Strikes Against Charters, Amateurism, Disinvestment and DeVos/Trump Agenda

New Orleans       Reporters and commentators don’t know what to make of the anger and activism of teachers who are flipping the red-state script and taking job actions, with and without their unions, to directly target governors and legislators in Oklahoma, North Carolina, West Virginia, and likely Arizona.

West Virginia teachers were out nine days until they won a full commitment from the governor and legislative leadership to fully fund increases for both teachers and state employees.  Oklahoma teachers saw their governor and legislature attempt to preempt their strike with a $6000 raise, but their demands were for $10,000 over several years, raises for school support workers, and huge investments in public schools that have been starved for funding for years.  North Carolina teachers took sick days to go to their legislators with their demands.  Arizona teachers are clearly organizing to be apart of this Teacher Spring offensive.

What’s in the water at the drinking fountains in public school hallways now?

Some of the credit must be given to Trump and the long rolling scandal of his misogyny.  More than 75% of the teaching force is composed of women, and this is a moment for women everywhere to step up and step out.  Teachers are professionals.  They are responsible for discipline and decorum in the classroom and often in the community as well.  Talk to any of them and you will find that regardless of political affiliation, they are offended by the tenor and tone of the national government.

They understand they work for the government, and they see that they have been abandoned by the government and the calls for shrinking public services and closing of the public purse.  They don’t have to go to Washington to join and lead the resistance, they can see the disinvestment in public education right at home and in the rhetoric of their own state legislators and their knee-jerk adherence to the charter and privatization of education over recent years and in the ideological ignorance of Betty DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary.  The West Virginia spark has started a prairie fire.

Congress in the new budget recently left DeVos stranded like a voice in her own wilderness.  She wanted to cut the budget by $9 billion.   They ignored her and added $2.5 billion.  She wanted to eviscerate the civil rights offices for schools, and they made such action dependent on Congressional action.  They slammed the door on her hands and did so without apology.

Teachers in Oklahoma may not win.  No strikes are guaranteed victory, but they do guarantee that everyone will feel the pain and that lines will be drawn.  Their demand for investment in more staffing and improved physical plants after years of disinvestment are going to stop the bleeding there.  They had won an $18 million down payment on improvements before they stopped work.  They will win more, and their action will prevent legislators from continuing to defund public schools in favor of choice, vouchers, and charters.

Always remember that teachers in statewide actions like these are in every legislators’ districts.  Public support flows from teachers to children to their parents and legislators are being forced to remember that now as teachers flood into their offices in state capital after state capital.

Strike to strike, who can gauge the results, but taken together state after state will start getting this message, so whatever happens this spring, the results will likely rebound to the good for public education and teachers for years to come.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Privilege and Politics in School Funding Formulas

photo-originalNew Orleans    In the time of tight public budgets at every level in the uneven recovery from the recession, especially in distressed communities, little is more contentious than the funding formula and the allocation of scarce resources in public schools. There may be few areas in the country where the issue is more weighted than in New Orleans the home of the largest charter school experiment in the country over the last decade, where there continues to be a split system with some schools under the elected board and some still managed by the state.

So, the State of Louisiana is broke as a joke. Not a funny joke, but one leaving the state and much of the educational system in wreck and ruin after the failed narcissism of former governor, Bobby Jindal. Now in the reckoning with reality, the two local New Orleans school systems have tried to work out a formula through the various superintendents and the committees that advise them composed of many of the school principals.

Truth to tell there have been a lot of problems with some of the charters. One of the more noxious has been the sleight of hand used by a number of the charters to steer special needs students anywhere possible as long as it was not their own classrooms. A class action suit brought by national and local civil rights organizations exposed this situation for the venality it represented, but also meant that any funding formula was going to have to do better in supporting special needs students if possible.

It was not a surprise that in the negotiations the often conflicting New Orleans-based school superintendents were able to come to an agreement on a formula, urged and ratified by their advisory committees, but equally unsurprising is the reallocation of funds as the state-based Recovery School District finally grips the reality of return to the Orleans Parish School System. Something was going to have to give, and that turned out to be the “gifted/talented” category. The funding in this category is set to drop under current discussions from $1295 per student down to $375 per pupil. The reductions will be phased in gradually with no school losing more than $170 per student on the average in the coming school year. Seems fair doesn’t it? In fact it was approved 10-1 by the committee. Other organizations from the Urban League to even the Louisiana Association of Charter Schools sent the state board letters of support. Nevertheless, the few schools that are magnet charters for the gifted have squealed like stuck pigs.

Partly that’s because both politics and money demands they play their parts. Politics because their public school student base and more importantly their parents includes people with more clout, louder voices, and deeper pockets than the average public school, so they have a shot that their pleadings might ease the pain. Money, because many of these schools are fundraising juggernauts with their own development staff, tax exempt organizations, and zealot, one-hundred-percent fundraiser parents. From the numbers I happen to hear from one school, Benjamin Franklin High School, they already privately raise more than $1 million to supplement the state and local funds. Though the development team and principal were moaning that they would lose 12% of their funding on their $10 million school budget over the years, they would only lose about $150,000 in this first year, and you get a feeling that is about the dollar amount you could put on whether or not “they protest too much.” The published paycheck for one of the other gifted schools is at the level that she could probably absorb the entire cut in the coming school year by lowering her pay to only $200,000 per year.

People see the schools as privileged, and there is no way to escape that label, since that is also the way the students and their parents see – and talk about — the experience, and why they are so generous in the private fundraising for the schools. Other principles accuse the gifted principals of “driving a smear campaign.” The Republican-sponsor of the bill in the legislature asks the hard question when the state’s pockets are empty: “The gifted-and-talented community gets a very large portion of the pie. And they don’t want to give it up. I don’t want to penalize one group over another, but there are limited funds. Do we take the funds away from the disabled and give them to the gifted?”

Funding fights are hardball, but this one is a good example of a time when it makes sense not to count the dollars, but the votes, and play the long game by learning more about grace, than grab.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.22.03 AM

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail