Hundreds Protest Cuomo’s Pro Charter Education Budget

April 10, 2014

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Hundreds gathered on the steps of the 42nd St New York Public Library to protest the crazily lopsided and shockingly unfair education budget recently passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature at the behest of the super rich charter school lobby. Among other egregious demands, the budget states that the charter lobby, not the mayor of New York, has veto power over all space changes to co-located public buildings, and that any new charter school requesting public space must be given it by the Department of Education or the DOE must pay market rent for the charters’ private space.

Noah Gotbaum

Noah Gotbaum

The rally, led by parent activist and Community Education Council member Noah Gotbaum was comprised of parents, educators and students from all over the city who heard speeches from New York City Councilman Danny Drumm, New York State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, and Hazel Dukes of the NAACP, among others.

Hazel Dukes of NAACP

Hazel Dukes of NAACP

Among the groups represented were Leonie Haimson’s Class Size Matters, NAACP, MORE , ChangetheStakes, Alliance for Quality Education, and New York Coalition for Change.

After the speeches the protest marched to Cuomo’s 3rd Ave office where children presented a member of Cuomo’s staff a bag full of fake money as a symbolic mockery of Cuomo’s acceptance of $ 800, 000 from the billionaire based charter lobby for his re-election campaign.

NY State Senator Liz Krueger

NY State Senator Liz Krueger


A Busy Day for Billionaire Backed Front Groups

April 10, 2014

Yesterday was a busy beaver of a day for billionaire backed front Groups. Someone, somewhere, deep in the bowels of the New York wing of the billionaire based campaign to privatize the public school system, must have recently given the order: Get out the word. Now! Some people are beginning to understand what’s really going on.

How else can one explain not one but two volleys from two billionaire financed front groups ( and one newly minted at that ! ) on a single day ?
Early yesterday afternoon I received word of the advent of Higher Achievement New York, yet another deceitfully created billionaire backed front group passing itself off as “grass roots ” and roping in just enough innocent faces to fool those who don’t know any better.

“Higher Achievement New York described itself as “an organized platform” dedicated to higher standards that will explain what the new standards mean for children, and how they offer better preparation for college and careers, through social media advertising and lobbying.
“Our goal is to foster positive conversation that hasn’t existed around these standards,” said the group’s executive director Frank Thomas, who previously worked in communications for the city’s Department of Education and Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign.”

In plain English, Higher Achievement New York is a public relations project disguised as an education advocacy group.

As the standards belong to the Common Core and the Common Core is an untested experiment in progress, there is no legitimate way to explain how the Common Core can prepare anyone for anything at all. No one has any idea what, if any, effect it will have on students. And explain to whom, by the way ? The parents who have reacted to the experiment on their kids with volcanic rage at what it is doing to their children? To the teachers and administrators who have twisted themselves into pretzels attempting to implement the unholy mess ?

Perhaps they’ll find an audience in the fish and other sea creatures dwelling in New York Harbor. After all, they’re paid and doubtless paid well, to “ foster positive conversation” and they have a better chance these days with sea life than they do with most people not on their pay roll.

As Higher Achievement New York is comprised of more established and experienced fronts such as the Gates Foundation’s Educators4Excellence and Mike Bloomberg’s Students First NY, one should expect an extraordinarily high level of obfuscation, distortion, and shill like behavior.

Many have, in fact, seen a preview of their act. The two aforementioned fronts did their best to dominate the two New York City hearings of Commissioner John King, the first in Brooklyn where Students FirstNew York members were allowed to enter the hall early and hog up no less than 44 of the 45 speaker slots so as to create an impression of wild enthusiasm for the loathed Common Core utterly unrelated to reality outside the world of public relations. At the same time they shamelessly injected the issue of race into the mix, somehow insinuating that the privately owned, secretly created product of the Gates Foundation called Common Core was nothing less than a civil right. The following night when King appeared in lower Manhattan the two fronts showed up in tandem and one heard silly testimonial after silly testimonial from one 24 year old “ex teacher” (currently employed to “raise expectations” by StudentsFirstNY ) after another about how Common Core is the answer to just about every problem in the known universe, bizarre statements by E4E teachers of the almost supernatural power of the Common Core, and, most cynically, insinuations that rejection of the Common Core was merely disguised racism.

Well, with the coming of Higher Achievement New York, you can bet you’ll hear a whole lot more of that kind of stuff.
By the way, does the name Higher Achievement New York portend a Higher Achievement New Jersey? A Higher Achievement Connecticut, and on and on until all fifty states are achieving higher ?

A few hours after reading about Higher Achievement I arrived home to find a foot long glossy post card, not dissimilar in style from the one my then five-year-old daughter received in her name from Success Academy some years back, festooned with smiling and beautiful African American children, so beloved by the titans of Wall Street. Yesterday’s card bore my name and address and a dramatic shot of Andrew Cuomo giving a speech in front of a ChartersWork sign and came from something called Families For Excellent Schools.
The Families kindly sent the card to implore me to call up “education champion” Andrew Cuomo and thank him for the wondrous job he was doing with our schools. Part of Cuomo’s wonderful work was helping to pass laws that gave charter schools rights that public schools don’t have, such as the right for charter school entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz not merely not to pay rent, but to dictate the terms of whatever she wants when it comes to expanding her publically funded empire into already existing schools. In essence, what Cuomo did in terms of education was to give Mike Bloomberg a forth term as mayor. And then some.

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The card made me sick just to look at it. And needless to say, it must have cost a fortune to create and another to do a mass mailing of the thing. This from the folks who can’t afford to pay rent.

CARD 2

As a teacher in PS 149, one of the schools that Cuomo essentially gave to Eva Moskowitz, the homage to the Tough Guy governor’s giveaway goes right to the gut. The giant post card seemed like a sick joke: a sick joke played on the neediest and most disadvantaged school kids in all of New York; a joke played on those who would be jettisoned for the comfort of Ms. Moskowitz’s charter children.

Moreover, how did these creepy people get my name and address ? Who gave it to them ? They got it the same way, I suspect, that other creepy people got my daughter’s name and address a few years back. And that way points to the public trust called the Department of Education and the manipulation thereof.

Disturbing stuff.

I decided to look up Families For Excellent Schools curious, when most families I know are scrapping to get by, as to what manner of families have this kind of money to spend on such gratuitous gestures to such odious figures as Andrew Cuomo. This is how they described themselves on their website: “Founded in 2011 by public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools is a community organization that fights for every child’s
right to an excellent education. Through organizing and political
work, we work to amplify the voices of families over the din of
electioneering and special interest campaigning. Rather than speak on
behalf of public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools
empowers parents to speak for themselves.”

Parents speaking for themselves! How touching!

I looked a little further still and found one of the families for excellent schools was none other than Walton family of Wal-Mart fame, not widely known for being particularly fond of people speaking for themselves.

I looked further and found out that Families for Excellent Schools shares an address with the New York division of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

A question: Weren’t front groups, for excellent reasons, once generally regarded as sleazy, unethical and even sinister enterprises?

What has been left almost entirely unexamined in the privatization campaign is, not only the extreme proliferation of billionaire-backed fronts, but their strange, silent metamorphosis from something to be shunned to something to be accepted and even celebrated.
Is not the purpose of a front to deceive? To trick? To pass yourself off as something you are not so as to scam credulous people of good will ? Are fronts not a con job?

Of course, they are. Fronts are bad faith incorporated.

And yet, multiplying like malignant cells, the massive money behind “education reform” has produced more fronts than one can keep up with. Higher Achievement New York is merely the latest. And none seem to betray their utter amorality.

There will be more, to be sure. We are dealing with souls to whom millions are meaningless and whose ruthlessness, sense of entitlement, and narcissism knows no bounds. The only thing they know how to do is to dominate by any means they can. And they believe it is their right to do so.

They are, after all, unimaginably rich and like the charter schools they hold so dear, they have rights that people like you and I do not.


Rally Against Cuomo and For Public Education Tomorrow at 4:00

April 9, 2014

Rally


Night Thoughts at Noon

April 8, 2014

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It is at 12:05 am, my lunch hour. Outside my door I hear the voices of children, laughing and playing, joyful in their innocence of the world that awaits them. Behind other doors, the doors of my colleagues, I know there is silence and the stares of those who worry: Will I have a job next year ? Will this school be closed? Will the charter school take my room ? How will I feed my kids if I’m fired ? Who are the people doing this and what more do they want ?

The sickening feeling, years now in the making, of the ground forever cracking beneath your feet, that whatever you do will not be good enough, that schemes such as Danielson will be used to keep you forever on edge, forever fearful like a cat in a corner sensing the presence of a cruel unseen master, is as pervasive as the voices of children.

Is this the way to run a school system? Of course, not. But it is how to destroy one.


A Billionaire’s Bullet Through the Heartland: Kansas Kills Due Process for Teachers

April 7, 2014

So today I learn that the Kansas state legislature has done away with due process for teachers. I write those words and still can’t quite believe them. What kind of people think this is a good idea? What kind of people see any good coming out of this? What kind of person would become a teacher under these circumstances?

America becomes more and more unrecognizable by the month. And more cruel. And more grotesque. In California yet another billionaire educational messiah awaits the verdict of a trial designed to wipe out due process in that state. For the kids, of course.

And I know Andrew Cuomo would love to please his billionaire benefactors in New York by delivering a “death penalty” to due process here if he could. And who knows, maybe he can. There certainly doesn’t seem to be anything stopping him from doing whatever he damn well pleases. Who would have thought he would be able to forge what is, in effect, a fourth term for Mike Bloomberg with the outrageous privileges he granted charter schools last week at the behest of his billionaire pals on Wall Street?

So what if Bill de Blasio was elected mayor. What difference does that make to billionaires ?

This country bears almost no resemblance to the land I was born in. That’s insane but it is true. It bears even less resemblance to any country I want to live in. That’s terrifying but just as true.

I am not alone in these fears and feelings.
Something has got to break.


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