Monday, December 15, 2014

North Carolina Gets Koch-Distorted History... Look Out New York!

 Inside The Koch-Backed History Lessons North Carolina Wants To Teach High School Students

Public high school students in North Carolina will be taught from a lesson plans and worksheets prepared by a organization closely tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, if the state’s Department of Public Instruction gets its way. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, the Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute received a “$100,000, sole-source contract with [North Carolina] to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take.” 

The N&O also notes that the organization receives funding directly from David Koch and from two Koch family foundations, although, if anything, this description understates the Institute’s ties to the conservative billionaires. Two of the Institutes four board members are employed by Koch entities — one is a senior vice president at Koch Industries and another is director of higher education programs at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation — and many of the Institute’s other top leaders also appear likely to push a political agenda in line with the Koch brothers’ anti-government views. Board member Todd Zywicki, is a George Mason law professor and a leading opponent of Wall Street reforms such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Institute’s president, David J. Bobb, founded two centers at Hillsdale College, a conservative institution of higher education that proclaims its opposition to “the dehumanizing, discriminatory trend of so called ‘social justice’ and ‘multicultural diversity.’

A Teacher’s Best Friend

The Department of Public Instruction “highly recommend[s]” that North Carolina school districts use the Institute’s instruction materials to teach the state’s students about America’s founding principles and the Constitution itself — and, on the surface, the materials look quite impressive. They consist of 391 pages of lesson plans, worksheets, student activities and answer keys for teachers, organized into “ten instructional modules” and a “final project” designed to cover and entire semester of coursework. The lesson plans tie each module to particular objectives laid out in the state’s curriculum. And many of the lessons taught by the materials are unobjectionable, or even quite important. A unit on the rights of the accused, for example, emphasizes the principle that “it was better for guilty people to go free than for the judicial system to condemn even one innocent person.”

The Bill of Rights Institute staffer in charge of developing its “curriculum resources” is a former schoolteacher who taught in North Carolina schools. It shows. The Institute was clearly aware of the demands teachers face to submit lesson plans that comply with state standards, to break lessons down into manageable chunks, and to teach higher level reasoning skills beyond memorization and basic comprehension. Many teachers, confronted with the task of planning to teach a new subject matter, will no doubt be grateful that the Institute’s materials exist.

Yet the materials also push a very clear agenda in subtle — and often not-so-subtle — ways. “One might say the Founders were not only concerned with property rights,” a unit on that subject proclaims, “they were passionate about them.” Students are taught that “property rights secure freedom” and that James Madison “criticized excessive taxes.” Much of the materials focus on matters of particular concern to well-moneyed groups such as land developers. The Supreme Court case upholding Obamacare is painted as the culmination of a grand expansion of federal power, even though it actually reduced Congress’ ability to legislate.

The Constitution as Climate Change

Parts of the Institute’s materials rely on a tactic that will be familiar to anyone who has debated a climate change denier, teaching students that a controversy exists over a question that has largely been resolved. The Seventeenth Amendment, for example, is put up for debate. 

The Seventeenth Amendment provides that U.S. senators will be selected by voters and not by state lawmakers. Prior to its enactment, state legislatures were frequently deadlocked over who to send to the Senate, and corruption was widespread as moneyed interests sought to influence who would become a senator. Today, this amendment is almost entirely uncontroversial. A 2013 poll found that only 16 percent of American adults believe that it should be repealed. 

One member of the 16 percent, however, is Professor Zywicki, the Bill of Rights Institute board member. The materials make a point of presenting Zywicki’s argument that the amendment “resulted in more federal laws that infringe on the powers of states or that carry mandates with no funding attached.”

Similarly, the materials present another important constitutional change that has largely been accepted by liberals and conservatives alike as a catalyst for federal encroachment. In the early days of the Republic, the Bill of Rights was understood to place limits on the federal government, but states remained free to ignore these rights so long as they complied with their own constitution. After the Civil War, however, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, and it fundamentally shifted the balance of power between people and the states. 

According to Ohio Congressman John Bingham, the primary author of this amendment, one of its purposes was to require states to comply with “the first eight amendments to the Constitution of the United States.” States would be free to ignore the Bill of Rights no longer.

Yet the Supreme Court initially read the Fourteenth Amendment very differently, and they did so for many years. It wasn’t until the mid-to-late twentieth century that the justices began systematically applying most of the Bill of Rights against the states through a process known as “incorporation.” Though justices and scholars still disagree on the margins about how far incorporation should go — the Supreme Court split 5-4 in 2010 on whether the Second Amendment applies to the states — the view that the bulk of the Bill of Rights apply to the states and the federal government alike is now largely uncontroversial.

The Institute’s materials argue that “[i]ncorporation increased the role of the federal government in citizens’ lives” and that “[m]any people now expect that the federal government—not the states—will be the main protector of individual rights.” Though they acknowledge that “[s]ome legal scholars support incorporation,” they warn that “[o]ther scholars” believe that, by subjecting states to constitutional suits in federal court, incorporation gives the federal government a “veto power over state law.” The materials, in other words, present an increased federal role as a cost that must be weighed against the benefits of incorporation. It is unlikely, however, that many students would consider this cost to be very significant at all if the materials presented them with a more comprehensive history of the debate over incorporation.

The materials’ claim that incorporation would lead to the federal government and not the states becoming “the main protector of individual rights” closely maps the Supreme Court’s holding in United States v. Cruikshank that “the people must look to the States” to vindicate many of their rights. Yet, as I explain in my book Injustices, the Cruikshank decision and its aftermath do far more to discredit this view of federal and state power than it does to support it.

In 1872, less than a decade after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Courthouse, Louisiana’s Republican Governor Henry Warmoth struck a Faustian bargain with white supremacist Democrats: Warmoth agreed to throw his full support behind the Democratic candidate to succeed him as governor, if Democratic lawmakers agreed to send him to the United States Senate (this was, after all, before the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified). As it turned out, Warmoth’s support included installing Democrats as voter registrars who engaged in widespread voter suppression. Elderly former slaves were denied the right to vote because they had no birth certificate proving they were over the age of 21. 

Voter registration sites were relocated, but only white voters were informed of the new location. The result was a contested election where Democratic and Republican candidates both claimed they were legitimately elected to various offices.

In Colfax, Louisiana, black Republicans occupied a courthouse in an effort to cement their control over the local government. Less than three weeks later, a white supremacist mob armed with rifles and a small cannon marched on the courthouse. A monument that now marks the site of this massacre claims that “three white men and 150 negroes were slain” in the ensuing slaughter.

The Cruikshank case was a federal prosecution charging several of the white supremacists who participated in this act of mass murder with criminal violations of their black victims’ civil rights. So when the Supreme Court held that freed slaves must “look to the States” to vindicate many of their civil rights, it effectively denied the federal government its power to halt massacres such as what happened in Colfax, and it left black civil rights almost entirely in the hands of state governments that were quickly captured by white supremacists. The justices who decided Cruikshank and similar cases may not have been the fathers of Jim Crow, but they were at the very least its midwives. And that is the history that the Institute’s materials leave out when they ask high school students to weigh the costs of an increased federal role against its benefits.

In a separate module, the materials acknowledge that “[o]ne major criticism of strong state power comes from the legacy of slavery,” but the materials do not tie this criticism to incorporation. This separate module also presents the argument that “[t]he federal government did not effectively protect citizens’ rights over centuries of slavery and segregation” as part of the case against a robust federal government. Yet while this argument is superficially true it ignores the fact that the federal government was hobbled in its ability to act in large part due to Supreme Court decisions such as Cruikshank (as well as the fact that Southern senators were empowered to block civil rights legislation through tactics such as the filibuster).

Selective History

Elsewhere, the materials selectively emphasize historical events that paint liberals in a poor light or that imply that important shifts in constitutional doctrine occurred for illegitimate reasons — and this tactic is also deployed in a way that is likely to foster skepticism of the federal government’s power to enact progressive legislation. A unit on the Constitution’s Commerce Clause (the provision enabling Congress to “regulate commerce . . . among the several states”), for example, emphasizes President Franklin Roosevelt’s plan to pack the Supreme Court with additional justices as part of a “political plan” to rescue legislation that a conservative majority on the Court was inclined to strike down. After this plan was unveiled, the materials explain, “[s]ome of the political conflict eased when one justice began voting to support the New Deal,” and, as a result, “[f]ederal power expanded dramatically for the next fifty years.”

While it is true that Roosevelt did announce a Court packing plan, and it is also true that Justice Owen Roberts became the key fifth vote to uphold New Deal programs shortly thereafter, it is unlikely, at best, that the plan actually caused Roberts to change his votes. 

After the White House dispatched a messenger to liberal Justice Louis Brandeis to warn the justice about Roosevelt’s plan, Brandeis told the messenger to “tell your president he has made a great mistake. All he had to do was wait a little while.” Roberts had already decided in one of the justices’ secret conferences to break with the Court’s conservative bloc weeks before Roosevelt announced his plan, though the Court did not announce the decision where Roberts broke with his conservative brethren until several weeks later.

More than simply presenting a selective history of Roosevelt’s struggle with the Supreme Court, however, materials’ essay on the Commerce Clause does not even present the view, now widely accepted by most judges and legal scholars, that the Depression-era justices who tried to strike down much of the New Deal were simply wrong about the Constitution. 

Indeed, the essay strongly suggests that the opposite is true, claiming that “[m]idway through the twentieth century, Congress started using the Commerce Clause as the grounds for the enactment of many new types of laws to regulate not merely commerce, but the conditions of economic and social life.” 

In 1941, however, in a unanimous opinion joined by Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court explained that the interpretation of the Commerce Clause that conservative justices used to thwart liberal legislation in the early-to-mid twentieth century rested on “a distinction which was novel when made and unsupported by any provision of the Constitution.” They added that it also conflicted with the very first Supreme Court decision interpreting that clause.

Elsewhere in the module on the Commerce Clause, the Institute’s materials hide a subtle inaccuracy in an answer key that presumably will only be read by teachers. A worksheet asks students to chart several Supreme Court decisions based on whether they embraced a broad or narrow vision of federal power, one of which is the NFIB v. Sebelius decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act. In the process of upholding Obamacare, the Supreme Court actually rolled back the scope of federal power and transformed the law’s Medicaid expansion into something that conservative states could more easily opt out of. 

Yet the answer key depicts NFIB as the high water mark of federal power over the last century. This interpretation of NFIB closely maps the conservative view that the Affordable Care Act was somehow “unprecedented” and any court decision upholding was necessarily expanding federal power beyond its previous bounds.
A segment from the materials' answer key presenting the Supreme Court's decision striking down part of the Affordable Care Act (#8 on the chart) as a high water mark of federal power
A segment from the materials’ answer key presenting the Supreme Court’s decision striking down part of the Affordable Care Act (#8 on the chart) as a high water mark of federal power.

The answer key also instructs teachers to “accept reasoned answers” from students who interpret NFIB differently, even if those students’ answers depart from the key’s suggested answer. Few teachers are lawyers, however, and even fewer of them are likely to be familiar with the nuances of the last three generations of Commerce Clause jurisprudence. Many teachers are likely to teach the viewpoint advanced by this answer key without critically examining whether it actually comports with the Court’s decisions, potentially implying that Obamacare is a stretch beyond Congress’ legitimate authority in the process.

A Question of Emphasis

There are, of course, some areas of the law where the Koch brothers’ libertarian outlook is more popular with the public at large than established constitutional doctrines, and at least one of these areas receives a surprising amount of attention in the Institute’s materials. The materials do not just devote an entire module to property rights generally — this is the module which teaches that the framers were “passionate about” property rights — it then devotes a separate module to the subject of takings and eminent domain (the power to require individuals to sell their property to the government at its fair market value). This later module is probably the least subtle portion of the materials, and it frequently crosses the line from subtle suggestion into explicit advocacy.

The politically unpopular case Kelo v. New London plays a starring role in this module. Kelo applied the Supreme Court’s longstanding practice of deferring to elected officials regarding what constitutes a legitimate “public use” of the eminent domain power. Yet it also involved a land development plan that, at least according to Fox News, never materialized after the town of New London, Connecticut required the plaintiff in this case to sell her home. Kelo is an application of the proposition that it is better to leave certain decisions to elected officials who can be held accountable by the public rather than placing them in the hands of unelected judges, but it can also be fairly cited as evidence that elected officials sometimes make poor decisions.

The Institute’s materials, however, present none of this nuance. Students are told that the Court’s application of a longstanding legal rule to what turned out to be an unwise use of eminent domain was actually a “landmark case surrounding the government’s ability to exercise eminent domain” that “changed the concept of public use versus private use forever.” Kelo is not a beloved case, to say the least, but the materials’ decision to devote an entire module to this subject is revealing, given that there are only but so many topics in the rich and diverse field of constitutional law that could be covered in a semester-long course for high school students. Notably, other important constitutional topics, such as the rights of women and gay people to equal treatment under the law, are mostly unmentioned. 

The materials’ overall discussion of the Constitution’s promise of equality is equally revealing. Not only does the module on the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause largely ignore the rights of women, it devotes at least as much time to the subject of affirmative action as it does to Brown v. Board of Education. Students are assigned a major project focusing on affirmative action, and, as part of this project, they are asked to perform such tasks as explaining why a speech by President Lyndon Johnson warning that offering formal equality to African Americans is not enough to cure centuries of racial oppression is inconsistent with the principles established by the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964:
LBJ Koch
The Bill of Rights Institute’s materials, in other words, often rely on subtle persuasion. They present a selective view of history, exaggerate conflicts that have largely been resolved, emphasize subjects congenial to a conservative worldview and ignore entirely major threads of constitutional law and history. The students who learn from these materials are likely to emerge more skeptical of federal power and more sympathetic to a libertarian view of property rights. They are likely, in other words, to emerge more like Charles and David Koch.

In the end, however, the fact that the materials are so tinged with ideology is a damn shame. For all of their flaws, they introduce students important areas of American history that are often ignored by high schools. They ask students to consider difficult questions about society’s fundamental values. And, at least on the surface, they treat those students respectfully as people who are capable of evaluating constitutional questions that perplex lawyers and justices alike. North Carolina’s students have much to gain from these activities, if only they were presented without such a clear agenda.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Philly Hi School Students Take The Lead!!

Philly Hi School Students Take The Lead!!

VIDEO: SRC's Simms Screams at Students, We Demand Local Control

Written by The Philadelphia Student Union

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur

To those who have called our action on October 15th “disrespectful”, we invoke this wisdom of Ms. Shakur. As we peacefully protested at the School District of Philadelphia’s screening of Won’t Back Down, part of their “Family Appreciation Month”, we were not trying to appeal to their moral senses. Rather we were bringing to light the many ways that the SRC has failed the students of Philadelphia, explained here. The screening was largely organized by SRC member Sylvia Simms, the Women’s Christian Alliance, and Comcast (Simms’ current employer) a company that took in over $64 billion without paying taxes to Philadelphia in 2013 while our schools continue to go extremely under-funded.

As the media has well publicized, Simms (whose twitter handle photo is ironically an image of Angela Davis), screamed at the students, inches from their faces that they “probably go to failing schools” and “belong in jail.” Meanwhile her supporters chanted “Lock them up.”
An article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 17th reads:

In a telephone interview, Simms said she raised her voice to the students because they were chanting loudly and she wanted to communicate. Simms, 53, a North Philadelphia grandmother, parent organizer and mayoral appointee, said she asked them what schools they attended and talked about failing schools.
She denied stating that the students probably attend failing schools. 

"It wasn't like that," she said. "I've noticed we have a lot of failing schools. It's my job to try to fix as many schools as I can." 

She said she couldn't remember exactly what she said. 

She said that she didn't say that students "probably go to failing schools", but here is clear evidence that Simms lied to the press and to the public. At the SRC meeting the following day, there were several calls from allies for Simms to apologize to students, as both an adult and as a decision-maker for the School District of Philadelphia. However, she stayed silent. She didn't apologize, nor did she acknowledge that her supporters chanted "Lock them up".

In this same meeting, SRC Chair, Bill Green addressed the individuals at the meeting who demanded that Simms apologize defensively, claiming that Simms is a champion of students’ causes.
kgraham green simms tweet
If Simms can violently scream at young people for "failing" while at the same time be hailed as a "supporter of students", then we can only imagine what the other SRC members are saying behind closed doors. However, the worst part is that we don't really need to imagine. Besides not publicly condemning the actions of their fellow commissioner, we can plainly see how the SRC as a whole feels about community input. SRC meetings are no more than political theater with decisions made ahead of time and with little to no real discussion about the impacts of policies and changes on which they vote.

The SRC members regularly sit before an audience of parents, teachers and students, with stone cold faces, and give little response to the pleas from the community, creating a mockery of community engagement. Recognizing the ineffectiveness and the folly of such a charade, we decided that the best way to have our voices heard was to engage in civil disobedience. Students were acting in the political forum that was available to them, a public event at the School District.

There is the pervading notion that SRC meetings are the only real and respectable place for the community to have its voice heard. However, it is overwhelmingly apparent that the SRC has no respect for our schools or our communities. As the SRC pretends to act with concern for the community, in reality, they want to dictate how the young people who are impacted by their decisions engage with them, largely relegating them to the sidelines and ignoring their voices.

We are expected to behave in a manner deemed “acceptable” to those who do not agree with our demands just so we can stare at a decision-making table where we are not allowed to sit.

Given the conditions in a school district already starved by budget cuts and school closings there absolutely needs to be a raucous outcry of dissent on behalf of students from as Simms would put it, “failing schools” that she and the body she is a part of has played a role in destroying. By telling students that they are “failing”, it is de-legitimizing the voices of all students, who are placed in a not-so-secret hierarchy.

In fact, the students at the Won’t Back Down action are student athletes, musicians, and performers, actively involved in peer mediation in their schools. Some have been pushed out of schools, others have not. The students who participated in the action were from both neighborhood and magnet schools, students who are usually pitted against one another for resources. Students of all types had to take their action to the only place it would be heard.

The police were called during this action. The police were called, not to monitor the situation, as there is already security staff in the building, but rather to make arrests. For any member of the SRC to call the cops on students is not only unacceptable but an eerie reminder of how systems of power are used to control and violently oppress young black people in the United States.

The SRC is an unaccountable body that is abusing its power. We see this abuse as both institutional, and now, with respect to Simms’ comments, as interpersonal as well. SRC members can scream at students, cancel teachers’ contracts, and close schools, with no repercussions.

There has been a deafening silence by Mayor Nutter, who appointed Simms, in regards to her actions. Lorri Shorr, the city's chief education officer, told Newsworks, that this was “democracy in action”.

We disagree with City Hall. Democracy is when you get to choose your leaders who make decisions on your behalf. Democracy is when students’ right to assemble is protected, not threatened by arrest.

Democracy would be an elected school board, not the SRC. We demand that the SRC be abolished and that Philadelphians be given local control over their schools.

We demand an end to the attacks on teachers, students, and our public schools.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Reading Material To Help You Join Our Fight for a People's Board of Education Instead of Mayoral Control (i.e. Racist Corporate Control)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

STUDY: Are iPads for the Whole School a Good Idea?

1:1 iPad Four Year Study
WAKE FOREST, NC-- The Franklin Academy High School implemented a 1:1 iPad deployment a the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year. Over the course of the next two school years, the pilot was expanded to include all grades 9-12 in the high school. This deployment has reached 475 high school students and all teaching staff. Our K-8 program deployed iPads across the grade levels in the form of class sets and mobile carts.

This study targeted our 1:1 deployment at the high school to investigate the impact the device has had on teaching and learning. The survey used to gather the student data was administered in April of 2014. Students included in the survey used the device anywhere from 1 to 4 years. The students use the iPad while at school and home.

Results of the survey hope to shed light on the impact the use of the iPad has had on academic gains as well as the development of the most important non-cognitive skills our program is founded upon.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Charter School Wars Come to Brooklyn

MORE (Movement of Rank & File Educators) Takes a Stand Against Eva Moskowitz at Hearings - Last Monday and Today in Manhattan

Thanks so much to all of you dear sisters and brothers who organized around getting folks out or going to the charter school hearing on Monday. These pics from DNAinfo are worth a thousand words and clearly show who's active and ready in the fight for Public Ed! So proud to wake up and see this today, so proud to stand in solidarity with all of you! 
A gaggle of 9 MOREistas attended the hearing last

Monday in Brooklyn as Eva intends to invade more gentrified areas in Districts 13, 14, and 15. The CEC presidents of all these districts, joined by District 23, are working together to address the charter problem. Noted Connecticut charter scoundrel Steve Perry, strangely, attended the hearing but left when MORE's Gloria Brandman did her "Eva the witch" impersonation.
MORE's Pat Dobosz with CEC14 Tesa Wilson behind her

Most of us spoke and the community people were very happy we were there to support them. Here's the full video with all of the speeches, followed by the announcement of today's hearing on 7th Ave in Manhattan.

See news story below the video.


*Public schools with limited financial support, forced to compete against charter schools with ample funds for the newest resources

*Overcrowding as schools deal with fewer rooms

*Competition between schools for access to the school's libraries, gyms, auditoriums, and cafeterias

*Parents pitted against parents in the same neighborhoods due to inequitable funding between charters and the district public schools.

*Increased importance of high-stakes tests to determine the future of students and teachers

*The excessing of quality teachers into the ATR pool of rotating teachers, as fewer rooms mean fewer classroom teachers

+Separate and unequal Schooling for our students!


Charter Success Hearing Suny Sept 22, 2014 from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.

Parents Fight New Success Academy Charters in Williamsburg and Park Slope

By Serena Dai September 24, 2014

 Parents and union members came out on Monday night to a public hearing discussing Success Academy's application to open charter schools in three Brooklyn districts.
Parents and Teachers Express Opposition to Success Academy Charter Schools
BROOKLYN — Parents and teachers are fighting controversial charter school network Success Academy's application to open schools in Williamsburg, Park Slope and Fort Greene — with dozens filing complaints during the public hearing process this week.

Success Academy has applied to open 14 schools in New York over the next two years, including one each in districts 13, 14 and 15, encompassing parts of Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill and Clinton Hill.

The schools would open in August 2016 with kindergarden and first grade classes at locations that have yet to be determined. The schools have said they plan to add one grade level per year.

While the current application only covers up to sixth grade, Success would like schools for all three districts to eventually expand to cover up to 12th grade. Pre-K, middle school and high school grades are subject to further approval.

SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which is tasked with evaluating charter school applications, will be voting on the Success Academy charters on Oct. 8, a spokesman said.

Though less than 20 people attended a Department of Education hearing on Monday inviting public comment about the planned charter, locals had 48 hours after the hearing to submit comments for public record.

So far, more than 100 people — most of them opposed to additional charter expansion — have submitted written comments to the DOE and SUNY through public school democracy parent group NYCPublic, according the group's organizer.

NYCPublic automatically sent the comments to the DOE, press, elected officials and the SUNY Charter Approval Board, they said.

Opponents decried the addition of new Success charter schools, citing problems including their unwillingness to teach students with special needs, including English as Second Language learners or children with behavioral issues.

As a result, public schools near charter schools end up being "dumping grounds" for high-needs students, some critics said.

Some opponents blasted charters for taking up space and resources inside of public school buildings, while others said they liked charters but didn't trust Eva Moskowitz or Success Academy.

"I am disgusted at the State Education leadership for creating this problem instead of solving the issues that affect our schools," one advocate wrote. "We have good elementary schools in District 14, we need support, not co-location!"

Tesa Wilson, president of district 14's community education council, attended Monday's hearing to speak out against additional charter schools in the district.

But the hearings often feel like "smoke and mirrors," with SUNY ultimately approving many charters that locals oppose, she said.

"It gives you a sense that the process is rigged," Wilson said.

SUNY declined to comment.

And while Success Academy sent a representative to the hearing to take notes, it did not give a presentation on the proposed schools or offer to answer questions — a lack of engagement that's become regular at public hearings, Wilson and others said.

Success Academy spokeswoman Ann Powell, who was not present at Monday's meeting, said that the academy has made "extensive outreach efforts," including information sessions, tours and presentations at daycares and pre-schools.

The network subsequently received “substantial” petition signatures supporting the new schools, she said, noting that 4,770 parents in those districts supported a new Success Academy in their area.

Its application includes 1,550 signatures from parents in district 13; 1,600 from parents in district 14 and 1,600 signatures from parents in district 15 in favor of the schools.

"It's important that parents have the opportunity to express their opinions, but the facts don't support the criticisms you cite," she said of the parent concerns expressed at Monday's meeting and in online forums.

A DOE representative at the hearing said the session had been recorded for SUNY and the DOE to review. The Success Academy representative at the hearing said the charter school network would be taking comments into consideration.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Increase Teacher Diversity in New York City!

Demand New York City's Board of MisEducation to Have Black & Latino Educators Be at Parity with its Black & Latino Student Population!
Sign the Petition and Pass It Along


Increase Teacher Diversity in New York City!

To be delivered to Carmen Fariña and The New York City Panel for Educational Policy
Since the 2001-2002 academic year, there has been a 57.4% decrease in the number of Black teachers hired by the New York City Department of Education, and a 22.9% increase for white teachers hired during this same period of time.

We ask Chancellor Fariña and the Panel for Education Policy to:

• Make a policy statement that acknowledges the value of teacher diversity and the lack of such diversity in New York City public schools.

• Centrally monitor the racial demographic of hiring and firing in NYC public and charter schools. In public school data reports include the racial profile for the teachers and administrators in each school as is currently done for the students.

• Raise the percentage of Black and Latino teachers hired in the system overall, with a special focus on raising the percentage of male teachers in those groups.

• Raise the percentage of persons of color in the NYC Teaching Fellows program to more closely match the NYC student body demographic. Make public the number and racial demographic of NYC Teaching Fellows hired.

• Settle Gulino vs. Board of Education, in which a recent court ruling found that the NY State LAST certification exam was not validated yet was used in 2002 to dismiss thousands of NYC teachers who were disproportionately Black and Latino.

• Invest in a clear and distinct paraprofessional-to-teacher career path that offers qualified applicants provisional teaching licenses while completing graduate degree requirements and subsidizes both undergraduate and graduate tuition at CUNY and SUNY
There are currently 114 signatures. NEW goal - We need 200 signatures!

Petition Background

In a school system that is 67.5% Black and Latino (as of 2012 - 13), the 34% combined percentage of Black and Latino teachers in the system is disappointing at best.

This lack of diversity reinforces already existing practices of segregation and leaves out diverse cultural perspectives that inform curriculum, pedagogy and practice. It also shortchanges our students by replicating and reinforcing false societal structures that devalue the contribution and perspectives of non-dominant racial and cultural groups.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Charter Schools = Apartheid Education + Vanishing Black & Latino Educators

Stop the Expansion of Apartheid Schooling in New York City!

The information below was obtained by the Teachers Diversity Committee (TDC) of NYC from Success Academy charter schools that responded to our request.  The percentage of white teachers at each Success Academy School is listed below for the 2013-2014 school year:

SA Cobble Hill 82%
SA Crown Heights 57%
SA Fort Green 100%
SA Harlem I 73%
SA Harlem II 63%
SA Harlem III 61%
SA Harlem IV 56%
SA Harlem V 76%
SA Hell’s Kitchen 89%
SA Prospect Heights 91%
SA Upper West 82%
SA Williamsburg 71%
SA Bed-Stuy II 80%
SA Bronx I 74%
SA Bronx II 66%

In 2012 58.6% of teachers in the NYC public schools were white.  Out of the 15 Success Academy Charter schools listed above, 13 out of 15 have a higher percentage of white teachers than was the city wide average for public schools in NYC.

According to a study prepared by Gary Orfield and reported on in the NYC Daily News (3/27/14):

“Schools in New York suffer from the worst racial segregation of any U.S. state, and city schools also earn depressingly dismal marks for diversity, a damning report released Wednesday said.  Many black and Hispanic kids in New York attend schools with almost no white classmates, according to the paper from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.  City charter schools showed even higher segregation rates, with less than 1% white enrollment at 73% of charters. “To create a whole new system that’s even worse than what you’ve got really takes some effort,” said Gary Orfield, an author of the report.” 


The mandate to expand charters is increasing racial segregation of students and decreasing teacher diversity in NYC schools overall.

We call on The New York State Charter School Institute to:

1) Implement a moratorium on all further charter school approvals
2) Stop the expansion of apartheid schooling in NYC and...
3) Take affirmative steps to increase teacher diversity in all NYC charter schools.

Note:  The NYC DOE informed us that they do not collect teacher diversity data from Charter Schools and we were told to direct our requests to the Charter organizations.  Success Academy required us to ask each individual school in their network to provide the information.  Teachers Diversity Committee of NYC obtained the data above only after separate requests were made to each Success Academy school.  The request was for all years but only 2013-14 was provided.  A number of Success Academy Charter schools declined to respond to our requests. 

To support Teacher Diversity in NYC public and charter schools contact: 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

America’s Unspoken Education Issue: Black Kids Need Black Teachers

A new historical account is just the latest reminder that relying on white teachers to save black students has never been enough.

“Hiring more white teachers is not the best way to improve education for students, particularly students of color.” This recent commentary by a black student from New Orleans in the Washington Post predictably aroused the ire of readers who accused the young man of reverse racism, playing the race card and divisiveness.

That’s no surprise. Race is the third rail of education. Touch it and get scorched. But when it comes to the need for more teachers of color—and, conversely, the idea that placing black students with white teachers isn’t a fix-all—overwhelming research and historical evidence say that this is where our attention needs to be.

The idea that racial diversity in classrooms has automatic benefits is a proven myth when it comes to black educational achievement. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, wide disparities exist between students of color and white students across all aspects of public education. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, black students trail white classmates on every academic criterion and marker of school quality, while black youths far exceed white classmates in suspensions, expulsions and arrests.

The numbers are stark and straightforward: Educational attainment is greatly influenced by race. But these bleak statistics don’t tell the full story of the impact of race on educational outcomes.

In all the discussion of resources, testing and parental involvement, what we don’t hear enough about is this: Students of color perform better with teachers of color (pdf)—academically, socially and emotionally. According to a Center for American Progress report on retaining teachers of color in public schools, “Teachers of color are more likely to work and remain in high-poverty, hard-to-staff urban schools and districts than their white counterparts. ... What’s more, teachers of color are known to be personally committed to the success of children of color ... ” Yet as our student population grows more diverse, the people standing in front of classrooms remain predominantly white.

For the first time, black children and other students of color are now the majority in public schools, and what was a racial and ethnic gap between students and teachers is becoming a chasm. But a new historical portrait of the teaching profession reveals that the racial composition of the teachers who instruct black children has been a perennial issue since the 19th century, full of highs and lows and fraught with resistance and setbacks.

Dana Goldstein’s recently released The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession tracks the journey of black students from Reconstruction, and black teachers inspired to “supplant memories of slavery with those of racial pride,” to today’s highly charged debate on teacher tenure, marketed to black and Latino parents as a cure-all for what ails their children’s education. Goldstein’s thorough historical treatment supports the principle that teachers of color matter. This isn’t a hunch—it’s a fact based on solid, extensive evidence.

The abolition of slavery and the subsequent Reconstruction in the South spawned the nation’s first historically black colleges, established to train black teachers to uplift the race. Black teachers taught formerly enslaved people to read and write, and the literacy rate increased dramatically. The outgrowth of this era produced the all-black M Street High School in Washington, D.C., whose faculty was better-educated and credentialed than white counterparts in the District’s public schools. Anna Julia Cooper, the principal of M Street and a leading black scholar of her day, steered black students into the nation’s top colleges and universities. Underscoring Cooper’s educational success with black youths at the turn of the century was a steadfast commitment to “black schools led by black educators.”
Fast-forward five decades, and Cooper’s dream was decimated. In the 11 years following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the ranks of black teachers plummeted, along with the great hope that the Brown decision would solve racial inequalities in education. In Northern cities, de facto segregation continued unabated. In the South, desegregation was slow and deeply resisted. As the displacement of black educators became the norm, and the “broken promises” of integration became more apparent, the resentment of black and Latino parents smoldered.

The drastic loss of nonwhite teachers for students of color is the thread that links the past to the present. In 1968 New York City weathered the Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis, a manifestation of “long-standing evidence ... that suggested that white teachers often did have low expectations for their nonwhite students, and that those views negatively impacted academic achievement,” writes Goldstein. In 1970 community activists in Newark, N.J., clashed with unionized teachers over “their self-interest and disrespect for poor black children.”

Today the disconnect between white teachers and the communities of color they serve continues. Even as the increasing segregation of schools grabs headlines, one aspect remains underreported: how well black students actually fare in integrated schools. The New Republic found not so well: “Today, even in schools that have achieved some level of diversity, there’s evidence that students of different races are still being treated differently. Substantial scholarly evidence indicates that teachers—especially white teachers—evaluate black students’ behavior and academic potential more negatively than those of white students.”

The question is no longer whether black children and other children of color need high-quality teachers that share their cultural backgrounds but, rather, why boosting teacher diversity isn’t the top national education priority.

First lady Michelle Obama recounts her mother “holding [teachers’] feet to the fire if she thought they were falling short” and “looking over those teachers’ shoulders.” When parents of color have to become squatters in public school classrooms, the status quo is broken, and reforming it will require really uncomfortable conversations about race—the kinds of conversations that a New Orleans public school student started.
Melinda D. Anderson is a Washington, D.C.–based education writer and parent activist with a special interest in race, class, educational equity and educational justice. She is a founding member of EduColor, a collective that cultivates and promotes diverse voices in the public education conversation and policymaking process. Follow her on Twitter.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Newark Parents Boycott School For POWER To Control Their Neighborhood Schools

Newark Parents Want Local Control of Their Schools- Not Racist Corporate Takeover! 
Start a Boycott on Day One

A group of parents and students in Newark, New Jersey, boycotted the first day of school on Thursday to protest a new system that reorganized the state-run district this year.

One Newark, unveiled last December, gives students the option of attending a school besides the one in their local neighborhood. It has also expanded charter schools in the district, while consolidating or repurposing other schools. The plan is currently being investigated the U.S. Department of Education over claims that it has a disproportionally negative impact on minority students.

Some parents also think that state-appointed District Superintendent Cami Anderson did not solicit enough input from community members in making the plan, and others have claimed that the new transportation system created by the plan is disorganized and unsafe. Anderson as repeatedly disputed the charge that community stakeholders were not involved in the development of One Newark.

Tuesday's action was part of a series of protests and petitions that have been ongoing since reorganization was announced. Newark has 40,000 students, and is one of the state’s lowest performing districts. In 2013, for example, Newark had a 68 percent graduation rate, compared to 88 percent in the state.

Neither activists nor school officials had hard numbers Thursday on exactly how many children stayed home, though Anderson said she did not see high rates of absenteeism and thought the school day went smoothly. Prior to the boycott, hundreds of families committed to participating in the protest, according to press releases from the organizers, Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE).

Students participating in the boycott could attend one of three "Freedom Schools," where volunteers gave children instruction, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

In a press release for the boycott, Johnnie Lattner, a co-founder of PULSE, said that activists are boycotting schools because “we have used every organizing tool available to us.”

“Today we make a stand against Cami Anderson dividing, destroying, dismissing, dismantling, and disrespecting parents, students, teachers, and community. We say no to the One Newark Plan,” said Lattner.

Yvonne Malone, who pulled her 12-year-old son out of school on Thursday, told HuffPost that she participated in the boycott because she takes issue with the fact that One Newark expands charter schools in the district. Malone's son attends a charter school, but she said she wishes he didn't.

“Because of lack of resources, lack of protection for these children, I was forced to pull him out [of traditional public school],” Malone said. “Pull him out of a school that should be right for him, should be made equal for him.”

Malone also said she thinks the district should return to local control. Newark schools have been under state control since 1995.

“We have to boycott to say that we want local control, we want communication and we want to halt One Newark,” said Malone. “The district is failing and the schools are failing.”
However, Anderson said she hopes that One Newark will directly combat chronic failure in the district.

“I really hope we get to a place where we are looking to find solutions as opposed to exacerbating challenges. I am disappointed in the amount of misinformation being actively spread,” Anderson told HuffPost. “I don’t think preserving the past is an acceptable stance. I think we have to act boldly.”

Next Thursday and Friday, the student activist group Newark Students Union, which has repeatedly protested One Newark and Cami Anderson, plans to take further action against the reorganization with a school "shut down." On Thursday, members of the group plan to rally students to go to a park. 

There, they will provide classes about student rights and the history of the student movement, said Roberto Cabanas, a lead organizer with New Jersey Communities United, a grassroots community organization that provides funding and organizing space for the student group. Then on Friday, the activists plan to bring protesters directly to district headquarters, where they will demand Anderson’s resignation and a return to local control of the district.

In response, Anderson emphasized that she does not think students should be spending more time away from the classroom.

“Time in class is critical. Our kids are critically off track,” she said.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Charter Schools: The Real Deal Video

Education Activist, Fordham University Professor Mark Naison debunks Charter School mythology in this episode of Education News. Comparing the Charter School explosion to the subprime mortgage collapse, Naison reveals the startling failures and false promises of the Charter mystique.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Charter Schools: A Crisis In SubPrime Education


Why Charter School Scandals Resemble the Subprime Mortgage Crisis

To understand why  we may be approaching a charter school crisis that resembles the one that developed around subprime mortgages, you need to understand how investment banks and credit rating agencies seized upon an instrument to make homeownership available to people with limited resources as a vehicle to make fortunes and advance careers, leaving the tax payers with a large bill. I think something similar is happening today with charter schools, once seen as an opportunity to provide better educational opportunities for families in low and moderate income neighborhoods. In each instance,  an institution initially aimed at expanding opportunity for those with limited resources became, because of government favoritism and lack of oversight, a vehicle for profit taking on a grand scale by the very privileged that sometimes left those the institution was designed to help in very bad shape
  The subprime mortgage was a loan offered by banks and financial institutions to people whose credit rating and financial position was too weak to qualify for a normal 20 to 30 year mortgage at the prevailing interest rate.  To protect the lender, this was done by making the interest rate much higher, with the penalty, in the case of default, being repossession of the home that was purchased. This was obviously a high risk endeavor for the borrower. But because the nation was becoming more economically polarized, with working class incomes plunging and middle class incomes stagnant, the Clinton administration and federal lending agencies started pushing this instrument as a way of keeping the dream of homeownership alive in the nation, especially among working class people and people of color.  Banks, savings and loans, and mortgage companies rose to the challenge, writing millions of these mortgages to people whose incomes and collateral did not qualify them for a conventional mortgage.
At times, they aggressively marketed these mortgages, pushing them on people who never dreamed they could purchase a home, triggering a wave of new residential construction in many parts of the nation.  It seemed like a democratic moment in the nation’s history- millions of new home owners, many of them people of color, a boom in residential construction, work for lawyers and bankers specializing in residential loans.
 But underlying this boom were shady practices that elected officials chose to ignore. Many of the mortgages were written in ways that hid the risks borrowers were taking with variable rates that rose sharply after the first few years.   There was no way  borrowers were going to be able to pay their mortgages with the rates they would have five or ten years after they were initially written and many  would lose the homes they had purchased.  Worse yet, investment banks began to bundle these mortgages into bond offerings, and sell them as a safe investments to insurance companies, pension funds, government institutions, and high end investors around the world, raking in huge commissions as they did so.  And here, corruption on a grand scale turned a risky lending practice into a destabilizing force of deadly proportions in the global economy.  
Rating agencies, seeing huge profits being made by their best customers, the large investment banks, started giving triple A ratings to bonds based on the bundling of individual mortgages which, were they rated, would have been giving a rating of “F.” This practice ended up spreading the risk into every corner of the global economy, as investors rushed to gobble up the bonds, more mortgages were written and sold to meet the demand. And for a while it all seemed to work. Millions of people who never had homes how had them, while fortunes were being made in the writing, bundling and marketing of these mortgages.
   But inevitably, the boom turned to bust.  When the high rates on the mortgages started kicking in, millions of people defaulted on their loans, not only losing their homes but setting in motion a chain reaction which destabilized not only the banks which had written the mortgages, but the financial institutions which had bundled them, along with their customers. Some of the largest banks and insurance companies in the nation failed and went under, and others had to be rescued through an injection of funds from the federal government at huge expense to tax payers.  And as the economy plunged into near Depression, the residential housing market was shattered, and along with it the dream of widespread home ownership among the poor. Today, there are 13 million abandoned homes and commercial properties in the US, while large numbers of families live doubled and tripled up in properties which were designed to be private homes
      While the comparison is not exact, there are some powerful similarities between what happened to subprime mortgages and what is currently taking place with charter schools, another “short cut” to opportunity which has been seized upon by elites for financial and political gain, to the detriment of those for whom the charter school was initially designed to help.
     Charter schools, which are public funded schools which have their own boards of directors and can set their own hiring policies, curricula, and patterns of student recruitment and discipline independent of the regulations governing public schools , were initially created to promote greater experimentation and innovation in public education.  Many early charter schools were created by teachers and parents and promoted innovative pedagogies. Some still do.
    But somewhere along the line, public officials began to see charter schools as a way of circumventing expensive labor contracts with teachers unions and of providing an alternative to public schools in inner city communities which had been battered by disinvestment, job losses and drug epidemics. They invited foundations and the private sector to come in and create charter schools on a far larger scale and with a very different model than parent/teacher cooperatives, using private money as well as public money.  The professed goal was to give inner city parents and students safe alternatives to battered, underfunded and often troubled public schools, something many parents welcomed, but inviting powerful interests to help shape what was essentially an alternate school system free from public regulation and oversight proved to be as dangerous as it was tantalizing.
    By the end of the Clinton Administration, “Charter School Fever” had started to spread through Corporate America and Wall Street, spurred on by an investment tax credit that offered huge tax breaks for those who invested in charter school construction.  Not only did the number of charter schools rise exponentially in every city in the country, but self- described “education entrepreneurs” began creating  charter school chains, some of them non profit, some of them for profit,  which attracted  private funding along with public money, headed by powerful “CEO’s” who were sometimes relatives and friends of powerful politicians, and in a few instances, politicians ( or ex-politicians) themselves. Flush with funding the chains began building new schools in inner city neighborhoods where public schools were starved of funding, or in some cases, colonizing existing public school buildings and seizing the best facilities.  
Founders of the new chains eagerly embraced the corporate model of management, giving their executives far higher salaries than their counterparts in public education, and creating a climate of insecurity and fear for their teachers, along with data driven performance targets, with the expressed goal of vastly outperforming inner city public schools on the standardized tests which had become the central component of school evaluation following the passage of No Child Left Behind.   
    By the middle of the Bush administration, hundreds of new charter schools had been created in cities throughout the country and charter schools were rapidly emerging as the favored strategy for inner city education among an unprecedented array of interests including Wall Street and Silicon Valley, Civil rights organizations, Hollywood and the media, and the Democratic and Republican leadership. The prospect of creating great schools in inner city communities while  offering opportunities for profitable investment, all without raising taxes or increasing school budgets proved irresistible to  a broad spectrum of the nation’s leadership. 
Charter Schools, like subprime Mortgages, were increasingly marketed as a Win/Win proposition for all concerned, a way to help the poor while unleashing the creative power of the private sector. The power and breadth of this emerging coalition was revealed for all the nation to see when Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans in 2005.   
Charter School advocates literally seized upon Katrina as the “Perfect Storm,  putting forth a plan to turn New Orleans into all Charter School district by phasing out and closing all public schools in the city. During the last three years of the Bush administration, the plan was put into effect with the full support of the city administration and the state legislature, leading to the closing of scores of New Orleans public schools and the firing of thousands of teachers, many of them teachers of color, replacing them with charter schools staffed by mostly white teachers supplied by Teach for America.
   But in terms of Charter School Fever and Charter School Favoritism, the Bush years proved to be only a prelude to what was to transpire in the Obama Administration.  With the appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and the launching of Race to the Top, President Obama not only made Charter School Favoritism official national policy, he put hundreds of billions   dollars of federal funds behind an effort to force municipalities to close “failing” public schools (defined as failing exclusively on the basis of student test scores) and replace them with charters. 
 At a time when the nation had fallen into a severe Recession, municipalities eagerly complied as a way of getting much needed federal funds, closing public schools en masse and creating thousands of new charters, often with little oversight and only the most perfunctory investigation of the school founders and boards of directors.  Ironically, this was done even though the available research showed that charters did NOT outperform public schools in the same neighborhoods, with comparable student populations.  But data and evidence, when its results were inconvenient, did not deter the President and Secretary of Education from promoting Charter Schools as their preferred solution to problems of educational inequality, a position affirmed for all to see when the President celebrated “National Charter School Week” rather than “Teacher Appreciation Week.”
       It is in the Obama years, with the financial incentives of Race to the Top sparking rapid charter school growth with little oversight, that the abuses associated with charter schools began to take on proportions akin to those associated with the subprime mortgage crisis. In the case of the charter school industry, the abuses took two forms:  mistreatment of students, teachers, and families, and fiscal issues ranging from mismanagement to outright embezzlement and fraud.
   Many of the educational abuses of charter schools stem from their determination to make sure their test scores surpass those of neighboring public schools, thereby justifying the favorable treatment they receive, and hope to receive in the future.  These abuses include:
** Discrimination against Special Needs students and English Language learners. In every city in the nation, charter schools enroll far lower number of such students than public schools in the same neighborhoods.
** Expulsion or harassment of student who do not test well, sometimes right before state tests. In some cities, public school teachers have called this “The Charter School Dump” as they can expect an influx of charter schools students, who they HAVE TO accept, shortly before test time.  On one instance a famous charter school operator in NY expelled his entire 8th grade class because of their disappointing performance on tests
** Draconian discipline policies which would never be tolerated in public schools such as putting students in closets, having them stare at walls, or wear special articles of clothing to indicate they are being punished when they violate school behavior codes.
** Telling students, parents and teachers to avoid all contact with their counterparts in co-located or neighboring public schools lest they be “polluted” or “corrupted” by such contact.
** Failure to hire or retain teachers of color. Charter schools have far lower proportions of such teachers than public schools with comparable student populations.
Not all charter schools practice these forms of discrimination. But enough do, with the number growing every day, that the issue cries out for investigation at the city, state and federal level.
The same is true of fiscal abuse and political favoritism, which, if anything, may even be more prevalent. These include
**Inflated salaries for Charter School CEO’s and founders of charter school chains. One charter school operator in Washington DC is under investigation for drawing more than 3 million dollars in compensation a year.
** Putting public officials, and relatives of public officials on the boards of charter schools seeking public funding. Instances of this have been uncovered in Indiana, Florida, California, and Tennessee and can probably be found in most other states.
**Outright embezzlement of funds by charter school operators, instances of which have been uncovered in New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Connecticut.
** Involvement of charter school operators in real estate fraud with the intention of inflating the value of properties in neighborhoods where new charter schools are being built.
** The creation of on line and for profit charter schools, without serious oversight, even though such entities have no track record of effective instruction.
** The granting of charter school franchises, in some states, to religious institutions which teach creationism and biblical literalism, and exclude students who do not share those beliefs.
  What we have here, to put it bluntly, is a pattern of discrimination and fraud that hurts the very families 
the charter schools were intended to help, allows ambitious individuals to enrich themselves at public 
expense, and ultimately undermines the quality of public education in cities throughout the nation. 
The entire charter industry, riddled with fraud, corruption and discrimination, is poised to slowly build 
to a public education collapse if the trends of cherry picking the best students, dumping the high needs 
kids into public schools then closing them for under performing continues.
 It is time that all forms of Charter School Favoritism come to an end, that Charter Schools be subject to the same level of oversight that public schools are, that closing of public schools to make way for Charters stop immediately and that there be no further expansion of charter schools until their patterns of governance and operation fully investigated