Saturday, April 25, 2015

The War Against Public Schools and Teachers Resumes Next Week!

Two Committees of the Louisiana House of Representatives next week will go back to work attempting to further dismantle public education and do more damage to the teaching profession.

Great News! I attended the House Ed Committee. Both HB 330 and HB 505 were pulled off the agendy for this committee meeting by their authors. This could mean that they will not be considered at all! Your emails have been very effective!

House Education Committee: 9:00 AM, Wednesday, April 29

So after all the dismal academic results of most of the voucher schools and the audits showing misuse of our tax dollars by greedy voucher school directors, and the terrible academic track record of vouchers nationwide, you may have thought that voucher fever in Louisiana had died down. . .  Wrong! Voucher proponents have a bill to be heard the House Education Committee, Wednesday, April 29 that would allow new voucher schools to enroll more than the present statutory limit of 20% voucher students.

HB 330 by Badon would allow the LDOE to waive the 20% limit of voucher students in some of the voucher schools that have been in operation for less than two years. You see, the problem is that some new private schools have trouble getting off the ground with mostly private paying students, so this would let entrepreneurs start their schools with more publicly funded voucher students if they can convince the LDOE that they have a viable school even before they start! That has not been hard to do with John White's voucher loving LDOE. This is just another scheme to let the privatieers profit using our public school students and our tax money.

Many of these new voucher schools fit my definition of Predatory Schools. That is, private schools and charter schools that get public school funding and attempt to attract only the higher performing students so that their performance will look better than the real public schools. Even though these predatory schools are supposed to be non-discriminatory (The Brumfield Dodd requirement), no one really checks to see that they attract a fair ratio of black or at-risk students. In addition, they have the freedom to reject students with disabilities if they say that they are not equipped to instruct such students, (This exemption greatly boosts their scores on state tests), and they can easily use their discipline policies to remove disruptive and low performing students (further boosting their scores).

So next time you hear the proponents of privatization reciting their slogans and talking points like: "Its time to break up the public school monopoly", or "competition will force all schools to perform better for our students" be aware that these are false claims just to help justify ways of diverting our tax dollars to non-accountable predatory schools. They do not play by the same rules. If this process is allowed to continue, public schools will become the dumping grounds for underprivileged and low performing at-risk students while the managers who run these privatized schools get rich on our tax dollars. As my friend, former School Board Association President, Noel Hammatt often says: "Follow the money."

Note: In addition to the voucher schools, the BASIS Charter schools from Arizona wants to add 5 schools in Louisiana. It is the perfect example of a Pradatory Charter School. We already have magnet schools that perform this function and do not raid our tax dollars for the benefit of millionaires!
Please contact your State Representative and ask him/her to vote against HB 330! 

Representative Ivey wants to remove all job security for teachers

HB 505 by Representative Ivey of the Central area in Baton Rouge would prevent new teachers from ever attaining tenure under any conditions, but more importantly, this bill would allow teachers to be fired at the end of each school year without legitimate reasons. Even new teachers without tenure now get some due process because of  a provision in state law that requires that any disciplinary action against them (including termination) must be supported by valid reasons. The teacher is allowed to have a court review of their termination to determine if it was arbitrary or capricious.

HB 505 would not only eliminate the possibility of a new teacher ever gaining tenure, it would allow all such teachers to be terminated at the end of each school year without the need to provide a valid reason because this new law would give teachers only one year contracts! We need to keep the present law because LAE won several lawsuits last year in cases where teachers were being denied due process.

Governor Jindal and big business groups like LABI like this legislation because their goal is to make every teacher subject to dismissal at any time, for any reason.  Right now it would not apply to experienced teachers, but I predict that if this is successful, they will go after experienced teachers next. Part of their rationale is that if teachers have no job protection, they can be told to work extra hours each day attending meetings to plan test prep or to provide extra tutoring sessions without pay after school or on Saturdays etc. You see, LABI does not want to pay for those extra services with their taxes.  They obviously think that teachers don't have families and that their only goal in life should be to raise the almighty student test scores. You see, big business cannot force their employees to work extra hours without pay because there are federal laws that protect private employees from abuse. LABI companies have to pay their employees overtime when they work overtime but public school employees have no such protection under law. That's why they need this minimal protection under state law which this bill would take away.

Here is a typical scenario, although I am sure good principals would not do this:
A principal of  a public school next school year will be under tremendous pressure from John White to raise the school performance score each year (even if the school already has a high score). The new evaluation system for principals for 2015-16 says that they have to raise their school performance score every year!

This particular principal decides that the only way to improve the student scores on the ever more difficult Common Core tests is for teachers to provide extra tutoring after school and on Saturdays. No matter that most students who are performing poorly will probably not even come to a tutoring session, the teacher will still be responsible for being there in case any kid shows up. On top of that, the principal could require teachers to make phone calls on their own time to parents to recruit kids to the tutoring sessions, or maybe even go to their homes and pick them up and give them a ride to the session. There is no limit to what big business and John White thinks teachers should have to do to raise test scores. These teachers have no protection under federal law about overtime work.  . . they are "professional" public employees.

So if this new law passes, a principal may want teachers to work extra to save the principal from repercussions from John White's punitive new evaluation system. Do teachers who object to this extra work have any recourse? Yes, probably no court would allow them to be fired for refusing to do a bunch of useless overtime. So they could not be fired during the school year, but the principal would let it be known that any teacher who does not donate extra time to the tutoring program or who does not make phone calls to parents would not have their contract renewed for next year, and the teacher would have absolutely no recourse. This is like slave labor! There would no longer be a real teaching profession under these new rules! And you know what's really sad? These extra efforts don't really work for the students that are not motivated. The charter schools that tried these extra work programs have mostly abandoned them because they do not raise scores. Charter schools have found that there is a much more effective way of raising their test scores. Simply dump the low performing students back to the real public schools using strict discipline policies. The real public schools can't refuse them according to law!

Teachers Fight Back to Defend Payroll Deduction Rights; Tuesday, Town Hall telephone meeting and connections to legislators; 11 AM, Thursday April 30 visit to capitol

On Tuesday, April 28, at 6:00 PM LAE and LFT will host a joint town hall meeting by telephone conference call with their members to organize them to oppose efforts by LABI to deny teachers payroll deduction for Union or Association dues.

On Thursday, 11 AM, April 30 the LAE and LFT will sponsor a joint lobby day at the capitol to defend the right of teachers and other public employees to use payroll deduction for Union or Association dues. (This is open to both members and non-members)

HB 418 by Bishop of Lafayette is a blatant attack on teacher organizations. It will be heard in the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on Thursday. It's purpose is to weaken as much as possible the organizations that fight for teacher rights and that oppose the privatization of schools and the implementation of reckless and punitive reforms of our public schools.

This is a very critical fight, because I believe these teacher organizations are the last real hope for public schools and professional benefits and rights for teachers.

I urge teachers to join in this effort.

Parent's Rally to Erase Common Core; 10:00 AM, April 29 

I personally feel that this is an important cause because I believe that further implementation of the CCSS and the PARCC testing will be a disaster for Louisiana Schools. Here is the Facebook page for the event. Parents and teachers who oppose the CCSS will meet on the capitol steps at 10:00 to hear leaders and to go inside the capitol to lobby their legislators.

I urge parents to join in this effort. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

See the New Blog: Crawfish Are Real!

Parents and Educators opposed to the Common Core Standards have created a new blog to explain their opposition and to give out real information, not fantasy unicorns, about why the Common Core will not work in Louisiana.
This is the web site:

The group asked me to give them a concise list of real facts about why the Common Core is not appropriate for our students and for our state. I was happy to do so, and the ten points I gave them are featured in the new blog. Thank you to the dedicated and well informed moms for fighting this important battle for their children!

Please take the time to read their carefully thought out arguments and the very real reasons why Louisiana needs to act to stop this insanity before it does more damage.

Here is a cool photo of their troops attacking the capitol. 

Take no prisoners!

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.