Yesterday, the League of Women Voters in Minneapolis hosted a forum for school board candidates running in the upcoming election. The candidate responses to very generic questions yielded no new information. The questions in the first half were written by the League of Women Voters followed by questions from the audience. However, audience questions were "screned" by the moderators. There were at least nine Minneapolis Public School Teachers who each submitted a number of questions. Needless to say, none of our questions made it through the screening.
The truly telling part of this event came from the list of sponsors, a who's who list of people wanting to dance on the grave the teachers' union and universal public education. While not all of the sponsors fit this description, more than half did, most notably the recent arrivals to Minnesota such as Teach for America and MinnCAN.
Teacher members of PEJAM handed out flyers to counter the message of the education "deformers" and to expose their true agendas. Here is one of our flyers:
Stop the Privatization of our Public Schools:
Minneapolis Public Schools are heading down the path to privatization. Standardized testing, under the guise of accountability, has been used to blame and punish schools and teachers. The testing regime has been used to label schools as failures. It is also being used as a justification for creation of a one size-fits-all curriculum.
Minneapolis Public Schools has begun to implement what it calls “Focused Instruction”. Like most “reforms,” this is an idea coming in from the outside. In other districts around the country they call it “Managed Instruction.” While teachers are told they can determine how they teach (a debatable point), they are told what they must teach. It is also a practice that involves the implementation of more standardized tests!
We have seen school districts in Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans dismantled and sold off to private charter management organizations, and business interests. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, infamously said Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” This was because it gave him and Wall Street, the chance to privatize the schools. The same destruction of public schools is happening in Detroit and Philadelphia, and ironically, is being justified by the economic collapse of 2008, a disaster created by some of the same corporations and individuals looking to profit from our children’s education.
Some of the organizations sponsoring this forum are no more than astroturf groups and shills for the corporations, billionaires, hedge fund managers, and self-appointed reformers hoping to destroy true public education and benefit from its demise. Their main target is the teachers union, because teachers are the last line of defense for ALL of our students.
MinnPost’s founder and editor, Joel Kramer, has one son who is the President of Teach for America, a daughter-in-law who works for an organization called Charter School Partners, and another son who runs a charter school in Minneapolis.
MinnCAN came into Minnesota two years ago. Modeled after it’s parent organization ConnCAN. It has a staff of three people and millions of dollars. It is not working to build relationships with parents and the community. It is focused on lobbying the state government to bring in free-market corporate reforms. In other words, they are hoping to hasten the privatization of our schools.
Empowering Educators for Equity, is a group made up of Teach for America members and alumni. They are promoting changes that would weaken the rights of teachers and the teachers’ union, and since most do not stay with the profession, they only help to destabilize our schools.
Minneapolis Public Schools cannot excuse themselves from their responsibility to educate ALL children. We cannot privatize our schools and leave our students to the whims of unelected charter school boards, or the corporate “reformers.” Parents, teachers, students, and the community, must work together to build true, democratic, and socially just public schools. We must have schools that welcome and serve the needs of all students.
· For more information on how you can be part of a real education reform movement, go to the websites for the Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota (PEJAM): https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/101351126592234/