Saturday, February 18, 2017

Betsy and Randi and Bears Oh My!

Betsy and BodyGuard Flee Three Protestors, US Marshals Brought In

Betsy Blackwater tried to slither into a D.C. school through a back door and was turned away by a crowd of about 5 protestors and several reporters trotting alongside her in case she said something stupid enough to merit jotting down. Instead she was hustled back to her black Suburban with a look of constipated angst furrowed into her brow. She's now being protected by U.S. Marshals in case another retired teacher or angry parent drops a "Shame!" chant on her or stretches their arms across a doorway to block her.

After taking a lame stab at humor  -- Where can I find the pencils? hee hee hee --and being twitter roasted 50 ways from recess, she's come out with her first impressions of the teaching profession and trust me you will not be surprised. "Teachers," it seems to the billionheiress by injection of the Amway fortune, "are waiting to be told what to do." Here's the entire quote in her own imbecilic words: 

“They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child,” DeVos told a columnist for the conservative online publication Townhall. “You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”

Mmmm, yeauuuuh. An incredibly bizarre take on the profession coming from someone who's never practiced it, has no background in it nor in its administration and has never allowed any of her own precious spawn to be exposed to the professionals who've dedicated their lives and careers to it. Teachers do their jobs and teach. If they wait to be told anything it's to divine the latest nonsensical gotchas contained in the latest round of arbitrary and capricious directives from the whatever reformy top down bureaucrats hold sway over their district and/or state ed departments. 

How many data points do I need to include in my SLO's this time? How many artifacts do I need to unearth from the bottom of my coffee saturated messenger bag and by what measure do I bet against myself to move students from arbitrary point A to capricious point D in whichever unrealistic interval of time I am allowed with kids who don't come to school, come to school and sleep or come to school 4 levels below their grade level? Yeah Bets, if you think you caught a whiff of teachers waiting on something, trust me they're not waiting on you to come rolling in on your white horse of the edupocalypse anointing us with vouchers and your wealthy white privileged version of the Jayzus, no, far from it. The only thing teachers have learned over the past, what? 10 years? is what exactly are the arbitrary and capricious gotchas du jour by which teachers will be attacked and declared unfit to practice their profession? THAT'S the ONLY time I see teachers WAITING for anything Besty. They find out what hoops they're forced to jump through to keep their jobs then they do it and return to teaching kids. 

Of course she managed to toss in a couple of edu buzzwords to try and make herself sound credible. "Empowered" "Great Teaching" Too bad she couldn't have handled Al Franken's simple question about her position on the Growth vs Proficiency debate. It would've earned her some of the cred she's trying to find on Ebay and in ed reformer crib notes. 

To be fair Devos didn't have to visit a school to make the comment she made. Based on the reports from teachers who described her visit to the school -- they did eventually find an unguarded side door to sneak her into -- the teaching Devos witnessed had nothing to do with her statement. She's just trying to lay down her opening line of rhetoric upon which she will complain that unions are interfering with great teaching and labor contracts are too restrictive to allow great teaching. Surely this will be followed up with plans to offer vouchers to schools who aren't bound by unions and contracts. We'd all be disappointed too if at some point she didn't decide that these contract and union bound schools were receiving far more in federal funds than they truly deserve. We've seen it already. We know it better than she does. 

If there's any one party running loose on the public ed scene who needs to simply STFU and GTFO it's this dipshit who completely mischaracterized what transpired and in typical slimeball fashion is already trying to suck up to the reformers:

Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson.We don't condone such acts.We want her to go to pub schls

— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) February 10, 2017

No. We Don't Want That. And you heard wrong Randi. Nobody came anywhere near her. Get your facts straight before you shoot your mouth off. Better yet get your facts straight then shut it. Your remarks can only make things worse for teachers. Collect your hefty paycheck and go back to rescuing the Nigerian school girls or trying to attack the Nurse's Union for daring to support Bernie Sanders. Yours is the last voice we want to hear in any discussion of public education. Your eruptions only serve to remind us that we need to dismantle and retool teacher unions as badly as we need the same with Democrats if we're ever going to support them again in anything. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Steven Singer Bids Adieu to Flotsam and Jetsam

I cut and pasted this from Steven Singer's blog. 
I couldn't agree more. Time to say bye bye.

Dear Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia:

Unions are facing hard times.

We are under attack by the new fascist wing of the Republican party.

So-called “right to work” laws are being drafted at the national level to strip us of our rights and transform us into the factory slaves of The Gilded Age. New court challenges at the state and federal level could make it next to impossible to collect dues without allowing countless free riders. And in the mass media criticism of teacher tenure is mounting despite widespread ignorance of what it even means.

More than ever we need to be united in our efforts to fight the forces of regression and tyranny. We need each other to protect our public schools and our students from those who would do them harm. But the biggest obstacle to doing that isn’t Donald Trump. Nor is it Mike Pence, Steve Bannon or even Betsy DeVos.

It is you. Both of you.

Frankly, as Presidents of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), you have become a distraction.

When DeVos was blocked by protesters from entering a Washington, D.C., school this week, Randi actually took her side. She tweeted:

“Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson.We don’t condone such acts.We want her to go to pub schls.”

How dare you dictate to protesters what “we” want!?

This action may not have been something you, personally, condone. But DeVos just got away with purchasing her position as U.S. Secretary of Education. She and her billionaire family paid off mostly Republican lawmakers to the tune of $200 million allowing her to become the titular head of our nation’s public schools. This despite having never attended a public school, refusing to protect special education students, refusing to hold charter and voucher schools to the same standards, even refusing to keep guns out of our children’s classrooms! Well, Betsy, your money may buy you the title, but it buys you zero respect!

Randi, your statement just goes to show how tone deaf you and Lily are to the spirit of the rank and file.

We are not somewhat distressed at what is happening to our schools and our profession. We are enraged! We are taking to the streets! We are occupying our lawmakers offices and marching through community thoroughfares! And we aren’t throwing shade on other protesters behind the safety of Twitter.

For many of us, you both represent everything wrong with unionism. We are a people powered movement. We get our strength from the grassroots up, but you both try to rule from the top down.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the early endorsements by both unions of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Neither one of you made an honest effort to gauge member opinions on these endorsements before going ahead. You thought you knew better. You pushed through these endorsements despite a strong vein of support for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

Sanders was much more in-line with our needs and values. And he had much more support among progressives and independents. He had a much better chance of winning! Meanwhile, Clinton was just another neoliberal in a long line of neoliberals like President Barack Obama who would offer us only the back of their hands.

You wanted a seat at the table, and you didn’t mind how much it would cost the rest of us.

Lily, when you took the reins of the NEA in 2014, you famously said “We are what Democracy looks like.” I was never more proud of my union than at that moment. But that pride has turned to ashes in my mouth.

Many of us will never forgive either of you for the results of this election. We blame you for Trump.

Had you not dictated to us that we must support Clinton, had you supported a candidate with a real chance of wining, there is little doubt that we could have defeated the clown currently in the Oval Office. Moreover, under a President Sanders we would have had a real chance at a progressive future that benefits everyone – $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, sanctuary cities, justice reforms, fair trade, free college tuition.

Trump did not win alone. Unwittingly, you were his biggest supporters. It was your hubris – along with that of corporate Democrats deaf to the voices of their base – that gave us these next four years. And none of you have learned your lesson.

Lily, your three-year term is up this year. Randi, your two-year term is up in summer 2018.

We can wait you out if we must. But do what’s best for the people you claim to represent. Step down now.

Otherwise, you can look for opposition in our Representative Assemblies.

Let me be clear. I don’t think either of you have broken any by-laws. I don’t think there is evidence for impeachment (if our by-laws even allow it). But members could easily make a motion from the floor for a vote of no confidence.

Support may already be mounting for such positions at the Region level. It could go to the State House of Delegates as a New Business Item and get a majority vote from the floor. Or perhaps at our next Representative Assembly, someone will just make a motion.

I don’t know if it would pass. But I know that this division among us is holding us back from being the force we can be. I know that it has stopped many of us from talking about how we fight external forces, because we are instead focused on enemies from within.

We want to transform our unions. We no longer want to focus solely on collective bargaining. We want to focus on social justice and the needs of our students and communities. To be sure, our labor rights are essential to this fight, but they cannot be everything nor can we be willing to give up on the needs of our students if the powers that be will only leave our salaries and benefits intact.

We want a union that is more at home in the streets than in the boardroom. We want leaders who mobilize us to fight not tell us what to think. We need leaders that listen to us – not the other way around.

As a classroom teacher and education activist, I make this request in no official capacity for any of the various groups to which I belong. I ask as merely another member of the NEA. I have no affiliation with the AFT.

Moreover, I have nothing personal against either of you. We met briefly at the Network for Public Education conference in Chicago two years ago. You were both congenial and inspiring. It may not seem like it now, but I hold tremendous respect for both of you. I think in your own ways you have accomplished much that benefits our members.

But the time has come to step down. You believe in accountability. Hold yourselves accountable.

Put the strength of our unions first. Let it no longer be about you. Let it be about us.

Here’s hoping you’ll do the right thing.


Steven Singer

NEA and PSEA member

P.S. – If any NEA or AFT member reads this open letter and agrees with the sentiments expressed here, please add your name and union affiliation in a comment on my blog.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Betsy Devos Gets the Bum's Rush

If you haven't seen this yet and I doubt you haven't it's worth another look.

Betsy Devos tried to sneak in the back door of a school in Washington D.C. and was headed off by what looks like about 5 protestors. The crowd was reported to be made up of retired teachers and parents. What's great about this is that none of these people had a voice as Devos smirked and played stupid cat and mouse games with Tim Kaine as he pressed her to answer a question about funding and disabled students. Nobody was able to yell Are you fucking kidding me?! as Devos tried to bullshit Al Franken about where she stood on the debate of proficiency vs growth. 

It was painfully clear she had no idea what he was talking about yet she tried to play the glib bullshitter the way the guy who appointed her did yesterday with no translating earpiece nodding and pretending to understand Japanese. Nobody got to stand up blasting an air horn and slapping a pair of pimp shades on Elizabeth Warren as she pantsed Devos on her complete lack of anything resembling experience running a student loan department. The GOP Senators pretended not to notice how obscenely incompetent and unqualified she came across and they were voting for her if she walked out in a grizzly bear costume firing a potato gun. They really didn't care what she said or how stupid she looked. The deal was done.  

When the people are kept out of the government and billionaires are able to buy their way into it there is going to be some shit. This door blockade is only the first of what promises to be a withering and relentless storm of blowback from the disenfranchised, the pissed off and the tired of standing by and being bent over by billionaires. I don't think Betsy is going to be much of a quick learner either. A day after she'd been chased away from the back door and ushered past an array of dumpsters she hops on twitter trying to be funny asking where she can find the pencils. 

The results were hilariously predictable:

 I don't know, maybe go to a public school and get one?

Nasty Woman

Easy DFeb 8
 Why don't you buy some pencils like you bought off your confirmation?
Feb 8
 probably next to your bible and cross. Let's make America dumb and religious again right?
Regulos McScribblesFeb 8
   thank you for siding with corrupt billionaires over America's children. Stay classy.

What's great about Betsy's rough start is it reminds me of another incompetent hand picked hack who ended up pissing Andrew Cuomo off so badly that he traded him to Washington DC for a box of copying paper and some white out. She will be terrible and I expect she will handle pressure and criticism terribly. The last we can do is keep her in the spotlight. As teachers we comfort the afflicted. In this case we also need to afflict the comfortable. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Buffalo Board of Ed Whiffs on Their Resolution

It's good to see the Board of Ed in B-Lo making an effort to confront Carl Paladino on his most recent sampling of racist hate spew. In theory they are forcing the moment to its crisis as Eliot might've said. But are they? I've noted elsewhere that board member Hope Jay's career trajectory reminds me of another lawyer who happens to be a woman who did time on the board en route a judgeship. Credit to Jay for crafting the whereases and the wherefores of the document. I question the endgame of said missive though as the ultimatum to Carl to get outta town before sundown is offset with a wimpy threat to involve NYSED Commissioner Elia should sundown come and go and Carl remain in his seat petulant and politically incorrect as ever. In the classroom and in parenting 101 class we call this giving away your authority. You've heard the rookie parents and teachers telling rambunctious kiddies they'd better behave or (the Principal, Grandpa, Uncle Sean) is going to be mad at them. 

If I needed any more evidence in the year 2016 that the end is nigh I guess I found it in the Buffalo News this morning when I found myself agreeing in principle and fact with none other than former Buffalo Board of Ed member and freewheeling CEO of Gateway Longview, Mr.  Diamond Jim Sampson. Of all people I guess I never figured Sampson to be the one who'd cut through the obfuscation and self congratulatory back patting of Hope Jay's twitter account to spell out where this proposition goes off the rails like one of those slow motion door opening farts. Here's the gilded one speaking truth to good intentions:

"I appreciate that the criterion for removal is very narrow, however, I believe that to remove an elected school board member, overturning an election, it should be done by the Board of Education, providing for transparent, open hearings and ensuring due process," said former School Board President James Sampson. "The Board of Education should not defer to the Commissioner who is far removed from our community and whose decision is essentially made behind closed doors.  It is messy but the right thing to do. "

It is messy but it's the right thing to do. Amen to that James Sampson. Surely you recall Carl turning on Sampson calling him spineless and a raccoon or some such Carlesque thing and insisting that dear friend Lars Quinn be installed as Board President upon Sampson's execution or waterboarding or whatever extreme measure Paladino had in store for him. But when you read what Sampson said it's clear he's not playing tit for tat the way Carl and his mentor like to do. What Sampson is saying is that the board needs to own this decision and to act as the agent of its execution. The problem with the Jay letter is that it whips everyone into a frenzy of imminent action then subcontracts that action to a third party whose loyalties in matters of education lie much closer to Carl Paladino's than to The Board of Regents, NYSUT or the Buffalo Board of Education.

In subcontracting the hit, if you will, to Mary Ellen Elia the Buffalo Board of Education has abdicated its role in pursuing the removal of Carl Paladino and opened up any number of kinder gentler options to a mercenary of ed reform's revolving door of interchangeable fixers. I am seeing some kind of mandated sensitivity training, an in-service or two and the usual circle jerk of self improvement pamphlets and faux contrition we see from professional athletes, celebrities and politicians when they get it caught in the pickle cutter but nobody has the nerve to sack them. 

Attorney Hope Jay tells the News she doesn't think the Board has the authority to remove a member but the news contacts three other lawyers who say the  Board does in fact have the juice to pull the plug on Carl. This leaves us with two possible scenarios: Hope Jay isn't the sharpest lawyer in the tool shed for not knowing this. Or she did know it but didn't want to deal with the icky and brutal process of taking on a swamp dweller with the resources and temperament of Sir Carl. And as if 2016 hasn't been surreal enough, let me end by wholeheartedly agreeing with Carl Paladino himself when he tells the News  “The Board of Education’s action today is certainly not an illustration of a profile in courage or leadership.” Even a blind gorilla finds a banana once in a while. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Be Careful What We Wish For?

With all due cynicism I expect the worst  of the ruckus has passed for Carl Paladino in regard to his most recent ejaculation of unfunny racist hate spew. Sure some people were offended and proclamations were read. Phonecalls were made and answered. Hands were wrung and fists shaken but in the end guess what folks? Carl can wish the President of the United States an undignified death caused by bovine bestiality and he can call the guy's wife a gorilla too. He can further take a swipe at the transgendered community implying the the First Lady is really a man in drag and when anyone asks if he's for real he can sit back and say Go fuck yourselves. He just did. Frankly friends I am here to say he's going to get away with it the same as he has every other fucking time he's done it. Or are we so daft in our naive teacher's view of the world that we honestly believe Mary Ellen Elia the Commissioner of New York State Education is going to wade into this swamp, drain it and emerge with Carl slung over her shoulder scarf like Troy Landry or Willie Edwards from down Pierre Part Louisiana way?  

Don't hold your breath. 

The deep dark irony here friends is no matter what anybody says about Carl the Churl's latest outburst, a sickening majority of the prominent people up in arms agree wholeheartedly with Paladino's desires to dismantle public education and hand the whole thing over to corporate privatizers who will put profits ahead of proficiency. At the top of this list is Barack Obama his own self. Once upon a time the nation celebrated a quaint little thing called "Teacher Appreciation Week" the final week of April. Every year since Obama has been in office he's rebranded this same week "National Charter Schools Week." A nervy and unsubtle fuck you to public schools and their teachers as well as the Stockholm Syndrome afflicted union leaders who insist on throwing cash and endorsements at people like Obama and his Democrats. Carl Paladino collects huge sums of money renting properties to charters. He bought the Holy Angels property to turn that into a charter with one of his pals. Obama's Race to the Top made life even easier for charters and attempted to turn public schools against each other in a feeding frenzy for cash and perks in roughly the same manner used car managers will tack a $50 up as a spiff for the next guy who gets the sale. 

It's kind of hilarious to me how Carl doesn't see Obama as a brother in ed reform when you look at the way their sensibilities line up on this topic. Likewise with Andrew Cuomo, Cory Booker and Sam Radford III of DPCC. While Cuomo and Booker felt the need to speak out, Sam borrows a page from fellow ed reformer Larry Quinn in refusing to step up and throw a stone at Paladino. Instead of blasting Paladino full force Sam chose instead to quietly retweet a Cory Booker offering and another from CNN that briefly discusses Carl's latest step in manure. You see, even in a transformational moment like this where CNN and the New York Times are asking Buffalo how a guy like this can sit on our school board we still see prominent players like Quinn and Sam Radford hedging their bets. Carl Paladino just called the POTUS a cowardly cow fucker and his wife a cross dressing gorilla yet Sam and Lars are going to withhold comment. Likewise with gaseous old ex Regent Bob Bennett whose craven declaration that it would be inappropriate to say anything at this time is straight from the book of chickenshit un-speak. Larry Quinn is another one of these limo liberals who likes to remind everyone he's a Democrat as if that confers some kind of country gentleman duck hunter and wood splitter status on his pasty privileged existence. Sam Radford III Posed for a pic with Mr. Obama on at least one occasion when their ed reform streams met. Yet where's the condemnation Sam? Where's the outrage? Crickets. 

I hate to be the greybeard in sandals and a "Don't Blame Me I Wrote in Bernie" t-shirt but sometimes you have to own what you stand for and who you really are. Fact is these people calling for Carl's resignation must know deep down the guy lacks the shame/guilt gear necessary for such a come to Jayzus moment. Carl was Catholic enough to father a child out of wedlock and keep it a secret for years but not Catholic enough to muster a Pope Francis moment of clarity that questions his own past practices in any meaningful way. So resignation is out. What about the bylaws? Isn't there something in there about the good of students and the duties of a school board member? If there is why hasn't it been used already? The NYSED Commissioner option as noted above is laughable. Mary Ellen Elia, like Obama, Cuomo, Booker and Sam has much more in common with Carl and the corporate privatization movement's vision of education policy than with any Buffalo Public School student she's charged to protect from an angry aged venom spitting adder like Paladino who happens to occupy a seat on the school board. 

The common thread here that binds Paladino, DFER, Elia, Sam, Booker and the President is money. Corporate billions have wormed their way into education and we now await the installation of a billionheiress by marriage who's never attended a public school or sent any of her kids to one as the Secretary of Education. Betsy Devos has dedicated her spare time to defunding public education, de-regulating charters and redirecting education funds away from public ed and into unregulated charters. In case you missed it she also thinks the Jayzus sits on her shoulder to cheer all of her efforts. If you've been in a cave or coma for the past 60 days I'm here to tell you Paladino and Donald Trump are pals. If you believe what they say on rightie radio here in Buffalo the two talk at least once a week. And if Paladino is going to resign his school board seat it will only be because Trump's offered him a chance to do damage on a greater scale in his Education Department. This is just my own personal suspicion, I'll admit it. Paladino reminds me of that certain student we've all experienced whose idea of the last day of school is not one of a fond farewell as much as it's his last chance to take a final swipe at the adults who've put up with his nonsense for  a year. I see this latest outburst as Carl jumping out the back door of the cheese bus on the last day of school yelling  "kiss my ass you can't do nothing to me!" Of course I could be wrong and the latest expression of racist hatred may be just more of that swell Buffalo codependence people here have come to call "Carl Being Carl."  Carl Paladino may be heading for greater things or he may just be staying put and continuing to spit bile. We might be careful for we wish for.