Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

George W. Bush Institute To Train Principals

This sounds like it's from The Onion - but it's real:

DALLAS — The first initiative of the George W. Bush Institute will focus on improving the performance of school principals, former first lady Laura Bush announced Wednesday.

"We know the teachers have a direct and enormous impact on student performance and school principals shape the environment in which teachers are able to operate successfully," Bush told a group assembled at a Dallas high school for the announcement.

The institute's Alliance to Reform Education Leadership, or AREL, will consist of school districts, universities and foundations offering educational programs to current and future school leaders, Bush said.

"A well-trained, energetic teacher can be stifled under lackluster or discouraging administrators," said Bush, a former school teacher.

The Bush Institute hopes to certify at least half the nation's public school principals by 2020.

Would ANYBODY want to hire a principal trained by the Bush Academy?

Seriously, the Jack Welch/General Electric Principal Academy is bad enough.

But if you ask me to think about words that come to mind when I think about "George W. Bush" and "leadership qualities," I come up with "arrogant," "clueless," "delusional," "uninformed," "stubborn" and "unwilling to change course even when confronted with new facts that undercut previous theories."

Come to think about it, those are the same words I think about when I focus on the words "President Obama" and "leadership qualities" as well.

Either way, they are NOT what I would want to see in a principal.

Plus who wants to see all that illegal wiretapping and waterboarding going on in the school system?

So Much For The Research

The Obama administration likes to make believe its education reform program - tests in every subject at every grade level, teacher pay and evaluations tied to those tests, and the closing of schools and the firing of teachers based upon those test scores - is a proven, research-based strategy to "turnaround" the public education system.

But a new book written by the National Education Policy Center, a university-based research organization in Boulder, Colo. that critiques the work of prominent think tanks, says it is not research-based at all:

The Obama administration's education plan lacks a solid research basis for its proposals, a new book says.

The Obama Education Blueprint: Researchers Examine the Evidence is the first major effort from the National Education Policy Center, a university-based research organization in Boulder, Colo., that critiques the work of prominent think tanks. ("Think-Tank Critics Plant a Stake in Policy World," this issue.)

In the book, scholars take a look at the six research summaries the administration released in May in support of its blueprint—a guiding document it sent to Congress in March to explain its vision of the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main federal law on K-12 education. ("Administration Unveils ESEA Reauthorization Blueprint," March 16, 2010.)

The researchers found "the overall quality of the summaries is far below what is required for a national policy discussion of critical issues."

"Each of the summaries was found to give overly simplified, biased, and too brief explanations of complex issues," co-editors William J. Mathis and Kevin G. Welner, both University of Colorado at Boulder academicians, write in the book's introduction.

Mr.Welner, who is also the NEPC's director, said the book is aimed at informing the discussion about the administration's policies.

"It's not that I don't like a lot of the ideas and want to see them be successful," he said. "But when the government makes statements that something is supported by research and it isn't, that's an important message to get across."

Mr. Welner and the other authors say the U.S. Department of Education relied too heavily on the work of advocacy groups to bolster claims and showed a strong focus on the use of standardized-test scores without justifying their use as a valid measure of learning and school success.

The researchers also note a lack of research provided for two key pieces of the blueprint: the accountability system that is to replace the "adequate yearly progress" measure under the No Child Left Behind Act and the four models school districts are to use to turn around low-performing schools.

The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment on the book's critiques.

If you're watching Oprah, NBC's Education Summit, or Waiting for Superman or listening to the president and Mayor Bloomberg talk about education issues, you'd be under the impression that all the research is settled and if we just close 10,000 schools across the nation, turns lots more schools into for-profit privatized charters, get rid of tenure and seniority and add new standardized tests to every grade at every level at least twice a year, all the problems in public education will be solved.

That turns out to be as fact-based and rigorously researched as the Bush administration's "We'll Be Greeted As Liberators" prognostication about the Iraq war.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ed Deformer Compares Weingarten To Osama Bin Laden And Teachers To Pedophiles

I'm not kidding:

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is about to join Osama bin Laden on the list of Most Despised People in America. And if even one tenth of Guggenheim's film is to be believed, then this distinction is well earned and well deserved.

Even without seeing this film, anyone with half a brain knows that our country's education system is not working. But while most adults can agree that the system is failing too many of our kids, we have long been unable to come to an agreement on why. But Waiting for 'Superman' seems to settle the debate once and for all. Making it crystal clear just who and what is most at fault for depriving so many American kids of their rightful shot at the American Dream: It's not class sizes. It's not teachers but it is the union bosses who lead them.

As I watched American Federation of Teachers union president Randi Weingarten deflect question, after question about failing and at times abusive teachers (in the film and on MSNBCs recent education special), I found myself overcome by a feeling of deja vu. Her denial, sense of entitlement and talking points all felt awfully familiar. Then I realized why. It was as though she and Pope Benedict, head of the Catholic Church, are operating from the same playbook; a playbook that has hurt untold numbers of children while the adults entrusted to protect them shamelessly cover their own backsides. A playbook in which the primary play is this: Defend and protect the very worst in our profession at all costs, even if it costs all of us our reputation and the trust of the masses in the long run.

Wow - this is what passes for enlightened discourse at Ariana Huffington's salon/blog Huffingtonpost.

This is also what passes for enlightened discourse among some in the education deform movement.

Nice job, Keli Goff!

But why stop at comparing Weingarten to Osama?

Why not Hitler?

Hell, compare the bad teachers to the Gestapo to boot.

Makes for a nice "Nazis/teachers and teachers unions are killing our kids" metaphor.

It's not true, of course.

In fact, if this Keli woman could actually read, she would know that NOBODY in the union movement has given more on labor issues to the ed deformers than Randi Weingarten.

Hell, Rod Paige said Randi is his favorite labor leader.

Secretary Arne loves Duncan too.

For that matter, so does Joel Klein.

They all love Randi because she is, in Klein's words, willing to deal on everything - from merit pay to work rules to tenure and seniority (see Washington D.C. contract for that sell-out.)

But apparently this Keli woman, not too bright, not too informed, and not trying to improve upon either of those scores, is content to buy the demonization of Weingarten from the Waiting for Superman movie and spew that meme wide and far.

That she has a platform at whatever little blog she writes at is bad enough.

That Arianna Huffington gives her a larger platform from which to regurgitate the half-truths and silly jive she saw in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon is really problematic.

Come on, Arianna, I know you hate teachers and teachers unions.

But allowing somebody to use the Osama and pedophile comparisons...

Seriously, that's just too much.

Why Does Obama Despise Teachers?

The Christian Science Monitor asks the same question many teachers do - why does Obama insist on confronting teachers?

Why is President Obama pushing so hard against teachers right now, weeks before the election?

On NBC's "Today Show" Monday morning, Mr. Obama told host Matt Lauer that “nothing’s more important than education,” and advocated for controversial reforms, including getting rid of the worst teachers.

He also pushed for a longer school year and admitted that his daughters would not get as good an education in the Washington, D.C., public schools as they get at Sidwell Friends, the private school they attend.

“I’ll be blunt with you. The answer is ‘no’ right now,” he said, when asked by a Florida woman whether Sasha and Malia could get the same quality education at a Washington school. He added that “there are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system” but said that it is “struggling.”


“You’ve got to have radical change, and radical change is something that’s in the interest of students,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to identify teachers who are doing well ... and ultimately, if some teachers aren’t doing a good job, they’ve got to go.”

He also said that “money without reform” will not fix the education system, and encouraged unions to “be part of the solution.”

With the release of “Waiting for ‘Superman’”, the education-themed documentary from "An Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim, education is suddenly on the public mind. And it seems likely to become even more so when the movie expands beyond four theaters this Friday.

In the movie, teachers’ unions are the villains, standing in the way of reforms kids need and protecting the jobs of even the most horrendous teachers.

So perhaps Obama is counting on his message resonating with independent voters and the many Americans who are likely to see the movie and start rooting for change?

Even so, it’s a somewhat risky move given that educators are such a key part of Democrats’ base – and many are already growing tired of what they see as an administration that vilifies teachers.

Look for more of a showdown over education within the Democratic Party in coming weeks and months. Teachers – some in Superman costumes – have already protested outside some of the New York theaters showing the movie, while education-reform advocates announced the “largest ever education reform coalition” on Monday

Obama has fully embraced the "Testing as Accountability" movement and wants to see teachers fired and schools closed based upon test scores.

Both his policies and his words say very plainly - ONLY teachers are at fault for the problems in public education, so we must destroy the teaching profession and the teachers unions in order to save schools.

I want to remind people that Obama said the following before the '08 election:

Tests Should Not Be Punishment for Teachers

The goal of educational testing should be the same as medical testing - to diagnose a student's needs so you can help address them.

Tests should not be designed as punishment for teachers and students, they should be used as tools to help prepare our children to grow and compete in a knowledge economy. Tests should support learning, not just accounting.

One last point. There's a lot of talk out there about accountability in education. I share that concern, and I've called for more accountability in our schools myself.

Tired of Hearing Teachers Blamed for Failures

But I also believe that before we can hold our teachers accountable for the results our schools need, we have to hold ourselves accountable for giving teachers the support that they need.

That's where accountability starts with a government that puts its money where its mouth is, and parents and community members who instill the value of education in their students. I am tired of hearing teachers blamed for our collective failures.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to take a bus ride with a group of Iowa teachers and discuss their thoughts on education.

Afterwards, one teacher said, "I don't think any teacher minds being accountable when the measuring tool is fair to educators and not about satisfying unrealistic goals."

She's right. If we do all this - if we go into struggling schools and provide more pay and better support for our teachers; if we allow them to teach our children to their strengths instead of just a test - then the teachers I've met wouldn't mind some accountability.

But we need to start doing our part first. When it comes to education in America, we need to start holding ourselves accountable. This goes for our government and our leaders.

Everything candidate Obama said there, President Obama has reneged on.

Schools did not get more money from his administration, testing companies and data system builders did.

Teachers did not get more money for themselves or their classrooms, school districts got more money for centralized bureaucrats and "accountability officials" to measure all the new tests Obama wants to develop for every grade in every subject and use to hold teachers "accountable."

Parents and students have not been scapegoated by this administration for the problems in education, teachers have.

In fact, the administration has produced policies that encourage the firing of teachers and then has applauded when they have, in fact, been fired.

And teachers, rather than being treated like the professionals candidate Obama claimed they are have been treated like fast food employees - talked down to, top-managed, treated with disdain.

That is the treatment not only from Obama but also from the media.

Notice that NOT one teacher was invited to NBC's Education Nation Summit with the movers and shakers in the education world.

Instead teachers were given their own conference hosted by Brian Williams - kinda the way kids are shunted off to the kiddie table at Christmas dinner with grandpa while the adults talk about the important stuff at the adult table.

This has been a rough start to the school year if you are a teacher in a traditional public school. The "reform" movement has hit a crescendo in money spent and p.r. spewed - Waiting for Superman, the Oprah shows, the Facebook p.r. stunt, NBC's Education Nation Summit where the nation's "education experts" gather to beat teachers and call for new policies to fire them.

It feels like it cannot get any worse.

In the short term, I fear it will.

After the midterms, the No Child Left Behind re-authorization process will begin again.

Obama has already laid out his blueprint for it:

More tests.

Use value-added analysis to hold teachers and schools "accountable."

Fire teachers and close schools based upon value-added testing.

Change the funding formulas so that districts and states get federal money for being "reform-minded," not because they have financial and economic necessities for the money (i.e., high levels of poverty.)

Extend the school day and the school year.

Break the tenure and seniority systems.

Close many public schools and reopen them as charters run by private for-profit corporations.

Break the teachers unions.

Turn teaching into a fast food job for McTeachers.

I suspect many Repubs will be open to compromise on many of these issues.

Perhaps some will balk at the federal mandates.

But Dems, the ones left after the midterms, will undoubtedly rally around their 42% approval president and give him what he wants on education if they are not challenged by the unions.

So much of that blueprint could become law if we do not push back against DEMOCRATS.

The unions must make it clear that any Dems who vote for this stuff will NOT get union support in 2012.

Obama doesn't seem to care about that.

Perhaps he is banking on the GOP putting up Palin or some other easy candidate to beat.

But I bet Congressional Dems will be open to hearing from the base.

That is what we must do in order to survive this Obama presidency.

It is NOT hyperbole to say that Barack Obama is out for the destruction of the teachers unions and the public school system.

Clearly he wants to see some privatized system run by charter operators.

We must fight him and make our union leaders realize that if they continue to act as if Obama is not the enemy, the cushy union jobs and pensions they have will not exist after a few more years of teacher bashing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Only 38% Say Obama Deserves Re-Election: Education Is A Big Part Of Those Numbers

Looks like Barack Obama has gotten his own valued-added evaluation by the American public and come up wanting:

A significant majority of voters are considering voting against President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, expressing sour views of his new health care law and deep skepticism about his ability to create jobs and grow the sluggish economy, according to the latest POLITICO / George Washington University Battleground Poll.

Only 38 percent of respondents said Obama deserves to be reelected, even though a majority of voters hold a favorable view of him on a personal level. Forty-four percent said they will vote to oust him, and 13 percent said they will consider voting for someone else.

It’s Obama’s policies that are hurting him right now. By a 13-point margin, voters are down on the health care law. In an especially troubling sign, more than half of self-identified independents — 54 percent — have an unfavorable opinion of the law, compared with just 38 percent who have a favorable opinion.

The Politico article doesn't mention the Obama education policies, but let me remind you about this poll from late August:

Support for President Barack Obama’s education agenda is slipping among Americans, according to a poll released last week detailing the public’s attitude toward public schooling.

The survey, conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International and the Gallup Organization, reports that just 34 percent of those polled would give the president an A or B when grading his performance on education during his first 17 months in office, compared with 45 percent in last year’s poll, which covered the president’s first six months in office. ("Obama School Ideas Getting Good Grades," Sept. 2, 2009.) The president’s grades fell not just among Republicans surveyed, but also among Democrats and Independents, who increasingly gave Mr. Obama grades of C or lower.

Poll respondents, for example, took a decidedly different tack than the president and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on turning around low-performing schools. When asked what was the best solution, 54 percent said the school should remain open with the existing teachers and principal and receive outside support.


The president’s lower numbers on education mirror the overall decline in his approval rating, said Shane Lopez, a senior scientist in residence at Gallup and the co-director of the poll. Mr. Obama’s present overall approval rating is 44 percent, compared with 52 percent at this time last year, Mr. Lopez said.

“Despite all of the time and attention that has been devoted to school improvement over the past year and a half, we haven’t won over the hearts and minds of the American people,” said Patrick R. Riccards, the chief executive officer of Exemplar Strategic Communications, a Virginia-based communications firm and the author of the education blog Eduflack. “They aren’t feeling the impact of the stimulus. They aren’t seeing the role of the federal government in school reform.”

To the contrary, they ARE seeing the role of the Obama administration in terms of policies - lots of schools are being closed, teachers and principals are being fired, and teacher evaluations are tied to test scores in many states as a result of the Obama administration policies.

What Americans AREN'T seeing is how all that money Obama has spent on education - over $14.3 billion dollars between the teacher jobs bill and the Race to the Top money - has been used to improve schools, lower class sizes, buy books and computers and otherwise enrich the lives of students.

And that's because the overwhelming majority of the money hasn't been used for those things.

In fact, most of the ed money Obama has spent hasn't gone to schools.

It has gone to testing companies, computer data companies, foundations and cronies of the ed reform movement.

So to the Politico assertion that it is Obama's policies, especially on health care and the economy, that people do not like, I would add people do NOT like his education policies either.

We'll see if Waiting for Superman, Oprah and the NBC Education Summit change those numbers.

Right now, per the latest WSJ/NBC poll, people think schools are bad, but they like THEIR schools.

This suggests to me that the hype over bad schools and bad teachers is working on the meta level but when people actually have contact with schools and teachers, they feel differently about the issues.

Which means the hype about an "education crisis" is overblown.

After all, many Americans think the schools and teachers they see with their own eyes in their own communities are working just fine.

In fact, they don't blame teachers for the problems AT ALL.

In the WSJ/NBC poll taken last week, 53% say elected officials are the cause of problems in education, 50% says parents are the cause, only 30% say teachers are the problem.

So people SEE that teachers aren't the main problem in education.

Unfortunately Obama doesn't seem to care about any of this.

He has decided that busting the unions, turning public schools into charters, making the school year 210 days or longer (and the school day 8 hours or longer), and forcing kids to take standardized tests in every class at every level at least twice a year in order to evaluate teachers according to those scores are the policies he is going to promote.

These are policies which the NBC/WSJ poll shows have little support compared to the more traditional lower class size/give teachers and schools support policies (indeed 64% say smaller class sizes would do much to improve education while only 30% say merit pay would.)

The Obama policies are, as Diane Ravitch has noted, disastrous policies.

But perhaps that is the point.

Secretary Arne has said Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans schools kids.

Apparently the Obama administration is looking to take the Katrina disaster national.

And the scary thing - despite 42% approval and only 38% saying he deserves re-election, he is getting his way COMPLETELY on his education "reforms."

Obama Continues War On Teachers, Calls For Policy To Fire Them


Just wow.

No mincing of words here.

According to President Obama, teachers are THE problem in education:

PRESIDENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE: President Obama argued Monday that bad teachers should be fired if they can’t be trained to teach kids more effectively and help lower the country’s dropout rate.

“You’ve got to have radical change, and radical change is something that’s in the interest of students,” Obama said in an interview with NBC. “We’ve got to be able to identify teachers who are doing well ... and ultimately, if some teachers aren’t doing a good job, they’ve got to go.”

Obama also said “nothing's more important” than education, and he said if students stayed in class for one more summer month every year, they would retain more information. “I think we should have longer school years,” he said.

On a personal note, Obama said his daughters, like most children, need to be pushed to study, and he conceded that they are getting a better education than most because they go to an elite private school. “Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it,” he said. “But the broader problem is for a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a lot of connections ... they should be getting the same quality education for their kids as anybody else.

You can expect to see the longer school year provision in the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind.

Also an abolition of tenure and seniority.

Dunno how he'll mandate it from the federal level.

He'll probably use the carrot/stick approach.

Want Title 1 money and other federal funds?

Add 30 additional school days and get your unions to agree to abolish tenure and seniority.

He terms this approach "radical change" for the school system.

If you are a teacher and you support Barack Obama in the next election, you are enabling your own destruction.

My Question For Obama At NBC's Education Nation

Matt Lauer will be interviewing Barack Obama as part of the Education Nation Summit sponsored by Microsoft, the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Walmart, General Electric, McGraw-Hill and a few other giant corporations that stand to make billions off education reform.

You can send in questions to ask Hopey/Changey via NBC.

I sent in the following:

You recently signed a $23 billion dollar teacher jobs/Medicaid aid bill. You insisted that $11.9 billion dollars be cut from food stamps in order to pay for the bill. When Rep. David Obey suggested some cuts to the data system provisions in Race to the Top, you threatened to veto the bill.

So the food stamp cuts went through. Beginning in 2014, a family of three will lose $521 in food stamps a year.

My question, Mr. President, is why do you think creating new standardized tests for every subject at every grade level and building data systems to track the scores from those tests and use them to close schools and fire teachers is more important than feeding hungry children?

There is not one untruth in that question I wrote above.

Not one.

And yet, Obama will pontificate on NBC, along with many of the other "experts," about how teachers are hurting children by refusing to give on tenure, seniority, merit pay, charter schools, etc.

Meanwhile Hopey/Changey took $521 out of the mouths of a family of three so he could keep his precious data systems.

And somehow, the press has never called him on this.

Not once.

What hypocrites.

What jive.

All of it.


Education Nation.



The ed reformers are not interested in real solutions to address the real problems we teachers deal with every day in the school systems across this nation.

Instead they pontificate about bad teachers and spend millions on p.r. to bust the unions.

Make no mistake - that is ALL this jive is about.

Break the last powerful union in the country.

Rahm Emanuel said about the autoworkers "Fuck the UAW!!!"

You can be sure they feel the same way about the AFT and the NEA as well.

Worst vote I ever cast was for Hopey/Changey.

Frankly, I list that as one of the biggest mistakes in my entire life.

I had a bad feeling about him from the beginning.

I even blogged about that over at NYC Educator's site.

But in the end, the specter of President Palin had me pull the lever for Hopey/Changey, even though I suspected his education programs would be bad.

But never in my wildest nightmares did I think they would be this bad.

After the election, when Repubs retake the House and Senate, very little business will get done in Washington.

There will be lots of gridlock and the GOP is vowing to stop any new spending bill.

There will be little-to-no working together between the parties.

But one piece of common ground they will work will be teacher bashing.

Obama is vowing to end teacher tenure.

John Kline the soon to be House Education Committee chair says that IS some change he can believe in.

You can be sure they will attempt some carrot/stick jive to end tenure.

Want Title 1 money?

Get the unions to agree to abolish tenure.

And if the unions do not agree, the p.r. machine will move into motion and get the word out that teachers hate poor children and want to take their school money from them.

Never mind that Obama has already taken their food stamp money to save his precious data tracking machinery.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Teacher Kills himself After LA Times Declares Him "Ineffective"

Now the ed deform movement has blood on its hands:

A missing schoolteacher from South Gate apparently committed suicide in the Angeles National Forest, it was reported Sunday.

Rigoberto Ruelas, 39, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, was last seen last Sunday dropping off a present for his sister's birthday, according to the South Gate Police Department.

Ruelas notified the school he would need a substitute teacher assigned for his classes on Monday and Tuesday, but he did not show up to work on Wednesday and had not called in, police said. His family reported him missing that day.

Ruelas' body was found just before 9 a.m. in the forest, said Deputy Jeff Gordon of the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau.
"(Sheriff's deputies) had been conducting training exercises near the Big Tujunga Canyon area of the Angeles National Forest," he said. "On Big Tujunga Canyon Road near mile marker 6.6, they located a vehicle connected to Rigoberto Ruelas, who had been reported missing. A subsequent search in the ravine approximately 100 feet below a nearby bridge lead to the discovery of Rigoberto Ruelas, who was deceased."

Suicide was suspected, authorities reportedly said.

Family members told a TV station that he scored low on a teacher rating report recently published by the Los Angeles Times, and that may have caused Ruelas to go missing.

The newspaper's database lists Ruelas as being "less effective than average overall," "Less effective than average in math," and "average in English."

The Times' analysis of teacher performance took into account available student scores on standardized tests between 2002 and 2009.

"The value-added scores reflect a teacher's effectiveness at raising standardized test scores and, as such, capture only one aspect of a teacher's work," reads a disclaimer on the online database of teachers.

"Although value-added measures do not capture everything that goes into making a good teacher or school, The Times decided to make the ratings available because they bear on the performance of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to the information," according to the website.

The study looked at about 6,000 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers at 470 Los Angeles elementary schools.

Family members reportedly said Ruelas had been a teacher for 14 years, with near perfect attendance.

14 year veteran, near perfect attendance, declared "ineffective" by the scum at the LA Times using their value-added jive, now he's dead.

Wonder if the education experts at the NBC Education Nation will talk about this tomorrow.

No, who am I kidding.

I know they won't.

They don't care about stuff like this.

Hell, they LIKE stuff like this.

Nothing like cutting payroll AND avoiding pension payouts.

Not enough bad stuff can happen to these people.


POSTSCRIPT: Write to the journalists who worked on the LA Times value-added analysis article and let 'em know they have blood on their hands.

E-mail address format:

Here are the names of the journalists:

I am not an advocate of violence, but tonight I feel like doing a value-added analysis upside their heads.

Cory Booker, the Facebook Money, and the Rule of Law

Much of the coverage of the Zuckerberg/Booker $100 million dollar grant has been overwhelmingly positive and congratulatory.

But taking a look at some of the details of how the Newark school system came to receive a $100 million grant from the Facebook CEO on the same day that a devastating movie about him was released that shows him to be “an insecure jerk who screws over people and becomes a much-richer insecure jerk" leaves me wondering just what will happen to the future of this country now that it seems little punk billionaires/insecure jerks like Zuckerberg and Bill Gates get to make all the policy calls on governmental matters.

Zuckerberg, for example, is calling for the closing of many Newark schools, the firing of teachers, and the institution of merit pay, as a way to improve the Newark school system.

And since he just gave the system $100 million, I bet he gets his way, even if many in Newark do not agree with those new policies.

In addition, Newark only gets ALL the Zuckerberg money if Booker retains control of the city's schools.

Giving Booker even a small amount of control of the school district without having the matter voted on in the state legislature is illegal.

So here we have the city of Newark, essentially held captive by Zuckerberg's demands.

Booker must run the system.

If Booker goes anywhere, the money goes with him.

In three years, Booker's term will run out.

Will Zuckerberg take the rest of the money and run if Booker chooses not to seek re-election or finds himself Fenty'd out of office?

For that matter, given that this is New Jersey and municipal leaders get arrested in justice sweeps all the time, what happens if Booker is nailed on corruption charges?

Don't think it can't happen.

Almost everybody around him in Newark has been arrested, so it may only be matter of time before Booker is targeted (unless of course the Obama justice department gets word not to go after an ally of the president.)

Even if Booker isn't dirty himself, the fact that many of the people he chose to work with and hire are says much about Booker and his judgment.

In February of this year, Booker's chief aide was indicted on corruption charges.

Here is the story:

NEWARK -- A former top aide to Mayor Cory Booker was indicted today on federal extortion and bribery charges for allegedly funneling contracts to a trucking company that he partially owned.

Ronald Salahuddin, who resigned last year as deputy mayor, was charged with steering contracts in 2006 and 2007 to a demolition firm. In return, authorities say Salahuddin demanded the firm hire his business partner in the trucking company, Sonnie Cooper, as a subcontractor. Cooper was also indicted.

"Salahuddin’s brazen efforts on Cooper’s behalf are at the core of what the federal corruption statues are designed to prevent," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.

Salahuddin, 59, was among the first high-level appointments made by Booker, elected in 2006 as a self-proclaimed reformer who vowed to fight corruption. Fishman stressed today that there is no evidence that Booker was involved in wrongdoing.

In an interview, Booker defended his efforts, saying his administration had mounted probes leading to 19 convictions within city hall. "We don’t wait for other people to investigate corruption in our city. We are aggressively working against it every single day," Booker said.

Perhaps Booker isn't dirty, although given that his political patrons are Mayor Bloomberg and Bill Gates, you can make the argument that he doesn't need to be dirty since he has sold out to the Wall Street/hedge fund criminal class and clearly has all the money he needs via his wealthy patrons.

Nonetheless, that many of his political appointees and cronies ARE dirty suggests he has questionable judgment at best and perhaps shouldn't be given sole control of the Newark school system, particularly since the move is illegal.

Here's how illegal it is:

If Cory Booker even thinks of making a decision affecting Newark schools, he and Gov. Chris Christie will find themselves in a lawsuit faster than you can say Facebook, the head of the Education Law Center said yesterday.

David Sciarra, a veteran of numerous court battles involving public education, said it would be "improper and illegal" for Christie to formally offer Booker any authority to make decisions about the Newark Public Schools. Sciarra was lead counsel on the historic — and successful — Abbott suit filed in 1997 against the state to provide more funding for its neediest schools.

"I have no doubt appropriate legal action would be taken on behalf of the residents of Newark to challenge such a move in court," Sciarra said.

Sciarra’s concerns are rooted in his intimate knowledge of state education law. He feels that giving Booker even a small amount of authority over his city’s schools violates New Jersey’s statute on school district takeovers by circumventing the will of the state’s legialture and Newark’s voters.

"We’ve had numerous contacts from parents and community and parent leaders concerned over giving any kind of power to the mayor," Sciarra said. "We have to see what the specifics are, and we need to assess if it does cross this line."

According to Sciarra and state law says Acting Commissioner of Education Rochelle Hendricks is the state official with true authority over school districts under state control. In Newark’s case, it’s elected advisory board also has some responsibility, but Booker and Christie do not. Newark schools have been under state control for fifteen years.

If Booker does anything more than advise Henricks on how to run Newark’s schools or who to select as the districts’ next superintendent, those actions invite a legal challenge, Sciarra said.

Yesterday, on the Oprah Winfrey sho Christie said Booker will be the point person leading his effort to reform Newark’s schools, but did not offer any more explicit details about Booker’s role in the restucturing.

For the remainder of this academic year, Booker said he will lead a community effort to articulate a set of standards, benchmarks and reforms to recommend to the governor and will not have any legal authority over his city’s schools.

"He, right now, statutorally is in charge of the Newark schools," Booker said of the governor.

Not so, Sciarra said.

"The state’s commissioner of education has statutory responsibilities to the legislature by law to oversee the Newark Public Schools," Sciarra said, "The commissioner needs to be extremely cautious that she not be put in a position by the governor that’s inconsistent with her responsibilities to the school district under state law. She could be held responsible."

So Christie doesn't actually have the legal power to hand the school system to Booker, not even through the jive-ass dodge he used by naming Booker a "special assistant to the governor."

No matter, education reform is more important than other niceties like the rule of law.

That seems to be the message we get from the education reform/hedge fund movement these days.

They keep saying they've "waited" too long for change, and since democracy is too slow to bring about change, they're going to do it through anti-democratic means.

They lost the election in D.C. when the will of the people threw Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee out on their arrogant asses.

But now they will have Newark to work with as their next high profile sandbox for education reform.

The fact that the move giving Booker power over the schools is illegal or that Zuckerberg is engaging in extortion by holding the $100 million over the heads of the people of Newark and demanding they cede to his desires or lose the grant, well, that stuff doesn't matter.

What matters is that we close schools, fire teachers, open up charter schools all over Newark, institute merit pay and break the teachers union.

We'll see how this plays out.

Booker is roundly hated in Newark these days, having had some pretty big battles over the budget and layoffs (he famously said he was holding back toilet paper from city workers until they agreed to pay cuts.)

The crime rate and murder rate has soared over the past year as well.

The hedge fund criminal class will now be invested in making sure that the Newark experiment works, so I have a feeling we will see Goldman Sachs and others hand over money to the city and/or invest in the city.

Maybe that money will be enough to make Newark a better place to live and work.

But you know once they make their political points and break the unions, the Zuckerbergs and the Goldmans will be out of there and the poor black people of the city will be right where they are today.

I Should've Voted For George Clinton...

...instead of Bill Clinton:

What's grooving, CC?

Minister of Education...Richard Pryor...

Now that's change I can believe in!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

As Usual, Education Reformers Ignore The Community

The shit eating grins on Governor Chris Christie, Mayor Cory Booker, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey yesterday at Winfrey's show to celebrate Booker's receiving both control of the Newark school system from the state and $100 million education grant from Zuckerberg say it all:

Look at us! Look how wonderful we are! Look what wonderful things we are doing for the kids!

But the Newark Star Ledger points out that many people in Newark are NOT happy about this deal:

When Newark Mayor Cory Booker walks off the set of the Oprah Winfrey show Friday with a $100 million gift to bolster Newark schools, there will be no raptured audience waiting for him back home.

As news spread through Newark today that Gov. Chris Christie will give Booker oversight of the city’s schools, and that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will help set up a $100 million educational foundation to support school reforms, political and community leaders here reacted with a combination of cautious optimism and outrage.

Many in Newark say the arrangement could be the spark that ignites true reform in the chronically failing district. Others cast the announcement as a classic backroom deal that skirts the will of the voters.

Booker, who has been fighting since July to regain his footing in Newark politics, will have to sell the plan to residents and marshal support for the city’s next superintendent. If recent battles over city water, layoffs, and police practices are any indication, it will be a tough slog.

"The outrage seems to be not about the $100 million deal, but about this backroom deal," said Wilhemina Holder, a longtime education activist, grandmother, and mother of current and former Newark schoolchildren. She said her phone began ringing Wednesday evening when news of the deal first broke on and it hasn’t stopped since. "People are just outraged that the governor has ignored the Newark voters. Over and over again every phone call I got was about this."

In order to get full mayoral control over Newark’s schools, Christie would have to get approval from the Legislature. Newark residents would then get a chance to vote on whether the mayor should run the operation that has been under state control since 1995.

The deal that will be announced today is seen by many in Newark as an end-run around the law. Christie needs no approval from voters to simply appoint Booker as his "special assistant" for Newark schools, thus transferring responsibility to the mayor while maintaining the ultimate right to veto any changes that Booker makes.

"In terms of the state’s perspective of how it wanted to proceed, there wasn’t any meaningful engagement," said school advisory board president Shavar Jeffries referring to today’s announcement as well Christie’s decision to not re-hire Superintendent Clifford Janey.

Jeffries has repeatedly warned that without the blessing of the community, reform will be very difficult. "We cannot sustain a robust education reform agenda if it’s not supported by the people and parents of Newark."

Like Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee in D.C., Booker and Christie intend to push through their reforms without any input from the people who work in those schools, the parents who send their children to those schools, or the people in the neighborhoods where those schools are.

And just as Rhee got money from vulture philanthropists for the D.C. teachers contract that would only be provided if she stays on as D.C. chancellor, Zuckerberg's education grant only happens if Booker gets control of the school system.

Nothing like corporate entities calling the shots and subverting the will of the people, eh?

But as Oprah says, this is for the kids, you know, so who cares about niceties like democracy or community input.

What they are saying is: "We are in an education crisis and only strong-willing leaders like Chris Christie, Cory Booker, Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee can get things done to fix the schools."

We who actually work in schools, especially schools run by those folks, know differently.

We'll see how this plays out.

Christie is under investigation for the Race to the Top mess in Jersey and is going to be subpoenaed to testify before the legislature.

He is currently declaring "executive privilege" and refusing to testify before the legislature.

This education deal and windfall financial gift from Zuckerberg (and the accompanying p.r. he received from Ms. Winfrey on her show) will divert people for a little while from the mess that is coming down the pike for the governor.

But the governor has lied in public about what happened during the Race to the Top process.

He blamed former state ed commissioner Bret Schundler instead.

Schundler has documents proving Christie lied.

But Christie thinks he can bluster his way through.

It's just another example of the arrogance Christie and other ed deformers have over reform.

They just don;t care what people think.

Even people who support ed reform - like Eugene Robinson, Bob Herbert, and Errol Louis in the media and Mike Petrilli and Rick Hess in the blogosphere - have warned that the hubris reformers are showing in their steamroll attempts to reform the system will come back to undo them.

We'll see.

But certainly the announcement that Christie was giving Booker control of the schools through a loophole and subverting the will of the people at the same time is more of the same from the ed deform movement.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jive Talkin'

I started and stopped about half a dozen times to write something about all the Waiting for Superman jive out there today.

But I decided the best response, at least for a Friday evening, comes from the Brothers Gibb.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Shaken" Rhee Leaves Meeting With Gray Without Saying Much

Sounds like Michelle Rhee didn't have such a good day today:

They came, they met. And then they came out to say that they met.

That's about all that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee had to say about their much-anticipated 90-minute session Thursday afternoon, their first since the end of a rancorous Democratic mayoral primary in which she actively campaigned against him.

We may never know what actually went on. When they emerged from Gray's fifth-floor office about 1:30 p.m., the mayor-apparent said no decisions had been made, and that he would make no personnel moves until after the general election. He also said -- after Rhee slipped away from the press gaggle -- that there was no discussion of the possible remaining length of her tenure.

"She didn't say 'I want to leave,' she didn't say 'I want to stay,' " Gray said.

Far more telling was the body language and choreography of the brief news conference. As Gray strode to the bank of microphones, a drawn and shaken-looking Rhee quickly took a spot in the corner far behind Gray's right shoulder, and said she had little to add. (Check out the video here.) After about five minutes, she slipped back into the corridor fronting Gray's office and headed for the elevators, pursued by reporters who barreled into the elevator with her despite a police officer's attempts to muscle them away. Those who rode down with her said she said nothing.

Gray also said that there was no revisitation of Rhee's rather damning campaign characterizations of him as someone who second-guessed and disdained many of her reform efforts. He characterized the meeting as a wide-ranging discussion of District education issues, much of it based on the position paper.

"What we agree on is that we all want what is best for our kids," Gray said. "There really is not much more to say."

Arrogant person that she is, it's good to see her get a little comeuppance. Even supporters of reform - people like Eugene Robinson, Bob Herbert and Errol Louis - have written in the last few days of Rhee's hubris.

At the end of the day, Rhee will be fine. She'll get lots of wingnut welfare, make regular appearances on Oprah and Morning Joe, write a couple of books and try and keep an eye on her chowhound husband, KJ.

She'll move on, as they say.

But for one day at least, she looked chastened.

Doubt she learned anything from this. As Gene Robinson noted in the Wash Post last week after Rhee said Gray's victory over Adrian Fenty was devastating for Washington children:

I've seen Latin American juntas surrender power more gracefully.


Spitzer: Cuomo Is "Dirtiest, Nastiest Player" Out There

I have been saying for awhile that Little Andy Cuomo has a ton of enemies, many of whom are just waiting to stick a big shiny knife right into his back.

Former governor Eliot Spitzer said pretty much the same thing:

In a fascinating interview on CNN, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) makes clear he's not a big fan of Andrew Cuomo (D).

Said Spitzer: "The problem that Andrew has is that everybody knows that behind the scenes, he is the dirtiest, nastiest political player out there and that is his reputation from years in Washington."

"When his father was governor, he was the tough guy. He has brass knuckles and he played hard ball. He has a lot of enemies out there. Nobody's been willing to stand up to him. When it appeared he was going to win, it was inevitable. If it appears not to be inevitable, things may change."

"He has a lot of folks, he's really been on the wrong side of who may stand up and say, wait a minute, he may not want to pretend he plays that game. He does, and he's worse at it."

Spitzer got it because he made the wrong KIND of enemies - the ones with lots of money and the title "CEO" after their names.

Little Andy is in the pockets of the Wall Streeters and the hedge fund criminals like Whitney Tilson, so it's less likely somebody will put a political hit out on him the way the Wall Streeters did on Spitzer.

Nonetheless, many people who know him HATE Cuomo's guts.

It won't take much for someone to "Spitzer" him.

Even if he's elected (and that is not quite the done deal people thought it was going to be), I bet he will be roundly hated and vilified by the end of four years.

Klein Predicts Layoffs

Buried in this Daily News story about former rubber roomers filing grievances against the city comes this nugget:

Meanwhile, Klein also predicted teacher layoffs before next fall, when the city will face larger budget cuts after federal stimulus dollars run out.

Klein similarly predicted layoffs last year, but they were averted when Mayor Bloomberg froze teacher salaries. The union did not agree to the freezes and the contract has not been settled.

Mulgrew suggested Klein needed to help get money from Albany and Washington.

All the money the city has gotten to reduce class sizes, yet still they will lay people off.

Th city got dough from the $10 billion teacher job bill that Obama signed (the one that cut food stamps for families of three by $521 a year), yet still they will lay people off.

Obama has thrown a total of $14.3 billion into education, yet most of that was for "data systems," new "assessments," and other ed reform moves near and dear to the ed deform heart rather than actual teachers for actual classrooms.

So still they will lay people off.

You can be sure we will hear more and more from the Ex-Educators 4 Excellence and Barbara "Klein" Martinez in the Wall Street Journal and other shills for Bloomklein that seniority is the greatest ill since tenure and must be ended as the school year progresses.

And then there will be some scare tactic come March or April, perhaps pension related if Little Andy is the new governor, that will have Mulgrew and Company rocking back on their heels trying to figure out what to do.

Or the scare tactic will be ATR-related.

One way or the other it will be something shrill and omnipresent in the tabloids, the UFT will cave on it and layoffs will be narrowly averted, the contract will still NOT be settled, teachers will continue to forgo raises and the data-meisters will continue to get millions to create new tests and data systems and the charter operators will continue to get additional finds while traditional public schools are starved.

That is the change we can believe in brought to us by Barack Obama.

That is the "change" Little Andy is promising.

And certainly that is the policy agenda we have seen from Klein and Bloomberg.

Obama Heckled In New York City

More of this, please:

NEW YORK – President Barack Obama was heckled multiple times during his speech at a Democratic fundraiser in one of the country’s most Democratic cities.

They held signs and interrupted his speech to protest AIDS funding and the stalled repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy banning gays for serving openly in the military that he has promised to repeal.

Obama showed a flash of irritation after he was forced repeatedly off his prepared remarks. “This is not the time or the place to do what you’re talking about,” he said to the “young lady” shouting at him about AIDS funding.

He also tried to make the most of the moment by pointing out that Republicans would be further away from the protesters on both of the issues they were complaining about.

Do you hear the arrogance from this prick?

Republicans are even worse than me, so why are you giving ME a hard time?

You know why they're giving you a hard time, Obama?

Because you suck.

You're a corporate whore.

You're afraid of the wingnuts (think Shirley Sherrod) but you gleefully take on core Democratic constituencies every chance you get.

You have betrayed the progressive principles you claimed to uphold pre-election (not that I believed you even then...but lots of other Dems did.)

So more heckling, please.

AIDS activists, environmentalists, healthy food advocates, teachers - give it to him.

He won't change his corporate-friendly policies, but you can see how it's starting to get to him.

Maybe we'll get a ferret moment from him.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cuomo's Ever-Shrinking Lead

Coming on the heels of a Quinnipiac poll that showed Little Andy Cuomo only up six points over Crazy Carl Paladino comes this release from Survey USA:

A new SurveyUSA poll in New York finds Andrew Cuomo (D) leads Carl Paladino in the race for governor by just nine points, 49% to 40%.

The results are similar to a Quinnipiac poll released earlier today which found Paladino just six points behind Cuomo.

Roh no, Little Andy! What will you do?

Gonna keep bashing the unions?

Or suck up to them for a little while to sucker them into using their GOTV operations for you to carry you past Crazy Carl?

I bet it will be Plan # 2.

But you know what, Little Andy?

I'm not fooled.

Nuh, uh.

As soon as you get elected, you'll come to take my pension, require more standardized testing for students and more "accountability" for teachers with those scores, and lift the charter cap completely.

You already tipped your hand, Little Andy, so no matter how desperate you get (and judging by the news stories about you calling Crazy Carl "an asshole," you're getting pretty desperate already), you can't fool me.

And I'm going to do my best to remind all the teachers and union members I know about all that stuff too.

I bet I can cost you a handful of votes.

And who knows - given you're ever-shrinking lead, that might be enough to do you in.

UPDATE: Little Andy claimed he voted for Mayor Bloomberg today at the press conference announcing Bloomberg's support of Cuomo.

He was lying - he supported Ferrer.

The press caught him.

Little Andy Cuomo Only Up Six In New Poll

Ruh-roh, Little Andy, this looks like trouble:

A new Quinnipiac poll in New York finds Andrew Cuomo (D) leading Carl Paladino (R) by just six points among likely voters in the race for governor, 49% to 43%.

Said pollster Maurice Carroll: "The question was whether Carl Paladino would get a bounce from his big Republican primary victory. The answer is yes. He's within shouting distance and -- you can count on it -- he will be shouting. Andrew Cuomo might be a victim of his own excess. Politicians and polls have depicted him so relentlessly as a sure thing that he might be a victim of the 'throw the bums out' attitude that hits incumbents in this angry year."

Most polls have shown Little Andy with a huge lead, so this one might be an outlier.

If it isn't, then Little Andy might want to rethink his strategy of vilifying teachers and union members before the election. I guess he figured he could get away with that when he had a 25 point lead.

But if the lead is really down to six, watch him start to make pro-labor advances.

He'll need their GOTV operations.

Of course he'll still screw union members after the election and I fully expect him to go straight at the teachers unions first (as he has said he would.)

So union members and teachers would be best served by NOT voting for him regardless.

The worst that could happen is for Cuomo to win and Dems in the legislature to roll over and give him all his anti-labor, anti-teacher initiatives.

At least if Paladino won, they'd fight him on everything (theoretically, at any rate.)

Plus Paladino is such a nutcase, it wouldn't take long for him to be as powerless as the current Bozo, David Paterson.

Perhaps that might be the best course.

Rahmbo Shows His Cards

On the same day that the Chicago Sun Times reported two negative stores about Jessie Jackson Jr., another story surfaces that Rahm Emanuel is "ahead" in internal polling for the Chicago's mayor's race.

Jackson is one of the more prominent rivals Emanuel will have if he decides to run for mayor.

First, the negative stories about Jackson:

Prosecutors Told Jackson was Behind Scheme

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) "directed a major political fundraiser to offer former Gov. Rod Blagojevich millions of dollars in campaign cash in return for an appointment to the U.S. Senate, sources said the fundraiser has told federal authorities," the Chicago Sun Times reports.

Jackson, who is considering a bid for Chicago mayor, challenged federal prosecutors to "bring it on" in a radio interview if they have evidence he was a conspirator in Blagojevich's corruption case.

Jackson Apologizes for "Social Acquaintance"

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) said he is "deeply sorry" for having "disappointed some supporters" regarding his relationship with a female "social acquaintance," the Chicago Sun Times reports.

At issue are allegations that Jackson was behind a scheme to raise money for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in return for an appointment to the U.S. Senate. The person making the allegations also said Jackson asked him to fly a "social acquaintance" to Chicago for visits.

Said Jackson: "The reference to a social acquaintance is a private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago. I ask that you respect our privacy."

The news comes as Jackson explores a Chicago mayoral run. He wasn't kidding when he called it a "heavyweight fight." They play hardball in the Windy City.

Tonight, Political Wire has a story that says Rahmbo's internal polling shows him

Rahm Ahead in Internal Polling

Ward Room reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, widely believed to be considering a run for Mayor of Chicago, has conducted internal polls that "have him ahead of all-comers by up to 14 points," making a run increasingly likely.

Not sure I believe the Emanuel internal poll, but I'll say this for our fair Rahmbo:

He isn't subtle.

It's a shame Rahmbo isn't as good at governing as he is at dropping a couple of dimes on a political enemy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vanderbilt Merit Pay Study Goes Mainstream

Yes, Ed Week had the story, but it's good to see it show up in something mainstream like the Mclatchy papers:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Offering middle-school math teachers bonuses of up to $15,000 didn't produce gains in student test scores, Vanderbilt University researchers reported Tuesday, in what they said was the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay for teachers.

The results could amount to a cautionary flag about paying teachers for the performance of their students, a strategy that the Obama administration and many states and school districts have favored despite lukewarm support or outright opposition from teachers' unions.


The report's authors, from the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education, stress that more research is needed to determine whether different approaches that link teacher performance to pay or additional training could help boost student achievement.

Matthew G. Springer, the director of the federally funded center, said pay-for-performance wasn't "the magic bullet that so often the policy world is looking for."

At least in this experiment, Springer said, "it doesn't work."

The test was conducted from 2006 to 2009 in partnership with the nonprofit RAND Corp., a research center. A local industrialist and Vanderbilt benefactor, Orrin Ingram, put up the nearly $1.3 million in bonuses.

Some 296 middle-school math teachers in the Nashville school district — two-thirds of the total of middle-school math teachers — volunteered to participate in the experiment. About half were placed randomly in a control group, while the rest were eligible for bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 if their pupils scored significantly higher than expected on the statewide exam known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.

One-third of the eligible teachers — 51 of 152 — got bonuses at least once. Eighteen teachers received bonuses all three years.

Except for some temporary gains for fifth-graders, though, their students progressed no faster than those in classes taught by the other 144 teachers.

The teachers' union in Nashville agreed to the experiment in collective bargaining, according to Erick Huth, the president of the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association. He said the results weren't at all surprising.

"I've believed for a long time that what improves instruction is having an instructional leader who is able to get all players in a school to collaborate," Huth said.

Great - now tell that to President Accountability and his band of Broad Foundation-trained merry men and women at the DOE who are still pushing this stuff like it is a "magic bullet."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey ran 48 minutes of straight teacher bashing today with her Waiting for Superman show - giving director Davis Guggenheim, Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee free rein to sling lies, distortions and half-truths about the "education crisis" in the country.

Jim Horn at Schools Matter responded:

Oprah looks and sounds the corporate parrot that she is, sadly. So much disinformation, where to start? You guys need to look up tenure to see what it is. Clue: it is not guaranteed employment for life, but, rather, is a due process protection to employees with collective bargaining agreements--something I know that Bill and Oprah and Michelle do not abide by. If you had had the balls to put Randi Weingarten on stage with your corporate cheerleaders, instead of the dark canned clip of her, she could have calmed Oprah down, perhaps, and offered some light to go with the heat. Perhaps.

The same people who voted down the hedge-funded charterites in NY and the oligarch-owned Fenty/Rhee machine have more votes waiting. The biggest vote your crony capitalist, Oprah, has to worry about is if everyone votes to switch channels before she makes her grand exit.

The only thing I disagree with in those statements is that Randi Weingarten was the person to put up against the propaganda-meisters.

I don't think that is so (though to be fair, Jim isn't so sure either.)

I think Diane Ravitch would have been a better choice.

There is a reason why Ravitch is not invited to these things, however.

They KNOW that.

Otherwise, I think Mr. Horn got everything right about that show.

As for Oprah, I wrote her a letter noting the CREDO study shows 37% of charters do worse than traditional public schools while 46% perform the same, that states with the lowest performing students have right to work laws and no teachers unions or weakened unions, and parents, not teachers, are the biggest influence on a student's life.

You know, they never mentioned parents on that show.

I guess kids are taken from their parents at birth and raised by teachers?

No, not in America they're not.

But in South Africa at Oprah's school, they are. That's actually part of the curriculum. Here's a partial description of the school:

Spanning 21 hectares (52 acres), the Academy’s 28-building campus offers a safe, nurturing and beautiful educational and residential environment for learners. All buildings are designed with learners in mind and built with natural material, to maintain the architectural integrity of the surrounding community.

Learners live in modern dormitory facilities along the Street of Living. Down the Street of Learning are 21 state-of-the-art classrooms and six labs, including art, science, computer and design technology. All classrooms have an outdoor study area, as well as SMART Board™ technology.

To support learning beyond the classroom, the Academy offers a computer lab, a 10,000-volume library, a more than 600-seat theatre and a multifunctional stage, music practice rooms, an outdoor amphitheatre, sports fields, a gymnasium and a wellness centre.


Learning is continuously encouraged in the Academy's boarding school environment. Teachers, staff and outside instructors lead the girls in a variety of extra-curricular activities, allowing learners to excel in their own unique ways.

Girls can participate in sports such as netball, tennis and track and field, while yoga, dance, choir and musical groups provide other outlets for the girls to express their creative and physical energy.

Gee, that sounds like a wonderful place for children to go for their schooling.

Like one big, beautiful charter school for underprivileged girls in South Africa.

Except that it isn't so wonderful:

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa has suspended seven girls for sexual misconduct and the harassment of other pupils. The suspensions, first reported by the Afrikaans on Sunday newspaper, are the second sex controversy to plague the school, which opened with much fanfare in early 2007. According to the Telegraph:

According to the Afrikaans on Sunday newspaper, one 15-year-old "preyed" on a schoolmate and coerced others into lying to officials investigating the alleged incidents. Six other pupils have been excluded from the $46 million (£32 million) girls-only boarding school after being alleged to have touched each other intimately, or "intimidating others into partaking of inappropriate behaviours".

A letter sent to one of the suspended girls' parents is said to have read: "You have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus, harassment, bullying other girls on campus and of being dishonest by not telling investigators the whole truth".

A prior scandal came just ten months after the Academy's January 2007 opening when dorm matron Virginia Tiny Makgobo was arrested for "indecent assault and soliciting under-age girls to perform indecent acts". From AFP (November 2007):

An emotional Oprah Winfrey said she was "shaken to the core" by sexual abuse claims at her elite girls' school in South Africa.

"This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life," the US talk show host told journalists in Johannesburg via a live satellite link from Chicago.

"When I heard the news I spent about a half-hour crying ... I couldn't wrap my mind around it."

Police aren't allowed onto the grounds of the Oprah school, btw, so who knows what else happens there:

Local police claim they are not welcome at the academy. John Samuel, CEO of the academy, states, "Yes, the police are required to patrol, but at public schools. We are not a regular private school. Ours is a unique school and we are working out what is in the girls' best interests." [Lumka Oliphant, The STAR,, March 27, 2007]

It's interesting that Oprah's school, which has had two sex scandals in the three years it has been in existence, isn't under the same Oprahesque scrutiny that traditional public schools here in America are.

Heck, can you imagine what would happen to a school like that here in America, especially if it were, uh, unionized?

Yeah, I think that kind of school would probably wind up on some kind of Oprah special on the Oxygen network as a horror movie of the week.

But I get why Oprah seems to believe that parents have little-to-no influence on their children's schooling - because at the Oprah school, that is just so:

The school rules are quite strict. Students may visit with parents once a month for two hours. Some parents compare the academy to a prison and not a girls' school. The girls are not to use cell phones or email during the school week, only on weekends. And, one girl was not allowed to attend a funeral of a relative because it was not "immediate family".

Wow - couldn't go to a family member's funeral because the relative wasn't "immediate family."

And parents only get to visit their children once a month for two hours.

What kind of deluded person would create that kind of school system and think it was healthy or right?

Seriously, between the sex crimes at the school and the policies on family visits, this is clearly the work of somebody with some serious, serious issues.

Maybe Oprah needs to get out of the education business, out of the education reform propaganda business too, and get some therapy from somebody other than Dr. Phil.

Because the travesty of Oprah calling out "bad educators" today on her show was a disgrace.

Seriously, Oprah, if you want to point a finger at "bad educators" who have harmed the children in their keep, take a look in the mirror.

Days After Obama Mocks Working and Middle Classes, He Hears It From Them At A Forum

More of this, please:

WASHINGTON — It was billed as “Investing In America,” a live televised conversation between President Obama and American workers, students, business people and retirees on the state of the economy, a kind of Wall Street to Main Street reality check.

But it sounded like a therapy session for disillusioned Obama supporters.

In question after question in Monday’s one-hour session, which took place at the Newseum here and was televised on CNBC, Mr. Obama was confronted by people who said, in short, that they had expected more from him. People from Main Street wanted to know if the American dream still lived for them. People from Wall Street complained that he was treating them like a piƱata, “whacking us with the stick,” in the words of a former law school classmate of Mr. Obama’s who now runs a hedge fund.

“I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for,” said the first questioner, an African-American woman who identified herself as a chief financial officer, a mother and a military veteran. “I’ve been told that I voted for a man who was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class, and I’m waiting, sir, I’m waiting. I still don’t feel it yet.”

A 30-year-old law school graduate, Ted Brassfield, told Mr. Obama he had hoped to pursue a career in public service — like the president — but could barely pay the interest on his student loans, let alone think of getting married or starting a family.

“I was really inspired by you and your campaign and the message you brought, and that inspiration is dying away,” Mr. Brassfield said, adding, “What I really want to know is: Is the American dream dead for me?”

Obama answered some jive that doesn't bear repeating (something about being born poor and black, so he knows all about their problems...)

Instead, let me repost what Obama told some hedge fund managers at a $30,000 a plate fundraiser in Greenwich last week:

Last night, Barack Obama spoke at a $30,000 per plate DNC fundraising event at the "home of Richard and Ellen Richman, who live in the exclusive Conyers Farm development in Greenwich [Connecticut]'s famed 'back country' neighborhood," and said the following about liberal critics of his presidency:

"Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particular derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation."

Don't you see, America?

All hail Obama and his great progressive, productive accomplishments!

And if you're out of work, barely making ends meet, got your food stamps cut by $521 a year by President Obama, have had your school closed down and find yourself without a teaching job, have lost your health insurance because your employer doesn't want to pay the 40% excise tax Obama levied on employer-provided plans or are scared that you're going to have to work until 75 because Obama's Cat Food Commission plans to raise the retirement age through the roof, just STFU.

You're on drugs!

You're seeing the glass as half empty!

No matter what performance Obama put on today, the performance he gave in Greenwich for the hedge fund managers at the $30,000 a plate fundraiser is REALLY what he thinks.

The sooner you get your heads around that, America, the better you'll feel.

At least you'll be out of the denial stage and can get on to the rehab stage.

And that stage would be sending this corporate whore to the same place D.C. sent corporate whore Adrian Fenty.

Sure, it means a Repub would win the White House.

But at least then the opposition can mobilize to fight him/her.

With Obama in the White House, so many on the left seem to cave and let him run rough-shod over them, then mock them, then vote for him anyway.

Besides what's progressive about Race to the Top, a health reform law that mandates 31 million new customers for the health insurance industry or levies tax penalties on them, a nationalized education system that has the feds writing curriculum and lesson plans, a Bush-style Wall Street bailout, a renomination of Ben Bernanke, and an increase in the retirement age but a decrease in Social Security benefits?

So stop the madness.

Don't vote for him or any corporate whore Dems AND let them know why you're not voting for them

Christie Caves

Chris Christie had been refusing to turn over documents related to the Race to the Top sweepstakes that the New Jersey legislature needed to conduct an investigation into who was at fault for the mistake that cost the state $400 million in RttT funds.

But today, he caved:

Faced with the likelihood that Senate Democrats would subpoena his records and compel his advisers to testify, Gov. Chris Christie today agreed to turn over documents related to the state's recent loss of $400 million in federal education funding, according to four officials briefed on the situation.

Senate Democrats walked into the Statehouse today planning to grant themselves the power to supboena records and testimony from the administration. But with a Senate session delayed long past its 1 p.m. scheduled start, the hallways began buzzing with word that a deal had been struck. The deal was made in a one-on-one meeting between Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), according to the sources.

With the compromise, Christie would be able to avert the spectacle of all-out partisan warfare and the possibility he would have to go to court to fight to keep some information secret. The Democrats, at the same time, would be able to declare another victory in what has become a tough political time for the rookie governor who had been steamrolling the opposition until the news last month that the state lost the Race to the Top competition because of an error in its application. The error led to a squabble between Christie and his education commissioner, Bret Schundler, who was then fired by the governor.

Keep digging, boys.

Bret Schundler says Christie is a liar, that he told Christie the truth about the mistake before Christie went out to a press conference and blamed the mess on the Obama administration.

Then, rather than take responsibility for the mess, Christie claimed Schundler lied to him and fired Schundler.

But Schundler has emails backing up his side of the story.

So keep digging, boys.

Christie has been caught in a lie and he is on the defensive.

There is more there.

Let's see if you can "Spitzer" Governor Christie and send the crooked bastard back to whatever mafia family he came from.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Obama Mocks Democratic Base While Raising Money In Greenwich

The Obama operation wants to know why many in the Democratic base aren't so enthusiastic to vote in November.

Here is THE reason:

Last night, Barack Obama spoke at a $30,000 per plate DNC fundraising event at the "home of Richard and Ellen Richman, who live in the exclusive Conyers Farm development in Greenwich [Connecticut]'s famed 'back country' neighborhood," and said the following about liberal critics of his presidency:

"Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particular derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation."

Got that, Democratic base?

If you have concerns or disagreements with what Dear Leader has done since 2009, you are seeing "the glass as half empty."

Because Barack Obama has had "the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation."

Let's take a look at some of those productive, progressive items, shall we?

Obama passed health care "reform" that requires the uninsured to purchase health care insurance from private companies or pay a 2.5% penalty on their taxes. The health insurance industry will gain 31 million new customers. No public option was added to that "reform" to keep costs down, so private health insurers have already been raising their premiums.

In addition, Obama insisted that his "reform" be paid with a 40% excise tax on employees with employer-provided health care plans rather than a tax on people making over a million dollars. The excise tax is expected to hit many working and middle class people as employers drop them from coverage and force them to buy private insurance from the new "reform" plans passed and signed by Obama.

Gee, neither of those things sound so productive or progressive to me - a working class fellow with an employer-provided health care plan that will certainly come under the 40% excise tax.

Next, Obama used stimulus funds to ram through a Race to the Top education sweepstakes that forced cash-starved states to agree to unproven or disproven education reforms like additional charter schools, additional standardized testing and the tying of teacher pay and evaluations to test scores. He also used the economic crisis to get nearly 40 states to agree to a national curriculum known as the Common Core. The new assessments that are being created through the RttT funds will hold teachers and schools accountable for the new Common Core. Those teachers and schools that do not have high scores will be fired and closed respectively.

In fact, when some teachers in Rhode Island were fired as part of the new RttT guidelines, Obama applauded the move, saying teachers need to be held accountable.

Gee, that doesn't sound very progressive or productive. It sounds like the Bush education policy in quintuplet.

In addition, when Dems in the House tried to pass a teachers jobs bill that would provide $10 billion dollars to the states to rehire laid off teachers (as well as $13 billion in Medicaid aid to the states), they needed to find money from other programs they could cut in order to get the teacher jobs bill through the Senate. David Obey attempted to cut money from the Race to the Top program, figuring teacher jobs were more important than money for data systems.

Barack Obama disagreed and said he would veto any teachers jobs bill that cut money from Race to the Top. When Obey asked what offsets the administration wanted for the bill, Rahm Emanuel told him "Cut from food stamps - $11.9 billion."

And that's EXACTLY what happened - the teacher jobs bill was passed and $11.9 billion was cut from food stamps. Beginning in 2014, a family of three will receive $521 less in food stamps per year.

And here's the clicker - the states aren't even using the money to rehire teachers; they're using a loophole in the legislation to plug other budget gaps.

Gee, that doesn't sound very progressive or productive to me, not with more people living under the poverty level now than did under the Reagan administration. In fact, the 2009 poverty rate was at a 51 year high. And poor people might, you know, need food stamps to buy food. But I guess making sure states have data systems in place to track scores and fire teachers is more important than getting food or jobs to poor people.

Then take the mortgage relief program known as HAMP. Homeowners who enter the program actually do not receive relief. The banks do. The administration has admitted that the program hasn't helped many homeowners, who make an additional 9-12 monthly payments but still lose their homes to foreclosure, but they say they're sticking with the program because it spaces out the amount of foreclosures that hit the market at any one time.

Gee, that doesn't sound very progressive or productive to me. That sounds like another bailout plan for banks. It also sounds like some very cynical exploitation of desperate homeowners naive enough to trust the government.

The administration has engaged in many other anti-progressive measures - including forcing the UAW to take 50% pay cuts as part of the auto bailout ("Fuck the UAW!" said Rahm Emanuel), making sure AIG's counterparties got 100 cents on the dollar for the bullshit that was owed to them that was really worth less than 15 cents to the dollar, allowing bailout companies that received TARP and TALF money to hand out millions in year-end bonuses to executives, used stimulus money to help corporations outsource jobs, and has sat on its hands as the unemployment and underemployment rates continue to hover near 10% and 18% respectively.

None of these sound either progressive or productive to me.

But Dear Leader Obama doesn't want to hear any criticism from people on the left. Oh no, if you have any issues with his policies, you can STFU and get drug tested according to Robert Gibbs or just grow up according to Barack Obama.

Well, you know what, guys? Just wait until November when you get the wake-up call and a huge wave of Repubs come into office.

And guess what they'll have?

Subpoena power.

You're going to spend the next two years hiring lawyers and answering questions in every crazy investigation the GOP can think to launch.

And it didn't have to be this way.

You could have followed through on your campaign promises, you could have worked with the left and the base who put you into office in the first place and made sure that we would be ready to vote this November.

Instead you worked with the corporate whores, mocked the left as drug-addled or silly, and then came back to us and used the threat of Speaker Boehner and President Palin to get us to vote for you.

Well, it's not working with me.

I did not vote in 2008 for value-added test scores, Race to the Top, $11.9 billion in food stamp cuts so that McGraw-Hill and Scholastic could have RttT funds for tests, a 40% excise tax on my employer-provided health care plan, a mortgage plan that exploits desperate homeowners but provides gov't largesse to banks, or a continuation of the Bush TARP financial bailout.

You can bet I will NOT be voting for anybody of either party who supported ANY of those policies in either 2010 or 2012.

And with a little luck and some work, we'll be able to say to Obama in 2012 what we said to Adrian Fenty in 2010 - buh-bye.