Posts Tagged ‘Families For Excellent Schools’

School Children Again Used as Props as Taxpayers Pay for the Opening Salvo in Moskowitz’s Mayoral Campaign

October 7, 2015

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As I write thousands of New York City charter school students and their parents are unwittingly preparing to play their vital roles in what is being billed as a Rally for School Equality. In actuality, the event is not merely a massive, insidious and grossly unfair attack on Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the publicly funded opening volley in education entrepreneur Eva Moskowitz’s mayoral campaign. Moskowitz, the founder and virtual queen of Success Academy Charter Schools which have received unconscionably preferential treatment from both the Bloomberg administration and Governor Cuomo, has made no secret of both her outright contempt for de Blasio and her lust for political power. The rally will consist of students drawn solely from publically funded privately managed charter schools. Accompanying the charter school students will be hundreds of charter schoolteachers, charter school administrators and charter school staff. All will be on the clock and paid by public funds provided by NYC taxpayers.

Those wondering why not a single public school teacher, administrator or staff will be present at a rally ostensibly for school equality are advised to ponder NYC Department of education Chancellor’s Regulation D-130, which states: “Personnel may not be involved in any activities, including fundraising, on behalf of any political organization during working hours.”
Rest assured, any public school student who participated in this rally would be marked absent and the school held accountable. More to the point any public school teacher who participated in such a stunt would, at the very least, have their pay docked for thief of services and be brought up on disciplinary charges. Any principal would be seriously reprimanded and may well find his or her job in jeopardy.

Somehow this inconvenient fact, like so many inconvenient facts, has escaped the attention of Eva Moskowitz and Families for Excellence Schools in their heroic efforts to create equality in schools.
To circumvent the unseemly, if not out right reprehensible reality of using school kids as political pawns and public funds for a political rally, Moskowitz and her allies have done what Moskowitz and her allies do: they abuse the language and call it something else.
(See the use of “scholar” for “student.” ) In this case, the transparent political nature of the rally is deemed irrelevant by calling the event “a civics lesson.” The public are meant to perceive it as a kind of gigantic field trip, if one in which the hedge fund managers and billionaires who bankroll Families for Excellent Schools just happen to fund buses, lunches, and entertainment (in the form of Jennifer Hudson ), as well as tee shirts, hats, balloons, and posters. The entire latter items are branded with the slogan – “Don’t Steal Possible” – that is of itself a political accusation, if one that is highly ungrammatical.
By its name alone The Rally for School Equality should be seen by people who respect language as a transparently political event. At any rate, any conceivable room for debate was rendered absurd by the FES’s shockingly cynical and massively aired video in which a voice oozing concern and outrage tells of a white child is said to be going off to college while a black child, condemned to a “failing school”, is headed to hell. The ad ends by blaming such a situation, itself a lie, not on Mayor Mike Bloomberg who ruled NYC schools like a deranged king for twelve long years, but on de Blasio who has had do deal with the deliberately destructive policies of his predecessor.

Other than allow people like Eva Moskowitz and Families for Excellence Schools to privatize the public school system, it is unclear what the protesters want de Blasio to do. Close schools certainly and fire mass numbers of teachers to be sure but they can’t come right out and say that. They seem to suggest that all de Blasio need do is wave his magic wand and make “equal” what people like Eva Moskowitz and organizations like Families for Excellent Schools have done everything in their power to systemically make unequal for years now. What else can result from cheery picking students, booting out all who threaten to fail the sacred tests, commandeering any and all public school space they can get their hands on; above all, swathing their students in the ill-gotten largess of their hedge fund backers so as to make public schools children feel like decidedly second class citizens.

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Their cynicism is as is breathtaking as their stated goal is irreproachable. After all, what decent person can be against school equality?

That Moskowitz and her confederates would use children as political pawns and public funds for political rallies should only shock those who have not been paying attention for the past five years or so. That she is has been allowed to do so again and again and again should enrage and disgust us as it reveals the rank cowardice of our elected officials, Danny Drum being a very notable and courageous exception. Despite all this, we expect favorable coverage from all local TV networks. Expect glowing editorial praising Moskowitz and FES in tomorrow’s New York Post and Daily News.

This is the place we have fallen to in what was once the most sophisticated of American cities.

Addendum: This concerning Ms. Moskowitz from the ever watchful Perdido Street School: http://perdidostreetschool.blogspot.com/2015/10/eva-moskowitzs-city-hall-steps.html

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Thoughts on Friedrichs Vs. California, Eva Moskowitz, and Human Dignity

October 4, 2015

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Some time within the next few months the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. If the justices decide in favor of Friedrichs, all public employee unions across America will be decimated and all public employees would immediately become “at will” employees laboring under the Right to Work model.
For anyone wondering what a Right to Work model would mean for a teacher in New York City one could do worse than take a long hard look at what lays within the recently leaked five page internal document addressed to the staff of Eva Moskowitz’s non-union Success Academy.

From what one can gather from the leaked SA doc, outside of having zero job security, no say whatsoever in working conditions and working endless hours, the “at will” teachers at Success Academy are apparently obliged to do whatever it is their leader orders them to do or else. According to the document, this would include (but not be limited to) debasing their language, creating a false sense of crisis and conning the parents of their students into attending whatever it is master Moskowitz desires them to attend regardless of whether they could afford it or not.

The document was written by something called Success Academy’s “advocacy team,” whose job apparently is to supply “messaging assistance” to staff. In this case the “messaging assistance” consists of not only helping teachers convince SA families to attend a rally but to help teachers convince these families that the transparently political event is somehow not political by supplying the language they are to use with the parents. (The rally, organized by the sleazy and cynical Families For Excellent schools, yet another billionaire created front for school privatization, was meant to take place on Sept 30 but was postponed because of rain.)
“This is not a political event,” employees are being asked to tell parents who may be hesitant about participating in a rally with political implications, reported Politico. “This is an event in support of your scholar, our school, and the right for families to have access to equal schools.”

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Of course, for anyone who has been unfortunate enough to “co-locate “ with a Success Academy, the fact that Moskowitz forces her teachers to debase the English language is evident on a daily basis. Take, for instance, the word “scholar .’’ Here is a word you will hear SA teachers saying in passing 10, 20, 30 times a day. You will here it drop incessantly from the lips of administrators in meetings between your school and Success Academy. Once I heard it while waiting to see the nurse when a teacher from SA called a mother on his cell phone to inform her that “your scholar fell down in the playground and hurt her elbow. “ In every other part of the English speaking world the word scholar is commonly understood to mean a distinguished academic, a specialist in a particular discipline or, at the very least, 
a person who is highly educated.

Not in Moskowitz land. There the word “scholar” means every student in Success Academy, excepting of course those kids with lousy test scores who are booted out and into the land of non-scholars as quickly as possible. In Success Academy “scholars “ are children as young as five.

Now I understand the rationale behind this misuse of language – somehow addressing them as “scholars” inspires them to great heights and all that — but as I do not support forcing teachers to debase their language, never mind to practice magical thinking on other people’s children, I whole heartedly reject it. And I do not find it harmless. It is to use language in the same manner and for the same reason as an ad company: to sell a product. Misuse of language is never harmless. As even one of Moskowitz’s five year old “scholars” knows, calling an acorn an oak tree does not magically make it into one, even if Eva Moskowitz demands you say it does.

Then there is Moskowitz’s singular use of the word “civics, ” as if taking 9000 school kids up to Albany or marching them across the Brooklyn Bridge during school time is actually engaging them in a “civics lesson. ” This too one assumes must also be echoed ad infinitum by the teachers in her employ. Of course, if this outrageous behavior is indeed presented to SA students as a civics lesson, you can rest assured that there would be no mention of the fact that the exact same actions are strictly forbidden for a public school, that any public school teacher involved in such a stunt would be sighted for theft of services and any principal who allowed it would have his or her job on the line.

One can also safely assume that SA teachers would be careful not to mention the extremely un-civic demand given by their “advocacy team” that their memorandum be carefully kept away from parents less they see how completely they are held in contempt.

To my way of thinking, to oblige teachers to debase their language, act against their conscience, and betray their intelligence while insulting that of their students’ parents or risk losing their livelihood is morally, intellectually and spiritually grotesque. Simply put, a person who has been stripped of their language by being forced to speak another’s has been stripped of their personhood. And yet, as “at will” employees, even if such a teacher wishes to grieve such degradation, they have nowhere to grieve it.

That said, I have no doubt whatsoever that, even if Moskowitz is extreme, these kinds of demands and worse will begin to be made in schools across the board and across the United States should the Friedrichs decision be made against public unions. Should that nightmare scenario come to pass, all of those who remain public school teachers will find themselves working to one degree or another for some one like Eva Moskowitz. Those who have been trying to recreate American schools in their image will have removed the last barrier to complete and utter domination. They will flood American schools with their corporate apparachiks who, like Moskowitz, will delight in making humiliating demands and in destroying the careers of seasoned teachers — all for the good of the children, of course. Should that nightmare scenario come to pass, the war against public school teachers which has been raging for over a decade, fueled by the richest individuals on earth in cahoots with the most powerful politicians in the United States, may at last end with the both American children and their parents on the losing side. At the very least, it will be an enormous step backward and, if the Moskowitz model is any guide, a massive and insidious assault not only on the dignity of teachers but on all Americans from coast to coast.

What Cuomo Wants

March 8, 2015

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It is no secret that Governor Andrew Cuomo, a man of terrifying ambition, wants someday to be the president of the United States. To prove himself worthy of the limitless financial backing of the One Percent to whom he answers and in whose name he governs, Cuomo wants to prove that he can achieve two goals that no previous governor of New York, never mind one of the Democratic Party, has ever even dreamt about. By the end of his second term as Governor, Andrew Cuomo wants to leave a New York State in which the public school system has been largely or completely privatized and one in which public unions, particularly the teachers’ unions, have been all but eviscerated. In fact, if all goes Cuomo’s way, he will leave New York State well on the way to being a Right To Work state before the vast majority of people even know what hit them.

To achieve these extraordinarily radical ends, Cuomo in his State of the State speech put forth a number of extraordinarily radical proposals. If passed into law on April 1, they will render the New York State public school system and the teaching profession that sustains it almost unrecognizable and certainly unsustainable. Collectively, once implemented, the proposals will inevitably lead to a mass firing of teachers, a mass exodus of teachers and a mass shortage of teachers, as no one in his or her right mind would enter a field in which working conditions were so degrading, evaluations so unfair and arbitrary, and job security virtually non existent. The mass bloodletting and exodus as well as the unsustainability is most certainly the point, even as Cuomo, the self-proclaimed “advocate of students, “ wants the general public to believe that he believes otherwise.

Cuomo wants the public to believe that his insidious attacks and demeaning demands on teachers are necessary, while at the same time the offer of merit pay — a scheme that has been tried and has failed for over a century — will magically attract serious and qualified people to teaching.

Cuomo wants to keep the vast majority of people oblivious to what he is doing and confused as to why he is doing it.
To keep people oblivious, Cuomo wants those New Yorkers who are even aware of his proposals to believe in his apocalyptic vision of a “crisis of failing schools,” which, in turn, will lead them to believe that his proposals are actually about improving public education rather than eliminating it, and then using that process of elimination to undermine the teachers union. He knows that if New York State’s public school system is privatized, all bets are off and the floodgates are open. Cuomo wants to be the governor responsible for opening those gates and directing that flood into the radical reconfiguration of labor relations across the board and, at the same time, launching a full scale attack on the social contract itself.

The governor wants New Yorkers to believe he cares, and cares deeply, about the welfare of children, that much the more African American and Hispanic children in poverty; therefore, he wants New Yorkers to remain in the dark about the judicial decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, in which it was decreed that New York State owes New York City schools upwards of $ 2. 5 billion, a decision Cuomo refuses to even recognize despite the fact that the state has a surplus.

Moreover, Cuomo wants people to believe that, despite the neo liberal underpinnings of his politics, he, Andrew Cuomo, is somehow “progressive.” To create and sustain this illusion, he has supported gay marriage and raising the minimum wage; he has come out against fracking and will even meet with and praise certain private sector union leaders, the better to undermine labor solidarity. This Cuomo will do even as he and his proxies in billionaire created fronts like Families For Excellent Schools do everything in their power to demonize teachers and undermine the teachers’ unions.

Andrew Cuomo wants to divide and conquer, and at this dark art he is very cunning and very skillful.
He wants New Yorkers to see his all out attack on teachers as one that is isolated to the teaching profession and not, in fact, as an all out war on labor in the state and a prelude to the privatization of the social contract itself.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is a man of terrifying ambition who wants to be the president of the United States and is willing to go to any lengths, any lengths at all, to please the radical and ruthless rich who have stolen the power to catapult him or deny him entrance to the White House.

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Charter School Front Buses Thousands of Children To Albany To Use As Human Props

March 4, 2015

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Playing by their own rules while crying about being oppressed has been a charter school tactic for years and, with the compliance of a wholly subservient media, a highly successful one. When a charter school “co-locates” with a neighborhood school and their demands for whatever space they desire are not immediately met, you can rest assured they will launch a PR campaign claiming that their rights are being violated, and you can rest with equal assurance that the media will report it so. Playing by their own rules took a significant leap today as, under the aegis of the hedge fund created and bank rolled front Families For Excellent Schools, charter chains emptied their schools to bus thousands and thousands of school children to Albany to be used as human props in their ceaseless campaign for more and more of everything at the expense of everyone else. Given the fact that almost all charter schools are anti union, the little ones should be seen, too, as unconscious and innocent extras in the campaign to break the teacher’s union,
clearly the long term goal of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Please note that the principal of any public school who pulled anything remotely like such a stunt as shipping her charges hours away on a school day in the dead of winter would be fired and possibly arrested, as well he or she should be.

Charter school entrepreneurs fear no such consequences and claim, with straight faces, that the thousands of kids were engaged in “a civics lesson.”

Yes, they actually say that.

At times today, everywhere you looked you saw kids decked out in red shirts and red caps both bearing the Familes For Excellent Schools slogan, “Don’t Steal Possible” — about as poorly a constructed sentence as you can make but… what the hell? It’s all about the kids, no ?
I ‘d be curious to see the bill for the thousands of hats and shirts, the mountains of sandwiches, and the hundreds of buses for this excursion but, as with all things charter school, I rather doubt such information is easily obtainable.

This young fellow does not like "failing schools"

This young fellow does not like “failing schools”

I have yet to see any corporate news reports of the use of these children in such a cynical manner in a struggle that they cannot possibly understand, but I am confident that all major media will find it not merely acceptable but as heartwarming as a movie by Disney.
As George W. Bush used to say most blasphemously as he plotted and schemed and conned and terrified America into invading Iraq, “And may God continue to bless America.”

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Addendum: And then there’s the astoundingly arrogant Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of Families For Excellent Schools, seen here doing his best to not answer questions (and distance himself from the much loathed Eva Moskowitz) even if he does admit (very, very testily) that, “I am not an educator.” Not being an educator, apparently, qualifies one to play savior to the “800,000” kids who are “failing” in the “education crisis” created by real educators. Kittredge’s non educator and non educated status is, however, evident in his occasionally mangled syntax and incoherent statements ( shared, it seems by all Families For Excellent Schools messiahs and adherents), as in when he declares the the entire New York school system ” steals possible.” On the other hand, given that Kittredge and his charter school confederates enjoy the luxury of making their own rules with impunity, perhaps the man is simply extending this principle to English grammar. Clearly, Kittredge is a man accustomed to giving orders and being obeyed and with that sense of regal entitlement shared by so many education messiahs, is transparently pissed that a guy as important as he, Jeremiah Kittredge, has to actually answer basic questions. Note that as Kittredge and his handler (“That’s a wrap.”) bolts, a reporter states plaintively: “You should probably wait and let the rest of us ask our questions.”

No chance of that.

At any rate, after viewing this clip ask yourself this question: would you buy a used car or anything under heaven from Jeremiah Kittredge ? These poor charter kids can have no idea how cynically they are being used and by they time they realize the hustle it will be too late for many.

http://bcove.me/nb7c1s41

When is a “Grassroots” Organization a Front ?

February 18, 2015

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This morning I woke up to find an email from the tireless and venerable Norm Scott of EdNotes Online. Under the headline, The Public Education Beat Down Express Goes On, the ever vigilant Norm posted the following notices:
12 p.m.—Families for Excellent Schools holds a press conference with Senator Ruben Diaz Jr. and other Bronx elected officials to call for action on failing schools. Girls Prep Bronx Elementary, 681 Kelly Street, Bronx.
6 p.m.—StudentsFirstNY holds a town hall meeting in support of Cuomo’s education agenda, headlined by Assemblyman Karim Camara. Medgar Evers College, Founders Auditorium, 1650 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn.

Both Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirst NY are, like all of the education reform campaign, pure products of the ever strengthening, ever consolidating, ever more triumphant American oligarchy and nothing more than disguised vehicles for their political agendas. This is to say, not one of the hundreds of such groups that have proliferated over the past decade, would exist for five minutes without constant and massive infusions of money, lots of it re-directed taxes, from their oligarchic creators and directors. We are dealing here with people so rich that millions are almost 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. Non-profits, they have discovered, are one of the many vehicles they utilize in their push for privatization. Hence, the steady rise of thenon profit education reform industrial complex. Or, as they like to call themselves, the “grassroots” movement.

Both Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirstNY target poor and poorly educated families and aim to manipulate them, in the name of promoting better schools, into turning against the public schools system and, ultimately, against the remains of social contract itself . The end game is to find the poor embracing and promoting the privatization of all aspects of American life. As “non-profits,” Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirst NY exist partly by legally diverting taxes that would go to public coffers thereby draining vital funding from the very public institutions they are attempting to politically undermine.
Quite the two headed nickel.

This, needless to say, is not how they view themselves.
“Families for Excellent Schools, “ claims their website, “ (FES) is a grassroots movement of public school families. We advocate to create and sustain excellent schools.”
(Note: Mercedes Schneider’s excellent work on uncovering Families for Excellent Schools “non-profit “ weaselry.)

And:
“StudentsFirstNY is New York’s leading voice for students who depend on public education for the skills they need to succeed, but who are too often failed by a system that puts special interests, rather than the interests of children, first.”
Despite their billionaire and corporate backing and thinly disguised privatization agendas, such groups and their followers use the word “grassroots” to define themselves as often as possible. Meanwhile, the public at large, if they are aware of who is bankrolling such groups at all, hardly seem troubled by this.
The corporate press, ever eager to please their masters, has been especially derelict on their non-reporting on the genesis, bankrolling and propagation of such groups as Families for Excellent Schools as has the government in granting them non profit status willy nilly as if they actually are grassroots organizations.
That this farce goes on in broad daylight, aided and abetted by the US government, is but one of the many demoralizing aspects of being a teacher in an age of extreme political and intellectual degeneracy and expediency and yet another example of how the mega rich are being allowed to rewrite the narrative of this nation.

What does the tacit agreement to ignore the obvious charade about such increasingly powerful organization tell us about what has happened to the American soul in the past 30 or so years ?
In even a moderately honest culture, in fact, organizations such as Families for Excellent Schools would be seen for what they are and called what they are: not grass roots movements but fronts.

It’s not that Americans and the American government are not familiar with the concept of fronts. Read history and you will find that all throughout the Cold War, Americans were repeatedly warned by the government, by the press, by the clergy, of the insidious danger of what were generically called “communist fronts.” The words were used as a smear and an attack on any group that was not mindlessly patriotic. Nonetheless, there were, in fact, organizations that in some cases were funded by Moscow, and not unlike Families for Excellent Schools or StudentsFirstNY, hired young, smiling faces to pass themselves off as indigenous as the buffalo and as all American as the Georgia peach. During the endless reign of J. Edgar Hoover, many non–communist affiliated groups were also tossed into the same soup and many lives ruined. Of course, all civil rights organizations, even as they were firmly rooted in the church, were absurdly labeled so and ruthlessly hounded and harassed.
Politically and morally there was and there is good reason to expose fronts — all fronts, whatever the political affiliation. Whatever your political sympathies, there is something intrinsically sleazy, unethical and even sinister about a front.

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Or there should be.

Is not the purpose of a front to deceive, to pass itself off as something it is not so as to scam credulous people of good will? Are fronts not a con-job riddled with hidden agendas? Of course, they are. Fronts are bad faith incorporated.

And yet, even while multiplying like malignant cells, even as the massive money behind “education reform” has produced more fronts than one can keep up with, even though widely acknowledged as “astroturf”, all seem to have somehow escaped the moral condemnation and political scrutiny that was visited to no end on their predecessors in the front game. They just keep coming and coming and coming. And why shouldn’t they ? The people behind these scams have been allowed to amass the wealth of nations; an accumulation of capital that no democracy can long withstand before being utterly perverted.

Are billionaire and corporate based deception and bad faith somehow higher than their communist based counterparts of the past ? Even as billionaires and corporatism have done infinitely more to wreck and undermine our anemic democracy, deplete the earth, poison our food and debase our culture, than communists ever did? Even as they attempt to use non- profits and ‘grassroots “ groups to foment a kind of civil war intended, ultimately, to dismantle all progressive legislation of the past century? Even as they have made our political system a sick joke growing more anemic by the month? What can be said about this strange, silent metamorphosis of a mechanism like a front from something to be shunned and condemned to something to be celebrated by our elected officials who happily pose with these smiling shysters and con artists even as I write? Have we become so internally corporatized and ideologically colonized that we as a people can scarcely see the difference between a legitimate non-profit and a rank front, even as the ever multiplying fronts makes continued inroads into undermining a public trust as vital as the school system?

What, really, is the difference between a “grass root ” shams likes Families For Excellent Schools and StudentsFirstNY and a front ? What, that is, except our subservience to who is bankrolling them ?