a talk at Queens University in Belfast about the potential power of poetic language. In a place where the “idioms of suspicion and accusation” were insidious and entrenched, Heaney hoped that a fluid approach to identity and language might provide an escape route from binary thinking and the “weary twisted emotions” of Northern Ireland’s “troubles.”
Heaney suggested that it was poets and other writers who could provide a “re-angling of perception” that might loosen the stranglehold the sectarian psyche had imposed upon the linguistic and political landscape. Given some room to move, a more unruly vocabulary could surface where Catholics might regard themselves as “Catestants,” and Protestants could see themselves as “Protholics” —
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has a digital education division called Amplify. A Bloomberg News article, “News Corp.’s $1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures,” outlines the company’s efforts to cash in on education without positive results. Read more here.
Maria Bustillos shares her thoughts on our country’s failure to invest in higher education access and the mounting toll it is taking on students today.
This podcast is an encore posting from our State of Inequality series.
Elizabeth Fladung is a Brooklyn-based, CalArts-trained photojournalist. Her work has appeared in The Nation, La Repubblica, The Fader and Wax Poetics Magazine.
The latest legal assault on the right of the state’s public-sector unions to collect dues was filed in Los Angeles earlier this month by StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based, national school-privatization organization.
The federal suit, Bain v. California Teachers Association, was brought on behalf of four California public school teacher union members who claim that the state’s current “fair share” rules infringe on their rights by forcing them to choose between paying for union-supported political causes with which they disagree or quitting the union. It seeks to bar unions from collecting dues money earmarked for political purposes as a condition of membership.
At stake are an estimated tens of millions of dollars — and a corresponding political clout — that unions stand to lose if the suit succeeds in making voluntary the 30 percent to 40 percent of dues that members currently pay for political activities.
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This is an encore posting from our State of Inequality series
(Andy Warner’s comics have appeared in many places, including Slate, Medium, American Public Media, Symbolia, KQED, popsci.com and for the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency.)
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Data and research for this story were provided by Charlie Eaton of U.C. Berkeley’s Department of Sociology and DebtandSociety.org.
This is an encore posting from our State of Inequality series.
Thanksgiving is our national food-focused holiday–but Los Angeles has an all-year-round reputation for food obsessions: Paleo diets. Veganism. Juicing. Fasting. Fusion food trucks, kimchi pizza, chorizo-filled potstickers with duck sauce reduction (yes, that is a real recipe).
What gets a lot less foodie press, though, is the City of Los Angeles’s innovation in creating one of the most progressive food policies in the nation.
Cities around the country have established programs to improve the availability of nutritious food for residents and set ethical and environmental standards for the suppliers to the multitude of public institutions that feed millions every year. In 2012 the city established the L.A. Food Policy Council to develop an equitable food policy for Los Angeles and to answer some key questions: How does a city that buys tons of food every year define “locally grown” food? How do purchasing policies sustain small farmers?
The big white tent at Los Angeles Trade Technical College was festooned with balloons, draped in orange and white pennants and full of music. Swelling gospel-flavored sounds, Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and the ubiquitous party song “No te Metes con Mi Cucu” signaled a break in the program after a parade of speakers.
The floor was covered with AstroTurf.
Last Saturday’s “Parent Power Convention” was the first-ever national gathering held by Parent Revolution, an organization founded here in 2009. With its feel-good inclusive vibe, the November 15 assembly attracted hundreds of parents, mostly African-American and Latino, from neighborhoods with failing and struggling schools.
Invitations offered free local transportation and childcare. There were many out-of-state visitors. Just as a national political party convention would be organized, delegates sat at tables with tall vertical signs that announced where they were from—Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi – or identified the “parent unions”
The long-anticipated trial pitting the City of San Francisco against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges — and its efforts to shut down the city’s storied City College — began Monday. The opening statements in San Francisco Superior Court revealed the stark difference in the way the two sides view the role of public education in society.
“This case is about fairness,” Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere said in her remarks, explaining that the ACCJC had far overstepped its authority by trying to revoke the school’s accreditation – and in the process deny a college education to nearly 80,000 students, many of whom come from low income backgrounds.
For its defense, ACCJC announced it had to destroy CCSF in order to save it from the ruin of pension health-care costs generated by union contracts with the school. This alarm had first been sounded by ACCJC in 2006, although it had since been muted.
The symbolism of last Friday’s press conference by the recently embattled and newly ex-superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, John Deasy, couldn’t have been more explicit. Speaking for the first time as a private citizen, Deasy spoke to reporters on a conference call hosted by Students Matter.
The Silicon Valley-backed, Menlo Park nonprofit has paid the legal bills for the Vergara lawsuit, which challenged teacher job protections in the state earlier this year by successfully suing the California Department of Education and LAUSD. Deasy became a star witness — for the plaintiffs — when he testified against the state and his own district’s teachers.
For a man who had been brought by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa from the Gates Foundation in 2010 to LAUSD as the top deputy to then-superintendent Ramon C.
Take the state law on fair competition. Add the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges‘ actions to shut down City College of San Francisco (CCSF). What will these ingredients amount to in a court of law?
That will be determined by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow following a non-jury trial that begins October 27. Last year San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit on behalf of the people of the state of California (not CCSF) alleging the ACCJC’s evaluation of CCSF was unfair and unlawful under the state law for business competition.
“We have alleged that the ACCJC’s actions, specifically with respect to the evaluation of CCSF, were both unlawful and unfair,” Sara Eisenberg, a San Francisco Deputy City Attorney, told Capital & Main by phone. The ACCJC is subject to California’s Unfair Competition Law which prohibits any business from engaging in unfair,
John Deasy is gone. According to City News Service, the Superintendent of Schools for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), “submitted his resignation today, ending his three-year tenure as head of the nation’s second-largest school district. Although he is stepping down as superintendent, he will remain with the district on ‘special assignment’ until Dec. 31.”
Deasy’s resignation letter, posted on LAUSD’s website, concludes:
I will transition from this job to another way to serve. In allowing me to do that, I hereby submit my resignation. I will work with your council to close out my employment contract.
In closing, let me thank my critics, for they have helped us see where we can do our work better, and that is what we do with each opportunity to improve. I also wish to thank my supporters. You have enabled us to move quickly to right wrongs in the lives of youth,
A $300,000 plane; $861,000 to pay off personal debts and keep open a struggling restaurant. A down payment on a house and an office flush with flat-screen televisions, executive bathrooms and granite counter tops. This isn’t a list of expenditures from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, this represents a small slice of the more than $30 million of taxpayer funds that have been wasted through fraud and abuse in Pennsylvania’s charter schools since they first opened in 1997.
A new report from the Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education, and Action United is blowing the lid off the lack of public oversight at Pennsylvania’s 186 charter schools.
Inadequate audit techniques, insufficient oversight staff and a lack of basic transparency have created a charter system that is ripe for abuse in the Keystone State. But there is hope. The report provides a detailed roadmap for Pennsylvania to create an effective oversight structure and provide meaningful protections that can curtail endemic fraud and waste.
When charter schools first appeared in the ’90s, they aimed to experiment with innovative educational strategies to later implement in all public schools. Fast forward to today, when charters have grown into a national industry with 2.5 million students, 6,000 schools and a growing market of management services, vendors, policy shops and advocacy organizations – an industry that has its sights set on the nearly $750 billion spent each year on public education in the U.S.
A new report by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, however, shows that state charter laws, regulations and oversight have not kept up with the rapid growth of charters. The lack of effective oversight has resulted in far too many cases of fraud and abuse, too little attention to equity, wasted taxpayer money and eroded public trust.
Far too many charters have been plagued by scandals, abuses and poor educational standards. For example,
Cashing in on Kids, a joint project of In the Public Interest and the American Federation of Teachers, is working to ensure that parents, teachers, students and taxpayers continue to have a strong voice in how we run our schools and educate our nation’s children. Below is an action that needs your attention.
The FBI is currently investigating Concept Schools, Inc., a charter management company, which operates 19 schools in the state of Ohio. The federal investigation is for “white-collar crime,” self-dealing, and misusing federal money meant for the neediest students.
Given the seriousness of the allegations, it is likely that all 19 Concept charter schools will be shut down, but too often this puts taxpayers on the hook for the schools’ liabilities and debts.
Throughout the two-year debate over a plan by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to shut down San Francisco’s nine-campus City College, the school’s supporters held their tongues on one key belief. Namely, that the commission had long ago made up its mind to shut down the college and no amount of restructuring could change the ACCJC’s mind. A recently filed court document, however, has confirmed this widespread suspicion.
The San Francisco Superior Court filing, first revealed in a Los Angeles Times story, disclosed that not one of the ACCJC’s own 15-member evaluation team ever suggested that CCSF’s accreditation be revoked; instead, the commission admitted, its panel merely recommended a form of academic probation that would allow the school to fix some administrative and accounting bugs in its system. Despite that, the ACCJC’s executive committee voted in 2012 to ignore the evaluators’ recommendations and threatened the school with the loss of its accreditation.
A controversy surrounding the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) compliance with California’s contentious Parent Trigger law has apparently opened up a rift between key allies responsible for passing the state’s so-called Parent Empowerment Act.
LAUSD’s decision to grant itself a year’s recess from the 2010 trigger law’s provisions came to light only last week when its author, former state Senator Gloria Romero, leaked a letter from an LAUSD lawyer claiming that, as part of a two-year waiver it received in 2013 from the federal Department of Education, the district is not subject to the Parent Trigger law through the 2014-2015 school year. The law allows parents to take over low-performing public schools and replace faculty with non-unionized teachers under the management of private charters.
That waiver, which was granted last November but only announced August 5 by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, frees LAUSD and seven other state school districts from penalties connected to not meeting a 2014 deadline for 100 percent math and reading proficiency mandated by the George W.
Whenever I hear something that sounds a little fishy, I always follow my mom’s advice to consider the source. So when two professors from Temple University touted a study praising the quality and cost effectiveness of private prisons, advocates wanted to know who funded it. Not surprisingly, it turned out that the private prison industry paid for the study, a fact conveniently missing from the professors’ early draft and media appearances.
In the Public Interest’s friend and colleague Alex Friedmann, managing editor of the monthly Prison Legal News and associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, filed an ethics complaint with Temple University. In addition, ITPI and 15 other organizations demanded that Temple conduct an ethics review.
In response, Temple University has disassociated itself from the study. In addition, the methodology behind the study has also been called out for being misleading and its conclusions for being inaccurate.
America’s education system is unequal and unfair. Students who live in wealthy communities have huge advantages that rig the system in their favor. They have more experienced teachers and a much lower student-teacher ratio. They have more modern facilities, more up-to-date computer and science equipment and more up-to-date textbooks. They have more elective courses, more music and art offerings and more extracurricular programs. They have better libraries, more guidance counselors and superior athletic facilities.
Not surprisingly, affluent students in well-off school districts have higher rates of high school graduation, college attendance and entry to the more selective colleges. This has little to do with intelligence or ability. For example, 82 percent of affluent students who had SAT scores over 1200 graduate from college. In contrast, only 44 percent of low-income students with the same high SAT scores graduate from college. This wide gap can’t be explained by differences in motivation or smarts.