Archive for the ‘Illinois’ Tag

Chicago Teacher Paul Horton: Obama’s Corporate Friends Dictate Education Policy   4 comments

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Why Obama’s Education Policies will not Change

Guest post by Chicago high school history teacher Paul Horton, also posted at Edweek 

 

Back before the President was elected, he spoke to the 80th annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). It is useful to compare the President’s speech to the AFT in July of 2008 and his state of the union address last week. In his state of the Union speech of 2013, he spoke of states “voluntarily” complying with the DOEd’s Race to the Top program. He is fond of saying that learning “is more than bubble tests,” and that “change is hard.”

It is also interesting to note that the President began this year’s state of the union speech with a compliment to teachers–an election cycle is approaching—but that he stuck with the “bubble test” line, and, most importantly, with the “change is hard” line.

My guess is that he dropped the “voluntary” line because many teachers, students, and parents don’t buy it anymore. Too many folks know too much.

obama

I have just taken a closer look at the history of Illinois compliance. This example might be similar to what happened in many other states.

On January 13 and 14 of 2010, Governor Quinn and state Education Superintendent Christopher Koch signed the first round RTTT Illinois Application. Initial endorsements came from the Commercial Club of Chicago’s who’s who.

When Tennessee and D.C. won the first round, the pressure was on to beef up endorsements for the 2nd round of grants. This is where the heavy political muscle was applied. Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) put out fact sheets indicating that Illinois’ first application lacked broader support from education, business, and political leaders, the state legislature then magically brought a bill to the floor that called for a 1% increase in Education funding right at the point when Federal money that had allowed districts to retain thousand of teachers was cut off for the next fiscal year.

The money available would be dangled before the states facing huge cuts in the form of a Race to the Top grant competition. According to Illinois AFT President Ed Geppert, “Illinois is on the brink of budget disaster.” (Illinois AFT Facebook posting, March 10, 2010)

aft

In response, AFT mobilized its base in rallies to increase state funding. But the state legislature had the NEA and AFT over a barrel. Not surprisingly, as the state Education bill was being negotiated, NEA and AFT both sent in phase two RTTT application endorsement letters. At the same time (February-July), district superintendents and NEA and AFT locals were being pressured to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MOUS) to mandate adherence to the Common Core Curriculum (CCCS), standardized testing based on the CCCS, Value Added Assessments (VAM), greater openness to charter school openings, and more support for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (STEM). This all sounded great to districts and locals facing huge job cuts, they could see the gruesome budget guillotine out the window.

With some resistance from better-funded north shore (Chicago) districts (i.e. Evanston) the state achieved “voluntary” buy-in when districts gave up local control of curriculum and union locals begged for crumbs at the legislative bargaining table.

A question that could be asked is: how could the state legislature be lined up so quickly to apply the pressure on districts and unions? My educated guess is DFER.  DFER had access to “insider information” from DOEd.

pearson                      sir michael barber

gatesdemocrats for ed reform

A very porous membrane exists between the Department of Education, Democrats for Education Reform, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Pearson Education.

DFER made it known to the Illinois House Speaker and Governor that Illinois’ application did not look “voluntary” enough. The House Speaker and the Governor’s allies in the state legislature came up with the idea of an underfunded Education bill as the leverage needed to create “voluntary” support for RTTT. Dozens of letters of endorsement began arriving to the Governor’s office in early May.

“Voluntary” my…. foot!

Back to the President’s campaign speech in July 2008 to the AFT convention. At this point Bill Gates was playing pretty coy with the President’s campaign. Candidate Obama already had strong ties to DFER, having worked with DFER as a state senator and US senator.  His close circle of friends, the friends who had provided him with the cash to make it through the primaries, all supported charter schools.  John Rogers created created the Ariel Academy and the Ariel Foundation. Marty Nesbitt and Penny Pritzker were breaking into the business of creating charter schools: the Noble Charter chain. Mr. Nesbitt, Diana Mendley Rauner, Rahm Emanuel, and Valerie Jarrett had close ties with the Chicago Housing Authority. Mr. Nesbitt was the CHA Board Chairman and worked to implement a Federally subsidized plan (Hope VI) in the Plan for Transformation that demolished public housing units and created public-private partnerships for mixed income development on the west and “mid-south” sides.

At the same time, the Commercial Club of Chicago hatched the Renaissance 2010 plan that sought to close 60 public schools in these mixed income developments and replace them with a mix of 100 public and private charter schools. The push for the Olympic bid for 2016 was intended to speed up south side gentrification to create a developer’s profit bonanza. Brand new “streamlined” charter schools would attract upper middle class buyers into mixed-income neighborhoods. (Pauline Lipman, The New Political Economy of Urban Education, 74-99)

The Olympic bid fell flat on its face, and the neighborhoods were not mixing as rapidly as developers hoped in the wake of the 2008 crash.

But the charter schools are still being built and public schools are still being closed in gentrifying areas. Former public housing residents are pushed out of these mixed income neighborhoods. Because the neighborhood schools lose enrollment, they are closed. Public schools are then replaced by charters that require an extensive application process. This story is the narrative of “reform” in several major cities. (Lipman, 95-99)

Candidate Obama, in his speech video cast to the American Federation of Teachers convention, insisted, “that we must fix the failures of “No Child Left Behind by providing the funding that was promised, giving states the resources that they need, and finally meeting our commitment to special education.”

“It is time to start treating teachers properly….In May, I visited a school in Colorado where just three years ago, only half the seniors are accepted to college. But thanks to the hard work of caring parents, innovative educators, and some very committed students, all forty-four seniors at this year’s class were accepted to more than seventy colleges and universities across the country. And that example trickles down.”

What the President did not tell the AFT crowd  in 2008 was that the school that he was describing was a charter school that had closed its doors to a large percentage of students who started with the class that the future President was holding up as a model for all educators. He was also very careful not to mention that the school employed non-union teachers and was created by a former Teacher for America teacher—Michael Johnston.

The President knew what he was planning because his closest friends, and most important bundlers: John Rogers (Arne Duncan’s best friend), Marty Nesbitt (the President’s best friend), and Penny Pritzker (Marty Nesbitt’s boss who invested $50 million in his “Parking Spot” start-up), all board members of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (who served on that board with Michelle Obama), were heavily invested in the Noble charter chain.

For President Obama, education policy will not change because he owes the DFER bundlers, his closest friends, and Bill Gates a huge payback for their investment of time and funds into his campaign.

Our education policy is their education policy.  It is a policy for those who own stock in charter chains, Microsoft, Apple, HP, and Pearson Education.

“Change is hard.”

Should Corporations and political friends be allowed to dictate Education Policy?

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Democrats and Republicans Agree: Please Listen. Stop Funding Common Core.   5 comments

It’s interesting to see such striking similarities in what Republicans and Democrats are saying about the need to stop Common Core by not funding it, and by returning the money to legitimate and local education.

These Democrats and Republicans who have done their homework (and who are not funded by the Gates-Common Core machine as most Common Core advocates are) agree: because Common Core ends local control and liberty, Americans have to stop feeding the standardization-of-education beast and must start funding legitimate, classical education.

The buck stops (isn’t this an ironic sentence?) –with funding.

Compare what both Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and what activist Paul Horton, an Illinois Democrat and current high school history teacher, have vocally (and repeatedly) said.

From Sen. Grassley:

I seek to eliminate further U.S. Department of Education interference with state decisions on academic content standards by using Congress’s power of the purse to prohibit any further federal funds being used to advance any particular set of academic content standards. Whether states adopt or reject the Common Core Standards should be between the citizens of each state and their state elected officials. State governments must be able to make that decision, or to change their decision, based on direct accountability to the citizens of their states, free from any federal coercion.”

Meanwhile, from Paul Horton*, a Democratic high school history teacher (who wrote to his Senator, Richard Durbin (Democrat from Illinois):

“Mr. Durbin, I encourage you to completely kill funding for NCLB [No Child Left Behind], RTTT [Race to the Top], and I don’t want Mr. [U.S. Education Secretary Arne] Duncan to have a penny to spend because he and this administration’s policies are hopelessly misguided. All remaining Stimulus monies should be divided by your committee among the most underserved districts all over the country to rehire support and teaching staff. Not a penny should go to Pearson Education or any other Education vendor, or on spending for any standardized tests. Standardized tests will never close the achievement gap! Wake up!”

In Michigan, Common Core has already been defunded. And other states are working hard to follow suit.

*Paul Horton’s full letter is posted below:

———————————————————————————————————————————————

Dear Senator Durbin,

Please listen more closely……

RTTT will not reduce achievement gaps. No research supports RTTT on this matter. The only thing that will reduce the achievement gaps id full employment,
livable wages, and more investment in neighborhood schools to supply support staff, clinics, and four well qualified teachers in every classroom of no more than twenty-two students. We need to pursue policies that attract the best people that we can into the classroom like Finland. It should be an honor to be a teacher because it is an honorable profession.

This administration has chosen to vilify teachers. Most credible studies show that we have 3% of teachers nationally that are ineffective, but current punitive policies discourage most from considering the profession. This party has turned its back on a very loyal, well educated, and hardworking constituency. If you continue these policies, you no longer deserve the support of teachers.

I strongly encourage you to look to what Singapore, Finland, and China are doing, which is quite the opposite of RTTT.

Our current policies are a boondoggle for Pearson Education, Microsoft, and Achieve, etc. You simply must see through the smoke! Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan are following the precepts of Democrats for Education Reform. The Wall Street bundlers who have supported RTTT and private charters are acting under a quid pro quo deal made between them and those in the current administration who decided to choose Mr. Duncan over Ms. Darling-Hammond. The trade-off is money for national Democratic campaigns in exchange for policies that will lead to more school privatization. This is becoming increasingly obvious to more citizens.

Shame on this party!

What is happening is absurdly crass. The money that will go to Illinois testing for the RTTT will not stimulate the economy of Illinois. We are talking about an estimated $733 million dollars. Why should this money go to Pearson Education?

Pearson Education produces shoddy product, look at their record. We may as well be flushing taxpayer’s money down the toilet.

You know people who are very close to the Joyce Foundation that has fed the Chicago Tribune misinformation.

The DOJ Anti-Trust Division needs to investigate Pearson Education. I attach a complaint to the Federal DA that has been circulating among thousands of citizens in Northern Illinois. The Education Secretary is in clear violation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and this administration
is doing its best to protect him by not allowing him to respond to specific questions.

Mr. Durbin, I encourage you to completely kill funding for NCLB, RTTT, and I don’t want Mr. Duncan to have a penny to spend because he and this administration’s policies are hopelessly misguided. All remaining Stimulus monies should be divided by your committee among the most underserved
districts all over the country to rehire support and teaching staff. Not a penny should go to Pearson Education or any other Education vendor, or on spending
for any standardized tests. Standardized tests will never close the achievement gap! Wake up!

You have recently voiced much concern about gun violence in Chicago. Senator Durbin, consider the effect o the failure of 70% (RTTT Pearson Education
developed tests) of the students on the South and West sides. The citizens of New York state are currently experiencing this immoral fiasco. What will happen
to the dropout rate when this happens? We will not be preparing students for college, we will be preparing them for prison. I live in Woodlawn, and the young
people already say school is increasingly like prison. Wake up!

Invest remaining education funds in people, not corporations, and not in standardized testing. I thought that the Democratic Party was supposed to listen
to the people. More and more people are beginning to see through Mr. Duncan’s blatant misrepresentations.

We need education that serves kids, not the plutocrats this party is in bed with.

All the best and remember the working people,

Paul Horton
1364 E. 64th #1
Chicago, Il. 60637

One Woman Speaks Out: An Open Letter to the People of Illinois   6 comments

I received permission to post this letter from a woman in Illinois who is trying to rally others in the state to stand up against Common Core.  If you live in Illinois, please contact her at StopcommoncoreIllinois@yahoo.com

Thank you, Heather.

 

 

Dear People of Illinois,

Recently I’ve done some research on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and have questions regarding how CCSS will affect the students, taxpayers, teachers, and parents of Illinois. I hope you do your own homework and see these questions demand to be answered by our State government!

First, where can we see Illinois’ cost analysis of what CCSS will cost us, the taxpayers? Currently, Illinois is one of the top states with the highest property taxes. There are projected numbers of upwards of $700 million to fully implement CCSS in Illinois alone. (Not to mention on going cost of yearly testing, keeping computers up to date for the testing, and teacher training.) Where will this money come from, in our already struggling state? (http://www.accountabilityworks.org/photos/Cmmn_Cr_Cst_Stdy.Fin.2.22.12.pdf)

Second, what if CCSS is not working for our students, where is the amendment process? As a parent where will my voice be heard if I am unhappy with the way these standards are being implemented? Currently, from my research, we have no amendment process; we are locked in to CCSS with no way out and no voice! This is education without representation! Please note these standards have not been tested in real classrooms with real students and are considered “experimental”!

Third, those in favor of CCSS claim that these standards were state-led, if that were the case where was the public invitation to discuss these standards and why can we not see who is currently writing the science and social studies standards? Why the secrecy if these standards are so excellent? Also, when the Illinois State Board of Education approved CCSS they claim, in the minutes of the meeting, that “Parents, teachers, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders….have led the effort to develop a common core of state standards.” And, “Teachers have been a critical voice in the development of the standards.”

In my research I find this to not be the case. If it is the case, can you please let me know when the teachers of Illinois came together to have a “critical voice” in the development of CCSS? Teachers of Illinois, were any of you invited in this process? (Link to minutes: http://web1.isbespr1.isbe.net/board/meetings/2010/june/rules.pdf)

Fourth, Race to the Top application was turned in January 19, 2010 which committed our state to CCSS, in order to receive $400 million dollars and this was five months before the standards were even complete (and the testing portion is yet to be completed). The standards were completed on June 2, 2010 and the Illinois State Board of Education approved these standards just 22 days later on June 24, 2010. In the minutes of their meeting it clearly states that there is “no legislative action” needed. Did the legislation even know this was taking place back in 2010?

Who would approve to implement something without even seeing what it was they were implementing? It could be compared to getting married without meeting your mate before hand! Ludicrous! (http://www.isbe.state.il.us/racetothetop/pdf/phase1/application.pdf)

Fifth, the Constitution assigns education to the states, not to the federal government. Also, the federal General Education Provisions Act states, “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United State to exeerciseany direction, supervision or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any education institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks or other printed or published instructional materials by any education institution or school system…” In light of this please explain why our state has agrees to intense micromanagement by the federal government under Common Core testing? We are the “state” and why do we have no say? (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf)

As you can see I have a few alarming concerns about the CCSS (Not to mention the fact that CC lowers math standards in Illinois, that there will be less fiction used, that there will be a rather large data base gather on our students that parents don’t have to know about, that teachers will also have more data tracking, which will foster the “teach to the test” mentality, and that even now more standards are being written behind closed doors!)

My hope is to see the legislature of Illinois write a bill that brings the control of state standards back to state control! Yes, the purse strings of Washington are powerful, but these are our children and should not be subject to people in Washington deciding what is best for them.

I see Common Core as education without representation, which flies in the face of what America was founded on!

Do your own homework! Spread the word! Call the government (reps, senate, school boards) and demand answers!

Thank you for your time,

Heather

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StopcommoncoreIllinois@yahoo.com

Watch these videos: Stop Common Core: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coRNJluF2O4

 

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