Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Obama's NCLB Rewrite Is Horrific

Here are the details:

The administration has already made its mark on education through Race to the Top, a federal grant program in which 40 states are competing for $4 billion in education money included in last year’s federal stimulus bill. In his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama hailed the results so far of that competition, which has persuaded states from Rhode Island to California to make changes in their education laws. States that prohibit the use of test scores in teacher evaluations, for example, are not eligible for the funds. The competition has also encouraged states to open the door to more charter schools, which receive public money but are run by independent groups.

Now the administration hopes to apply similar conditions to the distribution of the billions of dollars that the Department of Education hands out to states and districts as part of its annual budget.

“They want to recast the law so that it is as close to Race to the Top as they can get it, making the money conditional on districts’ taking action to improve schools,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, who attended a recent meeting at which administration officials outlined their plans in broad strokes. “Right now most federal money goes out in formulas, so schools know how much they’ll get, and then use it to provide services for poor children. The department thinks that’s become too much of an entitlement. They want to upend that scheme by making states and districts pledge to take actions the administration considers reform, before they get the money.”

One section of the current Bush-era law has required states to certify that all teachers are highly qualified, based on their college coursework and state-issued credentials. In the Race to the Top competition, the administration has required participating states to develop the capability to evaluate teachers based on student test data, at least in part, and on whether teachers are successful in raising student achievement.

Educators who have talked to the administration said the officials appeared to be considering inserting similar provisions to the main education law, by requiring the use of student data in teacher evaluation systems as a condition for receiving federal education money. Mr. Duncan has publicly endorsed such an approach, Mr. Cunningham said.

Let's repeat one part of one sentence - states and districts must pledge to take actions the administration considers "reform" before they get the money.

Here's what that means - privatizing public schools, adding more charter schools, closing more public schools and replacing them with charters, lifting any cap on the number of charters, tying teacher evaluation to test scores, and adding days and time.

If you want federal money, you've got to do these things.

Obama's "reforms" make Bush's look miniscule.

He must be stopped.

Luckily it's an election year and he has failed at every other issue he's taken on.

This could be a tough haul.

But something tells me, if he succeeds at anything, it will be this.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Arne Duncan Is Glad Katrina Devastated New Orleans

Really, that's what he said:

ABC News' Mary Bruce Reports: Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans” because it gave the city a chance to rebuild and improve its failing public schools.

In an interview to air this weekend on “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” Duncan said “that education system was a disaster. And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that we have to do better. And the progress that it made in four years since the hurricane, is unbelievable.”

That's an amazing, quote, isn't it?

The hurricane that devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and killed 1,835, with another 705 still missing and presumed dead - either washed into the Gulf of Mexico or swept into Lake Pontchartrain or alligator-infested swamps - was the "best thing" that ever happened to the New Orleans education system.

When ABC News called the Dept. of Education to ask if Duncan meant what he said about Katrina being the "best thing" ever for the New Orleans school system, Duncan said in a statement that he stood by his remark.

Apparently Duncan thinks 1,835 dead with another 705 missing and hundreds of thousands of other made homeless and ruined was the necessary price to pay for bringing charter schools and education reform to New Orleans.


Can you imagine the emotional disconnect a person has to have to say stupid, insensitive shit like that?

Can you imagine the hollow interior this person must have?

The scarier thing is, I'm sure Duncan believes it. And it gives some interesting insight into the strategy Duncan is employing in urban areas - destroy the education systems so he can bring about reform, and if this strategy devastates lives and causes great physical and emotional pain, so be it.

This is the necessary price that must be paid for education reform.


I wonder if someone said that the best thing that could happen for public education these days is for a devastating Category 4 hurricane to blow through Arne Duncan's house, kill his wife, leave one or two of his children missing and leave him homeless and financially ruined, if Arne would see the absolute stupidity and insensitivity of his statement about how beneficial Katrina was for New Orleans?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

GOP Praises Obama's Pro-Privatization, Union-Busting Education Agenda

Obama and the Republican Party agree - teachers unions are the problem with education today and charter schools and privatization of public education are the answer:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 28) -- For all of the partisan rancor surrounding President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, there was one domestic area where the president could claim legitimate bipartisan achievement: education.

During his first year in office, Obama has drawn praise from conservatives like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his approach to improving the nation's schools. The administration's centerpiece initiative, a program called Race to the Top, has been lauded by some reform activists for injecting competition into the federal grant process. It also has been credited with nudging states to adopt higher standards and more accountability for schools.

It was no surprise, then, that at a time when the White House is trying to renew its cross-party appeal, Obama chose to devote a significant chunk of his speech to education. And it was a rare issue that escaped withering criticism in most Republican responses.

"This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools," the president said. "The idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities.


In the official Republican response to the State of the Union, Virginia's new governor, Robert McDonnell, highlighted the GOP's agreement with Obama on education, making no mention of policy differences.

"The president and I agree on expanding the number of high-quality charter schools and rewarding teachers for excellent performance," McDonnell said. "More school choices for parents and students mean more accountability and greater achievement."

Two senior Republican congressmen also praised the education portion of Obama's speech. The ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, said Obama and Duncan "have indicated a surprising willingness to take on education special interests."

Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., said he had "every intention" of working with the administration on further reforms, including the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Much of the GOP support for Obama's education initiatives stems from the administration's apparent willingness to buck traditional Democratic allies like the teachers' unions in calling for an expansion of charter schools and "pay for performance" in teacher compensation. The administration has been able to hold the support from the Democratic base because of its pledges to dramatically increase federal spending on schools. The stimulus package alone contained more than $100 billion for education initiatives, including the "Race to the Top" program and aid to states to prevent teachers from being laid off.

Great - the one bill Obama will actually sign into law will be the NCLB reauthorization.

Make no mistake, it's going to be a bad one - longer school days, longer school years, teacher evaluation and pay tied to test scores, more school "turnaround" (i.e., creating more charter schools.)

I am still hoping that some Repubs kill this bill just because they don't want to give him any victories before 2012, but I don't think that's going to happen.

I just don't think they will be able to refrain from helping a Democratic president break the unions.

Bloomberg Wants To Lay Off Teachers While He Hires Campaign Staff

Today the Mayor of Money threatened to layoff teachers and other municipal workers if they don't agree to concessions and smaller raises. But he's hiring at City Hall:

Even as he warns that the city may have to lay off thousands of workers, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has found city jobs for 15 members of his re-election campaign, many of whom are earning six-figure salaries, records and interviews show.

The hirings suggest that while Mr. Bloomberg is calling for a leaner government that reflects the economic downturn, he is finding money in the budget for those who engineered his unexpectedly close re-election.

In addition, seven city employees who left their jobs to work on the campaign have returned, in many cases at higher salaries. Together, the appointments cost taxpayers more than $2 million in government wages.

Since Election Day, the mayor has appointed Matthew Mahoney, a Republican political operative, to a $160,000-a-year job at the Department of Environmental Protection; Larry Scott Blackmon, a Democratic strategist, to a $157,000-a-year post at the parks department; and Kim Molstre, the campaign’s chief of staff, to a $135,000 job working for a deputy mayor.

Budget watchdogs and union leaders said the appointments showed a disconnect between the mayor’s message of austerity to city workers — and the constituents who rely on their services — and his actions as chief executive.

“If we are tightening up our belts all over, we should be tightening up the belt at City Hall,” said Harry Nespoli, the head of the city’s sanitation union and the president of the Municipal Labor Committee.

Asked about the timing of the hirings, Mr. Bloomberg said it was important to recruit skilled managers for a challenging third term: “If there’s any group that I wouldn’t want to cut in tough times, it’s those that can guide people and incent people and excite people to do more with less.”

Got that?

Teachers are a dime a dozen, but campaign staffers who will stick around in case the Mayor of Money decides to challenge Barack Obama in 2012 - those guys are priceless!

What a hypocrite - a lousy arrogant criminal hypocrite.

Lower Raises Or Layoffs

From the Daily News:

When Mayor Bloomberg presents his budget tomorrow, he will ask city teachers and principals to take modest pay raises in their next contract - no more than $1,400, according to those briefed on his spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

If they don’t agree, he’s threatening to slash school budgets 2.3 percent and cut 2,500 jobs.

That is the most dramatic of the proposals Bloomberg will make to help plug a nearly $5 billion budget shortfall for FY 2011, which begins in July.

The mayor, who routinely brags that teacher salaries have shot up 43 percent during his tenure, wants teachers and principals to accept 2 percent raises for the next two years instead of the standard 4 percent.

Those raises will only be based on $70,000 of their salary. Basically, that means if an educator makes $100,000, he or she would only get a raise on $70,000. It’s as if the extra $30,000 doesn’t exist.

2% raises, less if you make over $70,000 a year. I'm assuming Bloomberg wants additional concessions from the union for the 2% raises as well - at the very least, the "draining of the ATR pool," as one Klein cretin put it in a Gotham Schools comment thread the other day. Probably union agreement to tie teacher evaluations to test scores too.

I think I can come up with an answer for the mayor right now.

If you want to break the pattern for raises, then drop your demand for concessions from the union on ATR's and teacher evaluations tied to test scores. I'll take 2% a year for two years, but only if you drop the concessions demand and give the 2% for all of an employee's compensation, not just the portion up to and including $70,000.

How's that sound, Moneybags?

But don't start demanding layoffs. You've been hiring like crazy at City Hall (that truly awful human being, Howard Wolfson, has just been put on the city payroll for $209,000 a year to help start your BLOOMBERG FOR PRESIDENT IN 2012 campaign), so drop the jive about needing to lay people off.

If you want to start laying people off, start with Wolfson and the rest of the political consultants you pay out of the city coffers.

You know, if it was between 4% with concessions or 2% without concessions, I'd take the 2% without concessions any day of the week.

Of course I'd prefer 4% without concessions, but that would presuppose I belonged to a union with long-term strategy abilities and some idea of what the hell they were doing pre-2009 mayoral election.

And that presupposition would be wrong.

UPDATE: NYC Educator notes in the comment thread that the pattern is the pattern and if Bloomberg wants lower raises, then he has to buy us out with concessions or time.

I stand corrected. I think NYC Educator has it exactly right. If we take 2% a year instead of the 4% set in the pattern, we'll take 20 minutes a day back plus no more bathroom duty.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama's State of the Union Address to Promote Charter Schools and More Ed Deform

If you like all the chaos and craziness of the last eight years of Bloomberg, you're going to love the next three years of Obama.

Fresh from his defeat on health care reform, he is turning his attention tonight to education deform, and it's as bad as you think it's going to be:

President Obama will propose a major increase in funding for elementary and secondary education for the coming year in Wednesday's State of the Union address, one of the few areas that would grow in an otherwise austere federal budget, officials said.


The funding would include a $1.35 billion increase in Obama's "Race to the Top" competitive grants for school reform. It would also set aside $1 billion to finance an overhaul of No Child Left Behind, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.


The $1 billion fund would be held out as a carrot for a successful legislative conclusion. One top aide to the president described it as an "incentive necessary to implement the kinds of reforms that we believe are necessary."

Obama has encouraged efforts by states to raise school standards and improve testing. Aides said that in the president's State of the Union speech, he will make a forceful call for broad reforms of the way school performance is measured and rewarded.

In other words, if you want federal money for education, you better complete the following - additional standardized tests at all levels in all subjects, teacher pay tied to testing, teacher evaluation tied to testing, more school closures and lifting state caps on charter schools completely.

Oh, and don't forget additional days in the school year and additional hours in the school day.

It will be interesting to see if he gets what he wants in education. He is roundly hated by Repubs and they really don't want to give him any victories these days, sensing that they can knock off many Dems in 2010 and Obama himself in 2012. And there have to be some Dems who think his public school privatization policies are jive. It is possible that his pro-privatization agenda can be beaten back.

But I am not too hopeful about that. He can't lose every issue and if there's any issue that might see bipartisan support, breaking the teachers unions and imposing charter schools in every urban area in the nation just might be it.

The Mayor-Dictator Gets His Way

Here's how the NY Times wrote up the PEP board's rubber stamping the 19 school closures that Klein and Bloomberg wanted:

In a contentious meeting that drew more than eight hours of public testimony, a city board voted early Wednesday morning to close 19 schools for poor performance, despite the protests from hundreds of observers who repeatedly drowned out the meeting with cheers, shouts and boos.

More than 300 speakers addressed the board, the Panel for Educational Policy, beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. By the time the panel began voting at 2:40 a.m. they had heard a litany of complaints from hundreds of parents, students, teachers and administrators and just a handful of speakers who said they supported closing the schools.

But as expected, the panel overwhelmingly approved the closures recommended by the Education Department. The votes to close down the schools fell along political lines, with the appointees of the Manhattan, Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn borough presidents voting against the closings while each of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s appointees approved them without question. Nearly every school shutdown was approved with an 8 to 4 vote, while the audience shouted “shame on you” and “disgrace.”

The panel has been widely criticized as a rubber-stamp to the Bloomberg administration and has largely held an obscure role in education policy. But under new laws governing the mayor’s control of the school system, the panel was required to make the final approval of closures of low performing schools, a centerpiece of the mayor and Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s effort to overhaul the school system.

“Listening means to hear but also to digest and allow the information to have an effect on our opinion,” said Dymtro Fedkowskyi, the representative from Queens.

Patrick Sullivan, who represents Manhattan on the board and has long been one of the few dissenting voices, pressed the mayor’s appointees to explain why they approved of the policy. “Is there anyone who will defend this?” he asked. All but one of the mayor’s appointees remained silent. “I can’t see how anyone can vote in good conscious,” Mr. Sullivan said.


When the State Legislature renewed the mayor’s control over city schools last year, it gave the panel the final word on closures in an effort to increase parents’ participation in the decisions. But in practical terms, the check on mayoral authority was minimal. Eight of the 13 panel members are appointed by the mayor and can be removed at his behest.

During the long overnight session, there was anger and there was theater. Two parents broke out sock puppets in protest. “Hi everyone, I’m a concerned parent,” said Jane Hirschmann, founder of the antitesting group Time Out From Testing, as she held up one puppet. “Hi,” replied Lisa Donlan of the Lower East Side, holding up another sock. “I am a puppet from the Panel for Educational Policy, and I brought my rubber stamp.”

Some of the hundreds of parents, teachers and students in the auditorium questioned the criteria the city used in making the decisions. Officials from the city teachers’ union said they planned to sue. Others said the city did not provide enough support to the large high schools. A study released Monday by the city’s Independent Budget Office affirmed that schools on the closing list faced unusually difficult challenges posed by their demographics and performed poorly on school progress reports.

Those high schools “usually had greater concentrations of high-needs students, students from low-income households and students living in temporary housing compared to the medians for nonclosing schools in the same borough,” the report said.

Much of the anger at the gathering was directed at Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor, who sat at the center of the panel and was forced to shout his opening statement over a deafening chorus of boos. “The schools are not meeting the standards we need to meet for our children,” said Mr. Klein, who does not have a vote. “My intention is to say we can do better for our children.”

Much of the criticism directed at Mr. Klein was personal. He sat quietly as speaker after speaker derided him, shouting chants like “Racist Joel Klein” and saying “Where’s Mr. Klein?" after he got up to take a phone call and go to the bathroom.

Mr. Chang, the chancellor of New York University’s Polytechnic Institute, said Monday that he had received a flood of e-mail messages in support of some of the schools. “They are all tough decisions,” Mr. Chang said.

These weren't tough decisions at all. The DOE made them in secret, began implementing them well before last night's PEP board meeting, and didn't care one bit that these schools "faced unusually difficult challenges posed by their demographics" and had been dumping grounds for at-risk students from other schools closures.

The mayor wanted them closed so he could open charter schools in the buildings that currently house these schools.

The State Legislature has not yet lifted the cap on charters, but given that whatever Bloomberg wants, Bloomberg gets, and given the power, influence and money that charter operators have these days (even Roger Ebert, after seeing Waiting for Superman, has declared teachers unions "the biggest obstacle to good teaching"), it is only a matter of time before the cap is lifted.

Since Bloomberg took office, he has closed 91 schools. The state wants 17 more closed this year and 17 others restructured, so the number will be well over 100 schools closures. June may see even more school closures when the second part of the RttT competition funds are released (Obama wants states that win the money to close 5% of their lowest performing schools and reopen them as privatized charter schools.)

With Bloomberg buying himself another four years, with his PEP board giving him whatever he wants for the school system, with Paterson ready to do his bidding, and with the rumor out there that Bloomberg plans to run for president in 2012, I think the Little Dictator will get his wish to completely privatize the New York City public school system before he moves off the scene.

Scary, but true. Doesn't seem to matter what the public thinks (hell, he bought his re-election for less than 51,000 votes but he acts like he won a million vote mandate), Bloomberg does whatever he wants.

I hope that the contention over these closures will make future closures more difficult for them. But I suspect Bloomberg, Klein and Obama don't give a shit what people think and don't give a shit whether their policies are working to better education for children.

This is about privatizing the system and breaking the union.

Bloomberg, Klien and Obama have been very successful at that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Michelle Rhee Alleges Fired D.C. Teachers Had Engaged In Sexual Misconduct

Boy, that Michelle Rhee really has some guts.

Embroiled in her own sexual misconduct scandal (she is alleged by a Congressional committee to have helped cover up sexual misconduct allegations that were leveled at her boyfriend, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, by teachers at his charter school), Rhee has now claimed that the reason why she fired a bunch of veteran teachers in D.C. earlier this year without giving any cause was because they had engaged in crimes like sexual misconduct or violence against their students.

But of course she has provided no evidence to back up the claims. Here is the story:

(Jan. 26) -- Washington, D.C.'s schools chancellor is facing harsh criticism for her claim that among the 266 city teachers she fired last October, some "had sex with children."

Speaking with the magazine Fast Company, Michelle Rhee was explaining the criteria she used to determine which teachers the city let go in the face of a $43.9 million budget shortfall. "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee said. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?"

The problem for Rhee is that if school authorities knew of teachers whose behavior had endangered the welfare of the district's children, the names of those individuals are, by law, supposed to be reported to the police.

On Tuesday, Rhee added additional detail to her claims, telling a local news affiliate that one of the teachers fired had been on administrative leave for sexual misconduct with a student, six others had served suspensions for a variety of corporal punishment violations, and that two of the 266 teachers fired had been suspended for unauthorized absences.

Rhee has so far declined to provide the names of the teachers in question.

"Why was an alleged budget problem used as a basis for dismissing people who, according to her, engaged in abuse and sexual molestation of children?" D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray asked in an interview with WTOP News.

Gray says he is considering a subpoena for Rhee to compel her to testify and provide names of the teachers accused of abusing children.

Rhee's decision to terminate 266 teachers has further exacerbated an already difficult relationship with the city's teachers' union.

"The statements are not only an affront to every single teacher that was [laid off] but every single teacher currently employed in D.C. public schools," the union's general vice president, Nathan Saunders, told The Washington Post. "It's irresponsible, and she needs to be taken to task for it."

In Michelle Rhee's world, you can tar all the teachers you fire as sex criminals and students beaters, but you can't ask her publicly what actions she took to help cover up her boyfriend's sexual misconduct mess.

You see, Ms. Rhee is a hero in the education deform world view, so whatever she does is always justified and whatever she says is always true.

Even though in the real world, she appears to be a vindictive autocrat who lies about and smears her enemies while engaging in very questionable and maybe even criminal behavior herself.

It would be nice if Ms. Rhee were treated the same as the teachers she has smeared, especially considering a Congressional Committee report has claimed she actually did take part in the sexual misconduct cover-up while she has provided no evidence to back up her allegations against the teachers, but in today's world, you don't have to back up claims against teachers anymore.

You just have to say "Well, they're a teacher," and automatically they're assumed to be guilty of something.

But Ms. Rhee herself can fire people at will, cover up criminal activity by her boyfriend, and engage in all kinds of obnoxious behavior and still be the darling of the education deform movement and the media.

So far, that's working for her. But karma is coming, you can sense it. She plays a little too fast and loose with the truth to get away with this forever.

PEP Meeting and ELA Regents

Today is the first day of the ELA Regents exam.

I have two classes of juniors taking the Regents today and tomorrow.

I have spent the majority of the semester making sure they are prepared to write the four required essays and complete the 26 required multiple choice questions from all four sections of the two day test.

As anyone who has ever taught a Regents class knows, it can be a nerve-wracking experience, more so now that they close you within a year or two of your scores dropping.

I teach at a large high school in Manhattan. The DOE has been fixing our building lately, putting in new elevators, fixing the exterior, fixing the heating system. Other parts of the building still need to be fixed. I have a hole in my ceiling the size of Barack Obama's ego and the entire 9th and 10th floors leaks like crazy. But they've done more work on the building in the past two years than they have in the last 20.

We think the DOE has eyes on our building. It's 10 floors, right in Manhattan and would be a great place to put two, three or perhaps four charter schools.

Just a short cab ride up from Wall Street for the hedge fund managers and Wall Street robber barons who would sit on the boards.

Art deco building with a huge auditorium, great to hold assemblies in.

I guess they can just paint over the murals of labor leaders that line the walls of the auditorium when they close my school, fire all the unionized teachers and rehire 50% of us back as non-union employees.

Now we have gotten A's on our report cards and Well Developed on our quality reviews and our test scores and graduation rates have been good, but you know that's never enough anymore.

When the DOE has eyes on your building or wants your school closed, they set you up to fail.

Look at what happened to Dewey High School in Brooklyn. Two years ago on the top 500 schools in the nation list in US News, this year on the restructure and/or closure list issued by the NYSED.

None of these closures slated to be discussed at today's PEP board meeting is actually about improving the level of education children receive.

If they cared about that, they'd lower class sizes, update the technology and fix the buildings so they weren't environmental disasters.

This is simply about politics - breaking the union, rewarding Wall Street cronies, privatizing education and opening up all that taxpayer money to the for-profit sector.

That's true of Bloomberg's policies and it is true of Obama's policies.

And for me, it all comes down to today and tomorrow.

How my students do on the ELA Regents today and tomorrow dictate whether my school is slated for closure at some future PEP board meeting and I'm sent out to the ATR pool because I make too much money and no school will want to pay for my salary out of their budget.

High stakes indeed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bloomberg: Paterson Budget Will Cut 8,500 Teaching Jobs In NYC

The story is here.

Bloomberg's solution?

More charter schools, of course.

And giving him the right to fire the teachers in the ATR pool.

And tying teacher evaluations to test scores.

You have to give Moneybags one thing - he sure does stay on message.

Charter schools, charter schools, charter schools...

Test scores, test scores, test scores...

Fire the ATR's, fire the ATR's, fire the ATR's.

It's a broken record, but as many politicians who spew jive have discovered over the years, if you just keep repeating your jive over and over, the media stenographers will repeat it as truth in the papers and on the TV.

But I've got a solution, Mr. Moneybags.

Why not take the teachers in the ATR pool and get them working in schools?

Instead of spending millions to close schools, why not give the "failing" schools the resources they need to deal with the socio-economic problems they are being asked to deal with (i.e., homeless students, support service students, ELL's, etc.)?

Why not hire some actual educators to develop policy rather than the 20-something MBA's you have running it right now.

Oh, and why don't you stop handing out multi-million dollar no-bid contract to your cronies?

Those would be positive solutions to solve the problem.

But you're not looking for positive solutions to the problem.

You're looking to exacerbate the crisis in the schools to push forward your privatization agenda.

Which means you're just spewing jive.

It's a shame the media stenographers don't have the brains and/or guts to call you on your bullshit.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

10 False "Race to the Top" Assumptions

With the education deformers and public education privatization proponents on the offensive at the city, state and federal levels these days, it is becoming increasingly difficult to beat back their bullshit.

Two new documentaries are coming out celebrating the wonders of the charter movement and exposing the evils of teachers unions.

President Obama has made education privatization and top-down education deform a major component of his Change You Can Believe In agenda.

The state has listed 34 NYC schools
that will be either closed, restructured or handed over to charters.

The city has 20 schools it plans to close after a pro-forma meeting by the PEP boards rubberstamps Mayor Moneybags' plans.

Anderson Vanderbilt Cooper and so many others in the media (see this jive at Huffingtonpost here and here for the latest examples) fall over themselves to show how wonderful and innovative the charter movement is but get the basic facts wrong.

Wall Street and the members of the corporatocracy
race to hand out money to the charter movement and sit on their boards while charter schools push out traditional public schools from their spaces, steal their resources and take the cream of the crop of public school students, leaving public schools to educate the ELL's, the support service students and the at risk students charters refuse to take.

These are tough times for educators and students in the traditional public school system. It feels like we are on the losing end of the battle and it is coming sooner rather than later.

With the state and city closing or restructuring 46 public schools this year and with the overflow of at risk students from those schools sure to be handed over to the remaining public schools, within a few years you can see how every traditional public school in the city will have been declared "failing" and closed.

We can and will fight this, but right now, the charter movement has all the money, the resources and the political allies.

They have much of the momentum.

But we can get our message out, which is to show how the education deformers are wrong on nearly every point of their "reform" message.

Last October, Marion Brady, a veteran teacher, administrator and curriculum developer, wrote a great piece in the Washington Post that lists the false assumptions the Race to the Top initiative makes.

I want to post it in full. It is essential to list this because it is the truth.

Charter proponents and education deformers don't care about truth, of course. Nor do most of them care about education or students.

This is about opening up another financial windfall for for-profit corporations that already own this country and came close to bringing it down last year with their greed and hubris.

This is about creating good future corporate employees willing to work longer and harder to make much less than their parents and grandparents did.

This is about building a bridge back to 19th century when the work week was 60 hours and 6 days.

This is about the robber barons like Gates, Broad, Bloomberg, Jobs et al. extending their power and hold on the country.

They're not interested in an educated populace.

An educated populace could see through their bullshit.

No, they're interested in owning everything and solidifying their power and position - and what better way to do that then socialize children as serfs, destroy the labor movement completely and use globalization and free trade as a rationale for why Americans must work longer and harder to make so much less while carrying so much more debt.

We must fight this.

Here is Brady's piece:

By Marion Brady
"Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects? The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.

If they weren’t, they’d know that adopting national standards will be counterproductive, and that the "Race to the Top" will fail for the same reason "No Child Left Behind" failed—because it’s based on false assumptions.

False Assumption 1:
America’s teachers deserve most of the blame for decades of flat school performance. Other factors affecting learning—language problems, hunger, stress, mass media exposure, transience, cultural differences, a sense of hopelessness, and so on and on—are minor and can be overcome by well-qualified teachers. To teacher protests that they’re scapegoats taking the blame for broader social ills, the proper response is, "No excuses!" While it’s true teachers can’t choose their students, textbooks, working conditions, curricula, tests, or the bureaucracies that circumscribe and limit their autonomy, they should be held fully accountable for poor student test scores.

False Assumption 2:
Professional educators are responsible for bringing education to crisis, so they can’t be trusted. School systems should instead be headed by business CEOs, mayors, ex-military officers, and others accustomed to running a "tight ship." Their managerial expertise more than compensates for how little they know about educating.

False Assumption 3:
"Rigor"—doing longer and harder what we’ve always done—will cure education’s ills. If the young can’t clear arbitrary statistical bars put in place by politicians, it makes good sense to raise those bars. Because learning is neither natural nor a source of joy, externally imposed discipline and "tough love" are necessary.

False Assumption 4:
Teaching is just a matter of distributing information. Indeed, the process is so simple that recent college graduates, fresh from "covering" that information, should be encouraged to join "Teach For America" for a couple of years before moving on to more intellectually demanding professions. Experienced teachers may argue that, as Socrates demonstrated, nothing is more intellectually demanding than figuring out what’s going on in another person’s head, then getting that person herself or himself to examine and change it, but they’re just blowing smoke.

False Assumption 5:
Notwithstanding the failure of vast experiments such as those conducted in eastern Europe under Communism, and the evidence from ordinary experience, history proves that top-down reforms such as No Child Left Behind work well. Centralized control doesn’t stifle creativity, imply teacher incompetence, limit strategy options, discourage innovation, or block the flow of information and insight to policymakers from those actually doing the work.

False Assumption 6:
Standardized tests are free of cultural, social class, language, experiential, and other biases, so test-taker ability to infer, hypothesize, generalize, relate, synthesize, and engage in all other "higher order" thought processes can be precisely measured and meaningful numbers attached. It’s also a fact that test-prep programs don’t unfairly advantage those who can afford them, that strategies to improve the reliability of guessing correct answers can’t be taught, and that test results can’t be manipulated to support political or ideological agendas. For these reasons, test scores are reliable, and should be the primary drivers of education policy.

False Assumption 7:
Notwithstanding the evidence from research and decades of failed efforts, forcing merit pay schemes on teachers will revitalize America’s schools. This is because the desire to compete is the most powerful of all human drives (more powerful even than the satisfactions of doing work one loves). The effectiveness of, say, band directors and biology teachers, or of history teachers and math teachers, can be easily measured and dollar amounts attached to their relative skill. Merit pay also has no adverse effect on collegiality, teacher-team dynamics, morale, or school politics.

False Assumption 8:
Required courses, course distribution requirements, Carnegie Units, and other bureaucratic demands and devices that standardize the curriculum and limit teacher and learner options are products of America’s best thinkers about what the young need to know. Those requirements should, then, override individual learner interests, talents, abilities, and all other factors affecting freedom of choice.

False Assumption 9:
Notwithstanding charter schools’ present high rates of teacher turnover, their growing standardization by profit-seeking corporations, or their failure to demonstrate that they can do things all public schools couldn’t do if freed from bureaucratic constraints, charters attract the most highly qualified and experienced teachers and are hotbeds of innovation.

False Assumption 10:
The familiar, traditional "core curriculum" in near-universal use in America’s classrooms since 1893 is the best-possible tool for preparing the young for an unknown, unpredictable, increasingly complex and dangerous future.

"Human history," said H.G. Wells, "is a race between education and catastrophe."

If amateurs continue to control American education policy, put your money on catastrophe. It’s a sure thing.

Right now, we're facing catastrophe. Chicago already has it, courtesy of Duncan and Obama and their education deform allies.

New York is getting it courtesy of Bloomberg and Klein and now Meryl Tisch, David Steiner and Barack Obama.

The rest of the country is getting it courtesy of Obama too.

We have to stop Obama and Duncan before it is too late.

We have to stop Bloomberg, Klein, Broad, Gates, et al. from their predatory philanthropy that masks power consolidation as charity.

We have to keep the rationale for the public education system as it has been - to educate informed, intelligent citizens for a democracy, and not the compliant serfs and good corporate employees the education deformers and hedge fund managers want.

It's not too late to do this.

But it's getting later by the day.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where Are The Stories About The NYSED School Closures?

I don't get it. NYSED dropped what I think is a nuclear bomb Thursday by releasing a list of 34 NYC public schools, many of them large high schools, that will be either closed (17) or restructured (17), and other than Gotham Schools, NY 1 and a blog post at the NY Times nobody covered the story.

Same goes for my fellow education bloggers. Absolute silence about the story, about the huge implications for students and teachers both in and around those schools (how many students will be shifted around the system as a result of these closings and restructurings? How much more chaos and instability will be added to a system already made chaotic and unstable by the annual closings announced by Klein and Bloomberg?)

I don't get it.

Is it because people think this won't really happen, that somehow the state will give a reprieve to the schools on the list and say "Oh, we were just kidding, ha ha ha ha ha..."?

Is it because they're so busy fighting the 20 closures Bloomberg and Klein already announced that they cannot even begin to fathom the additional closures the state wants and the amount of energy and organizing it will take to fight that back?

Or is it because these are a DIRECT consequence of the education policies of Barack Obama and many people in the education world cannot yet bring themselves to vilify Obama for the same pro-charter/pro-privatization policies he pushes that Bloomberg also pushes and that people have no problem vilifying Bloomberg for?

As I say, I dunno what is going on here, but you can look at the state website at NYSED and see what they have proposed.

These closures and restructurings are coming to a school near you.

In all, 46 NYC public schools will be either closed, restructured or turned over to charter and/or for-profit operators as a DIRECT result of Obama's Race to the Top education policy.

And that's just this time around. More schools may be added to the list in June. Almost certainly more will be added in 2011 when Obama plans to extend the RttT competition.

What kind of chaos will have been wreaked upon the NYC public schools system by the time Obama and the NYSED, coupled with Bloomberg and Klein, finish with their restructurings and closings?

Will any of it be left standing?

Or will Geoffrey Canada, Eva Moskowitz, KIPP and a bunch of hedge fund managers/education reformers be running the entire thing?

It's starting to looking like this is a KIPP world and we only live to serve in it until the charter managers decide it is time to put us out to pasture.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Obama Has Urban Public Schools Under Siege

The New York State Education Department has released a list of 34 schools that need to be closed, restructured or handed over to charter operators as a result of Obama's Race to the Top education policies.

The city already plans to close 20 schools, but 12 of the schools on that list are not on the state's list.

That means 46 city schools will be either closed, restructured or handed over to charter operators.

Some of the schools the state wants closed received A's and or B's on their school report cards.

One school was given a silver medal by US News and World Report just a couple of years ago and on a list of the top 505 schools in the nation.

Now the state wants it closed.

And all of this is a direct result of Barack Obama's education policies.

He is the man driving the current spate of deforms.

And these deforms will continue until entire urban public school systems have been privatized.

Here's how that will work:

46 states will be closed or restructured this year in NYC as a result of Obama's policy mandates.

Those closures and restructurings will affect other schools which will then be slated for closing in subsequent years.

Those schools will reopen as charters.

And of course charter schools do not have to accept at risk students, so the kids with the lowest test scores and grad rates will go to the remaining public schools.

Then those will be declared "failing" and closed.

In a few years time, most NYC public schools will have been closed and handed over to charter operators.

And this is EXACTLY what Obama wants.

I guess this is part of the change he believes in.

It is time to put a stop to not only Bloomberg's ed deform policies, but also Obama's.

And yet, as I noted on NYC Edcuator's blog today, I see no protests from the education blogosphere about Obama.

I see no protests outside his house.

I see Bloomberg vilified by these same people for the exact same policies Obama is pushing.

Until we fight the REAL enemy here, we will continue to see schools closed, teachers fired, charters proliferate and the cycle go on.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

State To Close 34 NYC Public Schools

The NYSED has placed 34 New York City public schools, many of them large high schools, on a hit list to be either closed or converted into charter schools.

This is of course the system Arne Duncan and Barack Obama have used in Chicago to destroy public education and turn it into a publicly-funded, privately-operated playground for hedge fund managers.

This is also the strategy they have taken national with their Race to the Top education competition.

I don't think I understate matters when I say that by the time Barack Obama gets finished with his first term in office, most of the New York City public school system will have been destroyed and turned into privately operated charters.

Now we'll see the kind of pushback the state gets on this move to transform, re-engineer and/or close 34 schools in New York City on top of the moves Bloomberg and Klein have made to close 20 schools (some are on both lists), but we're talking tens of thousands of students who will be affected by this "reform" who will be transferring to schools who will of course not receive the extra resources needed to handle them and their educational needs. And then those schools will be transformed, "re-engineered," and/or closed until the only non-charters left in the city will be Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech.

I do not see how people can look at this upheaval and destruction without wondering if the people bringing it about (i.e., Obama and Duncan, the NYSED) know what they're doing.

But so far the plan is going along swimmingly and the only wrench in it was when the Assembly and the Senate could not come to an agreement to lift the charter cap last week.

Once that cap is lifted, I suspect most of those schools that will be closed will be replaced with charter schools run by hedge fund managers

But of course the students considered most at risk will not be in those charters.

They'll be moved to other public schools where the test scores and grad rates will plummet and next year those schools will be closed.

And the cycle will go on until the shock syndrome is complete.

Of course, students will not be receiving a better education, nor will at risk students be getting the help they need.

But the hedge fund managers and the corporate whores in the White House, City Hall, and Tweed Courthouse will be grinning from ear to ear.

And the teachers union?

Well, it will be kinda small since there won't be many unionized schools left.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What A Dicker That Fred Is!

Fred Dicker in the NY Post laments the "extraordinary power" the UFT has in Albany to get the Assembly and the State Senate to not agree to pass the Bloomberg/Paterson "Have As Many Charter Schools As You Want" bill:

It was crystal clear yesterday that New York's teachers unions aren't just joined at the hip with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Democratic legislative leadership, they ARE part of the leadership.

The tragic evidence of their extraordinary power was out in the open for all to see minutes before the death knell tolled for Gov. Paterson's and Mayor Bloomberg's effort to win $700 million in federal "Race to the Top" education assistance.

Shortly before the Assembly planned to convene to at least consider the RTTT legislation, Education Committee Chairwoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) was huddled -- in full view of the public -- 30 feet from Silver's office with Carol Gerstl, counsel to the all-powerful United Federation of Teachers.

And who does Dicker get a quote from to show just how disgusting all this UFT lobbying in Albany is?

Why - a lobbyist, of course.

"The teachers have always been there helping incumbents that help them get elected, saying they 'do it for the children' when in fact they're pursuing their own union agenda at the expense of the children," one of the Legislature's most sophisticated lobbyists said late yesterday.

"Maybe they went too far this time with Race to the Top and charter schools. Maybe people will finally catch on," the lobbyist continued.

Can you explain to me why teachers unions aren't allowed to lobby, but other groups are?

Seriously, Fred's quoting "one of the Legislature's most sophisticated lobbyists" on why the UFT shouldn't be allowed to lobby on the charter school issue.

Might have to name an award of the day after Fred Dicker.

Atrios has the WANKER OF THE DAY award.

I think I am going to start the FRED DICKER OF THE DAY award.

Today's winners - Fred Dicker and the unnamed lobbyist with the balls to complain about other lobbyists.

MLK's Dream

I saw way too many "Education Reform is the Culmination of MLK's Dream" stories and posts this year.

So apparently did Diane Ravitch.

Her response to that jive is better than anything I could say.

Here it is in full:

There is something distinctly unsettling about seeing people invoke Martin Luther King Jr.'s name to support the current effort to privatize large swaths of American public education. It has recently become customary to claim that "education is the civil rights issue of our time." True enough, for no one can succeed in our society without an education. But the people who make this claim insist that public school students should be enrolled in schools run by for-profit corporations, hedge-fund managers, and earnest amateurs, who receive public money without any public oversight. There are now about 5,000 such schools, called charter schools, across the nation, and President Obama wants many more of them. As it happens, about 98% of these schools are non-union; their teachers work 50-60 hours each week, which could not happen if they were union schools.

Today's education "reformers" think they are advancing a civil rights agenda by creating charter schools, advocating merit pay, enshrining standardized tests of basic skills as the highest measure of achievement, closing neighborhood schools, and getting rid of unions.

Was that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream? King fought for equality of educational opportunity, not for a "Race to the Top" for the lucky few. He fought for fundamental fairness and justice for all, not for special treatment for the few. He never promoted private management of public education. When he was assassinated, he was defending the right of workers to join a union. It is impossible to imagine him standing alongside the business executives and politically powerful who demand more standardized testing, more privatization of public schools, and more schools in which teachers have no organized voice.

The biggest problem with education reform these days isn't the hedge fund managers and Wall Street types who see public education funding as another punch bowl for themselves to slurp and get fat on.

They're pretty transparent about that.

The biggest problem is these clueless two-bit celebrities jumping on the education bandwagon and regurgitating Gates Foundation pamphlets or Joel Klein speeches ad nauseum on the TV, in newspapers or the Internet.

Not sure why people seem to trust some singer on education reform more than a noted education historian with many decades experience in the education policy field, but they do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Chicago Turnaround Strategy

Other blogs do a much better job of covering the absudrity that is the Chicago public school system (where the "CEO" of schools seems to be doing about as well as the CEO of AIG), but I have to say, after reading this article about all the schools slated for "closure," "turnaround," "consolidation," "phase out," and "re-engineering," I can't help but wonder what George Carlin would say about the euphemisms being used by the Chicago education "reformers."

I also can't help but wonder why they keep blaming the schools and the teachers that teach in them when a particular school like Phillips High School was "re-constituted" in 1997, "re-engineered" in 2000 and is slated for "academic turnaround" this year (i.e., all teachers who teach there will be fired) and it still seems to have problems.

Might the problems of the children attending that school be caused by something other than the school and the teachers teaching in it?

Not in Chicago, where the teachers are ALWAYS at fault and ALWAYS the first to get fired.

And not in Arne Duncan's and Barack Obama's vision for American public education.

Remember, they plan to take this stuff national, both through the three card monte Race to the Top competition this year and the extension to it Obama is already calling for next year.

Close schools, fire teachers, open charters, close schools, fire teachers, open charters...

Great - the strategy seems to be working so well in Chicago.

Should be even better on a national scale.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bloomberg Says Regulating Charter School Authorizations Dishonors MLK

Not kidding:

Speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration, Mayor Bloomberg charged today that the state Assembly's last-minute attempt to overhaul charter schools would "gut" a successful system and dishonor King's memory.

"Tomorrow, unbelievably, our state Legislature may actually vote in a bill that would basically gut the law and make it harder to open charter schools," the mayor told 400 people gathered at City Hall to mark what would have been the revered civil rights leader's 81st birthday.

"Dr. King told us that a right delayed is a right denied and this bill would continue to deny those children the quality school options that they deserve. The bill really is an insult to parents and children and Dr. King and his legacy," added the mayor.

The mayor said that the Assembly bill, while doubling the cap on the number of charter schools to 400, would also impose new requirements that would make it difficult to open any new ones.

Refusing to lower class sizes even when the state gives you extra funds and mandates you do so, closing schools and dumping at risk students into other schools without providing extra resources to help them, turning over public schools to your hedge fund buddies and calling that a civil rights victory, stealing space and resources from the public schools for charter schools run by your hedge fund buddies -that's not dishonoring MLK.

But limiting charter schools to 10% of all public schools in the state and forcing them to educate the same body of students the non-charter public schools have to educate - that's dishonoring MLK.

What jive.

Schools Klein/Bloomberg Are Closing Had Huge Increase In Homeless Students

Education deformers like Mayor Moneybags, Joel Klein, Arne Duncan, President Obama and their hedge fund manager/education reform buddies like to say that when children do not graduate on time or show increased improvement on their standardized test scores, it is the fault of the schools they attend and the teachers who teach in those schools.

This year, Klein and Moneybags are closing 20 public schools in New York, citing low graduate rates and stagnant test scores as reasons why the schools need to be closed and the teachers need to be fired.

But the Daily News
points out some other reasons why students at those schools might not be doing so well:

All but one of the city schools slated for closure were grappling with more than failing test scores last year - they also saw a massive spike in homeless students.
At 19 of the 20 schools that the Education Department announced last month it plans to shut down, the number of homeless kids jumped by more than 100%.

The increase swamped social workers and left principals scrambling for after-school funding to give kids a place to go after classes ended, teachers and administrators say.

At Public School 332 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, there were 95 homeless children enrolled last year - close to one in five students. That's up from just 23 the year before.

"It's not just about academics," said Vanecia Wilson, a science teacher at PS332. "They come in with a lot of stress."

Her school runs an after-school program that serves dinner and provides tutoring. The constant turnover can make it hard for the children to keep up, Wilson said.

Children start in the middle of the semester and sometimes disappear when they transfer shelters.


The number of homeless students rose citywide last year, as the economic crisis cloaked the city. But the spike at all but one of the closing schools far exceeded the 20% citywide average.

"The [Education Department] has taken aggressive action to help address the profound challenges faced by students in temporary housing," department spokesman Danny Kanner said.

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote Jan. 26 on whether to approve the shutdown of the 20 schools deemed failing by the Education Department.

Jevommey, a ninth-grader at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, began living in a shelter last June.

"It can be hard to do your homework because there's no privacy," said Jevommey, 17, who travels two hours to Columbus from a shelter in Brooklyn. "The classes are nice. I didn't want to change schools."

"It's so difficult for the child," said Christine Rowland, an English teacher at Columbus, where the number of homeless students soared by almost 200%.

"Lots of students think of this school as a home, but for some, it's more of a first home than a second home."

These schools have been dealing with many other socio-economic problems beyond huge increases in homeless students this year.

Many saw huge increases of at-risk students from other schools that have been closed by Klein and Moneybags the last few years. Many are located in neighborhoods with terrible unemployment and high rates of poverty and addiction.

But of course Klein and Bloomberg lay sole blame for the "failure" of these students on the schools and the teachers who teach in them.

Same goes for Obama and Duncan in D.C.

Poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and generations of learned dysfunction have nothing to do with students who do not graduate on time or score high on standardized tests.

It's the schools and the teachers who are to blame.

You can keep closing all the schools you want and fire all the teachers you want, but until the socio-economic problems of poverty, addiction, unemployment, homelessness, and learned dysfunction passed on from generation to generation are addressed, nothing will change.

But that's a lot harder to do than close schools and fire teachers, isn't it?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paterson Races To The Top

Governor Paterson was very busy this weekend with important government business:

Gov. Paterson was spotted nuzzling, neck-kissing and cooing like a smitten schoolboy with a pretty young woman -- not his wife -- in a New Jersey steakhouse yesterday afternoon, The Post has learned.

"I saw him kissing her neck," said Sharon Farrell, a lawyer sitting two tables away from Paterson and his mystery gal pal at the River Palm Terrace in Edgewater. "He was right on her neck, nudging, like back and forth."

Paterson's spokeswoman later said the governor's dining partner was just a friend, and that he never got romantic with her.

The governor himself told The Post that the woman "works with me."

But Farrell said, "No way it was a business meeting . . . It was very intimate."

Farrell's friend and dining companion, special-ed teacher Carol McGuirt, said Paterson and his lady friend, a leggy Latina in her 20s, were ensconced in a cozy, curved banquette for several hours during lunch, and clearly were enjoying each other's company -- immensely.

"A young, young girl was with him," McGuirt said of Paterson, who was stylishly accoutered in a shiny purple dress shirt and slacks. "I would say they looked like a young couple who are very into each other . . . and enjoying themselves."

"She was very attractive," McGuirt said of Paterson's friend. "They were very close together. He was leaning over and very touching. They were like teenagers."

Coincidentally, or not, the same steakhouse has been frequented by Eliot Spitzer -- whose 2008 resignation as governor after being exposed as a prostitute-loving horn-dog put Paterson in charge of the Empire State.

On the day Paterson was sworn in, he confessed he had carried on extramarital affairs in the past, as had his wife, Michelle.

Paterson made some effort to keep a low profile yesterday, McGuirt said.

"Every time I went to the ladies room and I came back, he put his head down and his hand over his head," she said.

Still, McGuirt said. "He was laying up against her . . . they were up against each other in every intimate way."

When a Post photographer entered the eatery after being tipped to the pair's presence, and sat down at McGuirt's and Farrell's table, the governor got up and walked over to the women.

As the lensman snapped a photo, Paterson said, unprompted, "She works with me."

His spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein said, "Gov. Paterson was having lunch with a friend at a public restaurant and any insinuation of improper behavior is absolutely false."

Asked whether the governor was kissing the woman on the neck between bites, Shorenstein responded, "He says that's absolutely false."

Shorenstein refused to identify the woman but said she is not a state employee.

I think Paterson should get a hotel room to conduct his government business in.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Health Care Reform Hangs On Mass. Senate Race

Boy, oh, boy, but President Obama may see his entire administration and that reformer legacy he so craves implode next Tuesday.

That's when a special election is being held to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican hasn't been elected to the Senate from Massachusetts since 1972, so the Democratic candidate was expected to cruise to an easy victory.

But now a Republican just may win that seat come Tuesday.

The race matters because a Republican win takes the 60 seat majority away from Dems and could paralyze the Senate in cloture votes (it takes 60 votes to get anything passed these days.)

Early on, Martha Coakley, a lackluster candidate, looked like she'd win pretty easily, but in the last week several polls have come out showing her Republican challenger in the lead.

That includes Coakley's own internal poll, which shows Brown beating her 47%-44%.

Now special elections are notoriously difficult to handicap because you never know who is going to show up to vote.

But this one might be a little easier to prognosticate.

Republicans and some independents with more conservative bents are angry as hell and itching to send Obama and Dems a message the way Dems and some independents were itching to send Bush and the GOP a message in 2006.

Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, seem dispirited and lackluster about the election and about the direction the Obama administration is going in.

Health reform, doubling down on the Agfhan war, expanding the Bush WoT surveillance policies, reneging on his promise to get rid of DaDT not to mention the trillions Obama has handed Wall Street in bailout money, have many on the left looking to send Obama a message too.

It's a perfect storm for Coakley's ship to go down in.

But if Coakley goes down, so does health care reform.

Her seat is the 60th Democratic vote in the Senate.

Brown says he will vote to kill health care.

He wins and health care reform is dead.

Unless the House swallows the Senate version of the bill, already passed, without any changes.

Then that bill could be sent to the president without having to be voted on again by the Senate.

The Senate version of the bill is of course horrendous - lots of goodies and giveaways to the insurance industry, all funded on the backs of workers with employer-provided health care plans through a 40% excise tax.

Progressives in the House say they will not pass that version of the bill in the Congress.

In which case, sayonara to health care reform.

And sayonara to Obama.

Clinton survived the death of his health care bill, but Clinton was a lot more skilled politically then Obama.

Other than giving a good speech, I have yet to see from him any of the skills Obama would need to survive the death of health care reform (and the enemies that would then embolden) and the loss of the Congress in November.

For my part, I'm hoping the Repub wins on Tuesday, health care reform gets killed, Dems lose the House in November and Obama becomes a weakened lame duck wobbling toward 2012.

I've had enough of Mr. Obama and the corporate whores he has surrounded himself with running the country.

Dems running for re-election in November are going to have to defend a crappy health care reform measure (if it passes), the Wall Street bailout, 10% unemployment, a stimulus package that seems to have stimulated little job growth (though the financial sector is doing well again), a mortgage plan that has helped only 7% of people who have applied for it, an excise tax levied on middle and working class people to pay for health care reform, and a possible double dip recession in the second half of the year.

Not a pretty record of accomplishment to run on or defend, is it?

Much of this could have been solved had Obama focused on job creation, stimulus, infrastructure building and other programs to put Americans to work here in America rather than handing money out to banks so they could invest it elsewhere or his health care reform giveaway to the insurance industry.

But he didn't and so what we essentially are seeing is a Democratic Party having to defend policies that are indefensible.

My guess is that Coakley goes down and Obama is going to try and force House Dems to swallow the Senate version of the bill whole.

He'll appeal to their sense of loyalty to the party and maybe that will work though I hope it doesn't.

No matter what, this has been a terrible year for this president and the Democratic Party.

Hell, it's not even one year that he's in office and his poll numbers are plummeting.

Heckuva job, Barack!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Helicopter Harold

Harold Ford Jr., DLC Chairman, charter school proponent, union buster, and a former congressman from the right-to-work state of Tennessee, would like to run for Senate here in New York.

Just as he inherited his House seat from his daddy, Harold Ford Sr., Harold Jr. is hoping to work as little as possible at this and have prominent supporters (i.e., people with lots money) buy the Senate seat for him.

Don't laugh - connections have worked for him more than once.

Not only did he owe his Congressional seat to his family connections, he now works at a Wall Street bank even though he knows nothing about finance. Can't imagine he would have gotten that job without some connections.

And he's married to a fashionista wife with a wealthy family and lives in the Gramercy Park neighborhood with a winter home in Miami, though he's still registered to vote in Tennessee.

Guess it doesn't matter much when you live in that kind of rarefied air.

What a charmed life Harold Jr. lives - even more charmed when you consider the one job he tried on his own - law - he failed at because he couldn't pass the Tennessee bar.

That's all right, though - when you're as connected as Harold Jr. is, you don't actually have to succeed at anything.

Stuff just comes to you.

But I wonder if he's not shooting his sights a little high with Kirsten Gillibrand's Senate seat.

True, fellow charter school proponent Mayor Moneybags is a huge supporter of Ford and just might bankroll him in the race.

But Harold Jr. seems a little tin-eared to me to be a success in NY.

For instance, Harold Jr. says he's never actually seen much of New York outside of Manhattan except by helicopter when he's flown over the city on the way from the heliport to the airport.

Not kidding - that's what he told the NY Times in an interview.

He also says he loves to breakfast at the Regency Hotel and picks his favorite football teams by which football team owner he spends the most time with.

How's that for charmed living?

But he's never even seen the BQE, the LIE or the subway.

That should work great in campaign commercials.

Vote for me, I only know your state when I fly over it!

Anyway, it remains to be seen if Harold Jr. actually gets in this race (I suspect he won't now that most people are laughing at him) but I would say watch out for him to pop up and do damage elsewhere.

Anybody as clueless as Helicopter Harold Jr. doesn't know just how much he doesn't know and will no doubt show up in some prominent position to screw something important up.

I just hope it's not in education.

UPDATE: Taegan Goddard surmises Ford may not only be using Mayor Moneybags' dough to run for Senate, he might be using his political playbook as well:

Former Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) may be planning an independent bid in New York for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Two key factors:

* Ford is primarily being advised by close advisers to independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
* Ford's recent rhetoric of being "independent" from Democratic leaders makes little sense in a Democratic primary.

However, it was a conversation with someone in Ford's inner circle that convinced me this might be his ultimate strategy. If New York Republicans run a weak candidate, he could essentially follow the Joe Lieberman path to the Senate.

An interesting side note: Both Lieberman and Ford were heads of the Democratic Leadership Council.

That may make more sense than running as a Dem against a well-funded Gillibrand.

Still, I think he can be dispatched pretty easily.

Just run ads with all the stupid stuff he says that make him sound like the spoiled blue blood brat he actually is.

SECOND UPDATE: Was it Shakespeare who once said, "First thing we do is kill all the DLC chairmen?"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Excise Tax Lives

Details have emerged on the "compromise" between unions and the White House on the excise tax. Here they are:

Unions had opposed the measure, which, as originally designed, would have imposed a 40 percent excise tax on insurance policies that cost more than $23,000 for families, and $8,500 for individuals, indexed just above inflation.

Under the terms of the proposed deal, the threshold for families would be raised to $24,000, and would exempt certain benefits like vision and dental, according to a Democratic source.

Collectively bargained plans would be exempted until 2017, to provide workers with a real opportunity to renegotiate their benefits packages, which were designed under current law and excluded from taxation.

The White House appears to have stood its ground, though, on the question of how to index the tax. By indexing it just above the consumer price index, the provision generates a great deal of cost-savings, which are crucial to getting a passing score from CBO.

Labor officials and progressives had suggested the index would have to be raised to keep pace with medical inflation--a tweak that would prevent the tax from ensnaring middle class people over time, but that would also eliminate the measure's savings potential. But they seem to have lost that fight.

So Obama is still going to f@$k union members, just not until 2017.

Notice too that if your plan is not part of collective bargaining, it is subject to the tax sooner (perhaps as early as 2011.)

So Obama still wants the middle and working class to fund his health care goodie giveaway to the insurance industry.

Labor got some concessions, but when you're dealing with a corporate whore like Obama, I guess there is only so much you can do.

I know what I'm going to do.

Write the White House again to tell them what I think about the excise tax and the corporate whore sitting in the Oval Office.

Then I'm going to write my senators and congressman and tell them what I'm going to do if they vote for health care (HINT: it involves staying home to count Republican votes in 2010 and 2012 on TV.)

Then I'm going to watch very closely to see if the progressives in the House can kill this provision from the bill before it goes for a final vote.

Finally, I am going to root for the Republican to beat the Dem in the special election in Mass to fill Teddy Kennedy's seat.

That may the only way to stop this abomination from becoming law.

What a f@$k Obama is. Much worse than even I thought - and I thought he was going to be pretty bad.

Most Americans Would Vote For Anybody Other Than Obama

Here is how badly Obama's fortunes have fallen in less than a year in office:

A new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll finds 39% of Americans would cast a ballot for President Obama in 2012, while 50% say they would probably or definitely vote for someone other else.
That didn't take long.

The amount of good will and political capital squandered by this president is unbelievable.

The right thinks he's an illegal immigrant, the middle thinks he's a tax and spend liberal and the left thinks he's a corproate whore.

Heckuva job, Barack!!!

Unions Continue Pushback On Excise Tax

Sam Stein at Huffingtonpost reports that union leaders stayed at the White House until midnight last night working on an excise tax compromise.

Here is the gist of what Stein reports:

The excise tax remains in the health care "reform" bill, but union workers would be exempt from having to pay it.

In addition, union leaders are pushing to have non-union workers with employer-provided health care plans who make under $200,000 a year also excluded from the excise tax.

Finally, union leaders want state and government workers in right-to-work states exempted from the tax as well.

"This is not simply just a deal for unions," said one of the sources briefed on the conversations. "This will take the burden off middle-class individuals as well."

If Obama is forced to accept this compromise, it absolutely will take the burden off middle class and working class Americans.

But we will have to be vigiliant to see that it isn't added back stealthily over the years.

And it is incumbent to remember that President Change We Can Believe In wanted to (and still wants to) fund his health care goodies package to the insurance industry on the backs of union members and middle and working class Americans.

It's not a done deal yet, but if the worst excesses of this excise tax are killed, it will also be important to remember that Obama would have gotten his way too had Big Labor not fought back.

And notice that Randi Weingarten and the AFT were not at all part of the pushback.

Update On Excise Tax

Sam Stein reports union leaders continue to battle Obama on the excise tax on employer-provided health care plans. They met with the president again yesterday to hammer out some compromise:

Negotiators are poised to raise the threshold of the tax, making it so that family plans valued at $25,000 (not $23,000) are now taxed. In exchange, a small tax would be placed on the wealthy to help fill in the funding hole created by raising the tax threshold. There is also talk of exempting all collectively bargained health care plans from the so-called Cadillac tax.

There is no word yet as to whether this would be acceptable for union leaders. White House officials, meanwhile, have refused to comment about ongoing negotiations.

Still not good enough. Lots of people have plans that have not been collectively bargained and raising the tax threshold on family plans only delays who gets taxed by this.

Kill the excise tax or kill the bill.

Dennis Kucinich on The Ed Schultz Show last night said over and over again that the excise tax remains the most "significant roadblock" to health care reform, there is "great resistance" to the tax and "this bill is in trouble if they think they can keep the excise tax in there."

Kill the excise tax or kill the bill.

This president thinks funding his health care reform giveaway to the health insurance industry can be funded on the backs of working and middle class Americans and union members with this excise tax even though he promised not to raise taxes on middle and working class Americans.

Kill the excise tax or kill the bill.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Unions Fight Back

Before an audience at the National Press Club, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka let Barack Obama and the Democratic establishment have it for screwing union members and working and middle class Americans with an excise tax on their employer-provided health care plans:

"In 1992, workers voted for Democrats who promised action on jobs, who talked about reining in corporate greed and who promised health care reform," Trumka said, according to a version of his prepared remarks. "Instead, we got NAFTA, an emboldened Wall Street -- and not much more. We swallowed our disappointment and worked to preserve a Democratic majority in 1994 because we knew what the alternative was. But there was no way to persuade enough working Americans to go to the polls when they couldn't tell the difference between the two parties. Politicians who think that working people have it too good -- too much health care, too much Social Security and Medicare, too much power on the job -- are inviting a repeat of 1994."

That is exactly what Barack Obama and the Senate leadership are doing by insisting Obama's health care giveaway to the insurance industry be funded on the backs of working and middle class Americans with employer-provided health care plans.

They are saying "You have it too good now, we have to make life a little tougher for you, make your bills a little higher."

And why?

Because Obama doesn't want to raise taxes on individuals making more than $500,000 a year or families making over $1 million.

Sounds like George Bush and the Republicans to me.

Is that the Change America voted for?

I think not, though I suspect it will be the Change we get because Obama thinks progressives and liberals won't abandon the party or him come 2010 and 2012.

But I want to enlighten him that pissing off the unions and screwing union members, the very people who put his lying corporate whore ass in the White House in the first place, is going to make 2010 very ugly and send him home in 2012.

You can bet on that.

Just look at tonight's CBS poll to see where things are going - Obama's at 45% approval.

Or this CNN poll where more Americans say Obama's administration has been a failure than a success.

Or the latest polls on the special election in Mass to replace Ted Kennedy - a Republican might actually win that race.

That's how demoralized and disgusted the Democratic base are by this corporate whore in the White House.

And that's how much Americans are also coming to dislike this president.

Bloomberg's The Best At Everything!!!!

Bloomberg says fire fatalities are the lowest since 1918.

Last week he said murders are the lowest since Peter Stuyvesant owned the joint.

And of course we know we have the most edumacated students in all the land - with those high test scores and grad rates Bloomberg and Klein have brought us.

And we have the lowest levels of trans fats in the nation too!!!

And restaurants with low-sodium food!!!

And the best public parks located in the middle of traffic anybody could ever want!!!

What an amazing place to live, this Bloomberg's New York.

And this Bloomberg is just the best at everything!!!!

Wished I believed he wasn't full of shit on so much of this.

But I know better and I still say knowing how he screws with the education numbers, he's screwing with the fire fatalities and homicide rate too.

That's what a crook like Bloomberg - Wall Street trained like all good crooks are these days - does.

Screw with the numbers and know that the corporate-owned media won't call him on any of it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

NCLB Reauthorization

On Saturday, the Washington Post looked at the Obama administration's upcoming No Child Left Behind reauthorization push.

The gist of what will happen is best summed up by Diane Ravitch:

"They're really not going to repudiate No Child Left Behind," Ravitch said. "They're just going to rename it and add the twist of more choice, more accountability."

Like Mayor Bloomberg, like Bill Gates, like Eli Broad, like all the hedge fund managers/education "reformers," Obama wants to destroy teachers unions, sell off the public schools to the privatization folks, and make schools into 10 hour a day/300 day a year factories for churning out good corporate employees willing to work longer and harder to make a lot less than their parents and grandparents.

More change we can believe in from the Change We Can Believe In President.

One thing I would note about the NCLB fight - Obama is a weakened president already. Whatever cache and juice he had last year has been tarnished - people on the extreme right think he's a foreign-born terrorist, people in the middle are unhappy with the bailout policies and overall direction of the country, and some (though not nearly enough yet) on the left see him as corporate sell-out.

Obama can be fought on this.

Had he pushed through NCLB in 2009, he would have gotten everything he wanted.

But with Ted Kennedy deceased and Chris Dodd so weakened by his Countrywide scandal that he is retiring from the Senate, Tom Harkin is the new head of the Education Committee. Ed Week says the administration may actually get some opposition from Harkin to their reform plans:

Frederick Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, said he sees Harkin as “more of a traditional Democrat on education issues” than Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and an author of the NCLB law.

“Assuming that the administration is interested in promoting Race to the Top-style priorities through the [NCLB] reauthorization, Harkin could be trickier for them,” Mr. Hess said

As chairman, Harkin may provide a needed check on the administration’s agenda, Hess said. “We need more speed bumps, and Harkin is certainty more likely to be a speed bump than Dodd” would have been.

Also, Obama has spent a lot of political capital on the still incomplete health care reform measure, the economy remains in bad shape for nearly everybody but the people who work on Wall Street, unemployment remains at 10% and a double dip recession is not out of the question once government stimulus spending comes to an end. Obama will take a lot more heat in the coming days for the bailout mess as it becomes quite clear that his treasury secretary, Timmeh Geithner, gave away the store to Goldman Sachs, et al. And that's assuming that the terrorist threat doesn't continue to occupy much of his time and energy.

My point about all this is we may have a bit of an ally in the Senate to pushback on Duncan and Obama on some of the reforms they want to push and much of the country, weary already of President Accountability and his economic policies and the health care fight, may not be so thrilled about the permanent systemic change he wants to bring to education.

The key is to get the unions to see that Obama is weakened and can be taken down in this fight. Randi is a collaborator by nature, so I worry that despite a president with a tanking popularity and enough opposition in the country to push back against ed deform, she'll choose to cave instead.

Guess we'll just have to see.

In the meantime, I'm hoping the Repub actually wins that special election up in Mass (it may be close) and sends President Accountability his own accountability message - liberals are pissed off at him and willing to see his administration and its corporate-friendly agenda go down in flames rather than vote for crap they don't want just because it's a "Democrat" giving it to them.

Not to mention that would be the end of the health insurance giveaway program Obama is terming "reform," which just might be the best thing that could happen for both the long-term health of the Democratic Party and the country at large

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's Only Teachers Who Are Accountable

The financial system nearly collapsed last year because people in the financial industry at "Too Big To Fail" institutions like AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and others took too much risk and needed to be bailed out by hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Many of those same people are being rewarded with seven and eight figure bonuses this year.

The financial policy makers who helped create this mess - like Ben Bernanke who voted yes on every Greenspan "moral hazard" policy decision and who has been printing money hand over fist to give to the "Too Big To Fail" institutions and Treasury Timmeh Geithner who oversaw the AIG bailout wherein he handed AIG counterparties 100 cents to the dollar on money owed to them for toxic assets they themselves had bought that were worth at best 20 cents and who asked one of those counterparties, Goldman Sachs, to keep this deal secret from the investigators at the SEC - continue to cheerfully make financial policy.

In fact, Obama renominated Bernanke for another four years and the administration said last week that Geithner has the full confidence of the president.

On December 25, 2009, a Nigerian man set his penis on fire trying to blow up a plane over Detroit. The man's father had warned the State Department that he had become radicalized and was a danger to the United States. In addition, the CIA knew he visited radical elements in Yemen and was a danger to the United States. Nonetheless the man bought a one way ticket with cash and bordered a plane in Nigeria without any luggage and flew to the United States with a visa that said he was coming for a "religious ceremony" (a jihadi euphemism for martyrdom.) The attack was only averted because passengers on the plane noticed his crotch was on fire and held him down until the plane landed.

Two days after the incident, Director of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said "The system worked..." when talking about the incident. Widely ridiculed for that statement, the administration forced her to walk that back the next day when she said "The system actually didn't work..." and Obama himself said there had been systemic failures throughout the intelligence apparatus that kept the Feds from stopping this man before he got on the plane to Detroit.

Nonetheless, Obama said he was not going to be part of a blame game and point fingers at anybody, so nobody was fired, nobody was held accountable for any of this.

Essentially Obama said "Mistakes were made" and left it that.

Now compare the way Obama has treated the "Too Big To Fail" institutions, the people at those institutions who are pulling in seven and eight figure bonuses for 2009, the policymakers who helped create the mess and the people in his government who missed the very obvious signs of a incoming terrorist attack and then afterward brushed aside criticism by saying "The system worked..." with the way he treats teachers and schools that he considers "failing."

You work in a school that used to be a "good school" but had hundreds of ELL's, support service students and other at-risk students dropped on it in the last few years from other schools that were closed, but have received no extra resources to handle the new students - too bad, Obama says your school needs to be closed down, the teachers need to be fired and a non-unionized charter should be opened in its place. Remember, it's only the test scores that matter.

You work in a school that has few resources, an overpopulated building, overcrowded classrooms, and bathrooms being used to hold math classes in because a charter school has been placed on the first and second floors of your building - too bad, Obama says your school needs to be closed down, the teachers need to be fired and a non-unionized charter should be opened in its place. Remember, it's only the test scores that matter.

You're teaching students who come from impoverished families with generations of dysfunctional behavior, mental illness, alcoholism and other addictions, students themselves who are in great emotional pain and act out that pain through angry outbursts in school or by simply never coming to class and you don't have any way to reach them - too bad, it's your fault they're that way and Obama says you're school needs to be closed down, the teachers need to be fired and a non-unionized charter should be opened in its place. Remember, it's only the test scores that matter.

In Obama's America, like in Bush's America, nobody is accountable for anything except for the teachers and the public education system.

Everybody else, including the president who gave himself a B+ for his first year in office (record deficit, 10% unemployment, hundreds of billions in giveaways to the "Too Big To Fail" firms, no major legislation passed, health care reform turned into major giveaway for the health insurance industry, reneged promises on Card Check legislation and DaDT) gets a pass, a "Heckuva job, Janet" pat on the back, or an eight figure bonus for taking the economic system to the point of collpase and needing billions in bailout dollars and continued access to Federal Reserve 0% interest-free loans to survive.

I cannot wait to hold President Accountability accountable come November 2010 and November 2012.

It's time everybody hold President Accountability accountable for not holding all these other crooks and incompetents accountable.