Monday, April 20, 2015

Pink Unicorn Gimmick Backfiring

Last week a big business PAC, called Alliance for Better Classrooms, chaired by Dan Juneau, the former president of LABI and funded primarily by businessman Lane Grigsby and out of state donors delivered stuffed pink unicorns to the desks of all legislators. The message included a note to legislators that purported to dispel myths claimed by the opponents of the Common Core. The most vocal opponents of Common Core in Louisiana are conservative leaning moms of students in public and private schools, who believe that this new curriculum is an illegal effort by the federal government to control education in a way that it is not appropriate for their children.

Let me tell you what I know from speaking directly to these anti-Common Core moms. These parents are intelligent, well-informed individuals who really care about the education and welfare of their children. Usually their children are among the highest performing students in a school. They are the kids you can count on to complete their homework and to study for tests, who seldom get in trouble for being disruptive or breaking school rules. Yet, now many of these kids are being opted out of the faux PARCC tests being given this Spring. The mothers and fathers of these kids are very savvy politically and are quite willing to convert their frustration with the confusing and educationally unsound mandates of Common Core into powerful political organizing.

The use of the pink unicorns by the big business PAC as a way of making fun of the opponents of CCSS and questioning the intelligence and sophistication of the opposing moms has created a firestorm of political activity that will activate even more protesters. This pink unicorn gimmick was a huge mistake, and is finally making parents really aware of the arrogant know-it-all attitude of the big business bosses like Juneau, and Grigsby about education reform. I am willing to bet that these guys have never read the CCSS, have never talked about CCSS with teachers who have been directed to teach it, have never tried to answer the sample questions of the PARCC test, and have never read up on the history about the writers of the CCSS. But I can assure you that the anti-Common Core moms have done all of the above.

For example, parents are now contacting the list of businesses and chambers of commerce that were listed on the ABC PAC website as supporters of Common Core. Parents told the managers of Community Coffee that they would stop buying Community Coffee if the company continued to promote a cause that these parents believe is detrimental to their children. It turns out that none of the Community Coffee managers had ever read up on the CCSS and had just taken the word of LABI that this was good for our schools. They immediately asked that the name of their company be removed from the pro-Common Core list and explained that their company was "neutral" on this issue. The same thing happened with one of the local chambers of commerce. The pink unicorn gimmick is backfiring! 

Parents are finally connecting the dots about how big business plans to push the CCSS, the PARCC testing and the grading of schools, partly to force the privatization and charterization of more and more public schools. These parents who are politically active are finding out that such privatization means that their tax dollars will be going to private for-profit charter and voucher managers who are not responsive to the voters.  They have their own hand picked boards. Have you ever heard the old Revolutionary War slogan “No taxation without representation”? Parents are realizing that that’s what this privatization campaign means. Even parents who already send their children to private school have figured out that the CCSS campaign combined with the privatization movement means that private schools will eventually be mandated to adopt Common Core and accept the demands of the Federal Government in the operation of all schools. They absolutely do not want the Federal Government dictating policy and methods to our schools!

LABI, ABC PAC and CABL are the same big business groups that pushed for Acts 1 and 2 in 2012 that were designed to take power to operate schools away from local school boards and give it to the State Superintendent and BESE. These two laws mandated more charter schools, more voucher schools, and removed the requirement that teachers in such schools have education degrees.  State Superintendent John White is totally supportive of Federal control of our schools. Some public school systems have even had special masters appointed by the LDOE that were given full authority in contradiction to state law to rule over the discipline policies of those systems. The authority for such action supposedly came from federal rules that restrict disciplinary measures over certain handicapped students.  But the authority of these special masters was applied instead to all students and all disciplinary actions, often tying the hands of principals to enforce discipline in their schools. Such masters had no authority over charter schools however, who used their discipline policies to dump disruptive and low performing students back into the real public schools.

These are the kind of results you can expect from federal control of our schools. That is of course in addition to the incessant standardized testing (some 3rd graders have to take up to 12 hours of testing in the CCSS) and pressuring teachers to teach to the almighty tests.

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