Saturday, October 29, 2011

We are Not Alone When It Comes to Fighting School Closures! 
Oakland, California
Oakland Unified School District board members voted 5 to 2 in favor of “restructuring” package which includes the closure of five elementary schools in the area. 

Oakland parents, students and educators are also struggling to hold onto their neighborhood schools. The economic crisis and the inability of those in power- locally, statewide and nationally- to solve this endemic problem is forcing ordinary folk to do extraordinary things. 

If we continue down this path of finding massive democratic ways to solve the problems of US public education, we will have won. So... there is no alternative but to continue to fightback and continue to refine our vision of a truly democratic/antiracist FREE public education system thruout the US.

 New America Media Editor's Note: A few weeks before Occupy Oakland moved into Frank Ogawa Plaza, the community of Lakeview Elementary School organized it's first action -- a march of students, parents, teachers and concerned community members to an Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) meeting. Videographer Siraj Fowler documented the multi-ethnic, intergenerational fight waged against the school closures and OUSD's eventual decision to close 5 schools.
New America Media Editor's Note: A few weeks before Occupy Oakland moved into Frank Ogawa Plaza, the community of Lakeview Elementary School organized it's first action -- a march of students, parents, teachers and concerned community members to an Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) meeting. Videographer Siraj Fowler documented the multi-ethnic, intergenerational fight waged against the school closures and OUSD's eventual decision to close 5 schools.

Saving Oakland's School from New America Media on Vimeo.

OUSD: The Fight Continues from New America Media on Vimeo.

OUSD Strikes Back from New America Media on Vimeo.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupy the Dept of Mis-Education! 
The Last PEP- Panel of Elite Puppets (the NYC PEP- panel on education policy) was interrupted by hundreds of OccupyWallStreet inspired educators and parents (and a few students).

This is the first time in more than 10 years where folk recognize the PEP as an illegitimate body AND proceed to ignore them and establish their own Board of Education effort. It is truly a new beginning that needs to be fleshed out by many meetings with parents, students and educators across the city.

The OccupyWallStreet Movement has inspired education activists to be more brazen in their actions to dismantle the privateers' bumrushing policies of controls-for-profits.

The video below depicts the very beginning of this fight. 

More Black & Latino parents, educators and students need to be at the center of this effort-- since they are the majority of the city. But, that requires a lot of work still needed to be done by Black/Latino/Asian organizers in the next few months.

Join us to make this happen! Email Akinlabi Makall <> if you want to become an active member of the Coalition for Public Education.
NYC Black/Latino Student-led Study Shows System Ain't Workin'!
To get a PDF version of the report, go to:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

~A Report on the Education Trial/Tribunal~
Joel Shatzky

--English Professor

Educating for Democracy: The People's Trial of Mayor Bloomberg 

Posted: 10/16/11-

CPE-CEP Sister Brenda Walker and son, Kaashief Toomer stated that the testimonies of resistance and struggle inspired them to continue the  struggle to defeat Mayoral Control.
Shortly after Mayor Michael Bloomberg assumed control of the New York City school system, he presented his programs as a national leader in "educational reform." But there has been evidence in the New York public schools in the recent past of cheating on standardized tests by teachers and supervisors.

Moreover, the much publicized "success" of the mayor's program has been in part based on inflated test scores and the "dumbing down" of the tests themselves. Yet under the mayor's "leadership" Bloomberg continues to close down "failing" schools and replace them with charter schools causing wide-spread disruption to students, parents and veteran teachers. As a result of these closings, some of the most valuable and experienced teachers lose their positions and end up in "ATR" (Absent Teacher Reserve) where they are misused as substitute teachers with no permanent position since the principals are reluctant to hire high-salary veterans and prefer to employ cheaper, inexperienced teachers to meet their "bottom line." This is the business model of education that the Bloomberg Administration has imposed.

At a "trial" held at DC 37 of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sponsored by the Coalition for Public Education and hosted by Sam Anderson, a noted educational leader dedicated to wresting the school system out of mayoral control, testimony was given by dozens of parents, teachers and concerned educators describing the negative effect the mayor's "educational reform" has produced in what seems to be a part of a nationwide attempt to privatize the public schools, deskill teachers, strip them of their union rights, and firmly establish a two-tier educational system: one for the privileged and one for everyone else.

The all-day trial was adjudicated by such well-known legal authorities as Thomas Mariadson, of the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund, Esmeralda Simmons, of the Center for Law and Social Justice, Damon Hewitt of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and attended by City Councilman Charles Barron. Angel Gonzalez, a member of GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) described in detail the destructive effect of school closings in which a disproportionate number of Black and Latino students are pushed out of their neighborhood schools to accommodate charter schools. This process not only results in damage to the students but a disproportionate number of Black and Latino teachers end up as ATR's further diminishing the ethnic diversity of the system. Among other results of the co-location of charter schools in district schools is that they-the charters- cut back on needed programs in bi-lingual and special needs education.

Another aspect of the damage the Bloomberg administration has done to the NYC public schools was revealed by a teacher-parent whose daughter goes to Bronx Regional High School, the school attended by Nicole Suriel, the girl who was tragically drowned on a class beach visit last summer. The parent testified that he had repeatedly warned the school administration and Department of Education of neglect and indifference to student well-being at the school and blames the Administration for fostering this negligent attitude that resulted in the girl's death.

The teacher also reported the conditions at the GED Plus school where he teaches which is located at Bronx Regional High School. The school is intended to offer a chance for high school dropouts ages 17-21, to get their General Education diplomas. However, according to the teacher's testimony, the school has no library, no arts programs, no gym, no special literacy program, no ELL for students whose first language is not English, and 35 in a class.

There were many other charges of mismanagement of the public schools by the Bloomberg administration. These included the dismissal of a twelve-year special ed veteran when the DOE discovered she hadn't taken a foreign language course in college; the excessive number of summonses and arrests of students of color where not only security personnel but also regular police with firearms patrol the former Brandeis High School. It had once been one of the best high schools in the City but was closed down so that a charter school can be "co-located" at the facility on the Upper West Side where the workers and teachers will be non-unionized. The testimony throughout the time I attended presented a consistent pattern of inadequate attention to and neglect of schools that desperately need more support.

And while these schools are "failing," Councilman Barron reported that during the period of the Bloomberg administration's control of the schools the DOE budget has increased from $11 billion to $24 billion while only 23% of the students graduating from the public schools are prepared for college. With a great many of the services for the city schools now "contracted out," Barron wonders where so much of this money is going with so little effect on improving public education.

At the same time, as pointed out by Leonie Haimson, a nationally known parent-advocate and Executive Director of Class Size Matters, a clearinghouse for information on class size, the actual number of students in classrooms K-12 has increased under the Bloomberg administration, despite the fact that $650 million each year for the past three were specifically appropriated by the State legislature under the Contracts for Excellence law to reduce class size. Moreover, Haimson pointed out that several programs that have no research to support them are being vigorously expanded under the Mayor's watch: paying students for improving test scores and increasing the use of on-line (computer-based) instruction.

An alternative to such destructive practices was offered at the hearing in an ICOPE (Independent Commission on Public Education) video created by a group of high school students who actually asked other students what they felt would improve their schools. The video, based on a study called YRNES (Youth Researchers for a New Education System)
found that in addition to wanting to be treated with greater respect by teachers and other staff, about 80% of those students questioned expressed an interest in participating in leadership roles in their school. Perhaps if other school administrators, besides the Mayor, heeded the students' request, there might be some marked improvement in their performance in learning.

If the "Trial of Mayor Bloomberg" showed anything, it was that his programs were more expensive, more destructive, and more demoralizing with no significant improvement in learning outcome than prior to his administration. The sentence for what he's done is that he should be dismissed from his position as head school administrator so that more positive outcomes can be produced for our City's young learners: student, parent and teacher-based, not business-based education.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The People's Education Trial/Tribunal Was a Great Start! 
On to the People's Board Of Education! 
 Some of the early morning crowd who came out to DC37's Main Hall.

On Saturday 15 October more than 50 people testified about the decade-long educational crimes and violations they or their children have endured from the Bloomberg Mayoral Dictatorship regime.

Nearly 200 people were in attendance throughout the day at DC37. Those in attendance as well as the 8 prominent judges were moved by powerful testimony not only about the daily atrocities parents, students and educators have to face in our public schools, but also about how those who testified resisted and fought back... and were -at times- victorious.
 City Councilman Charles Barron making a point in his testimony as the judges and State Assemblywoman Inez Barron listen .

The 8 judges were:
•  Attny Esmeralda Simmons- Director, Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) at Medgar Evers College
•  Attny Joan Gibbs- Senior Counselor, CLSJ/National Council of Black Lawyers
•  Attny Roger Wareham- December 12th Movement
•  Father Luis Barrios, PhD- Pastors for Peace
•  Ejim Dike- Human Rights Project (Urban Justice Center)
•  Attny Damon T. Hewitt- NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund
•  Attny Thomas Mariadason- Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund
•  Attny King Downing- American Friends Service Committee
The first group of witnesses to testify came from Brooklyn's La Union. They gave powerful testimony concerning the daily racist onslaughts they and their children have to face as Latino immigrants and English Language Learners.
CPE Members attending to the final work of the day. (Left to right: CoChair Muba Yarofulani, Roberta Pisker, Benita Rivera, Charmaine Phillip, Sandra Rivers, Akinlabi Mackall)

Over the next week or two, look to this blog and our website: for all the video proceedings and documents submitted at the Trial/Tribunal.

The Coalition for Public Education/Coalicion por La Educacion Publica (CPE-CEP) will also be calling for the Founding Convention of the People's Board of Education within the next couple of months. So, be prepared to come and participate in envisioning, organizing and fighting for a new more democratic school governance system rooted in our communities and cultures.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Charting the charter schools funding network
By Laurie Bennett

October 6, 2011

A map of the funders of the charter school movement looks much like a map of the funders of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

To create the map below, we started with the Alliance for School Choice, an organization headed by Betsy DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater. Her mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, is a big donor to conservative organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Media Research Center. Broekhuizen was also a major contributor to the effort to outlaw same-sex marriage in California.

The alliance is affiliated with the American Federation for Children, also chaired by Betsy DeVos.

Carrie Penner, a director of both organizations, is also on the board of the Walton Family Foundation, run by the Wal-Mart heirs. The Waltons give generously to charter school organizations around the country. (See a larger, expanded version of the map.)

You'll note in both versions of the map connections to conservative think tanks and nonprofits, including the Hoover Institution, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the Federalist Society.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Brother Crespo is showing us what we should do everytime Bloomie Flunky Walcott is in our Presence!

October 6, 2011
CONTACT: Mickey Melendez
Assistant to the President
(212) 815-1372


This morning, to protest DOE's decision to layoff 701 school support workers, Local 372 President, Santos Crespo, Jr. and union members stood up and turned their backs to Chancellor Dennis Walcott during his speech, to demonstrate their solidarity with those who will be laid off tomorrow. Chancellor Walcott spoke at an event that honored DOE workers with over 20 years of service.

"We are one. When DOE lays off even one of our workers, we all hurt," said Mr. Crespo. 

"Chancellor Walcott failed to stand up for the lowest paid workers at DOE who are crucial in taking care of our city's children. How is DOE going to fill this void? These are workers who monitor the lunch room, the hallways, and the yards to ensure the safety of our school children and to help maintain order in the schools. These are workers who call parents when children do not attend school to find out what is happening with the child. These are workers who provide a communication link between parents and the school system," stated Mr. Crespo. Laying off these workers will further deteriorate our public schools which continue to take the brunt of budget cuts.

"We turned our backs on Chancellor Walcott as a statement because we are standing up for the future of New York City's school system and the future of our kids," stated Mr. Crespo.

On Friday, October 7, 2011, DOE will lay off 701 school support staff workers, affecting thousands of children in the poorest of New York City's communities. Local 372 members will wear black on Friday as a sign of mourning for the loss of their fellow workers.


Josefa Febrillet-Barr
Political Action Coordinator
Local 372
125 Barclay Street, 6th Floor

Monday, October 3, 2011