Archive for November, 2014

The Thanksgiving Gift of Ted Morris Jr.

November 26, 2014

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After my initial disgust at the news I am, upon reflection, thankful this Thanksgiving for the labor of 22 year old smiling hustler and would be charter school operator “Dr” Ted Morris Jr. for providing teachers and defenders of the public school system with a priceless example of the outright shoddiness, incompetence and contempt for the people of New York of the New York Board of regents: a contempt shared by their super rich allies who lord over public school teachers and parents with self-righteous indignation at every opportunity. Morris, a complete fraud who apparently did not even graduate from high school was granted a charter school by the Regents on the basis of nothing more than a fictitious resume (that, even if true, was a joke) and a ready smile.
Indeed, the example is so outrageous, so semi- criminal, that the entire Board, including the increasingly bellicose Meryl Tisch, should, in a semi -just world, be pressured to resign.

Very fat chance of that, but we can certainly demand it.

It gets better. “Dr.” Morris resigned his newly awarded position, not after the lofty Board of Regents came to their senses and actually did some modicum of work, but only after scrutiny from local press discovered his fraud. Better still: the charter board still plans to open Morris’s school “Greater Works Charter School,” in September 2015.

Now that’s what I call a two-headed nickel! A 22 year old con man who is somehow granted a charter school is exposed for what he is, only to learn that his publicly funded school will open anyway. How is this conceivably justifiable ?

Are the judgements of the Regents infallible even when they are founded on lies ?

From this day forward, the name of “Dr.” Ted Morris Jr. should buzz in the ears of every Regent and every professional charter school cheerleader in the state and beyond like gnats in the night. It should be heard every time one of these characters starts moralizing about the need for ever more “accountability.” It should be heard every time another clueless hedge funder or their employee Andrew Cuomo talks about the need for “choice “ and the wonderful effects of ceaseless competition. It should be sung every time one of these reckless, irresponsible people dare speak of bettering the lives of children who, at the taxpayer’s expense, they would happily and mindlessly place in the care of a Ted Morris Jr.

Thank you “Dr.”Ted. You have served an important purpose. And if nothing else, your timing is impeccable.

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What is Meryl Tisch Really Saying Here ?

November 17, 2014

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In a move that is disturbingly reminiscent of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s undermining of Mayor Bill de Blasio ‘s legal mandate to run the New York City Public School System, New York Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch yesterday vowed to shut down the very 94 struggling city schools that di Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina recently announced he would spend the next three years trying to help.

As it happens, I work in one of those schools.

Tisch, in short, seems to be saying that the state will do what it will, regardless of the plans of Mayor Bill di Blasio or the will of the people who voted him into office. In fact, like Cuomo’s reckless giveaway to charter schools, Tisch’s words seem calculated to humiliate de Blasio and to crush the political will of the city with the power of the state.

That and, of course, demonize teachers while praising the miracle of charter schools.

“If we do not see movement with these lowest-performing schools in terms of their ability to retool their workforces by the spring, we will move to close them,” Tisch told John Catsimatidis on his AM 970 radio show.”

“Retool their workforces” is apparently a euphemism for
“firing a bunch of teachers,” the mindless reform solution to all problems of education.

But, of course, you cannot retool without “leverage” — which might be translated as abrogation of due process.
“The main issue, according to Tisch, is that the principals need leverage to fire educators if they don’t meet standards.
“It’s not just saying, ‘We’re gonna fix these schools,’” she said. “You gotta give the new principals and assistant principals the ability to hire the teachers that they want and fire the teachers that they don’t want.”

What “new principals and assistant principals” is Tisch, an unelected billionaire with almost no educational experience speaking about, I wonder. Is there a mass bloodletting of administrators in the works?

And I wonder, too, what is really going on here in this strange turn of events in which a couple of weeks after di Blasio and Carmen Farina announce a plan to save struggling schools that, although far from perfect, is in many ways a radical departure from the rank idiocy of the Bloomberg years, Meryl Tisch is announcing to the world her intention of shutting the same schools down.

Sadly, and revealingly neither de Blasio nor Farina felt the need to defend their own program.

“The mayor’s office didn’t respond to request for comment, referring questions to the city’s Department of Education.
“As Chancellor Tisch said, Chancellor Fariña is committed to doing what is best for children — and this means all options are on the table to turnaround these historically struggling schools,” a spokeswoman for the DOE said.”

What I do know is this: These relentless attacks are exhausting and debilitating and are the exact opposite of what one would be doing if one had any intention whatsoever of allowing a flourishing school system. I know this too: when the power of a state is allowed to crush the political will of a city we have moved even further into a horrifying new American darkness.

Unaccountable

November 16, 2014

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With the possible exception of “compliance,” I’d reckon that there are no words that American teachers have heard more times in the past 10 years than the word “accountable.”
Everyone, we are told, and told, and told again for good measure, must be held accountable. I know no teacher who would mind such an admonition if, in fact, the system of accountability was fair and reasonable and if it were even remotely true that all people were held accountable.

Alas.

Take former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, for example. Here’s a fella who not only championed a $95 million dollar technological boondoggle that is now to be dismantled because of its uselessness, but used his status and knowledge as former chancellor to profit from the project after instantly teaming up with Rupert Murdoch after he left the school system.

Conflict of interest ?

Not a chance.

Where is the accountability there?

At any rate, because of the distance I have noticed between what it held for one group or class of people and utterly excused from another, it was with more than a little curiosity that I noted during a visit to my local public library the following title: Unaccountable/ How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom and Security by one Janine R. Wedel.

I understood from the subtitle that the work would focus largely on the monsters manipulating our financial system but, sandwiched there in between the words “Finance “ and “security” was “freedom, ” so I was hopeful some dots might be connected that had to do with my world.
As one who has been forced to watch and react as insanely wealthy private citizens such as Eli Broad and the Walton family and especially Bill Gates, do what ever it is they want to do to the public trust known as the public school system and all who work within it, with exactly zero right to do so and exactly zero accountability, I was curious to see if Wedel’s altogether noble work would include these spectacular examples of complete and utter unaccountability. I was hopeful, that is, that her work would at least mention the insidious efforts of the mega rich to undermine the legislative process in order to privitze the nation’s school system and bust the last union of size while they’re at it. After all, here was a handful of people somehow allowed to force one radical unproven experiment after another — breaking up schools, value added measures for teachers, standardized test after standardized tests, and the greatest scam of all, the deceitfully named Common Core State Standards — upon America’s kids and teachers on nothing more than their own limitless hubris and bank accounts.

Sadly, and incredibly given the immense upheavals of the past decade, education is not even mentioned in the book. Moreover, the only Gates who merits an appearance is former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
As for Bill Gates and his legions…not a word. If I were to search high and low for a quote signifying complete unaccountability, I doubt I could do better than the following by an embarrassingly ineloquent
Bill Gates: “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”
There you have it.

And what if “our education stuff “ fails ?
Well…so what? Bill and Eli and the Walton’s and their kind will doubtless find some other vital institution to remake in their own one dimensional image.
Besides, when it fails — and it is failing — you can simply blame teachers and employ an eager corporate media to echo your lies.
It’s been working so far.
Why is the reality of the hijacking of a public institution of immeasurable importance and influence missing from this book or books like it ? This is a serious work by a credible author who does not seem to me to be ideologically bound. How is it the immense liberties taken by Bill Gates and company that deal with billions of dollars of public money not seem to be worthy of even a mention in a book dealing with the scandalous and horrific absence of accountability in American life ? Why is it that the complete undermining of the legislative process not only not considered a criminal act but not even deemed worthy of reporting? Not merely by Janine Wedel but by anybody? Where’s Bernie Sanders ? Where’s Michael Moore? Where’s Ralph Nader? Where is anybody? How is this happening before our very eyes ? What has happened to us ?