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Public School Districts Fight Back Against Privatization With District-Based, All-Public “Schools of Choice”

Read more about the way Grand Prairie ISD has developed schools organized around themes (like magnet schools, but with no entry tests or applications) and shown versatility in offering programs that appeal to families in the community — all done as fully public, civil rights and IDEA-compliant taxpayer-funded and publicly-accountable schools.

January 11, 2013 January 11, 2013 school reform, varied curriculum
Why Are State Budget Cuts to Education the “New Normal”?

When the housing bubble ginned up by Wall Street went into freefall some time around 2007-2008, housing values plummeted and with them evaporated crucial state funding for K-12 schools based on residential real estate valuation. The Center for Budget Policy and Priorities has said that for 2012-2013, the budgets of thirty states will continue to reflect shortfalls in funding and that this graph shows how losses might not be made up until 2019 at the earliest: Consider that in 2010, a number of corporate reformers plotted a hostile takeover of public education and assessed their efforts so far. In 2010, billionaire donors like the Waltons, DeVos and Gates families gathered in Houston, Texas at a Philanthropy Roundtable meeting to discuss ways to create “breakthroughs” in public education. After patting themselves on the back for promoting organizations like Teach for America and KIPP, as well as recognizing Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, they looked to the future. As they were brainstorming things to note in the current landscape, AEI’s Rick Hess suggested that unions could be co-opted by being encouraged to move from an industrial model to a “professional model”, and then offered this: The fiscal condition of states and towns will open up opportunities, too. “There’s going to be a sustained window of four to five years or longer where you’re going to find local districts with very tight budgets,” Hess said. “This is a huge moment of opportunity for funders to step up to the plate and say, ‘We’re going to help you out—but there’s a quid pro quo.’”[emphasis in the citation] That would be a textbook example of Shock Doctrine education reform right there, funded by the same billionaires who created and continue to maintain the fiscal condition of states and towns. Those same billionaires are now spending hundreds of millions of dollars to keep that window forced open while they work to shift public opinion away from traditional K-12 education into for-profit models that will present “opportunities” for a quid-pro-quo deal. Consider it a multi-pronged approach. Drive a stake into the heart of teachers unions and put proposals in front of them that will need to be “jammed down their throats”, demonize those same teachers in order to manufacture a “crisis” based primarily on flawed testing and unproven evaluation metrics. Add the online education movement amplified via ALEC and state legislatures, where online education isn’t simply an option, but is required in several states. Mix it up with a pinch of teacher humiliation, and the odor of “education deform” begins to permeate and bubble in every community. The tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina for the city of New Orleans was so textbook a case of Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein spent  a lengthy chapter detailing how the public school system was immediately replaced by for-profit charter schools. In the excerpted introduction to her book of the same name, Klein describes a conversation she had with some New Orleans residents who were at a temporary shelter: The news racing around the shelter that day was that the Republican Congressman Richard Baker had told a group of lobbyists, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans’ wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: “I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities.” All that week Baton Rouge had been crawling with corporate lobbyists helping to lock in those big opportunities: lower taxes, fewer regulations, cheaper workers and a “smaller, safer city” – which in practice meant plans to level the public housing projects. Hearing all the talk of “fresh starts” and “clean sheets”, you could almost forget the toxic stew of rubble, chemical outflows and human remains just a few miles down the highway. Over at the shelter, Jamar could think of nothing else. “I really don’t see it as cleaning up the city. What I see is that a lot of people got killed uptown. People who shouldn’t have died.” He was speaking quietly, but an older man in line in front of us overheard and whipped around. “What is wrong with these people in Baton Rouge? This isn’t an opportunity. It’s a goddamned tragedy. Are they blind?” A mother with two kids chimed in. “No, they’re not blind, they’re evil. They see just fine.” One of those who saw opportunity in the floodwaters of New Orleans was the late Milton Friedman, grand guru of unfettered capitalism and credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy. Ninety-three years old and in failing health, “Uncle Miltie”, as he was known to his followers, found the strength to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal three months after the levees broke. “Most New Orleans schools are in ruins,” Friedman observed, “as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity.” There, in essence, is the Shock Doctrine: your tragedy is my opportunity. Please do read the supplemental materials Klein provides, including the Milton Friedman newspaper editorial that proposes “vulture capitalism” as the way to rebuild New Orleans schools. This is why K12NN’s number one priority, and the priority of anyone who genuinely cares about strengthening public schools, is to fully fund existing public schools. We must repel the carrion-feeders who capitalize from misfortune, and if no natural disaster strikes, they ensure that man-made ones enacted through state legislatures’ austerity budgets, continued chronic underfunding, and cuts and triggers become the “new normal.” If hedge fund and billionaire philanthropists — who openly rub their hands in glee at the prospect of turning public schools into factory-like information delivery systems to children who are little else than sources of data — have their way, the impact of the 2007 Great Recession could be prolonged by deliberate political inaction into 2019 — long enough for profiteers to finish their hostile takeover of public schools. We cannot allow this to happen. We must continually remind each other that scarcity benefits profiteers. All cuts, no taxes ever is NOT the “new normal.” We must look to the ways that schools can and should be funded: by increasing revenue streams. Fund our public schools, or face losing a generation of young people and a vital pillar of our civil society.

June 21, 2012 June 21, 2012 disaster capitalism, Hurricane Katrina, Naomi Klein, New Orleans, public schools, shock doctrine, state K-12 budgets
Whose Law Is It Anyway? ALEC’s Influence on State Legislatures and What We Can Do About It

Complete Storify notes and video of the panel, Q&A, and discussion of ALEC. Not solely about education, but very much relevant as ALEC-pushed bills are the template for corporate takeover of public education in state legislatures.

June 15, 2012 June 15, 2012 ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate-backed laws, right-wing legislative clearinghouse
Education as a Right-Wing Wedge Issue—and How to Stop It

Complete Storify notes of the panel discussion with Q&A and bios of the panelists.

June 15, 2012 June 15, 2012 conservative ed reform, Jose Vilson, Karran Harper Royal, Martha Infante, Public Education, public schools, Sabrina Stevens
What Progressives Can Do to Stop the War on Public Education

Complete video of the session plus Q&A, and bios of the panelists. Watch live streaming video from fstvnewswire at livestream.com

June 15, 2012 June 15, 2012 Diane Ravitch, John Jackson, Kenneth Bernstein, Netroots Nation 2012, NN12, Public Education
North Carolina FAQ

North Carolina has been the site of attempts by the billioniare oil barons, the Koch brothers, to end public education as we know it, and re-introduce segregation. Here’s what happened in Wake County, NC, in 2009: This Mother Jones article documents how conservative, right-wing forces like the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity warped local school board races and distorted the outcomes by flooding them with money.

June 13, 2012 June 13, 2012
UC Davis’ Report on the State of the State of California’s After School Programs, May 2012

State and federal funding supports after school programs for children K-12. Some 450,000 children were able to attend safe, supervised, productive after school programs in 2011-2012, but over 2,600 schools were left out in the cold with no community partnerships or state/local funding to support these programs. Were you affected? What are you doing for your child’s summer and the after school hours if in summer school? What’s the picture for the year ahead? State of the State of California After School Programs, May 2012

June 12, 2012 June 12, 2012 after school programs, K-12 after school, school aftercare, state/federal funding
Impact of Governor Walker’s Budget Cuts on Wisconsin Public Schools (11/11/2011)

Via the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s YouTube channel. Please see the rest of the important information on budget cuts and the harm they inflict on public schools at the link. Only a partial summary of the resources are listed here. This press conference was held November 10, 2011, at Monona Grove High School to address the issue. Speakers include: – State Superintendent Tony Evers – Superintendent Craig Gerlach, Monona Grove School District – School Board President Susan Fox, Monona Grove School District – Superintendent Jamie Benson, River Valley School District – Sue Howe, family and consumer education teacher, Monona Grove School District – Dana Kingsley, parent, Wisconsin Dells – Kemal Kirchmeier, student, Pardeeville High School Map showing loss of teacher jobs in Wisconsin: http://dpi.wi.gov/eis/pdf/wasdasurveyresults.pdf#page=5 News release: http://dpi.wi.gov/eis/pdf/dpinr2011_127.pdf WASDA Survey: http://dpi.wi.gov/eis/pdf/wasdasurvey.pdf WASDA Survey Results: http://dpi.wi.gov/eis/pdf/wasdasurveyresults.pdf Video produced by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

June 4, 2012 June 4, 2012 cuts to higher ed, cuts to K-12, school funding, WI budget cuts, WI Department of Public Instruction
Types of Public Schools: Overview

Alternative: publicly-funded schools where children (“discouraged learners”) who have behavorial, disciplinary, addiction, pregnancy, or other at-risk issues that make it difficult for them to succeed at everyday neighborhood public schools can be educated with the guidance of specially-trained teachers and staff. Here is research surveying the landscape of alternative schools by Gay G. Gnutson, Phd, Professor Emeritus of Education, Carroll College: “Alternative Schools, Models for the Future?” Examples of public alternative schools: Al Kennedy Alternative High School, Cottage Grove, OR News articles:  “Oregon’s Al Kennedy Alternative High School in Cottage Grove devotes its curriculum to sustainability,” OregonLive “RETHINKING EDUCATION: Al Kennedy High School Tries a New Approach,” University of Oregon Broadway Alternative Learning Center at Longfellow (for pregnant and parenting mothers), Minneapolis, MN News articles: “Unique school educates two generations,” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder “Redefined high school for pregnant and parenting mothers,” Insight News Harvey Milk High School, NYC “The Controversy Over the Harvey Milk School,” NY Magazine Community: publicly-funded schools that tie together social service agencies, community groups, local businesses, and health and adult learning resources, usually in low-income or distressed neighborhoods, to ensure that children and families have the support they need to succeed. The school may offer longer hours, such as in the evening or on weekends, to ensure that families can truly utilize the school as a resource. Read the FAQ by the Institute for Educational Learning’s Coalition for Community Schools. (above) This is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussing community schools and how they might function as 24-7 resources to the neighborhood. Aquila Elementary School, St. Louis Park, MN (from the website): ACT Program The ACT is a comprehensive package of school-based services at Aquila and Peter Hobart Elementary Schools and in St. Louis Park that includes case management for at risk families, teacher consultation, counseling intervention, and a school wide prevention program.  It is a joint effort of the schools and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Minneapolis (JFCS). The objectives are to improve a child’s self-esteem and ability to succeed in school, improve family functioning, and assist teachers with student social or behavioral concerns. ACT offers four services: Case management for families that need resources for housing or transportation, or support for any problem that might inhibit a child in growing and developing within the school. A social skills curriculum taught weekly in most classrooms to help children boost self-confidence and effective peer interaction. Individual and group counseling for children at school. Volunteer tutors or ‘lunch buddies’ for children who could benefit from the guidance and support of an adult role model. Students often bring their family life and any problems they have to school.  The key to ACT is to improve the connection between home and school to meet students’ needs.   Neighborhood: publicly-funded local schools in residential areas, often within walking/bicycling distance or an easy car drive, that serve all students within a geographically designated boundary. Generally students living outside the boundary must apply for a permit to attend the school if there are any open spaces after students living within the boundary are served. All children’s needs are met, whether they come with special needs due to learning/physical/cognitive disability, or if their first language is other than English. Magnet: publicly-funded schools that can be either a “school within a school” or an entire school given over to a theme, specialized approach, or pre-professional emphasis. Entry can be universal by geographic boundary, by application (test score, portfolios of student work, perofrmances showing student ability), or a mixture of geographic boundary and application for entry. Criteria for entry must be transparent and well-publicized. Magnet Schools of America is an association of public magnets that helps disseminate information about this type of school. Read its mission here. Examples of magnet schools: The “Fame” High School, Fiorella La Guardia School of Music, & Art and Performing Arts The second-largest city public school district in the nation, Los Angeles Unified’s portal for magnet school information and applications A magnet for gifted students in a school in a low-income Charlotte, NC neighborhood, where devoted middle class parents shower the school with attention and have helped turn it around. And this brings us to — Charter Schools: Are they public? No less an authority on public school education than Professor Diane Ravitch asks this question. Take a look at the part of the FAQ devoted to charter schools to see the discussion there.

May 26, 2012 May 26, 2012 alternative schools, community schools, local neighborhood schools, magnet schools, public school main characteristics, taxpayer-funded schools, types of public schools
From COPAA (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates): Charter Schools and Students With Disabilities, January 2012

This is a great report put together by advocates who know education law, as they’re parents and attorneys, and have children with special needs. The focus here is on charter schools, which have a notorious reputation for “skimming” or “creaming” only the most motivated and test-savvy children, and pushing children with disabilities or other challenges back into the neighborhood school system. Charter Schools and Students With Disabilities Final

May 21, 2012 May 21, 2012

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