Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Anybody Betting On This?




Hell of a time to come outta retirement but I think this issue bears some scrutiny. While I am glad Larry got a ticket to take in the big Paladino hearing I am less than optimistic about the outcome. It's been said elsewhere that state ed commissioners are slow to pull the plug on board members over local disputes, the dynamics of this case are going to diminish those odds from slim to somewhere around infinitesimal. Not because Paladino has the right to spew any kind of bigoted hateful bile he wants -- though some will say he has exactly that right -- but because Mary Ellen Elia and Carl Paladino play for the same team in the larger scheme of things. 

Remember, before Elia took her brown parachute from Hillsborough School District in Florida and leaped into the loving arms of Meryl Tisch, she'd been dancing with Bill Gates's millions and toeing the ed reform line with lots of testing and lots of talk about 5% of the teaching force being fired on Gates's say-so. She is no friend of public education and no friend of teachers. In case anyone is suffering from a case of mid June brain flatulence, let me remind you she shares quite a bit of common ground with Carl and Lars Quinn and their unflappable drink fetcher Patti Pierce. Like a lot of my fellows I honestly believe removing Paladino from the board would be an addition by subtraction. But if I were somehow forced to lay money on it I'd have to bet on Carl. 

As local lawyer to the stars and the vexed who are able to pay, Paul Cambria said today, there are many options available to Elia between doing nothing and giving Paladino the hook. When someone of Elia's ilk is forced into a corner as she has been in this situation you can rest assured she's going to choose the path of least resistance. I am thinking she's going to do the Commissioner's version of the Principal "putting a letter in his file." Whatever form the censure takes you can be sure it will be toothless and pointless but somehow will allow her and Paladino's detractors to save face. She can say his behavior didn't meet the threshold for removal but it did warrant a strongly worded letter. Paladino can say "See I toldjas." And everyone else will say "There now he doesn't look so smug. Three or four more of those letter and he'll be out on his ass."

In the wacky world the ed reform class has made of public education it's fair to assume expectations on teachers will be unreasonably high while those on reform friendly administrators and foot soldiers like Elia will be virtually non-existent. As Christopher Hitchens an avowed atheist said of his impending death from esophageal cancer, I still don't believe. But I do like surprises. 
Surprise us all, Mary Ellen.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's the Stupid, Stupid.



A Facebook friend posted a pic of Jeff Sessions on or about the day we learned Sessions used some alternative truths in his confirmation questioning -- remember the part where he forgot to tell everyone he was just kidding when he insisted he hadn't met with any Russians during the campaign? In the comments below I think I called Sessions a redneck pile of shit. Said FB friend saw me my remark and raised me with his own equally blunt assessment of the guy who was too racist to be a judge in the 80's but just racist enough to be Attorney General in the current clowncar known as the Presidential Cabinet. Truth be told I've never even met the friend in question. We share a fondness for left leaning policies and their practitioners, food, Key West and mountain bikes among other things. I also have reason to believe he is a retired or possibly still working teacher and Buffalonian. But you know how these things go on social media. Friends of friends are close enough so you kind of roll together. 

Out of the clear Blue or maybe I should say the Red sky comes Eugenia T. GreatAgain, who must be a friend of my friend as I know nothing of her. She names us both and points out that "not all of us are rednecks you know, we just want what's best for our country. And you both need to be careful, you're coming pretty close to being racist" My usual response to an unknown collective "us" is You got a mouse in your pocket? But in this case I suggested she might want to recede to her safe space before she melts in the face of all this meanness. She then shoots back that I must have anti-social behaviors, a word she's doubtless gleaned from countless hours of staring slackjawed at Dr, Phil and Oprah. Usually I opt for the block option at this point as I don't know this person nor do I care to and I guess it's considered bad form to flay unknown friends of friends on their walls. Instead I offered this summary of the situation:"I posted a comment about a politician which you internalized and took to be about you. Then you proceeded to tell me I was flirting with racism." I saw later that she'd responded again but instead of reading it I went to Wally Cox for the block. If you're old you get that. 

I guess the point is friends there's a lot of stupid out there. The fact that I am calling a southern politician with a questionable at best history of race relations a redneck strikes me as an in house remark. I am white. He is white. I cracked him for being the kind of white guy that makes being a white guy a shitty thing. A white lady jumps into the fray after deciding I was talking about her when I called Jeff Sessions a redneck telling me I'm flirting with racism. A white guy cracking another white guy being told by a white woman that he's as good as racist makes about as much sense as Kelly Ann Conway on her best day. Which isn't saying much of course. And just off the top of my head I have to ask what exactly does a fellow middle class white person see in legislation that encourages mining companies to unload all manner of toxins into waterways near mines that would approximate "what's best for our country?" Likewise, if we stick to the water theme, how does this fine middle class white  lady consider removing funding that goes toward protecting the Great Lakes as anything close to "What's best for our country?" I'm sure she's ok with spending billions we don't have on a wall we don't need while kids in Flint are guzzling lead in their tap water too. But I have to ask At what point is this "what's best for our country?"  

Those of us who waited in the rain for hours to hear Bernie Sanders speak saw how he was marginalized by the machinations of  DNC insiders. We were told to give Hillary our vote and giver her a chance. And when that didn't work we watched as a crude, ignorant bully and bigot was sworn in a #45. Give him a chance we were told again. Since he's been President #45 has played golf in Florida, what? every weekend? He's continued to shoot his mouth off on twitter and elsewhere and shows no signs of any Saul like conversion on the roads to Damascus or Mara Lago. The only conclusion I can reach as a resident of this planet for 55 years now and a public school teacher for 29 of them is that we're being asked to keep giving stupid a chance. Stupid, friends, is not working. It hasn't worked, it isn't working and it won't work. We need to say no to stupid a dozen times a day if that's what it takes. Just say no to stupid. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Secretary of Education: A Fine Tradition of Dunces

Portrait of Addition By Subtraction 
In Arne Duncan the Obama administration had a useful idiot who'd drive the corporate reform agenda and keep the POTUS sharp on the basketball court. Apparently Arne had played semi-pro, off Broadway basketball in the Tenerife' intramural leagues at some point but settled for handing out test packets to America with the help of his Bachelor's degree in Sociology. Arne for the record had never spent a minute teaching in a classroom anywhere. In November of 2013 Arne put his semi-pro sized Chuck Taylor in his mouth and pissed off the White Suburban Mom  population suggesting that her kid wasn't as smart as she thinks he is. What's more is he was touting Common Core in the process. Here's Arne: saying pushback against CCSS is coming from...“white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”  His actual quote is dizzying in its arrogance and nastiness. I wonder if he thought because he was addressing state school superintendents that nobody would know he said it or was he really so clueless and bereft of judgment that he didn't think it was an objectionable remark? The world will never know but my guess is yes to both queries. Up until then Arne had made the usual amount of gaffes on smaller levels but the "WSM" bombshell as it became known on Facebook was a Waterloo moment in Arne's career as the face of American corporate ed reform. 

Meanwhile, a month before Arne's White Suburban Mom Massacre, we here in the Empire State had our own little Arne, aka Lil John King who was melting down bigly on stage in Spackenkill NY . King and his handlers -- Dowager Empress Tisch and Regentus Flatulentus Bob Bennett -- went there to shut parents and teachers up on the topic of high stakes testing. I'm not always one to click the links and watch the videos but if you click one link today click this one where the little weasel monopolizes the forum and refuses to let anyone else speak then lies about the use of high stakes tests in his own kids' Montessori school. He also declares his own kids off limits for discussion not realizing that sending his own kids to a private school where none of this ridiculous testing occurs might appear hypocritical to parents whose own kids are throwing up and crying from test anxiety. While people in the video clip are telling him to sit down and shut up and that he's already had his turn King drones on mercilessly. 

I'd never lined up the timelines of these two failures and their downward trajectories before but it makes perfect sense that Arne was flaming out in D.C. while King tried to take his standardized tests and go home in a snit. He actually cancelled the rest of his Shut Up and Take the Test Tour or tried to after being thoroughly pantsed by the people he'd been appointed to do right by. But Andrew Cuomo and his corporate ed campaign donors were not hearing it. Lil John was taken out to the woodshed by Tisch and told to get out there and stand up to those bullies. Can't you just hear her saying I aint raising no punks? Remember now this is a guy who once told an audience he'd sooner eat an undercooked steak and quaff a glass of stale wine than tell the waiter he had a problem with his meal. John King wouldn't, as the saying goes say shit if he had a mouthful, yet here he was trying to fight parents and getting his ass whooped in public. Imagine the angst. You can see why he chooses to take his lumps when you what a terrible fighter he is.  

It wasn't long before someone found a youth basketball league for Arne to ref or a sneaker company to shill for and Obama sent him back to Chicago with a nice size 12 Jordan print on his ass. About the same time Andrew Cuomo had supped full of horrors on John King's tragic performance as the head of NYSED and was looking to bundle him up for a draft pick and a box of tape. Remember too that King lacked the teaching experience and the credentials needed for the NYSED gig but friendly pols and hacks ignored the regs and handed him the job qualified no but politically wired yes. Why you may wonder am I wasting a 60 degree morning in February in Buffalo NY rehashing the last two stooges to hold the title Secretary of Education? Fair enough. While we're outraged and disgusted that a dilettante know nothing like Betsy Devos has been allowed to buy a cabinet seat in the #45 cavalcade of 1%ers, I have to ask how different this is than Penny Pritzker of Hyatt Hotel fortune and Chicago pal of Obama being installed as Secretary of Commerce? Her own workers despised her and she treated them like shit. We've seen this game before is my point. And if an unqualified dope is being seated in the Department of Education we can safely say she's just the third stooge in a succession of friends and family hiring to take the seat. 

Betsy's debut as we've seen has been a disaster. She was repelled from the back door of a school by a total of about 3 protestors and has since been armored with US Marshals. Nothing says approachable and in your corner like a US Marshal on either shoulder and that moron Randi Weingarten posing for selfies as she trails along in your wake. Devos, as noted previously, tried a funny on twitter and got flamed by teachers and parents. Then she accused teachers of standing around waiting to be told what to do and was roasted by the very teachers she'd observed when they finally found an unguarded door to slide her in. My friend Burkie in high school knew all the untended doors at the Aud which was handy for sneaking into Van Halen shows and Sabres games. I wonder if Betsy has a guy like that on staff? So the pushback on Betsy Devos in week one has been devastating. She appears flustered and clueless like a lot of what's coming out of the White House. Rumor is she made a feeble attempt to stick up for transgendered kids as #45 rolled back Obama's protections for them. But soon enough she was bullied by the boys and remembered her place as a girl with a checkbook in their big manly world and she caved in. If there's anything I'm finding a little strength and hope in it's this piece by Derek Black that Norm had on his blog a few weeks ago where he offers some calming thoughts: 

The skeptic might say, yeah, but if she wins, she has power and can do what she wants.  Fortunately, that is just not true.  As a reaction to Secretary Duncan's overreach with No Child Left Behind waivers, the Every Student Succeeds Act severely restricted the powers of the Secretary.  As I explain here, the Act shifted an enormous amount of power and discretion back to the states, reducing the Secretary to a paper-pusher.  

Maybe we can thanks Stooge 1 for his over reach and Stooge 2 for going away and leaving New York to fend for itself. If Betsy's little more than a paper pusher for the next 4 years she may just learn something about making bad investments. 

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.

Yours,

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:



USC
 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.