Sunday, December 18, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
“Occupy Our Public Schools”
Below is the original written version of a speech I gave at the Occupy Minnesota Rally on October 28, 2011.
I’ve been a teacher in Minneapolis public schools for 20 years, and have been active in the union the entire time, including two years as president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. I have watched corporations continually push their way into the public schools the entire time. It is clear, corporations hate to see our government money go to the public good, instead of their own pockets. Unfortunately, corporations and the “1%” have managed to buy out not just the Republicans, but the Democrats as well.
Wall Street is destroying our system of public education as much as every other aspect of our democracy. Educators, parents, and students need to not only "occupy Wall Street," we need to "occupy our public schools." Testing companies, textbook corporations, charter school operators, corporate "philanthropists," and other profit seekers need to be removed from our public space so schools can be truly democratic institutions working for social justice. And, we cannot "hope" for change from the Obama Democrats any more than we can from the Republicans. Both parties are dominated by corporate money.
1 in 5 children live in poverty in the United States. In some areas it’s close to 1 out of every 2 children. Corporations and the politicians they have bought and paid for have created this economic and social reality, and yet it’s the public school teachers who are made the scapegoats for the failed economic system. When teachers point out the additional challenges facing students in poverty and the need for more resources, we are told we are simply making excuses. The so-called “education reformers” argue that teachers need to stop making excuses. This “no excuse” mentality is itself an excuse for corporations and politicians to do nothing about the real problems they have created!
Corporate education “reformers” like to talk about accountability for teachers and public schools, but there is no accountability for them.
Big banks triggered massive home foreclosures and a recession with their sub-prime mortgage scams and faulty mortgage-backed securities. The banks then got bailed out with our tax dollars. At the same time, tax revenue in Minnesota and other states has tanked because of the recession caused by the banks. In response, the Minnesota legislature took money from public education with gimmicks including funding shifts to pretend to balance the budget. Schools districts were forced to borrow money from the same big banks that created this disaster and pay them back with interest!
Education is a right and the public schools belong to all of us. We must occupy our public schools as well as Wall Street.
The banks got bailed out, and our schools got sold out!Rob Panning-Miller,
Minneapolis Public School Teacher
Executive Board Member of MFT, Local 59
Friday, July 15, 2011
Accountability, a buzzword of corporate education "reformers" is a concept that seems to be missing at the District level in Minneapolis. Sheila Regan of TC Daily Planet published a two part series on the process for awarding contracts by Minneapolis Public Schools. Transparency and accountability are apparently not part of the process. In fact, as Ms. Regan points out, recent changes to the process may in fact reduce transparency and accountability. Here are the links to her stories:
Part 1: http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2011/06/17/mps-school-contracts
Part 2: http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2011/07/11/contracts-and-transparency-minneapolis-public-schools
Now we need an examination of what the numerous outside "consultants" hired by Minneapolis Public Schools actually do for the students of Minneapolis. Spoiler alert: very little!
The Administration of Minneapolis Public Schools recently passed a budget for next school year. They said they had to close a $20 million hole in the budget. Among other things, this means class sizes will remain well above the original Referendum targets. In spite of this, the District will hire another 24 teacher "coaches" that will NOT work with students.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
by Rania Khalek
Back in 2005, following the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Friedman wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal where he said “This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.” Soon after, Friedmonites rushed into New Orleans for the chance to implement what Friedman had long envisioned. With the help of the Bush administration, they dissolved the public school system and in its place built a network of publicly funded charters run, not by educators, but by private entities that made their own rules.
At the time, New Orleans residents alerted the rest of the country, that what was happening to their city was only the beginning and it wouldn’t be long before it spread to our neighborhoods. In 2006, Bill Quigley, a local lawyer and activist warned:
We know that what is happening in New Orleans is just a more concentrated, more graphic version of what is going on all over our country. Every city in our country has some serious similarities to New Orleans. Every city has some abandoned neighborhoods. Every city in our country has abandoned some public education, public housing, public healthcare, and criminal justice. Those who do not support public education, healthcare, and housing will continue to turn all of our country into the Lower Ninth Ward unless we stop them. Why do we allow this?If only we had listened. Soon after New Orleans came the drastic transformation of the Chicago school system by Obama’s Labor Secretary Arne Duncan, New York City schools by Mayor Bloomberg, and Washington DC schools by Michelle Rhee. Which brings us to Detroit.
Following the passage of Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s “Financial Martial Law,” Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) of Detroit Public Schools (DPS) Robert Bobb is closing 8 schools and selling 45 to charter companies. DPS is currently preparing a charter school board through training sessions provided by the National Charter Schools Institute, which had more than 70 charter operators and entrepreneurs in attendance just this month. In addition, DPS has hired the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) to review applications. NACSA’s president, Greg Richmond, worked with charter schools set up in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and claims “The system opened up to the people of New Orleans in a way it hadn’t before…Now there are dozens of opportunities to get involved.”
In sharp contrast to the lingering unemployment that plagues Detroit, the auctioning off of Detroit’s schools is taking place with breathtaking speed. Gov. Snyder is on a mission to reinvent public education. He is calling for more measurements of student and teacher performance, while at the same time proposing deregulation and more teacher autonomy. He says “We have to put much more emphasis on proficiency, on growth, on measurements and results than we have had in the past” and “Michigan’s public schools need to more rigorously measure students’ academic growth, but with fewer state rules to make that happen.”
Detroit residents have already started protesting. Just last week, eight students, along with their children and some faculty members of the Catherine Ferguson Academy of Detroit, began a sit-in at the end of the school day in protest of EFM Robert Bobb’s announcement to close the school. About a dozen or so were arrested by Detroit police for refusing to leave. The school is specifically designed for pregnant and teen parents and their children, and has a 90% graduation rate and 100% college and higher education acceptance upon graduation.
Gov. Snyder recently said his focus is a holistic approach to education from pre-natal to life-long learning. He says early childhood education is important and should involve “a public and private partnership.” If shutting down an award-winning school and arresting, rather than listening to the students he claims to care so much about, is his idea of a holistic approach, then Detroit is in for a treat.
Shanta Driver, National Chairperson of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), in an interview with Voice of Detroit at the sit-in, said it best:
The massive school closures that have been carried out in DPS since 2004 have led to the depopulation of Detroit and to the deepening financial crisis of the district. Public schools are being closed to make way for charters and are part of the national attack on public education. Today Detroit – tomorrow, every city in America. The parents and students of Catherine Ferguson are fighting to maintain the right of every student in our nation to a free, quality public education. Every supporter of public education should do everything possible to support their fight and make sure they succeedDriver is warning us, as did the people of New Orleans in 2006. This corporately funded education reform movement that praises standardised tests, non-union teachers, and private management as the solution to the budget woes of Detroit’s education system is a threat to us all.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Minneapolis Labor Center
312 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis
The keynote speaker is Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union and a member of CORE- Caucus of Rank & File Educators. In her election acceptance speech in June, Ms Lewis declared, “Today marks the beginning of the end of scapegoating educators for all the social ills that our children, families and schools struggle against every day. Today marks the beginning of a fight for true transparency in our educational policy — how to accurately measure learning and teaching, how to truly improve our schools, and how to evaluate the wisdom behind our spending priorities.”
Additional speakers will address local school concerns such as the struggles to keep North High School alive, the closing of Cityview, school changes in St Paul and reports from Wisconsin teachers, whose collective bargaining rights are under attack by their governor.
PEJAM is a grassroots community organization of teachers, parents, students, and community members dedicated to defending and supporting a fully funded, just, equitable, and democratic system of public education.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
BOISE -- Hundreds of students across the state organized a walk-out in protest of Superintendent Tom Luna's plan to overhaul education.
Word about the protest spread quickly among students thanks to social networking and text messages.
There were protests in Nampa, Meridian, Caldwell, American Falls and Pocatello.
In Boise, nearly 250 students skipped school and came to the capitol to protest the reform bills before the legislature.
Click here to read more
Friday, February 18, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
education are designed to support the military-industrial complex, or
that an appropriate application of these subjects is the business of
SEE POST BELOW for info on PEJAM rally to protest corporate and militaristic education policies that Arne Duncan will be promoting in his Luncheon with MN Chamber of Commerce
Rally to Demand Duncan/Dayton Listen to Teachers and Parents, not the Chamber of Commerce!
10:50 a.m. Walk one block over to Hilton
11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Rally in front of Hilton
Friday, January 21, 2010, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, will be in Minnesota to speak at a luncheon of the MN Chamber of Commerce and meet with Governor Dayton. We are asking PEJAM members and supporters to come and let Secretary Duncan and Governor Dayton know that the so-called education reforms like Race to the Top are destroying our public schools. Let them know they need to listen to teachers and parents, and not corporations.
The rash of school closures, conversions of public schools to privately managed charter schools, and the destructive culture of “shame and blame” that have seriously damaged our public educational system are the result of No Child Left Behind and Obama/Duncan’s Race to the Top. Now Governor Dayton is asking Secretary Duncan to let Minnesota reapply for the Race to the Top program.
Let Governor Dayton and Secretary Duncan know that we oppose these destructive policies that privatize our public schools and have the greatest negative impact in minority and poor communities. Recent effort to close North High School, the closure of Cityview, and the opening of a charter school in the Cityview building, are all examples of the damage done by Secretary Duncan’s pro-corporation agenda.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I'll be blunt with you. The answer is no right now. The DC public school systems are struggling. They have made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform. There are some terrific individual schools in the DC system. And that's true, by the way, in every city across the country. There are some great public schools that are on par with any private school in the country. … I'll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But for a mom and a dad who are working hard but who don't have a bunch of connections, don't have a lot of choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education for their kids as anybody else, and we don't have that yet.