A recent diary on the rec list (link) laid a lot of blame on Texas, Rick Perry, and assorted rightwing players and policies, for cutting and mauling public education. This continued in the comments, where blame was also laid at GWB's doorstep for No Child Left Behind -Texas, again - as well as other GOP-led states. But the outrage in the posts failed to tell the whole ugly story of who is responsible for the assault on public education and educators, or rather, they stopped short at Texas, GWB, Perry, and conservatives in other state governments who are currently whacking at public education and teachers' unions (targeted because they were the last strongly unionized bastion for the middle class). But cutting funding and overtly taking down unions isnt the only game in town when it comes to undermining these institutions. And conservatives arent the only players.
GWB did indeed usher in the "Texas (education) Miracle," but have we forgotten that it was breathed into being under the cozy "reform" bipartisanship of Democrats and Republicans? The journey down that road to ruin began early in W's tenure as President, perhaps at the point where Teddy Kennedy (aka, Liberal Lion) famously ambled over to the Oval Office for a bipartisan movie and a bipartisan hot dog and left with his stamp of approval on NCLB. The rest, as they say, is history. Dominoes.
What about the nearly 4 years since we saw the back end of George's horse slipping over the horizon? At that time, to much fanfare, the white hat Democrats rode into town, to the rescue, on a majority, with a hope and change agent sheriff in the lead, ostensibly to undo the bad that black hat GWB and his badass gang had done. Or at least not to make it worse. Take what Bush & Co. did to education policy (Take it, please!), brought to us with the Democrats cooperation on NCLB, under Senator Kennedy's leadership, I reiterate. (But surely, by then they knew the error of their ways...)
Oh... wait. It didnt quite turn out like that...
Instead, Obama, with his handpicked Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, riding tall at his side (he who never was an educator - more a guy who sees corporate solutions for public problems and non-problems, alike), and a willing posse of Democratic elected officials, has actually expanded and intensified Bush's NCLB (in ways GWB and his corporate elite base could only dream of) spreading it like toxic Kudzu across the nation.
Much of this has been achieved under the Trojan horse of Obama's signature Race to the Top, i.e., string-laden monetary assistance (meager, too - the RttT grant comes out to .5 of the education budget for New York) to the states for "education" IF they play by the rules. In the 34 states that opened their gates to this "gift" horse, those rightwing reform rules became LAW. (Passage was swift, with bipartisan agreement in the bag.) link This is the Kudzu. (Or should I say Texas Toast - a foodstuff now running rampant nationwide, and not all that healthy.)
President Obama (fully approving of all Duncan has done, which is why I tap Obama as the one who, ultimately, is responsible for all this reform crap) has amped up the extreme lunacy of reading and math test scores tied to so-called success of the schools, the principals, the teachers - which has had the effect of decreasing the role of a school to provide a rich curriculum (like Obama's daughters get at their private school in DC) while increasing their role as test prep mills. Insta-firings of "low performing" teachers and principals, based on verdicts of failure, which are based on faulty, highly unfair data analysis, have become all the rage in Obama's USA.
This is very much in keeping with a neoliberalized workforce - get rid of higher paid teachers easily, keep the newbies on the lower pay scale coming thru that revolving door - but not to stay too long. Only as long as the fickle finger of education reform allows them to stay. Many, I dare say, will leave without an invitation on a pink slip. All the better for those who want to CUT costs on the backs of the incredibly shrinking middle class.
Another RttT demand is to increase charters, which degrades the public school entity. This is of a piece with the increase in private entity meddling: Welcome, all ye billionaire meddlers, to work your wallets and your will: Bill Gates (lots of meddling in NY... Class size doesnt matter!, said Bill, the expert. Data will spit out best teachers, I shall formulate best teachers in my formula machine, etc...), Walton family, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg (Benefactor to Democratic Mayor Corey Booker - a reformista, voucher proponent, like that awful former Democratic mayor of DC, Adrian Fenty), et al, ad nauseum.
Then there's Wall Street, now with a lot of skin in the education game, tied to Democrats for Education Reform, a particularly virulent strain of the toxic Kudzu, hard at work to topple the next sacred cow of progressives on education ("no to vouchers!" slated to become yes, vouchers!) along with continuing their steroid infused rampage to undo public education and union protections. It is hard to express how deeply I loathe this disgusting entity. The diary will show how ubiquitous this strain of the Kudzu is, as DfER and its leader, Joe Williams, pop up, again and again. (Like in the very next link.)
Take a seat, Texas! Step Back, Wisconsin!, Stand up, New York, and Take a Bow!
Groups backing charter schools, vouchers, merit pay for teachers and limits on teacher tenure plan to unite under a new, statewide supergroup, The Post has learned.(Our teachers' unions are among "the most powerful interests in Albany"? That's pretty funny, Joe, considering how our NY unions roll over for your ilk, time and again. But it makes for great propaganda, and that is what youre great at!) A look at NY's rollover unions v Chicago's fighting CTU/CORE
The New York State Education Reform Council will include the new StudentsFirstNY — which has hired away Mayor Bloomberg’s Albany lobbyist — Democrats for Education Reform, and charter-school-advocacy and upstate organizations.
“We’re going up against one of the most powerful interests in Albany,” Democrats for Education Reform Executive Director Joe Williams said, referring to the New York State United Teachers and United Federation of Teachers. “We don’t stand a chance if we’re not aligned and focused.”
Democrats for Education Reform worked hand in glove with Wall Street/hedge fund operatives in New York. These hedge funders, crazy about Race to the Top, propagandized hard and poured millions of dollars into ads, etc, to get the rightwing laws passed in Albany that are necessary to win Obama's Race to the Top. And it worked! They dont care about the paltry 1/2 of 1% in funding the RttT grant provides (and not in a way that actually benefits teachers, that serves the students' needs... or that can be used to hire teachers). They care about the LAW CHANGES that were ultimately back room dealt by Democrats and shameful, sellout union leaders (UFT, NYSUT) tied to shameful, sellout Dems - to get that Trojan Horse thru the gate.
Obama's Education Agenda (A very telling story)
In 2005, the financiers formed an organization called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) to promote ideas such as choice and accountability that were traditionally associated with the Republican Party. They set out to change Democratic Party policy, which in the past, as they saw it, was in thrall to the teachers’ unions and was committed to programs that funneled federal money by formula to the poorest children. DFER used its bountiful resources to underwrite a different agenda, one that was not beholden to the unions and that relied on competition, not equity.Hedjumacation Reform in New York
While it was easy for the Wall Street tycoons to finance charter schools like KIPP and entrepreneurial ventures like Teach for America, what really excited them was using their money to alter the politics of education. The best way to leverage their investments, Brill tells us, was to identify and fund key Democrats who would share their agenda. One of them was a new senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, who helped launch DFER at its opening event on June 3, 2005. The evening began with a small dinner at the elegant Café Gray in the Time Warner Center in New York City, then moved to Curry’s nearby apartment on Central Park South, where an overflow crowd of 150 had gathered.
DFER also befriended Congressman George Miller from California, the powerful leader of the Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee. DFER supported Cory Booker, who eventually became mayor of Newark. A DFER fund-raiser produced $45,000 for Congressman James Clyburn, “the most influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus,” who returned home to South Carolina to champion tuition tax credits and charter schools. Brill writes that DFER sent a memo to the Obama team immediately after the presidential election, naming its choice for each position. At the top of its list, for secretary of education, was Arne Duncan.
"Hedjumacation" is a word I coined to pay tribute to a modern day love story - hedge fund operatives positively smitten with reforming public education, or rather, deforming it, into a moneymaking product on the market - feeding their greed and their need to corporatize every last thing not yet corporatized. (Or else, could it really be they just care a big bunch about the kids? Who knew!)
The following blockquote/link is from Education Next, about NY's disgusting road to Race to the Top. It is part of a series by EN reporter Peter Meyer (he tilts pro "reform" but he dug up a lot of details around the sordid sausage-making behind New York's successful bid to win Race to the Top, Round 2, after it had lost Round 1) Note how Joe Williams pops up again. Note the prominence of "Wall Street" and "hedge fund operatives" in this tale of public education "reform." link
They were helped by a lobbying blitzkrieg led by Joe Williams and former Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk, who put together, with ample funds from Wall Street, Education Reform Now (ERN), a group with a single purpose: to bring the state legislature into the RttT reform fold.The following is from the same Education Next series. Education Next is EN in interview and Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, is JW.
Williams spread ERN money around on everything from brochures and mailings to door knocking in key legislative districts. “We ran $4 to $5 million worth of television ads,” Williams recalls, “blaming the teachers union for losing the chance to win $700 million in round one and urging the legislature to bring home the money for New York.”
“The union, in my view, did not want to be blamed for not getting Race to the Top,” recalls Joel Klein, then chancellor of New York City’s public schools
On this one, however, NYSUT [New York State United Teachers - the state union. Iannuzzi is the president. Michael Mulgrew, president of New York City's UFT, was also involved in the "breakfast" negotiations, in which he also caved to Dem cronies arm twisting on evaluations and charters - NYCee] faced stiff competition from the Williams-led ERN team, which, while telling the public that this was up or down on the money, was telling legislators it was up or down on the nitty-gritty issues of teacher evaluations and charter reform.
As the June 1 deadline for round-two applications approached, the efforts at the Sunday Morning Breakfast meetings and those of Williams intensified.
In the capitol, the union [.. ] lost the bigger issues of [charter school - NYCee] saturation and the cap, which legislators agreed to raise from 200 to 460.
When I asked Iannuzzi how NYSUT, which used to own the legislature, lost those key parts of the charter fight, he said, “The answer is hedge fund operators…who could write out a check for a million dollars a shot.”
Propagandapalooza! (Courtesy of Wall Street, All in for Obama's Ed Policies)
EN: So what did you do after the failure of Round 1?Under Obama's/Wall Street's coveted reforms, teachers' job protections have been weakened, while merit pay schemes are highly encouraged and sought, as proof you are a team Obama/Duncan player. This and other aspects of his reforms are deleterious to the community of educators - weakening teacher unity and collaboration, now replaced with fear, competition and anxiety around students' test results. This goes hand in hand with the unraveling of seniority and tenure as well as other benefits this last bastion of a strongly unionized profession had won and is now losing. Focus only on conservative in Texas or Ohio or Scott Walker, in Wisconsin, and other top billed GOP villains and you miss the bigger picture. You dont see the kudzu for the trees.
JW: We decided to put together a pretty sophisticated political campaign, in the winter of 2010, to make it so that the legislature couldn’t just punt again. We started with some polling statewide and we found that, as you would expect, most people could care less about charter schools, don’t know what they are, don’t really care. But we found out, by like 90/10, that if there were a federal contest, with seven hundred million dollars at stake, at a time when we’re talking about laying off teachers in districts all over the place, New York State should be doing everything they can to win it. [NYCee - Oh, but the money isnt for hiring teachers, dear Joe. Try consultants.] The idea of New York being competitive in a national race to the top in education reform was a no-brainer to people around the state.
So we crafted the campaign in such a way as to make this an up or down vote about whether New York should get $700 million from Obama. We didn’t want it to be an up or down vote on charter schools or an up or down vote on teacher evaluations. We wanted it to be an up or down vote on progress and the money. We ran it like a political campaign. [... ] We generated thousands of phone calls and thousands of faxes and knocked on thousands of doors. And we had an air-war component as well. We ran $4 to $5 million worth of television ads blaming the teachers union for losing the chance to win $700 million in round one and urging the legislature to bring home the money for New York.
EN: Where did your best support come from?
JW: We had a solid block of Republican votes. This was all about picking up Democratic votes to whatever extent we could. One of our television ads had Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, Andrew Cuomo, David Paterson all supporting the legislation [on teacher evaluations and charter caps], to imply that if you didn’t support it, you weren’t a good Democrat. There was some edge to the ad. We were very critical of the unions. We wanted to blame them for gunking up the process in round one and urge the legislators to listen to their communities instead of to the unions.
IF Roberto Doesnt Screw Up on the Test... (... if circumstances beyond your control or a whacked out data result dont point a fickle finger at you, you can keep your job (for now), Teacher)
Just recently, I overheard a worried teacher asking an administrator if Child X - call him 'Roberto' - should cause her concern over her rating due to what she believes will be his too-low score on the statewide tests. This was a few weeks in advance of the dreaded tests that are soon to be given.
Yes, imagine where we've come to: now teachers are put in the position of viewing their students as potential deadly weapons to their careers, able to blow them up with the wrong strike of a pencil in a bubble. Is this unfairness at least fairly spread around? No, it gets worse. Well, better for some teachers. See, in New York, only teachers of grades 4 - 8 need fear that "value-added" sword of Damocles, at present. The geniuses at work on this teacher evaluation debacle are trying to figure out how to spread the unfairness around to teachers of all grades and all subjects (Music, Art, Drama, Science, etc ). Lot's of luck.
More Commingled Comity: Top New York State Republican and Democratic Pols Cram Obama's Hedjumacation Reforms Down Our Throats. link
Both Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, praised the bill.(More about those principals, further down.)
"This will provide comprehensive standards for using multiple measures to evaluate teacher effectiveness and help struggling teachers grow and improve," said Silver, referring to the Teacher Improvement Plan that must be given to any teacher rated as ineffective before they are fired. [Blah, blah, yeah, right. They dont have a clue, just talking bullshit politics - NYCee]
But the agreement was met with outrage by a coalition of principals who have organized across the state to fight against the new law. They claim to have over 1,400 principals in support of their cause.
Now, I do agree with the diary I linked at the top, which spurred this diary: Yes, the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, sucks, as do many other Republican governors, et al, when it comes to public education. But, the author of that diary thanks his lucky stars he lives in New York, which he sees as a much more public school friendly and sane state. There, I beg to differ.
See, the The Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, sucks, too./link. Cuomo is no friend to teachers or public education. Or teachers unions. But at this point, even our teachers unions arent friends to teachers, theyve sold out on so many backroom "reform" deals, its pathetic.
Cuomo had to be shamed by Occupy Wall Street (thank god for OWS!) into abandoning his stubborn refusal to renew the Millionaires' Tax in New York. He'd rather cut than have those poor elites pay. He finally compromised... stingily, at that, getting less than half in revenue than the full blown tax would have gotten. And what he's doing to teachers is a nightmare. But then, he has a lot of bipartisan company, there.
New York Principals dont his like his embrace of Obama's education policies, either. They REVOLTED! (Not something that group is prone to do - that's how BAD this is) Link
The Long Island principals who galvanized opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation proposals say they won’t let the fact that the proposals won legislative approval stop their protest.Good on them! You can read more (I recommend) here, here, and here. You can support them here
Together, Sean Feeney and Carol Burris in October launched a petition critiquing the evaluation system that has garnered more than 8,000 signatures, nearly 1,500 of them from principals. The petition argued that the state’s evaluation regulations — which require a portion of teachers’ and principals’ ratings to be based on their students’ test scores — are unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts.
The education system in New York is under assault: Charter allowance more than doubled for RttT law changes (200 to 460), school closings galore, teacher tenure upheavals, pension changes for the worse, bogus U-rating appeals panels, and teacher evaluations by student test scores in place (that can swiftly and erroneously get one to that U-rating), again born of RttT law changes ... just to name a few. And a school system controlled by a billionaire, non educator, teacher-hostile mayor, Mike Bloomberg.
A couple of months ago, the NY media published thousands of NY teachers' names attached to the faulty ratings. The union fought that in court and lost. We can look forward to more of the same next year. This useless and disgusting "outing" appears a-okay with Cuomo, as it was to Duncan when the LA Times rated 6,000 teachers a couple of years ago.
In that case, one dedicated, well-regarded teacher, who worked in a tough neighborhood with a lot of low income English Language Learners, who the data crunching had deemed "ineffective," committed suicide. His family said he was despondent over that public naming and shaming. After a 13 year career he'd worked so hard to be good at, he had been reduced to "ineffective" by a clueless, remote media outlet's project, in the spirit of "reform," spirit of the times! Rigoberto Ruelas/R.I.P.)
This is why many of us prefer the term " education deform" to reform, the latter suggesting something positive and improved. This is far from the case.
To Sum Up:
Obama's rightwing education 'reform' laws were enacted in 34 state legislatures by Republicans (They like the new laws. They're up their alley. They're from their alley!) who linked arms with Democrats (now in their alley!). Here, Obama achieved his much-sought exemplar of commingled 'comity,' with this bipartisan education overhaul, driven by the the dangling RttT carrot($). To be against it was to be against funding for the children, for goodness sake! (So said the Wall Street hedge funders in commercials they spent their millions on, in NY, to push all the Dems and unions on board.)
The Trojan Horse Effect of Race to the Top
(Oh look, the odious Joe Williams of DfER pops up again, in the link below! Guess he'll fill us in. He's certainly qualified.)
[... ] the program [Race to the Top - NYCee] has been a highly successful way to leverage widespread reforms with a relatively small amount of money. Forty-six states, plus D.C., applied over the course of the competition, and 34 states changed laws to make themselves more reform-friendly.Leaving the Trojan Horse, law-changing aspect aside, Obama's Race to the Top money is a booby prize in itself, as far as really helping schools, with its restrictions on usage, harmful and useless ways to use it, and in its paltry amount, as stated below.
“We’ve noted more political activity around education reform in the last 12 months than we saw in the last decade,” says Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “This gave a green light to reformers all over the country to really push some ideas that hadn’t gotten a lot of traction in the past… I think you can only argue that this has been a smashing success.”
What Does Race to the Top Money Actually Get You? Back in 2009 the Obama Administration bribed the States into education reform by allocating up to $700 million under their Race To The Top (RTTT) program. The RTTT program really does not lead to any classroom improvement and the money cannot be used to hire teachers, reduce class sizes, and to purchase supplies or textbooks to the classroom. Instead, the money is to be used for consultants, testing, innovative & achievement coaches, and other office specialists. In other words a new layer of unaccountable Bureaucracy that are not even school based. In addition, the RTTT funds are also used for useless professional development.I agree with these signatories (and many others) to the New York Principals' Petition against the evaluation reforms: Comments from Signatories
Although NYS has 'won' Race to the Top funds, the students of NYS are the losers.
LibrarianNo matter how you shake out Race to the Top, the price of the ticket far exceeds the win, a cost far too dear for those who must now perform under the warp of the 'reform' laws it ushered in. The 1% is the winner.
The assessments are obstacles to education, not education.
The Cost to the Nation
That is where we are now, nationwide. To talk about the national assault on education/educators by pointing the finger only at Republicans is extremely shortsighted. They may be a blatantly destructive part of the whole, but there is a more insidious yet no less active and ugly unravelling at the hands of Democrats, who have driven a lot of bad laws into being. To turn a blind eye to the big picture is just plain wrong.
If you are prone to doing so, just be mindful that to disparage the right wing education policies of Michelle Rhee... and even (gasp!) Scott Walker, you may see the name Barack Obama on the same page... because he IS on the same page.
Since resigning as chancellor last year, Rhee has launched a new organization, StudentsFirst, with the express goal of raising $1 billion to counter teachers unions. Her approach remains confrontational. In a profound sense, Democrats like Michelle Rhee have paved the way for Scott Walker.
But Rhee couldn't have done it alone. Then-candidate Barack Obama endorsed Rhee in a 2008 debate as a "wonderful new superintendent" and later applauded the firing of every single unionized teacher at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. (The teachers were later rehired.) Rhee's agenda also received a big boost from liberal movie director Davis Guggenheim, whose film, "Waiting for 'Superman,' " implies that teachers unions are to blame for the failures of urban education and that non-unionized charter schools are the solution. The movie includes no acknowledgment that the things teachers want for themselves - more resources devoted to education, smaller class sizes, policies that allow them to keep order in the classroom - are also good for kids.
That same page metaphor holds true for Obama and conservative Jeb Bush or Newt Gingrich (Newt comes with a liberal spoonful of Al Sharpton, to quell nervous progressive hearts) or Bill Bennett or countless other fans from the right.
So, when wishing to strike up a difference between Obama's and conservatives' education policies, you can just travel in the safe zone of rightwing "cuts" and rightwing villains, like Texas politicians, or hardcore "lead singer" union killers, such as Governors Walker and Kasich. Or just ignore the issue altogether.
However, if you do, be aware that what is being done to education impacts more than just some random kid in a classroom, or teacher's career, or the quality of the experience of either of those. It connects to other realms of our political reality that are under assault - that caused OWS to make its stand. It is part of the neoliberal undoing (See: Obama’s neoliberal agenda for education) of a one-time more solid, growing reality of America as a nation that affords a decent lifestyle for its non-elite workforce. It means not allowing everything not yet corporatized - or still protected against complete control by corporatists - to go under the wrecking ball of Wall Street and Friends. It means more than I can say here... and I have said a lot.
Unfortunately, this tendency to turn away when Democrats are driving bad policy, very bad policy, seems to be the rule rather than the exception for the Democratic base. (Ask Glenn Greenwald re foreign policy & civil liberties or Tim DeChristopher re the environment) The level of awareness and willingness to confront this problem honestly has been so weak, so ignored - at this rate, by the time liberals wake up to our bipartisan education problem, it will probably be too late.