Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blaise Nutter: Everyone Agrees Bad Teachers Are The Main Problem

Apparently anybody can write at Huffingtonpost these days without any prior knowledge, experience or expertise about the subject or issue they are writing about.

A fellow named Blaise Nutter wrote this glowing review of the Waiting for Superman propaganda/documentary/cartoon about education coming out in September.

In his review, Mr. Nutter writes:

Everyone agrees that the main problem with schools is bad teachers.

What is Nutter's evidence for this prognosis?

He saw the movie Waiting for Superman.

Uh, huh - that's it.

He is not an educator and has never taught anything anywhere near a public school. He has worked as an account executive and writer for HR Public Relations, a boutique PR firm specializing in the travel industry, however, so that surely gives him the expertise, knowledge, and experience to declare "Everyone agrees that the main problem with schools is bad teachers."

Perhaps by "everyone," Mr. Nutter means everyone HE KNOWS - as in, all the folks at the boutique PR firm specializing in the travel industry.

But if Mr. Nutter got out more, say to a few public schools other than the sexy charters like KIPP and Harlem Children's Zone schools journalists like Bob Herbert and David Brooks seem to visit over and over again before writing their "teachers unions are evil" columns, he would know that the issue is so much more complex than "Everyone agrees that the main problem with schools is bad teachers."

In fact, if "journalists" like the Herbert, Brooks and the rest of the Timesmen and and Timeswomen also got out a little more and actually reported on the consequences of the Obama/Gates/Broad/Bloomberg education reform movement they so often applaud, they would know it is wreaking more destruction than even NCLB did.

Diane Ravitch - an illustrious education expert with a lot more experience, knowledge and expertise in the field than all of those "journalists" and politicians and bloggers named above combined - says so right here.

Unfortunately, people seem to think watching an hour and a half piece of propaganda and/or cartoon about education gives them all the knowledge, expertise and experience they need to make huge policy decisions that will affect and harm millions of children and teachers.

I do look forward to the next Blaise Nutter post wherein Mr. Nutter watches a Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote cartoon, declares himself an expert on roadside explosions caused by Acme products and says "Everybody agrees the main problem with highway accidents these days is the wide availability of Acme explosives."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dylan Ratigan: Financial Reform Is "Window Dressing"

Over at The Big Picture, Dylan Ratigan posted what is wrong with the "sweeping" financial reform passed by House and the Senate.

I re-post it in full, with links.

It is that good.

And important for you to read.

Go to it:

The same Washington spinsters who have driven our country into the ground seem to be out in full force this morning, claiming that their latest policy “victory” is the most “sweeping change” of our financial regulatory since the Great Depression.

Actually, it is nothing more than window dressing.

The real sweeping change of our financial system took place over the past 20 years. The irresponsible repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. The Commodities and Futures Modernization Act of 2000 by Larry Summers and Bob Rubin — the one that legalized the most destructive financial instruments of all, derivatives. The leverage exemption at the SEC in 2004, asked for (in person) and received by Hank Paulson and friends.

Of course, there are small victories here — there is better investor protection and, most importantly, an awakened citizenry.

What’s not fixed?

- The Cops (regulators and ratings agencies) working for the crooks.

- Banks still Too Big To Fail.

- Banks gambling with your deposits.

- Banks allowed to “mark to myth” and use off-balance sheet accounting to bonus themselves into the atmosphere, with the taxpayer taking the fall.

- Banks getting trillions from the Fed, Fannie and Freddie — AKA you, the future and present taxpayer.

What does it mean for us?

It means that the same people who brought you these horrible changes — rising wealth discrepancy, massive unemployment and a crumbling infrastructure – have now further institutionalized the policies that will keep the causes of these problems firmly in place.

Meanwhile, all involved in the facade try to pretend that this should be considered a success because, gosh, real financial reform is just too hard and those crafty banksters will just outsmart us anyhow. Many in the media are either too complicit, too confused or too lazy to contradict this spin, but the rest of us shouldn’t buy that BS. Real and lasting financial reform is actually quite easy to implement — and the last time we had a crisis of this magnitude, we kept the banksters in check for 70 years.

Time and time again in America, they don’t win — we do.

And I believe as we head towards election time with leaders whose only plan for creating new jobs is a few more workers manicuring soon-to-be even bigger Bankster bonus-fueled estates coupled with a few more government handouts, this lesson will be learned once again.

I hope Mr. Ratigan is right and the politicians who brought us this phony "reform" lose this November.

I suspect with grateful Wall Streeters, banksters and hedge fund folks throwing their bailout-enabled money at the crooked politicians, they will NOT lose this November.

And the status quo will remain.

But as always, I am happy to be wrong.

Garbage Reform

Some pundits are talking about what a "successful" year President Hopey/Changey has had by getting both health care reform and financial reform done in less than four months.

But the health care reform law was a major giveaway to the health insurance industry (31 million new customers for piece of shit health care that they will barely be able to afford after they pay the premiums.) People with employer-provided health care insurance will lose the quality of their care once the 40% excise tax kicks in and employers begin dropping their coverage or replacing it with cheaper coverage (this was the cost savings President Hopey/Changey wanted and why he refused to drop the excise tax from the law.)

This is NOT a good law, but it won't become apparent until all that stuff kicks in a few years down the road - after President Hopey/Changey finishes his second term (if he wins one.)

As for financial reform:

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Washington's plan for Wall Street will disappoint the financial industry, but its grieving should be short lived.


There are new restrictions on how banks can participate in hedge funds and private equity along with new limits on proprietary trading - guidelines championed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.


The final bill has its weaker spots too -- as the rally of bank stocks in pre-market trading suggests.

It fails to address the lingering problems of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A new consumer protection agency will be run by the Fed, a defeat for reformers who wanted a stronger, stand-alone agency. Regulations for community banks, payday lenders, check-cashing companies and auto-lenders were weakened. There are still plenty of loopholes since lawmakers dropped a plan to consolidate the alphabet soup of regulation. Read story on how tougher provisions were compromised.

Expect Wall Street to exploit these new gaps.

You can tell how Wall Streeters feel about the "reform" by how they bought financial stocks this morning in pre-trading.

That's all you need to know about this garbage financial reform - just like all you needed to know about Obama's garbage health care reform earlier this year was how the Wall Streeters all bought health care and HMO stock when it became clear what the "reform" actually was.

You can expect the administration to push for garbage education reform next and then garbage energy reform.

Next year, after the elections, Social Security "reform" comes.

Watch for that one - Obama loaded that commission with people who want to destroy Social Security and you can expect that to be another giveaway to Wall Street and the banksters and a shot aimed at middle and working class people.

If they just raised the amount of income taxed for Social Security to the first $500,000, the program could be made solvent through the end of the 21st century.

Instead Obama and his commission will claim the program is bankrupt and must be destroyed.

President Hopey/Changey is a disgrace.

With any luck, he'll be perp-walked out of the White House in handcuffs after the Blago trial.

Not that I think that will really happen, but it is nice to contemplate, isn't it?

Blago Aide: Obama Knew About Senate Seat Payoff

The Blago mess gets closer and closer to President Hopey/Changey:

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's chief of staff said on a wiretap that he believed President Obama "knew of Blagojevich's plot to win himself a presidential Cabinet post in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate," the Chicago Sun Times reports.

Said John Harris: "The president understands that the governor would be willing to make the appointment of Valerie Jarrett as long as he gets what he's asked for... The governor gets the Cabinet appointment he's asked for."

Harris had one of the names on that list wrong, so take the story with a grain of salt.

Still, not exactly change we can all believe in, eh?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Governor Christie: Old People Should Live In The Street

Is there anybody in current political life as evil as Chris Christie?

Reuters) - New Jersey politicians are due to battle on Monday over whether to slap a tax on millionaires or cut services for low-income senior citizens and the disabled

The clash in the state legislature is part of a wider battle over how to erase a $10.7 billion budget deficit and is emblematic of the decisions facing states across America whose budget deficits have soared during the recession.

Democrats want to re-impose a one-year tax on millionaires that has been vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Christie. The 10.75 percent tax on income above $1 million would hit 16,000 people, some of them likely to work as financial professionals just across the Hudson River in New York.

Both houses of the legislature, which are controlled by Democrats, previously approved the tax in May but it was immediately vetoed by Christie, who has pledged not to raise taxes.

The tax would raise $637 million that the state would use to fund rebate checks of up to $1,295 for some 600,000 senior citizens who would otherwise face steep increases in their property taxes during fiscal 2011.

According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, a retired couple living on a fixed income of $40,000 would see an increase of $1,320 in taxes under the governor's plan while a family making $1.2 million would receive a tax cut of $11,598.

"Governor Christie's heartless vetoes denied property tax relief to senior citizens struggling to make ends meet," Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan said in a statement.

This isn't very karmic of me, but not enough bad stuff can happen to Chris Christie.


Cuomo's A Crook

The Times says Cuomo takes millions from the lobbyists and special interests he criticizes:

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, declaring his candidacy for governor of New York, could not have been clearer.

“The influence of lobbyists and their special interests must be drastically reduced with new contribution limits,” Mr. Cuomo said last month. “We will be taking on very powerful special interests which have much to lose. We must change systems and cultures long in the making.”

But as he delivered his announcement, Mr. Cuomo was sitting on millions in campaign cash from the very special interests whose influence he said he wanted to limit.

An analysis by The New York Times shows that of the estimated $7.1 million that the Cuomo campaign has received from political action committees, associations, limited liability corporations and other entities, more than half has come from the biggest players in Albany: organized labor, the real estate and related industries like construction, the health care sector and lobbying firms.

In the spirit of reform, Mr. Cuomo pledged in 2007 not to accept donations over $10,000 from most categories of contributors during an election cycle. But he did not stick to that vow and has at times received amounts five times as great.

Last month Cuomo walked into a room full of hedge managers with an empty briefcase and an even emptier conscience.

He walked out with his briefcase full of cash as a reborn "education reformer" and charter school proponent.

Cuomo says he is not for sale, but all the evidence says otherwise.

The only thing worse than a crooked politician is a holier-than-thou crooked politician.

Unfortunately, Cuomo, like Obama, is of the second variety.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wow - A Politician Who Gets It

Rep. Judy Chu critiques the Obama/Bloomberg/Gates/Broad ed deform movement in Politico.

Here is the piece in full:

How often do U.S. enterprises — public, private or nonprofit — try to fix performance issues by firing all their staff and replacing them with new, inexperienced workers? Or by closing up shop and shelving the dreams of their owners, employees or shareholders?

That is not a recipe for business success — and it shouldn’t be for our nation’s schools.

Yet this is what current school reform proposals call for. This is the folly of continuing down No Child Left Behind’s punitive, overly prescriptive path to education reform.

We need a positive alternative to the current standards offered for education reform. That is why I proposed a plan, Strengthening Our Schools, to give districts an array of tools, not box them into a select few.

With this plan, we can come to the rescue of our most challenged schools and give the entire community a voice —and a choice — in how to move forward.

As a teacher and professor in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, I know the challenges that face our nation’s schools. In my district, nearly 70 percent of students are classified as economically disadvantaged, and 135 of our 165 schools are Title I, meaning they educate the most at-risk student populations.

My district serves the neediest students, those whose parents work two or three jobs and may have never gone to college or who may not speak English as their first language. But such socioeconomic problems exist in areas across the country.

Effective schools promote flexibility and collaboration. Too many schools suffer under a top-down approach. Though it’s clear to teachers and parents where funds and effort should be concentrated, there is little collaboration on improvement plans. With this plan, we can provide the flexibility and partnership necessary to help each school address its unique challenges in a way that works for individual communities.

Effective schools remove barriers to student success. For many of these students, going to a strong school and learning from the best teachers aren’t enough to help develop the skills needed to succeed. Many students aren’t able to focus on learning because they are hungry or abused or can’t understand their teacher. These students attend the schools that are struggling most.

With this plan, we seek to address these barriers to student success by providing holistic services — such as behavioral support, English language resources, outreach to parents and mental health services.

Effective schools foster teachers and school leaders. Teachers vary in effectiveness. But teachers can improve through a personalized evaluation and training approach that allows them to understand what they must do better. We intend to foster good teachers and school leaders through professional development, better support networks and research-based teaching.

With the plan’s comprehensive strategy, we can finally have a workable system that strengthens our schools instead of disrupting our communities. We can give every American child — no matter his or her background — a path to success.

Our schools are in crisis. Students’ needs are not being met. Teachers need better tools and support to improve their craft. Above all, our schools need flexibility to address their unique problems and find options that work for them.

Current school-reform models seek to improve our country’s lowest-performing schools, but they fall short. I am pushing for Congress to rethink school improvement and imagine a new way of strengthening schools to ensure the success of our neediest students.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee. She taught college classes in Los Angeles and East Los Angeles for 20 years.

A good piece.

It's a shame President Hopey/Changey doesn't consider Rep. Chu part of the education meritocracy and therefore won't listen a bit to her.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Obama's Chief of Staff Caught Trading Favors With Blago

This doesn't sound like change I can believe in:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- President Barack Obama's chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich while he was in office, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press.

Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel's own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district.

The 2006 discussion with Blagojevich's top aide, Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, doesn't appear to cross legal lines, and Emanuel couldn't speed up the distribution of the funds. But it offers a peek at ties between two high-profile Illinois politicians -- one now the president's right-hand man, the other facing years in prison if convicted of political corruption.

Discussion of the exchange could come up at Blagojevich's corruption trial, currently under way in Chicago. Blagojevich, who is accused of plotting to profit by selling an appointment to Obama's former Senate seat, also tried later that year to use the school grant in an extortion attempt against Emanuel, according to federal prosecutors.

Authorities say he ordered Tusk, who told the AP he is scheduled to testify in the case Monday and couldn't comment, to get Emanuel to compel his Hollywood agent brother to host a political fundraiser before the grant was paid.

White House spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.

Of course the White House refused comment.

Because they know Rahmbo, like Blago, is a crook.

It will be interesting to see what else comes out in the trial.

You have to wonder how close the Blago corruption stuff gets to President Hopey/Changey.

It would be nice to see all those Chicago crooks carted out of the White House in handcuffs - including President Hopey/Changey.

Of course I said the same thing about Preznut Bush, Karl Rove and Darth Cheney too.

Probably not going to happen, but it sure would be nice.

What Changed?

I taught two Regents prep classes in the fall, one this spring.

In the fall, 56 out of 58 of my students passed the exam with a 65 or higher.

Of the two who failed the exam, one only showed up on Day One of the test (the ELA Regents exam has been a two day test, though that will change starting in fall 2010) and thus did not pass the test. She has since dropped out of school and is currently going to a GED program. The other failed the exam straight up with a 56, was in my Regents prep class this spring but moved to West Virginia two months ago before the spring Regents exam was given.

This spring I had 28 students take the exam. 13 passed with a 65 or higher. Of the other 15, 8 failed the test straight up and 7 did not show.

So what happened between the fall and the spring?

Did I go from genius Regents prep teacher to the poster child for the Obama/Duncan/Bloomberg/Klein/Hedge fundie FIRE BAD TEACHERS movement?

Not at all.

Last fall I had two general classes. There were a few special education students mixed in, but those students were not slated to take the exam until the spring, so they did not enter into my stats. My primary objective for the fall was to get as many of my students prepped for the exam with lots and lots of multiple choice and essay writing practice and then actually get them there BOTH days, ready to perform.

For the spring, I taught 12 general education students who had failed the fall exam (two of them were my students, the rest from other teachers) and all of the special education students who did not take the exam in the fall.

My primary objective for the spring was to motivate students who had already failed the exam and didn't think they would ever pass it that they could indeed pass the test. Sure, I had some prep to do - going over the four essay sections, practicing multiple choice strategies and questions with them ad nauseum, teaching them the little tricks of the Regents trade that help most for passing the exam - but I spent most of my efforts calling parents, calling students, exhorting students, and meeting one-on-one or in small groups to give them the gentle but firm attention they needed to know that they should show up for the exam because I thought they could pass it.

It turned out all of the general ed students could indeed pass the exam.

But it turned out the almost all of the special education students couldn't.

One boy got 14 out of 16 multiple choice questions right the first day, had a terrific shot to pass the exam on Day Two, then decided not to write the final essay. He failed, of course, but to be frank, he has a very limited attention span, so getting him to write 3 out of 4 essays and do as well as he did was a major accomplishment. Nonetheless, it hurt to see him go down on Day Two. One other special education student had a very good Day One, then bombed on both essays on Day Two and failed with a 56. A few of them wrote one or two really good essays, but bombed on the rest. One boy wrote four decent essays but got all 10 multiple choice questions on Day Two wrong and 50% wrong on Day One.

By the time we finished grading, I felt mixed about the results. Certainly getting every general education student to pass (the two who didn't are gone from the school roster) was a major accomplishment. Getting three special education students through was also a major accomplishment. But losing the two boys who came so close to passing left me feeling sad. Still, what could I do? There is a reason they have been designated special education, regardless of whether the architects of NCLB (and soon NCLB Jr.) think they are capable of going to Harvard and passing all their standardized tests.

Of course if the NY Post were publishing my stats, they would describe me as an "excellent" teacher in the fall, an "ineffective" one in the spring because how could anyone have fewer than 50% of their students pass the exam and be declared anything but "ineffective" and a "failure"?

Obama, who applauded the firing of all those Central Falls, Rhode Island teachers back in March for low test scores, would declare me the same thing.

So would Duncan, Bloomberg, Klein, Rhee, For-Profit Geoffrey Canada and all the other NO EXCUSES education deformers.

But if you have taught both general education and special education classes, if you have worked with students in a remedial class, you know that I did an extraordinary job in the spring just getting so many of these students to stay for the test prep and then take the damned tests. And then when all of the general ed students who had previously failed passed the exam, well, that was a terrific job too.

I fear when the UFT/DOE test evaluation crap starts, the above stats will have me on the "ineffective" list and slated for firing. I mean, my stats went from 97% passing the fall to 46% passing in the spring.

Clearly I worked hard in the fall, got outstanding results on the January exam, then coasted all spring and read the newspaper from February on.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Moneybags Says Teachers Should "Defend" Bankers

This is like asking seals to defend killer whales:

While discussing the proposed tightening of regulation of Wall Street, the mayor noted that some of the union protesters who staged a rally against budget cuts this week outside City Hall had railed about “getting even with bankers.”

The mayor suggested that since taxes from Wall Street earnings and bonuses pay for their salaries, “our cops and firefighters and teachers they should be out there defending the bankers.”

Bloomberg noted one of the protesters had said, “Oh, you know, a lot of these [bankers] were in favor of charter schools… so we’re going to go screw them.”

He quickly corrected himself: “Hurt them -- pardon my language.”

Going on, the mayor said it’s a popular sentiment among the “political chatter class” to be down on bankers and Wall Street financiers and to push for over-stringent regulations, such as banning derivatives.

Such overzealous regulations would merely drive business out of the city or out of the country, damaging the city’s ability to pay its workforce, argued Bloomberg, who nonetheless asserted, “I’m not here to defend bankers, I’m here to defend New York City business.”
Uh, no Moneybags, you're here to defend bankers and your other financial cronies.

These are the men (and they are mostly men) who nearly brought the world economy to collapse in 2008 after they turned Wall Street into one gigantic rigged casino.

They stole money from mom and pop investors and pension funds by selling toxic crap products that they KNEW were nearly worthless and would bring ruin to their customers.

They made commissions on those sales, then BET against the whole thing by shorting the market, knowing the Housing Bubble was soon to burst.

These were the same people who helped created the Tech Bubble and the Housing Bubble in the first place and have now created - with the help of Uncle Ben Bernanke and President Hopey/Changey and their printing press - a Commodities Bubble that will soon burst and leave more mom and pop investors and institutionalized pension funds holding the bag.

And Moneybags thinks we - the middle class cops, firemen, and teachers who actually PRODUCE SOMETHING in the economy rather than act as parasitical brokers and movers of garbage paper on Wall Street and London trading desks - ought to DEFEND them?

Well, I will say one thing about Moneybags: at least he's being honest where his sympathies lie.

I just wish the working and middle classes of this city would see that HE DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT about them, that he is only out to enrich himself and his banker and real estate buddies while aggrandizing his ego as THE ONLY MAN WHO COULD SAVE NEW YORK CITY FROM FISCAL RUIN.

So far, that hasn't happened.

His job approval in May was 57%.

NJ Ed Commish: We Can Give Taxpayer Funds To Private Schools, We Cannot Regulate Them

How's this for hypocrisy?

Bret Schundler says he is a great believer in educational accountability, willing to take on the statewide teachers’ union to establish a system that links teacher job security and pay to student learning.

But there are limits to the education commissioner’s commitment to accountability.

And those limits are based, not on union pushback, but on his own ideology. A former Democrat but now a self-described "Republican with libertarian instincts," he doesn’t want to see too much regulation of private schools that receive public money.

"We regulate everybody but we’re not going to regulate everybody the same,’’ said Schundler.

The contrast between Schundler’s insistence on close accountability in public schools and his instinct to preserve the independence of private schools, even private religious schools that operate with public money, is striking.

The central focus of Schundler’s accountability effort is the creation of a statewide, centralized data base that would allow the state to determine what factors — including the performance of individual teachers — result in student learning.

Can the state develop a system that shows correlations between individual teachers and student learning? "Absolutely," he said. In two years or less.

"Once you put all the data points into a large collection, once you put all that stuff into the system, you can begin to measure the impact of an independent variable," said Schundler. "You’ll have amazing data.’’

Amazing data that can be used to pay teachers bonuses or deny them a job.

But, when asked whether that same level of scrutiny should be applied to non-public schools, Schundler — once active in a number of state and national organizations promoting school choice and vouchers — demurred.

"I would make sure the money is used for education,’’ said Schundler, who called parental choice a "human right" and was chief operating officer of a Christian college in the Empire State Building.

He added, "That’s an appropriate measure of accountability.’’ He cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s warning against "excessive entanglement" of government with religious schools.

Uh, wait - the Supreme Court warning against "excessive entanglement" of government and religious schools has NOTHING to do with the government making sure that taxpayer-provided money to those schools is being used correctly.

If the government is providing taxpayer money to ANY entity, the government ought to be able to regulate how that money is spent.

We can argue whether religious schools should get ANY government money (I say they shouldn't), but if they do, then those schools - and the teachers in the them - need to be held to the same "accountability standards" as public schools and public schools teachers.

But in the Chris Christie/Bret Schundler/Mayor Moneybags/Joel Klein/Andrew Cuomo/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan/Barack Obama world view of things, it seems accountability is ONLY for public schools and public school teachers.

Everybody else - including religious schools and charter schools run by for-profit companies - get passes on "accountability."

Which means there is no accountability at all.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add another little piece from the Jersey paper about the New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler:

Bret Schundler is like no education commissioner the state has ever had. He’s not an educator, but a businessman and a politician. He is more of an advocate for private schools than for public schools. He is a true believer in parental choice, something he deems "a human right."

And, in the midst of an ugly fight between his governor and the state’s largest teachers union, his spokesman refers to New Jersey schools as "wretched" — just when they led the nation in a countrywide test of educational achievement.

Okay, so he repudiated the word "wretched" when legislators and educators protested — but what does he really think of the public schools he is constitutionally sworn to support?

That’s not an easy question to answer, even after sitting with Schundler for three hours and talking about the schools.

While he conceded some New Jersey public schools are doing well, he also clearly believes that things have to change and that private schools, without their union rules and bureaucracies, are the models for reform.

But then he suggested veteran teachers should pack it in and retire for the good of the schools.


If 9,000 veteran teachers retire, he said, the savings will allow the rehiring of all teachers given layoff notices this spring. Laying off new teachers, he said, would mean the loss of "some of the most energetic, attractive teachers you have.’’

So veterans are not energetic?

"Sometimes when they’re in their last years, and they’re thinking about retiring, they’re not quite as driven."

There you have it - the NJ Ed commissioner despises New Jersey public schools, is an advocate of the voucher movement and thinks school choice is a "human right," hates unions and wants to replace as many veteran teachers with newbie McTeachers as he can.

He fits right in with Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Mayor Moneybags, Joel Klein, et al.

I guess that's why the obese NJ governor appointed him to his position. (See here for why I included the word "obese" into the previous sentence.)

Friday, June 18, 2010


This story leaves me feeling inspired today:

MIAMI — Thousands of students at the University of Puerto Rico who went on strike two months ago to oppose severe budget cuts declared victory on Thursday after reaching an agreement with administrators.

As part of a deal brokered by a court-appointed mediator, students would end their strike — one of the largest and longest such walkouts in Puerto Rican history — in exchange for a number of concessions. Most notably, the university’s Board of Regents has agreed to cancel a special fee that would have effectively doubled the cost to attend the university’s 11 public campuses.

The deal also includes a promise that there will be no sanctions against strike organizers, who clashed at times with the police at the main Río Piedras campus outside San Juan.

The accord must still be approved by a general assembly of university students, which is expected Monday. Christopher Powers, a literature professor at the Mayagüez campus, said it was “nearly a complete victory for the students,” noting that they failed to get a promise that there would be no large tuition increase next year. Professor Powers said planned cuts later this year to the salaries and benefits of professors could set off another round of conflict.

“The fact that a student movement was able to force the administration and the government to sit down at the negotiating table and concede to nearly all their demands is a very important precedent,” Professor Powers said. “It will serve as an inspiration.”

Every once in a while, the little people in this world gain a small (and usually temporary) victory over the large moneyed interests that run things.

That's what happened in Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quality Journalism

Tell me what's wrong with this opening paragraph to this Post article:

The obese former president of a Port Authority union — who admitted yesterday in court to embezzling nearly $300,000 in member dues to pay for a host of personal expenses — used the cash for tawdry hookers and casino trips, sources told The Post.

OK, I get it - the guy is, if the allegations are true, a sleazeball. Stealing money for gambling and hookers is pretty bad stuff.

But why describe him as "obese"?

Seriously, what does that have to do with anything?

I bring this up because the Post got all hot and bothered over a couple of union members joking about the death of another "obese" fellow - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie - a while back.

Can you imagine the Post leading an article about Christie by saying "The obese New Jersey Governor - who could have a stroke or heart attack at any moment given what a fat piece of shit he is - was incensed when members of local teachers union joked about his death"?

No, me either.

So why add "obese" to the article about the Port Authority union guy?

Do only obese guys steal to "feed their carnal and gastronomic appetites," as the Post article put it?

I think not.

The Bloomberg aide who just got indicted for stealing $1.1 million from Mayor Moneybags was an average weight (photo here - story here.)

Apparently weight and thievery do NOT necessarily correlate.

So this is just more hypocrisy from the kings of hypocrisy at the Murdoch Post.

Obama Administration: 9.7% Unemployment Is Fine

The Obama administration forecast unemployment to fall to 6.5% by the end of 2011 if their stimulus package was passed and implemented.

They predicted 7.5% if the stimulus was not passed and implemented

Unemployment currently stands at 9.7%.

Reliable forecasters says it will hover around the 9.7%-10% range through the end of 2011.

Unemployment was 6.5% when Barack Obama was elected.

And the administration seems to be more worried about the deficit than actually putting people back to work (HINT: Put people back to work, get the economy revving again, the deficit becomes less of a problem.)

So we will get no new stimulus, no FDR jobs programs that put people to work while investing in the country and rebuilding the infrastructure.

This sounds like a miserable statistical failure even by the administration's own standards to me.

Question: Isn't it time for an administration "turnaround" where all the economic advisers and the president have to reapply for their jobs?

Based upon prior performance of economic policy (lots of bailout cash and gutted regulations for Wall Street, few actual jobs programs for Main Street, horrific long-term unemployment rate, persistently high unemployment), I'm pretty sure we won't be rehiring some of them back.

Maybe all of them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dems In Congress: Obama Full Of It

President Accountability asked Congress to appropriate $50 billion in funds to avert "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters" late last week.

But Dems in Congress don't think he's really serious about the request:

According to multiple aides briefed on the meeting, top lawmakers expressed doubts that there was an appetite for additional spending, noting the difficulties that the chamber already has had in passing provisions designed to extend emergency benefits for jobless workers and avert layoffs of public school teachers. The letter sent by Obama pleading with Congress to help avoid "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters," was viewed more as a publicity generator -- timed appropriately for discussion on the Sunday show circuit -- than legislative lobbying.

"They all were caught off-guard," said one Democratic leadership aide. "It is great to finally have a request from the White House but what was the intent?"

"I think I would describe it as unhappy," added another aide with direct knowledge of the discussion. "It seems it was done for the Sunday shows rather than for serious dialogue with us... and to not offer us any guidance about how to pay for it in this environment after talking about the deficit commission was striking."

A cynical request for federal funding to avert massive public layoffs that the president issues not because he thinks the Congress will pass his request (indeed - the president himself has been wagging a finger at the deficit and warning of spending and entitlement cuts to come, thus ensuring it won't) but simply to make news for the Sunday morning political shows and SOUND like he's doing something.

How's that for more change you can believe in from President Hopey/Changey?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bloomberg Aide Indicted For Stealing $1.1 Million From Mayor Moneybags

The hammer drops on one of Mayor Moneybags' cronies from the Independence Party:

One of Mayor Bloomberg's most trusted campaign aides was indicted Monday for allegedly stealing $1.1 million of the mayor's money he was supposed to spend on Election Day.

John Haggerty, a longtime fixture in Queens Republican politics, is accused of planning a phantom poll-watching operation, then covering his tracks with phony checks - and buying a house with the mayor's money.


Haggerty gave Bloomberg's campaign a grand plan to spend $1,076,750 on Election Day last fall, Vance said, to field more than 1,700 workers, with cars and radios, to monitor polling places.

In reality, Vance said, Haggerty spent no more than $32,000 -- and as the Daily News first reported in February, used the rest to buy out his brother Bart's share of their late father's home in Forest Hills Gardens.

"Promises were made about how these monies were to be spent," Vance said. "They were specific, and they were falsely promised. False pretenses were made to the mayor and his staff."

Vance made clear that the grand jury was continuing to investigate the state Independence Party, which acted as a conduit for Bloomberg's money.


Bloomberg gave $1.2 million to the Independence Party in the days before last year's election. The indictment says $1.1 million was for Haggerty's operation and the remaining $100,000 would be a contribution to the party.

Prosecutors say Bloomberg does not seem to have done anything criminal in the case and is not a target of the investigation.

Nonetheless, the stink surrounding Bloomberg's re-election campaign and all the money he threw around to buy a third term is getting worse and worse.

Bloomberg himself grew "testy" when he was asked today why he used a campaign loophole to conduit the money through the Independence Party to Haggerty rather than through his own campaign.

Bloomberg said

"I have a right to make donations to people and parties that I think will help this city and this country and this state, and I'll continue to do it," Bloomberg said. "You have exactly the same opportunity to do it."

Perhaps - except the NY Times says the way Bloomberg sent the money to Haggerty was unusual for a political campaign and raised eyebrows:

The indictment culminated a politically sensitive investigation by Mr. Vance, who was elected district attorney in November, that had lasted months. Even before the indictment, there was buzz in the political world about the unusual way that the mayor’s campaign directed the payment, using personal checks from Mr. Bloomberg rather than the campaign’s official account.

Just another example of there being two sets of rules in this city - one for Mayor Moneybags and his political and business cronies wherein laws and rules do not matter and one for everybody else.

I say the press needs to keep digging into Bloomberg and how he bought this third term.

They need to follow all that cash he threw around.

And find out just what Bloomberg bought with it besides this third term.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Much Ado About Rhee

There has been much outrage in the blogosphere over the Michelle Rhee op-ed piece in today's Daily News in which the D.C. schools chancellor urges New York City teachers to capitulate to a contract that is similar to the one just agreed to in the nation's capital - one in which teachers agree to merit pay, a loss of seniority, a loss of tenure, loss of job protections (being rated "ineffective" gets you fired) and a loss of the right to grieve an "ineffective rating."

As pushback, let me note the irony that Rhee is pushing NYC teachers to agree to lose any kind of job protections even as she has desperately tried to keep her job in D.C. by tying new stipulations in the D.C. teachers contract to her maintaining her position as head of the school system:

WASHINGTON - D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is under fire again as the city's Office of Campaign Finance has begun an investigation on whether the chancellor broke the law in tying private funding for teacher salaries to her keeping her job. In the end, the city's chief financial officer and the D.C. Council refused to go along with that deal.

It would have meant millions of dollars in private money but there was a condition that the funding could be withdrawn if there was a substantial change in leadership at the top of the school system. One local citizen cried foul and asked for an investigation.

The contract ratified by D.C teachers would give them 20 percent pay hikes by the year 2015. But more than $60 million of that would have come from private funding committed by the D.C. Public Education Fund, but with a catch. The third party funders would reserve the right to reconsider their support if there is a material change in DCPS’ leadership.

Robert Brannum, the person who filed for the investigation says that would mean Rhee would get some personal benefit and that is a conflict of interest.

“They cannot guarantee someone a position. That's what this was essentially seeking to do in my view, thru the back door,” said Brannum.

The Office of Campaign Finance has accepted Brannum's request for an investigation and determined there may be reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred.

Somebody want to tell the Daily News that Rhee has - to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie - a lot of damned gall to decry job protections for teachers at the same time she enshrines job protections for herself via the corporate cronies she has paying for the merit pay program in the D.C. contract?

Ah, screw it - I'll do it myself.

But you should write them too.

Maybe they too would find this ironic and/or hypocritical.

Or maybe not.

In Zuckerman's world (as in Bloomberg's world), people at the top are worthy of all kinds of protections while everybody else is subject to firing at a moment's notice.

Party At The PD Weekend

Last Thursday, my school principal provided muddy coffee and stale bagels for Brooklyn/Queens Professional Development Day.

I abstained from both, preferring a cup of coffee from Starbucks and my own food brought from home.

We enjoyed five and half hours of meetings ranging from a two and a half hour full staff extravaganza in the 95 degree auditorium to a one hour department meeting to a two hour cross curriculum/cross grade meeting in the computer room.

Lunch was supposed to be an hour and fifteen minutes, but the meetings went long and that got cut to 45 minutes.

We did have half an hour at the end of the day for "personal planning."

Otherwise, the day was packed with activities and meetings (most of which were mind numbing and soul sucking.)

Unlike the PD weekend the folks at Progress High School enjoyed according to a rather long, juicy piece in today's Daily News:

As education officials warned parents of painful budget cuts, staffers at a Brooklyn high school went on a boozy, all-you-can-eat junket in the Hudson Valley, courtesy of a taxpayer-funded vendor.

Progress High School Principal William Jusino took his troops to the Mohonk Mountain House last weekend, where their rooms cost up to $770 a night, the Daily News found.

The two-night trip was sponsored by a city Education Department vendor called Leadership Group Inc., which relies mostly on city, state and federal grants.


Education Department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said the Leadership Group paid $40,000 for the Mohonk weekend and an overnight getaway for another school. He said the DOE paid $2,000 for the Progress High School seminars and that Leadership "donated" the food, lodging, bus and booze. He refused to break down the cost of the two trips.

The DOE has paid Leadership $42,000 in the past two fiscal years for its work with Progress. He said the company provides professional development at "a whole bunch of schools" and has organized nine retreats. Only Progress and one other school did overnights, he said.

A company spokeswoman insisted "private money" was used.

The company has snared nearly $60 million in DOE contracts since 1996, including $9.8 million in fiscal 2009 and 2010, plus millions of dollars in work with the state and federal education departments.

Rooms at Mohonk range from $320 a night to the $2,500 Mountain View Tower Suite. Jusino stayed in a Victorian Tower Room, which goes for $770 a night.

Meals are included, but drinks are not. The entire group of 25 to 30 made the 90-mile trip upstate from the city via private bus.

The same day the Progress crew headed to Mohonk, Chancellor Joel Klein sent parents a letter warning that a "huge" budget deficit could lead to painful cuts at schools around the city.


As the letters were being sent, Progress staffers feasted in the compound's aerie restaurant. On the menu: pan-seared rib-eye, roasted Tasmanian salmon and "Mohonk chocolate explosion."

After the meal, Jusino and several teachers bellied up to a private bar in a cozy conference room behind the public taproom.

Inside, one of the teachers proclaimed the liquor would continue flowing at a "secret" locale after midnight. The secret location? Jusino's room, an elegant flat with stunning views of the Catskill Mountains.

"Must be nice to be the principal," a teacher said as he strode into the spacious chamber. One teacher reclined on the principal's bed; other educators sat in armchairs.

A makeshift bar that included Bacardi rum and Jack Daniel's sat atop a bureau. Teachers took turns enjoying the balcony.

The party ended about 1a.m. Staffers moved to a smaller room, talking excitedly about a "deejay party" the following night.

"Usually, these retreats are crazy," a gym teacher named Corey said.

The following day, Saturday, the seminar began at 9 a.m. in the resort's Conference House. The group broke around noon for a buffet of prime rib, turkey or ham, pasta, salads, cookies and cakes.

Jusino signed up to tee off on the golf course at 3:30 p.m., but didn't show, a hotel employee said. Nine holes go for $25; 18 holes for $30.

On its Web site, the Leadership Group describes workshops on classroom management, leadership, bullying prevention and "coping with change."

The site also displays a photograph of Jusino and audio in which he praises the program: "We thought by bringing in the kind of educational, cultural, recreation programs that they were offering, that they'd give us some soul."

Some professional development, eh?

I'd like just a little bit of the money spent on the PD weekend for Progress High School in order to fix the hole in the ceiling of my classroom the size of Geoffrey Canada's ego.

And maybe a little extra to take out the rusty lockers in the back of my classroom that invite lockjaw if you brush into them and scratch yourself.

Oh, all right - and just a little more to get rid of the mice that live in my classroom and feed on the paperwork.

Not too much to ask, right?

In the Kleinberg DOE it is - unless you're Mistress Eva or For-Profit Geoffrey or apparently the good folks at Progress High School.

I wonder who is on the take in this case?

The comments after the article say things like

Read the article. Private money was donated to the school to do this. Who knows why anyone would spend that, but essentially there's no story here. Another disappointing article from the Daily News. I wish they would report on the real issues.

But of course it is a real issue. Why would some private entity donate money for this kind of PD weekend? What exactly is the payoff for them?

You know there has to be one.

The privatized PD that Kleinberg has brought to the NYCDOE invites this kind of stuff.

Not at my school, of course. We got muddy coffee and stale bagels.

But at some schools, private money or not, they're living large.

And it's wrong.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cleaning Up His Mess

Quote of the Day, via Political Wire:

"Even though I'm president of the United States, my power is not limitless. So I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck it up with a straw."

-- President Obama, quoted by the Washington Post, on the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Maybe not.

But I'd sure like to see him try.

Bloomberg Campaign Funny Money

The Daily News reports that the corruption probe into Bloomberg's 2009 re-election campaign is heating up:

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.'s probe of suspicious spending on Mayor Bloomberg's reelection campaign is reaching back to when he considered running for President.

Court papers disclosed Friday that Vance has subpoenaed paperwork from the state Independence Party dated as far back as Jan. 1, 2007 - and has been frustrated in his attempts to get it.

Vance's top deputy, Dan Alonso, wrote that the Independence Party has complied with just four of 23 categories of documents he subpoenaed.

Prosecutors now want to put Independence Party attorney Vincent Messina in front of a grand jury.

Messina's lawyer said yesterday that he would refuse to talk, citing attorney-client privilege.

Bloomberg pumped $1.3 million into the Independence Party last year to help his bid for mayor.

Vance is probing how the party spent $750,000 of that on a poll-watching operation run by campaign aide John Haggerty, who has not explained where the money went.

A year earlier, however, Bloomberg gave another $1.35 million to the party to help Republicans keep control of the state Senate.

Much of that cash went to consultants closely aligned with Bloomberg, such as pollster Douglas Schoen and operative Patrick Brennan - at the same time they were working to convince the City Council to extend term limits.

In 2007 and early 2008, Bloomberg also researched ballot requirements and petitioning rules in all 50 states to put him on the presidential ballot as an independent.

Frank MacKay, the Independence Party's chairman, traveled around the country as part of that effort. He declined to comment yesterday.

"We continue to be assured that we are not the subject of the investigation," said Bloomberg spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Perhaps you can take Wolfson at his word and believe that Bloomberg is not a subject of the investigation, but since it was HIS CAMPAIGN that paid out the cash, that seems a little difficult to believe.

As does ANYTHING Howard Wolfson says about ANYTHING.

Wolfson is one of the creepiest, slimiest people in politics.

So of course he works for Bloomberg.

And pretty much everything he says is a deliberate lie.

So we'll just have to see whether the corruption investigation is just looking into the Independence Party and what they did with the money Bloomberg gave them or if Bloomberg's campaign and Bloomberg himself are a subject of that investigation too.

Third mayoral terms have a way of unraveling for New York City mayors, mainly because 12 years is a long time to keep a wraps on all the political and old-fashioned corruption that has been going on during a particular mayor's terms.

Mayor Moneybags, who bought himself a third term with the help of the money he paid to the Independence Party last year, may soon find that out himself.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bloomberg Says BP CEO Not at Fault For Oil Mess

Kid you not - Moneybags says lay off BP, it's not their fault:

BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg doesn't have too many defenders these days, but he can count Mayor Bloomberg as one of them.

"The guy who runs BP didn't exactly go down there and blow up the well," the mayor said on his weekly WOR radio show today.

Bloomberg broached the topic after criticizing critics of the school system for being too critical.

"If everything you do people find fault with why do you do it. Nobody needs that aggravation. We all want recognition and respect," said the mayor.

"Here we're going after the heads of some of these companies."

Besides, he argued, there's not much point in pummeling someone whose help you desperately need.

"And what's more if you want them to fix it and they're the only ones with expertise, I think I might wait to assign blame until we get it fixed," Bloomberg said.

How's that for accountability from the Accountability Mayor?

BP is not culpable for the disaster. The BP CEO is not at fault for the spill or the failure to get it stopped and cleaned up in a reasonable amount of time.

Teachers, however, are culpable for the test scores of their students NO MATTER WHAT, and need to be fired if they cannot raise them from one year to the next.

Congratulations! You're "Teacher of the Year"!!!

Sorry about having to lay you off:

Lake Parsippany Elementary School’s newest Teacher of the Year is facing unemployment.

Jill Mills, a librarian whom the district honored last night as the school’s top educator, has been laid off because of budget cuts.

“It’s a shame,” Parsippany schools Superintendent LeRoy Seitz said. “It would be great to find a way to get her back.”

Mills, a 43-year-old Florham Park resident, is one of five media specialists who were cut in the 2010-2011 budget.

That spending plan called for the layoffs of more than 30 faculty members, including the media specialists. The district employs about 750 teachers, with roughly 15 of them being librarians, Seitz said.

Mills’s layoff announcement came just before she was honored not only by her school, but also the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA, which serves 10 towns in northeast Morris County.

The YMCA on May 26 named her the top K-8 educator in a region that stretches from Denville to Lincoln Park.

“If nothing else, it’s great for my self esteem,” Mills said of the awards. “It’s also heartbreaking.”

Mills had been with the district for three years -- not long enough to become tenured.

That meant she was one of the faculty members who were most vulnerable to layoffs, Seitz said.

The hedge fund managers will argue that this is the problem with tenure and seniority, that it requires the last in folks get laid off first.

I say baloney.

The problem is the hedge fund managers and the rest of their crooked ilk.

They barely pay any taxes.

Nor do many American companies which use offshore tax havens to refrain from paying a fair share of the tax burden.

Even the ones who got bailed out by the American taxpayer in '09.

So this issue isn't about tenure or seniority - it's about the greedy top 5% (and especially the top 1%) increasing their wealth astronomically over the last two decades while barely paying anything in taxes.

It is - as my friend NYC Educator always says - about making sure Steve Forbes tax bill remains low.

In New Jersey, it is about Governor Christie refusing to raise taxes on people making over $1 million a year even as he forces massive layoffs and budget cuts to schools, fire personnel, police, etc.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Defense Of Liberal Education

The president of Wesleyan College wrote a defense of liberal education on Huffington Post.

Here is an excerpt:

We should all recognize that a broadly based education helps people develop capacities that will serve them well for decades after their formal schooling ends. For Brooks this means becoming conversant while in college with a wide range of examples that will serve as compelling analogies for any number of issues that will come up in one's personal, professional or civic life. For Fish it means becoming fluent in the fundamentals even before moving on to post-secondary education: understanding the grammar of intellectual, artistic and social practices so that one can participate in them, or at least understand them from the inside. Both commentators, like many others writing today, worry that in our results oriented regime, the study of history, literature and the arts is being compromised or eliminated in favor of narrow skills that fit into so-called objective tests. Instead of giving students the opportunity to have strong emotional and cognitive encounters with well-told stories, instead of helping them find their way to becoming absorbed in great works of art, we have drilled young people into thinking that effective reading and writing are techniques with measurable outcomes to be evaluated on standardized tests. A liberal education produces results, too, but they are less reducible to questions that can be answered by coloring in a bubble with a number 2 pencil.

There has been great disappointment that the Obama administration has continued the Bush era emphasis on accountability through narrow test taking. This emphasis is a diversion from the one thing shown to make a big difference at the secondary level -- outstanding teachers who can provide students with the kind of education that will make them ready for and desirous of a challenging and broadly based education at the post-secondary level. Despite the fact that the president and almost all the senior members of his administration have had the benefit of a broad, liberal education, their Race to the Top initiatives continue to emphasize technocratic accountability rather than the learning of basic content in the humanities and sciences that will translate from one grade to another, and from one field to another. As Diane Ravitch has recently noted:

Much of what policymakers now demand will very likely make the schools less effective and may further degrade the intellectual capacity of the citizenry. The schools will surely be failures if students graduate knowing how to choose the right option from four bubbles on a multiple-choice test, but unprepared to lead fulfilling lives, to be responsible citizens, and to make good choices for themselves, their families, and our society.

President Obama and Secretary Duncan underscore "that education is the key to our long-term prosperity in a global economy," but if they continue to operate with a narrow vision of an educated work force as a bunch of effective test takers, they will squander our long-term economic capital as well as the moral and political potential of the country.

It is nice to see some pushback against the Bloomberg/Duncan/Bloomberg/Klein/Gates/Broad education deform model.

Of course Race to the Top has already done damage here in NY with the lifting of the charter cap, the tying of teacher evaluations to test scores, and the listing of 32 low performing schools by the state that need to be either closed or "turned around."

But that doesn't mean that we can't CHANGE these things back.

It will be a long and difficult fight, but we have to do it.

Seeing the piece by the Wesleyan president so prominently displayed on Huffington Post yesterday gives me some hope that some people out there are starting to listen to Diane Ravitch and others who say that the Obama/Duncan ed deform model is going to have disastrous consequences for public education.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Liberal Blogs and Education

When I first got interested in blogging, I had been reading a variety of liberal blogs - from the Great Orange Satan (otherwise known as the Daily Kos) to Talking Points Memo to Talk Left to AmericaBlog to MyDD to Firedoglake to Atrios.

As I have grown more and more concerned about the consequences of "education reform," I have noticed that most of these blogs either ignore the Obama policies on education (that's most of 'em) or quietly support them (that's some of the posters over at the Daily Kos.)

I understand - as a teacher, government policy for education directly affects me, so I am interested in the issue very much while many of the other blogs I mentioned above aren't so much.

Also, a few of them - like the Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo - have become shill sites for Obama.

Were Bush pursuing the policies Obama is pursuing on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financial bailouts, the renomination of Bernanke at the Fed, the kid glove treatment of BP over the oil spill, they would be HAMMERING the president over them.

Instead, many Kossacks and Josh Marshall and Company at Talking Points provide excuses for why Obama's centrist-right political agenda is great.

That's fine - there were plenty of shills on the right during the Bush years who twisted themselves into pretzels to support his Medicare drug law or other Big Government spending policies who would have been screaming if Dems tried the same thing.

So now we have a bunch of water carriers on the left too.

I've pretty much stopped reading all of those liberal sites except for a few - like Firedoglake and Atrios.

While Atrios has commented here and there about charters (especially about the corruption involving charters in Philly), he has mostly steered clear of the issue of education reform.

But I want to note that both Firedoglake and another lefty blog - Open Left - have been very good on the issue.

So if you're looking for some lefty blogs that don't carry water for the corporate whore in the White House who wants to kick somebody's ass for the oil spill but doesn't know whose to kick (HINT: It's green and yellow and looks like the sun), try Firedoglake and Open Left.

As for the rest, I've moved on from them.

If I want to see somebody carry water, I read how Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water...

As for the charter shills at Gotham Schools, well, I'll have more on them in a bit. I want to work off something NYC Educator said about them in this post.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Obama Wants To Kick Some Ass...

...only he's not sure who is responsible for the gulf oil mess.


In his toughest words yet on the billion-dollar oil disaster, President Obama said Monday that he's been boning up on "whose ass to kick."

Frustrated over BP's inability to stop a deepwater gusher and fed up with criticism that he hasn't seemed to be mad as hell, Obama turned as salty the Gulf of Mexico.

"I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick," Obama fumed in an interview to air this morning on NBC's "Today" show.

That is one of the silliest quotes I have seen from a politician in a long, long time.

Seriously, Barack, you don't know whose ass to kick?

Start with BP's ass.

Fine the company 10 million a day for every day this thing goes on.

Next, the BP CEO's ass.

Fine him one million a day for every day this goes on.

Then, your own hypocritical ass for reversing course on Drill, Baby, Drill in the Gulf of Mexico just 18 days before the BP rig exploded and began spewing oil all over the place.

Oh, and stop blaming teachers for the mess.

We had nothing to do with it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Heading For Recession Again?

The data has been pretty disappointing lately.

Bad jobs report.

Disappointing housing report.

Lower GDP growth from the end of last year to the beginning of this year.

Tanking value of the Euro.

Slowing consumer spending.

Stories abound in the financial press this morning because of the disappointing data, asking the question: Are We Headed For A Double Dip Recession?

Barry at Big Picture thinks the following:

This is, historically speaking, normal. ECRI’s Lakshman Achuthan told Newsweek: “You always have a spurt in growth out of recession and then you throttle back. But we’d need to see a pronounced, pervasive, and persistent decline in the level of the leading indicators to start talking about recession risk.”

That “pronounced, pervasive, and persistent decline” is simply not present. Indeed, double dip recessions are actually rather rare. As Yale Professor Robert Shiller pointed out in a recent Sunday NYT article, “When inflation-adjusted G.D.P. has come out of a decline and posted three or four quarters of gains, it has never immediately begun to fall again — at least not since quarterly numbers began to be issued in 1947.”

And that is what we have had — a year of improving GDP. Following the initial surge in data off of the lows, we have entered a slowing phase of the recovery.

The key factor regarding all of this slowing data is that it is suggestive of an economy that will continue to expand, albeit at a slower pace. None of this data is highly aberrational, and none of it is consistent with past double dip recessions.

He says the calls for double dip recession are coming from the same economists who missed the mess the first time around and are now calling for fiscal austerity measures like cuts in government jobs and spending.

Barry also says doing that right now at a time when the economy is STILL vulnerable could actually send it into recession again. The time for balanced budgets and fiscal prudence is during an economic expansion, not the post recession period where the economy is just coming out a downturn.

Unfortunately the deficit hawks are winning the argument on policy.

That's why the teacher bill in the Senate that would have provided billions to keep teachers from being laid off so far has not passed.

Once again, the idiots who caused the financial mess in the first place are creating more problems and hurting middle and working class people in the process.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Obama's Attack On Teachers: We Need To Push Back

According to the NY Times, some progressives in San Francisco are sick of Obama's attacks on teachers through his Race to the Top education policies.

They are trying to push back against the Obama reform agenda.

Here in NY State, Obama got everything he wanted - increased charter schools, more schools closed and teachers fired, teacher evaluations tied to test scores and teacher tenure eliminated (and don't kid yourself, the new teacher evaluation is a roundabout elimination of tenure protections.)

Things are going to get even worse for public education if Obama gets to redo Title 1 funding and ties it to how much "reform" a district does.

You can be sure that the reforms Obama will push then are a voucher system, merit pay, and all-year round school + 10 hour school days.

We have to push back against this man.

The best criticism I have seen of the "liberal" Obama policies comes from the World Socialist Web Site.

I want to repost most of it here:

Obama continues assault on teachers
26 May 2010

Last week high school teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island—who were fired en masse last February for defying concession demands—were forced to accept an agreement in return for their jobs that will increase the school day by 25 minutes, compel them to tutor an hour each week, gut seniority rights and submit to a new evaluation system that will facilitate their termination.

The firing of the 74 teachers and 19 other staff members—hailed by President Obama for imposing a “sense of accountability” on teachers—was a blatant act of intimidation. Its aim was to break the resistance of teachers nationally to an assault on their working conditions and living standards and pave the way for the further privatization of the public school system.

The sackings were carried out under guidelines drafted by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who is targeting 5,000 “low-performing schools” across the country for similar treatment. In the name of “turning around” such schools, the administration has encouraged school boards to fire teachers or close schools and reopen them as privately run charter schools or under the management of for-profit contractors.

Rather than overturning Bush’s reactionary education policy—embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)—the Democratic president has spearheaded an assault on teachers and public education that his Republican predecessor could only have dreamed of.

At the center of this is the absurd claim that teachers are individually responsible for the problems caused by the chronic under-funding of the public schools and the academic challenges of young people facing poverty outside the classroom. In the case of Central Falls, nearly a third of the largely Hispanic population lives under the official poverty line and the former mill town is so economically distressed that it was put under receivership last week.

According to the administration’s twisted logic, education will be improved, not by increasing funding to the schools or addressing mass unemployment in the inner cities, but by firing teachers and destroying their working conditions!

In his assault on public education, Obama is reviving the free-market nostrums of economist Milton Friedman, who first advocated subsidizing private and parochial schools to break up what he called the “socialist” monopoly of the public schools and teachers unions.

The promotion of school vouchers, merit pay and test-based teacher evaluations by the Republican right, however, was repeatedly rebuffed by the American people, who correctly saw this as an effort to undermine the egalitarian principles of public education and create a class-based education system.

It has now been left to a Democratic president to scapegoat teachers and accelerate the assault on public education. Like all of Obama’s policies—the bailout of the Wall Street banks, the attack on auto workers, the health care overhaul and coming attacks on entitlements—school “reform” is aimed at drastically reducing costs for the financial elite. At the same time, the school system is being tailored ever more closely to the interests of big business, including multibillionaires like Bill Gates whose private foundations have funded the expansion of charter schools.

An article in Sunday’s New York Times magazine, entitled “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand,” grumbles about the cost of public school teachers versus their charter school counterparts. Describing a school building in upper Manhattan, which is shared by Public School 149 and a charter school, the Harlem Success Academy, author Stephen Brill bitterly complains, “Instead of matching pension contributions paid to charter teachers that cost the school $193 per student … the union contract provides a pension plan that is now costing the city $2,605 per year per pupil.” He continues, “The best estimate is that it costs at least $19,358 per year to educate each student on the public side of the building, or $980 more than on the charter side.”

It is well known that charters, which are run privately but funded publicly, have an incentive to drastically reduce costs in order to increase the profit for their investors. This has led to gross corruption and falsification of test scores. Meanwhile, they regularly exclude students with learning difficulties, foreign language speakers and the poorest students who require greater resources.

The Obama administration is also seeking to fundamentally change the formula for distributing so-called Title I federal funding for public school districts, from one based on the number of low-income students they teach, to one based on how many “reforms” the districts carry out.

As a first step it is inducing cash-starved school boards to gut the living standards and working conditions of teachers in order to qualify for a share of its $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund. The above-mentioned article notes the criteria districts must meet:

“The highest number of points—138 of the 500-point scale that Duncan and his staff created for the Race—would be awarded,” Brill wrote, on a commitment to eliminate “seniority-based compensation and permanent job security.” He continued, “To win the contest, the states had to present new laws, contracts and data systems making teachers individually responsible for what their students achieve, and demonstrating, for example, that budget-forced teacher layoffs will be based on the quality of the teacher, not simply based on seniority.”

Last month the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union agreed to the elimination of “tenure-based job security” in Washington DC, clearing the way for the district to fire so-called “ineffective” teachers in the nation’s capital, which was hit with millions in budget cuts last year. This is only one of many examples nationally of the unions imposing merit pay and other punitive “accountability” measures on their members to help states qualify for federal funds.

Whereas his Republican predecessors often clashed with the teachers unions, Obama has received the full support for the AFT and the National Education Association, which have promoted him as a “partner” in the White House. Having collaborated in the destruction of tens of thousands of teachers’ jobs, the AFT and NEA have concluded that the best way to defend the privileges of the union officialdom is by collaborating with the administration to impose its reactionary “reform” agenda.

The entire corporate and political establishment—from the Democrats and Republicans, to the news media and trade unions—is united in the claim that there is “no money” for public education, even as trillions are handed over to the Wall Street banks and squandered on overseas wars.

That is because public education—like every other basic democratic right—is incompatible with an economic and political system that serves, not the interests of society as a whole, but the insatiable demands of the financial aristocracy. America’s ruling elite and their bought-and-paid-for representatives in both big business parties consider expenditures for public education to be an unnecessary and unacceptable drain on their wealth, particularly since capitalism is condemning the majority of working class youth to a future of permanent unemployment, low-paying jobs and militarism.

The struggle to defend and vastly improve public education is above all a political struggle over the allocation of society’s resources. Trillions of dollars must be poured into the hiring and training of teachers—guaranteeing them a secure and decent standard of living—and the building of new schools and equipping them with state-of-the-art learning tools. Moreover, the miserable social conditions students face outside the classroom must be addressed through a massive public works program to hire the unemployed and put an end to poverty.

Unfortunately, our unions here in NY have decided collaboration with the neo-liberal agenda to destroy public education is the best way to go.

It's time for another way.

It sounds like they have decided that very thing in San Francisco.

Some of us here in NY have decided this too.

It feels like a losing battle, what with the hedge fund industry and Wall Street and the NY Times and the Murdoch Street Journal and the NY Daily News and the NY Post and Morning Joe and the documentary filmmakers and the governor, president, and mayor all on the attack against traditional public schools and unionized teachers.

But Obama is the worst of the attackers because he has been able to affect great changes at a time of economic duress.

And he will get even more before he is done if we do not stop him.

I think a double dip recession is coming in the second part of the year.

I think unemployment will continue at the current awful rate.

I think volatility on Wall Street will continue so long as the sovereign debt crisis is not solved (and that doesn't look like it will get solved any time soon.)

Now that the tax credit program is over, the housing market will fall again.

With the federal stimulus money almost entirely spent and consumer spending slowing, the economy is going to shrink again.

No matter what the cheerleaders at the Murdoch Street Journal say.

When the Obama recession hits, Obama will be working his damnedest to blame it on education and teachers.

He will say that the education system is bad, people are not educated enough to work in a new global economy, and we have to "reform" the system in order to put people back to work.

This of course will be jive. The problem IS the new economy - run by corporations, for corporations - that is wholly enabled by government and the the corporate whores who run government, like Obama.

When the economy tanks again, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that people know that THE RECESSION IS OBAMA'S FAULT.

He has done nothing to put working and middle class people back to work. Where were the jobs programs, the rebuilding of infrastructure, that could have refurbished this country and put people to work for good wages?

There were none - instead Obama gave AIG's counterparties 100 cents to to the dollar for the shit they had insured, bailed out Wall Street and centered on the teachers unions for destruction.

To defend against the attack on teachers and public education, we must go on the attack against the attackers.

That starts with we here on the blogosphere who have seen through Obama's agenda and know that he is on the side of hedge funders against union workers.

We have to talk about this at work.

There are are STILL teachers at my school who support Obama, who have been blinded by the rhetoric or something, and STILL support him (even if they don't support his education policies.)

I try and explain just why Obama is a danger to working people above and beyond his education policies, how the Wall Street bailout, the reversal on oil drilling, his doubling down on the wars and American Empire, his coming attacks on Social Security and Medicare and his health reform giveaway to Big Pharma are all corporate-friendly policies that are enlarging the power of the corporate class (his class) and diminishing the power of working people.

Some people actually do become convinced. Sometimes I see that I have seeded some doubt in their minds and then they come to a similar conclusion after watching his policies in action (the drilling reversal really helped on this.) Some people will never be convinced - they may be too invested in whatever "story" they have created around who Obama is to see him in reality.

Regardless, the more teachers we can get to oppose him and the Democrats who support his education policies, the better. It's a drop in the bucket, I know, but when we have such an array of powerful forces against us, it is important that we get as many of our colleagues on the same page as we can.

There is strength in numbers.

They are proving that in the Bay Area even as we are proving the opposite of that here in NY.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bloomberg Says Teacher Layoffs Are Going To Happen Anyway

Just two days after engaging in a unilateral refusal to negotiate a new teachers contract and announcing a two year "freeze" on teachers salaries to avert 4,400 layoffs, Bloomberg says layoffs are going to happen anyway.

Not kidding - this time he blames a $600 million dollar Medicaid cut from Washington as the culprit for why he needs to lay off teachers.

Here's the Daily News on the story:

The 4,400 teachers that Mayor Bloomberg spared from layoffs this week might not want to get too comfy.

Just two days after he backed off threats to send out pink slips to educators, Bloomberg blamed a $600 million cut from Washington for putting teacher layoffs back on the table.

"Everything will be up in the air once again," Bloomberg said on WOR radio Friday when asked about the prospect of layoffs because of the move.

"We don't have to necessarily cut in one area, but overall, we have to come up with some ways to get $600 million in extra money or reduce our expenses," Bloomberg said. "That's not good."

The House of Representatives actually acted last week to remove federal Medicaid contributions from a jobs bill, so it's unclear why Bloomberg would reverse himself on the need for teacher layoffs.

When a reporter tried to ask about the reversal, Bloomberg walked away from a podium Friday, and his spokesman later said he had no answer.

This news of the layoffs back on the table comes one day after the Daily News reported that Bloomberg and Klein handed out 14% raises to central DOE employees just weeks before the announced salary freeze.

The Daily News article says the UFT had no comment on the layoffs being back on the table, but one union official noted that Mulgrew and Bloomberg are going to travel to D.C. together to beg for more money.

Heckuva job protecting teacher jobs, Mulgrew!

Heckuva job advocating for teacher salaries!

As Bloomberg and Klein are handing out raises to central DOE employees and managers and hiring 8 new deputy chancellors and giving the New Teacher Project millions of dollars to "hire new teachers," they're freezing teacher salaries to avert layoffs and then threatening layoffs anyway.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bloomberg/Klein Gave Raises To DOE Officials Just Before Announcing The Teacher Salary Freeze

The ultimate in hypocrisy:

As the city moves to freeze teacher salaries, the Education Department has quietly given raises to 45 bureaucrats, administrators and other non-school staffers, the Daily News has learned.

The $340,000 in pay hikes went into effect just weeks before Mayor Bloomberg decided to eliminate across-the-board teacher raises to avert widespread layoffs.

"At the same time the Department of Ed was threatening layoffs of 4,400 teachers, they seemed to be handing out much-needed funding," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. "The money in tough economic times is supposed to be for schools and children, and not for highly paid bureaucrats at central DOE."

The new raises come on top of $500,000 in pay increases doled out during an agency reshuffling in April that upped the number of deputy chancellors to eight from three.

Education Department officials vigorously defended the raises, approved by Chancellor Joel Klein and his deputies, saying they were designed to compensate staffers for increased responsibility or for filling a vacancy in a more senior position.

And indeed, some of the employees were promoted to positions of authority in the agency, such as a deputy becoming the head of small-school development.

Of the 10 employees who received raises of 10% or more, only two were taking on new jobs - the other eight had "additional responsibilities," officials said.

Midnight raises for DOE officials, a morning salary freeze for teachers.

And of course the op-ed writers at the Times cheered, using words like "sensible," "fair," and "an equitable solution in tough times..."

Just as I predicted they would say.

Are the midnight salary hikes at the DOE, the 4% raises handed out to City Council and Mayoral staffs, the $5 million to the NTP and all the no-bid contracts "sensible," "fair," and "equitable solutions in tough times"?

Must the recession be funded solely on the backs of hard-working teachers?

Bloomberg Wants LeBron

Mayor Bloomberg says there is no money for raises for teachers. Not even the measly 2% he offered after cutting the 4% from the pattern bargaining in half.

Oh, but there IS money to spend on p.r. to get LeBron James to sign with the Knicks:

LeBron James is the Big Apple of New York's eye, and the city is pulling out all the stops to let him know.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is part of a group that launched a promotional campaign to convince the free agent to play for either the New York Knicks or New Jersey Nets.

"New York City is fit for a king -- there's no better place in the world to live, to play or to win," Bloomberg said in a statement. "New Yorkers want LeBron to come to the greatest city in the world, and we're launching the C'mon Lebron campaign to capitalize on their energy and creativity in making their own cases for why he should choose New York. There are terrific cities all over the country, but none match the excitement of the greatest City in the world."

Street ads and online promotions will feature New Yorkers and celebrated public figures trying to convince the Cleveland Cavaliers star to choose New York when free agency begins July 1. C'mon LeBron T-shirts will be distributed in the city, while messages will appear on taxis and in Times Square. The website carries the group's message.

Boy, I am so glad he's got money to spend on this thing, but not for a lousy extra $1500 a year for me.

Or for that matter, money to fix the holes in the ceiling of all the classrooms on the ninth floor in my school.

The ones spewing dust and crap into the air.

The dust and crap that sent one teacher to the ER with an asthmatic attack.

The dust and crap that may have caused me to have an allergic reaction and lose hearing in my ear for a few days.

Yeah, I am glad Bloomberg has his priorities straight.


Even odious ones that he really hates - like Cablevision.

Remember, Cablevision owns the Knicks.

Bloomberg hates Cablevision because they fought him on the West Side stadium issue.

Yet he is spending money to help them out.

Just goes to show, so long as your corporation, Bloomberg is willing to let bygones be bygones...

It must be in his blood - all blue, these days.