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Ravitch writes: "Never before has there been a serious and sustained effort to defund public education, to turn public money over to unaccountable private hands, and to weaken and eliminate collective bargaining wherever it still exists. And this effort is not only well-coordinated but funded by billionaires who have grown wealthy in a free market and can't see any need for regulation or unions or public schools."

Arne Duncan. (photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
Arne Duncan. (photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Do Public School Teachers Have Any Friends in the Obama Administration?

By Diane Ravitch,

02 July 14


e are living in an era when the very idea of public education is under attack, as are teachers' unions and the teaching profession. Let's be clear: these attacks and the power amassed behind them are unprecedented in American history. Sure, there have always been critics of public schools, of teachers, and of unions. But never before has there been a serious and sustained effort to defund public education, to turn public money over to unaccountable private hands, and to weaken and eliminate collective bargaining wherever it still exists. And this effort is not only well-coordinated but funded by billionaires who have grown wealthy in a free market and can't see any need for regulation or unions or public schools.

In the past, Democratic administrations and Democratic members of Congress could be counted on to support public education and to fight privatization. In the past, Democrats supported unions, which they saw as a dependable and significant part of their base.

This is no longer the case. Congress is about to pass legislation to expand funding of charter schools, despite the fact that they get no better results than public schools and despite the scandalous misuse of public funds by charter operators in many states.

The Obama administration strongly supports privatization via charters; one condition of Race to the Top was that states had to increase the number of charters. The administration is no friend of teachers or of teacher unions. Secretary Duncan applauded the lamentable Vergara decision, as he has applauded privatization and evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. There are never too many tests for this administration. Although the president recently talked about the importance of unions, he has done nothing to support them when they are under attack. Former members of his administration are leading the war against teachers and their unions.

Think Rahm Emanuel, who apparently wants to be known as the mayor who privatized Chicago and broke the teachers' union. Or think Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary who is now leading the public relations campaign against teachers' due process rights.

The National Education Association is meeting now in Denver at its annual conference. The American Federation of Teachers holds its annual convention in Los Angeles in another week or so. Both must take seriously the threat to the survival of public education: not only privatization but austerity and over-testing. These are not different threats. They are connected. Austerity and over-testing set public schools up to fail. They are precursors to privatization. They are intended to make public schools weak and to destroy public confidence in democratically controlled schools. What is needed at this hour is a strong, militant response to these attacks on teachers, public schools, and -- where they exist -- unions.

For sure, unions have their faults. But they are the only collective voice that teachers have. Now is the time to use that voice. The battle for the future of public education is not over.

Supporters of public education must rally and stand together and elect a president in 2016 who supports public schools. This is a time to get informed, to organize, to strategize, and to mobilize. If you are not angry, you have not been paying attention. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

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-35 # Roland 2014-07-02 22:35
We spend $12,743 per public school student, more than almost every other country and get poor results. Yet, in 2012 teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading.

He is wrong to say the charter schools don’t perform, most do. Has anyone seen “Waiting For Superman” or the other documentaries where parents are crying when their kids couldn't get into the charter school system due to over demand for the few available spots? These parents know the truth. And, they want charter schools. It appears the administration and some democrats know the truth and are working to support them.

The unions on the other hand want to keep their membership, high pay and benefits. In some states, some can retire at the age of 57! I pay taxes and in turn their salaries and I can’t retire then, can you? Probably not, unless you are a unionized public sector worker.

Yes, in some poor neighborhoods where charters do better, it is because the kids attending are the ones most motivated or they have the most motivated parents. And low scores quite often aren’t due to bad teachers, but to social problems in poor neighborhoods. However, I don’t see any reason to spend more to send a child to a public school, (rather than a charter school) if we aren’t going to get better results by doing that.
-3 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-03 02:54
It just isn't as simple as anyone is writing about; Diane or Roland. I was a public school teacher for 17 years, and then taught at a charter for 12, and gosh, now I teach part-time at a private non-profit school.

1) Charters are not private schools. They get the same public tax money per student as a public school, and in most cases, less money, a lot less money.

2) The end of the teachers' union would not be the end of public schools. And, if it did end, the way of public mass education would probably not change. Public schools are stuck in a rut because of administration and schoold board policies.

3) Scores are slipping in this country because of childrens' home life and domestic issues. Poverty being the biggest statistical correlation. 75% of a student's battery test score is due to his or her domestic life-- for the world.

4) Higher or lower paid school employees is not going to change anything. And, I dare anyone on this list, pro or anti union to prove to me other wise.

5) Most charter schools are inside jobs. Or, the charter planners and implementers have access to school officials and politicians. So, charters are becoming just like your standard public school, because the same individual starting charters are responsible for maintaining public schools.

6) Narratives like "Waiting for Superman" and the above Ravitch piece do absolutely nothing for our children's future academic progress. All they do is create villians in a world that needs...
-7 # Roland 2014-07-03 07:18
We agree on a lot. I was mentioning the Waiting for Superman piece, in order to point out that charter schools are what too many parents desperately want.
+10 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-03 07:36
Charter schools are no longer what they used to be. They used to be small, run by the planner and or person who implemented the charter, small classes, lots of teachers, parents, and community working together.

They have now become run by large corporate offices that spread out like an octopus. They have become what your standard public school is; a confused soul of twisted planning from micro and macro management --- who may never see a classroom in action for a day, or ha, a full school year.

Stop basing your argument on a movie! You cannot plan and implement a path forward to child development based upon a reckless narrative!
-9 # Roland 2014-07-03 08:21
It isn't one movie. I have seen pieces on shows like 60 Min. which put out the same message, of parents wanting to get their kids out of the public school system and into charters. there have been articles pointing out the demand in NY is greater thatn the supply.
As you said earlier many of the charter schools cost less. and as I said earlier "I don’t see any reason to spend more to send a child to a public school, (rather than a charter school) if we aren’t going to get better results by doing that.
+15 # Buddha 2014-07-03 08:41
Quoting Roland:
The unions on the other hand want to keep their membership, high pay and benefits. In some states, some can retire at the age of 57! I pay taxes and in turn their salaries and I can’t retire then, can you? Probably not, unless you are a unionized public sector worker.

If teaching is such an easy job, and one that is so over-compensate d, then please tell me why you haven't rushed into teaching yourself? Why do about 15% of teachers quit within their first year, and about 50% quit within 5 years, long before those "generous pensions" would be vested? Why does teaching have a "turnover rate" that is 4-5X the rate of other professions those same college degrees allow, hmmmm? Given these statistics, is a policy of attacking teaching compensation and workplace quality going to attract more qualified teachers to the profession, or scare more away to go to other professions?

One example is me. I have a PhD in molecular biology, with now two decades of experience in industry. I have calculated that to go into teaching I would be taking a 50% pay cut, and all to be vilified by conservative idiots and parents who would blame me for why their little Timmy who doesn't do his homework and instead plays Playstation all day is thanks. But you go right on blaming teachers unions and "bad teachers", how very typical...
-7 # Roland 2014-07-03 13:04
If I knew then what I know now, I would have considered teaching. Thanks to my dues, the union would negotiate with the democrats they put in office and I would get benifits that are matched very few places outside of the public sector.

You may be overqualifed to teach high school. If so why should we hire someone overqualifed and pay them more? If you read what I said above "And low scores quite often aren’t due to bad teachers, but to social problems".
+1 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-04 04:01
Roland, what exactly is overqualified? I would say that 99% of the USA work force is overqualified. This is a country that rewards people with higher pay for working less. The more harder you work, the less you get paid.

Now, please describe to me in that context, what exactly is overqualified?
0 # Roland 2014-07-04 09:07
Example. If one has a Doctors degree in math they would be overqualified to teach algebra.

As a taxpayer do you want to pay more for someone who is overqualified?
+19 # Citizen Mike 2014-07-03 05:32
The capitalists no longer need a well- educated domestic work force. That was the purpose of public education, to prepare people to work at jobs. All the jobs have been shipped overseas. That is why we now see an agenda to destroy all tax-dependent social programs and government services. The unspoken Republican agenda is to kill off the poor. It's all on one string.
-14 # Roland 2014-07-03 07:13
Is this satire or is it revolutionary misinformation?

Businesses are complaining that they can’t find properly educated employees. Because of this some companies are bringing in people from overseas and others are just moving some of their operations overseas.
+17 # Suzy 2014-07-03 07:32
To what extent is it that businesses can't find properly educated employees vs. that they can't find enough people who will accept "slave wages?"
How do people like the Waltons e.g. justify the fact that their workers must apply for government assistance when they are among the richest people in the world?
+7 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-03 07:44
Quoting Roland:

Businesses are complaining that they can’t find properly educated employees. Because of this some companies are bringing in people from overseas and others are just moving some of their operations overseas.

Then business should complain about the utter lack of parenting and support for child development IN THE HOME! Most american business do not even recognize that their workers even have a home or children. Just look at wages in this country. How do businesses in this country deal with anything, really, but cut it down to the dollar. They got what they deserved, they sowed the seed, they filled their bank accounts with numbers and neglected the humanity of their communities.

And, I am so sorry for the people overseas who are now stuck with these monster businesses who spread like a fungus. Good bye to them!

Roland, wake up! It is about child development! That is what education is!
-10 # Roland 2014-07-03 08:31
Seriously you think that if a business brings up the lack or parenting they won't be slammed by the liberal media?
Overseas the people are grateful for the jobs, because without them, their plight would be worse.
Some jobs are not worth more that minimum wage. To set an artificial higher wage will only cause more pain. Fewer jobs, higher prices, less revenue to the govt. and more govt. spending on assistance programs. Some will benefit, but at the expense of others.
+5 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-03 09:59
Okay, let us all live your way, set the wage low for all the workers at the paper mill. Let us give them just enough to buy rice and live in a one bedroom shack. And for years the paper mill cranks out paper for the world to buy. And the years go by, decades, generations of low wage workers living on the edge of home (domestic) and family failure.

These families are barely getting enough, can barely nurture their children, can barely afford anything to stimulate their minds.

And Mr. Owner of the paper mill has all the capital. He barely takes care of his family, because hell, no one else is. Then he turns to the politicians and says, "No one is educating my workers enough to press the right paper mill levers!". And he is angry about it?

Is that good enough for you Roland. Happy yet. Artificial enough for you yet?

Perhaps not. Lets throw in a police force. And even a union too. The workers ask for more. Mr. Owner says "No". The police force pummels the workers for demanding more, and some bllsht union leader demands more action from the workers, and the police pummel more. All the while, there are children IN NEED OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT!

But who the heck cares about them. We got ourselves a paper mill with people working who are not worth more than minimum wage.

Then, the staticians come in with their battery of test. Behold, the scores are low! Then we blame the teachers, some public schools, charter school...
+1 # 6thextinction 2014-07-04 18:59
Roland, did your education come from a private, charter or public school? All your sentences are sweeping generalizations or opinions without any support.
American children's national overall education scores have decreased during the increase of charter schools. (You can google that.) Charter schools can hire teachers without a degree in Education. They take taxpayer dollars, and big profits are made from their "business." If you want to hear first-hand about their effectiveness, and live near a large town or city, find a substitute teacher or two who work in both charter and public schools, and have a chat with them.
+5 # Suzy 2014-07-03 07:15
Citizen Mike---
I agree. The new holocaust will be killing the poor. By the time the distracted populace gets it, it will be too late.
+11 # RMDC 2014-07-03 07:32
No one is mentioning the for-profit education corporations which make learning modules and standardized tests and stand to make billions of dollars if these replace a lot of teaching done by teachers. At the college level, a lot of the attacks on education are coming from the for-profit institutions.

The amount of money spent each year on schools is really huge and the profit mongers just want to get as much of it as they can. The standardized tests can be designed to show just about anything. Students could be shown to be performing very well, maybe best in the world. This does not mean they will actually know anything.
+1 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-04 04:15
I know the state battery test market has become a shrill of commerce. Here in Pennsylvania I know of horror stories. And, in most cases the stats and validity scores are being mucked with.

Throw in cheating- it is a mess.

A standarized test is a basic attempt at measuring thought. It attempts to hold a ruler up to a developing child's thoughts and measure those thoughts. A standardized test can only do so much, it is best for measuring large groups of subjects, not individuals. So, it barely works well enough to show if a subject is being taught well to a large group of children. It is all we got.

But the millions of dollars that states pay for the test is out of control. And with that, so goes the reliability, then validity.

Some test are becoming simple well printed fancy multiple choice test.

Heck the IQ test, the real one, cost 2,200.00 USD to administer; for one child.
+2 # RMDC 2014-07-03 07:34
Suzy -- we are at the 100th anniversary of WW I and part of the reason for that war was to kill off the surplus working class. The rise of factories and automation were creating surplus people and what better way to kill them off than to send them into the trenches and war.
+1 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-03 07:51
Would you please stop vilifying. Focus! There is no holocaust here. Focus on child development. Did I say child development, let me say it again, child development.

We need to find a way to improve child development in this country. Talking about someone killing the poor isn't doing anything. Talking about teachers unions isn't doing anything. Putting down Charters isn't doing anything.

Forget the negative. Let's go with the positive, discovery, creative... new ways +++
+9 # Suzy 2014-07-03 08:42
Peaceful Garden---

To forget the negative would be to ignore the fact that there are millions of children in this country who go to bed hungry every night, children who have drug addicted neglectful parents, children who live with the sounds of gunshots on a daily basis, some of whom have seen loved ones murdered in front of them. They probably won't find
their way to charter schools which probably wouldn't have ways to deal with what they are going through anyway.

To forget the negative would be to forget that an admirer of Ayn Rand has been given the responsibility for creating a budget endorsed by the Republican Party. And what did Ayn Rand say? She said,
"What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?"

If we forget the negative, we ignore what will happen to the poorest among us if we don't pay attention.
-1 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-03 10:00
Suzy, how do we improve child development in this country?
+2 # Suzy 2014-07-03 16:40
Peaceful Garden

A good start would be to provide them with adequate food, clothing, shelter, and a sense of safety and security. This would cost money that many people are not willing to spend.

A dramatic increase in the number of school social workers would be
needed to help accomplish this. Insuring that the children are healthy and attending school on a regular basis would help considerably with their readiness to learn.
-1 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-04 03:51
Yes, Suzy, it is a good start. Please spread the word, Forget about the money that many people will not spend. Just continue to keep positive, tell them all about providing a secure home for the children of the nation-- and world.

Just repeat it to them, one of those times a guy like Roland will get it.

Yes, increase school social workers! Insuring the community is meeting the needs of it children. Keep going! Shout it to the world!
+7 # Buddha 2014-07-03 09:59
Quoting Suzy:
Citizen Mike---
I agree. The new holocaust will be killing the poor. By the time the distracted populace gets it, it will be too late.

Already happening, Suzy. Latest epidemiological studies have shown that in America, because of our lack of universal healthcare about 40K Americans die annually that shouldn't have. Red-State GOP who have refused to expand Medicare coverage for the working poor are killing somewhere between 10-17K Americans per year. This higher mortality due to lack of universality is why in just about every measure our healthcare system under-performs those systems that exist in other developed nations. If a terrorist organization killed 40K Americans per year, we'd bomb them. When the GOP does it, we re-elect them.
0 # Suzy 2014-07-03 18:21

Well said!!
+12 # Andrew Hansen 2014-07-03 07:20
And so we have realized the fullness of neoliberal capitalism--soc ialize cost, privatize profit, everywhere.
+7 # ganymede 2014-07-03 12:58
Why is it that most advanced countries have universal health care and universal education? Healthcare and education can't be based solely on profit which is certainly how healthcare has been run, and, now the Charter School movement is trying to do the same. Obviously, we have to continue to fight for Medicaire for all as well as high grade universal education.

America's backwardness, which really got a huge push from Reagan's 'government is the cause of all our problems' ethos, is literally destroying our country and turning us into a banana republic.
0 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-04 03:43
I am very passionate about this topic, and if I may be arrogant about myself, I know much about this issue. I have studied this issue for two decades. And no one listens to me. No one listens to others like me.

I think the saddest and darkest indication of where are public schools are is the fact that most physical education programs in this country have no curriculum. It is basically a want-to-be football coach who basically isn't doing enough for the children's physical development. Knock-out games are basically the curriculum. Where the low physical children are knocked out, sit on the side and watch the physical children sport away. Now that basically describes our schools today.

But worse, is the tackle football programs. The sport that correlates to brain damage, trauma enduced encephalitis. The mere fact that tackle football exists in our public schools completely describes a culture of "coach first" and "cognitive development last" that permates the entire system. Please wake up, listen to me, a sport where the requirement is to line up two groups of children with plastic helmets on, and watch the heads slam into each other over and over again for 2 hours is nothing short of shaking a babies head for 2 hours. The brain is still developing upwards to age 21.

We have schools all over the country that basically shake developing brains for hours until the brains of those children have their cognition impared.

Diane? Support public schools?
0 # PeacefulGarden 2014-07-04 03:47
Children required upwards to 40 minutes of guided physical activity a day to increase cognitive abilities. Odd correlation, but from an evolutionary context, it makes sense. Children have got to move to grow.

Leaving them at desks for hours isn't working.

Improve physical education NOW! And I am not a gym teacher!

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