I originally wrote this on my own site here in reference to progressive petition sites Change.org and Care2.com (which Daily Kos features).
I hope you come to the same conclusion I did.
My petitions on Change.org and Care2.com have passed 250 and 100 signatures, respectively. In the mean time I have received a few emails saying good work and a few more asking why? Both petition sites are progressive enterprises allowing every day people like myself to start a petition and have others sign it demanding an entity change their actions. A man in San Francisco started one asking the San Francisco Giants to make a "It Get's Better" video - they did. Stuff like that.
Michelle Rhee's organization Students First utilizes both sites for their own goals in changing the face of education. They call it reform but in all honesty it is a reform progressives and people who care about children's education should be against. While her organization's title is a cleaver play on our heartstrings, allow me to show you otherwise.
A new report reveals just how true my long held believe really is... our schools are being starved of funds creating a fake problem thus allowing private enterprise to provide the solution. Seems a little kooky but the evidence is there to support it.
The first factor: New austerity budgets passed by state legislatures are starting to have a huge influence on direct services to children, youth, and families. There is widespread evidence that the education funding cuts are leading to:
- Massive cuts to early childhood education programs (pre-K and kindergarten);
- Huge class sizes in many subjects, reaching levels that are upsetting parents and potentially damaging students’ education;
- An end to art, music, physical education, and other subjects considered to be part of a well-rounded education;
- Cuts in specialized programs and/or hefty fees for them. Some of these programs serve students with developmental issues or those who need more individualized attention. They also include extra-curricular activities such as band and sports as well as academic offerings in science, foreign language, technology, and Advanced Placement subjects.
The second factor: As public schools are grappling with these severe budget cuts to programs, they also are facing enormous pressure to transfer tax dollars to targets outside traditional public education. New policy mandates at the federal and state levels are forcing public school systems to redirect tax dollars meant for public schools to various privately held concerns such as charter schools, private and religious schools, and contractors and companies tasked with setting up new systems for testing and accountability.
In Chicago TIF districts are doing just this and more by diverting property taxes into accounts to lure (read: bribe) companies to move or stay in the area.
This funding problem gives "reform" advocates a venue to promote different solutions than properly funding public education. Take vouchers for example. A further degradation to funding for public schools vouchers are what conservatives like to call a government handout so a child can go to a private or charter school (sometimes run for-profit and almost always non-union teachers). Rhee has been doing just this with Tea Party backed Governors in Florida and Pennsylvania.
Rhee has made appearances promoting these ideas with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Betsy Devos (of Amway riches), who has advocated for private schools with her millions of dollars. So first we have conservative ideals in her so called reform organization promoted on progressive sites.
Next - she is actually a fraud. Rhee garnered fame for magically transforming Washington D.C. schools by putting pressure on teachers to up student scores on standardized tests. Improve them or be fired... hell she fired a principal on camera for a documentary and it was her idea.
the firebrand former chancellor best known for firing teachers, closing underperforming schools, and linking teacher and principal pay to student test scores. Such irregularities are, in part, the unintended consequence of a spate of popular education reform policies that over-rationalize teaching and learning—both of which are creative processes—by measuring them almost exclusively through the results of multiple-choice standardized tests.
Unintended consequences is nice way of putting it. Placing that pressure on anyone gives any field those results. It is not the way to improve teaching but a way to guarantee cheating in order for people to keep their jobs. A USA Today investigation found extreme irregularities in wrong to right erasures on standardized tests. Rhee was in charge at the time and supposedly found no wrong-doing.
USA Today reports that Rhee at first resisted Gist’s suggestion that she look into the irregularities, but eventually, in 2009, hired an outside consulting company to conduct a cursory investigation, which ended up absolving every school of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, under Rhee’s controversial merit pay program, principals of eight schools with high erasure rates received annual bonuses of up to $10,000 for boosting student test score averages by as much as 48 points. Classroom teachers at the schools were eligible for an additional $8,000 in pay each year.
Yeah right! As Steven Leavitt of Freaknomics fame puts it: given the chance a small percentage of people will cheat. This is what happened here at the helm of Michelle Rhee.
It is time to kick Michelle Rhee's false progressive petitions off these sites.