A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

The Fault is Ours

While our elected national leaders debate tax breaks for the rich, New York State data released yesterday indicates that 10% of New York City’s public school students were homeless at some point during last year. The figure for the entire state was 5%. Think about it! 148,000 kids in the state were expected to meet a set of academic standards when they lacked a place of their own to live. Homeless kids miss significant days of school, are often malnourished, lack proper medical and dental care and are motivated by more basic concerns than their grades on the English language arts assessment. Their lives are often a daily struggle, a struggle filled with the anxieties about meeting basic human needs. How can it be that in the richest nation in the world, in a nation that supposedly concerned for the welfare of children, how can it be that we tolerate this abuse of so many? How can it be that we continue to believe the stupid idea that the lack of academic achievement of these kids is attributable to a failing public school system? When do we face the fact that the real failure is ours as a society?

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Voting Republican

I can’t stop thinking about two stories on the front page of today’s New York Times. The first talks about the Trump administration attempting to kill the Obama administration’s clean energy standards – standards that were designed to move the United States away from fossil fuels and towards a world effort to curtail the man-made causes of climate change. In a speech in Kentucky the other day, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt announced that the war on coal is over. The other article concerns China’s clear determination to be a leader in clean energy technologies, particularly in the manufacture of electric cars.

Where Republicans were once leaders in the protection of the environment, we now have a party owned and operated by the most rapacious business leaderships. It was Richard Nixon, after all, who created the EPA by executive order in 1970. There was a bi-partisan consensus then that our environment was threatened by the excesses of a capitalist economy which had put profit ahead of the purity of our air and water and the health of our citizens. Today the Vice-President of the United States is a creationist, the President a climate change denier their party committed to an energy policy that runs the very significant risk of severely reducing the economic clout of the United States in the not too distant future.

Most American don’t want this to happen, but they nevertheless continue to support Republicans for elected office at all levels of government, and in so doing support policies inimical to their welfare and their children’s future. Somehow we must convince reflexive Republicans that when they vote Republican at any level, they are supporting the degradation of the environment, the suppression of voting rights, the war on reproductive freedom, healthcare only as good as one can afford, the unfettered ownership of guns, the privatization of public schools, religion over science, white supremacy over democratic diversity and an America isolated from most of the democratic world.

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Staggering Ignorance

My partner Judi went to our local Korean greengrocer the other day to pick up some vegetables for dinner. She came home with much more – beautiful vegetables and an almost unbelievable story of the staggering ignorance that too many American adults suffer from.

While waiting to check out, Judi couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between an adult customer and the store’s proprietor. “Are eggs dairy?” the customer asked. “I mean are they made with milk?”

Think about this conversation for a minute. Think about how it is possible for an adult American to not know what an egg is. It’s good I wasn’t there, because I would have butted in, telling the woman of course eggs contain milk, it being impossible for cows to make them with out imparting some milk to them. I have to suspect that she would have accepted my explanation. I’m sure she would have thanked me for the information.

I find myself wondering what this woman thinks about the Russians tampering with our election. She probably thinks it’s a hoax perpetrated by Hillary Clinton.

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Bits and Pieces

Handmaidens of High Tech

Leaders of teacher organizations are often heard to say, “Ask teachers to organize a firing squad, and they form a circle.” I couldn’t help but notice the tweets from some of the administrators in my home school district. Almost every one has pictures of kids staring
at computer screens. Nowhere is a teacher to be seen. The message is clear to anyone who cares to think about it. Teachers are at best tangential to the education of children. How almost effortlessly the tech companies are getting teachers to become the means of their own destruction. How subtly they are defining education in their own business interest.

ConCon

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of retirees from my home district, urging them to oppose the constitutional convention that is up for a vote in New York this November. It was heartening to see their understanding of the threats to public education and public employees from such a convention. As I spoke, many were taking notes, obviously getting ready for what they knew would be my final point – that they can have an important impact on the defeat of the referendum if each member sets a goal to motivate family and friends to vote NO in November.

Kids and Guns

Long term the way to dial down the passion for gun ownership in this country is the educate generations of children to the fact that their safety and the safety of their families is imperiled by the indiscriminate way in which the United States permits gun ownership. The gun lobby has been winning the propaganda war for decades in the absence of any serious and sustained countervailing argument. Public schools played a significant role in teaching children the dangers of smoking. The can and must do the same job on gun violence.

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Guns, Guns and More Guns

As I write this, fifty concert goers in Las Vegas are dead. Hundreds more are wounded. Thousands are traumatized. And absolutely nothing will be done even try to bring the epidemic of gun violence in our country under control. It’s more than likely that gun sales will be up today and in the weeks ahead.

We live in a country in which a person can walk into a resort hotel with ten – ten weapons in his luggage, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and it’s all perfectly legal. It’s all perfectly legal. How crazy is that? How can anyone think that’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they drafted our constitution? One would have to take them for fools to believe that. But clearly we are governed by fools.

The airways and cyberspace are filled with condolences for the victims of what is not the biggest mass shooting in our history. I just saw the President telling Americans that the shootings were and act of pure evil and how he and Melania are praying for everyone involved. Many people will credit Trump for being presidential. Yet prayers are too often a substitute for action. If there is any action here it will probably be to make it easier for people – even crazy people, to purchase weapons of mass destruction. Before the Congress is a Republican bill to make gun silencers legal. I guess they want to make killing more discrete.

It’s been clear for some time that a majority of gun owners favor reasonable limitations on the right to own guns. Nevertheless, we continue to allow the gun lobby to jeopardize the safety of the American people. Isn’t it obvious that we need to balance the right to own guns with the responsibility of the government to protect the people? Isn’t it more than time to get weapons designed for war out of the hands of citizens? Isn’t it more than time that we hold our elected representatives who have sold out to the gun lobby responsible for their unwillingness to balance our right to safety with the right to gun ownership?

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The Janus Case

As expected, the United States Supreme Court has taken the Janus case, a case testing whether the court’s conservative, anti-labor majority, will strike down a previous court’s precedent Affirming public sector unions’ right to collect from non-members the costs associated with bargaining and maintaining their labor contracts – the so-called agency fee. This case, like others, is part of a well-financed movement to destroy what is left of the American labor movement and making the United States a right-to-work country.

While the threat posed by the previous Friedrichs case prompted some fear motivated attention to membership organizing, I’m sorry to say that a loss in the Janus case will have catastrophic consequences for most of the education unions in the country. I have come to the view that agency fee was one of the worst things for our movement. Ironically, we put a great deal of political and bargaining effort into achieving it only to have it weaken us. With dues automatically pouring in, the pressure to engage membership grew weaker and weaker. More and more of our unions’ energy was focused on political work and hardly any effort was consistently made to build the capacity of local memberships to fend for themselves.

While I’m glad to see our unions recognizing the need for internal organizing, the fact it that it is a painstakingly slow process. It can’t simply be turned on when we need it. It’s built day to day and maintained day to day. It builds from daily reminders of the common fate of the members. It develops from the little day to day workplace victories that build confidence and pride in the growing sense of power of members. It’s magnified when management is forced to yield to a demand. It was our union’s birthright which we foolishly abandoned.

Janus is the name of the Roman god of beginnings and endings. What an ironic name for a case that may well determine the future of our labor movement.

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Upsetting the Status Quo

I’ve participated in protest demonstrations since my student days in the 60s. I led many others over my forty years of union work. Rarely was there initial broad public support for our cause, whether it was opposition to the war in Viet Nam or a demand for a fair contract for our teachers and clerical union members. I’ve never been surprised to find the majority against me. If they weren’t, there probably would be no reason to stage our protest. Protests are inherently upsetting to the status quo. Effective protests find a riveting way to focus the attention of people who are unaware or ill-informed about an issue. They seek to discomfort people in order to move them to support resolution of a problem. Watching the non-violent civil rights protestors in the South have the police turn dogs and fire-hoses on them ultimately pricked the consciences of enough Americans and our political leaders to pass laws ending Jim Crow and empowering Blacks to vote.

The African American football players who have been taking a knee in increasing numbers have clearly upset many people, including the President of the United States. Their protest exemplifies that which is best in our society, the seeking of an ever more perfect union with greater liberty and justice for all. Their protest will have been successful when and if we finally take the next steps in ensuring color-blind justice in our country. To be sure we have made progress in overcoming our original sin of slavery, but we need to be reminded that there is much more to be done to end the scourge of racism and the toll it takes on all of us.

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The Right to Healthcare

Absent from the heat of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the fact that a consensus has emerged among Americans that quality, affordable healthcare is a right. That consensus developed in response to the threat to abolish the benefits of the ACA that brought coverage to over 20 million Americans who were without insurance. If the overwhelming number of us recognize healthcare as a right, the public debate must shift to how best to provide every American with that right.

If we are to have a serious discussion about how to provide universal access to quality medical care, we need to recognize some inherent consequences that flow from understanding healthcare as a right.

Universal healthcare has to be universal. It sounds absurd to remind people of this, but, if the conversations I have been having are indicative, many of the people do not understand this. In order to achieve the objective everyone has to be in the system. On one hand, we can’t have people deciding when and if they are going to be insured. On the other hand, any system that doesn’t have universal participation will repeatedly be subject to attack from the people who don’t belong but who are paying some of the freight for others. Part of the almost universal appreciation of Social Security has been that everyone belongs, even people who don’t need the benefits. We simply have to get over the hump of recognizing that we have to have automobile insurance to drive a car but somehow need to be protected from a government mandate to require participation in our health insurance system.

If healthcare is a right, then we have to accept that the cost of it cannot be allowed to be determined by the whims of the market. We have to be able to negotiate with Big Pharma to obtain the kind of prices that other western democracies are able to achieve. We can no longer allow them to charge us extortionate prices while they use some of their obscene profits to literally buy our elected representatives. More difficult to talk about and even harder to achieve is changing the way we pay physicians. Medicine has been essentially a small business for many years. There appears to be a trend to a more corporate model with managed practices becoming more and more popular. The corporate approach sees volume as its driving force. Just the other day, I was riding on the Long Island Railroad when I looked up at an advertisement featuring my ENT physician. It may say more about me than him, but seeing him in that ad made me think less of him.

I don’t see why we can’t pay doctors like we pay police, teachers and other public servants. Being a good union guy, it should be possible for us to negotiate a fair price for their services. If we are to be fair with them, part of those negotiations will have to include dealing with the debt that many beginning physicians find themselves having accrued. Many are hundreds of thousands in debt before they begin to earn a decent income. Going forward, we need to make medical education free, thereby recognizing that it is in the interest of our society to have well-trained doctors who are not motivated by the debts they have incurred on the way to becoming physicians but rather by an interest in medicine and a concern for the people they serve.

We will also need to recognize that not all treatments are equally efficacious. It’s pretty clear that we now pay for treatments and procedures of questionable value. It can’t continue to be the case that every hang-nail requires a MRI. If agreeing to pay only for treatments with proven efficacy is rationing, then we must ration, recognizing that we ration medical care now on the basis of the kind of insurance a person has and/or the amount of money he has. How much fairer and better would be a system that took the ability to pay out of treatment decisions.

I realize that none of this discussion is about to take place in our country. We are currently governed by a Republican majority that clearly is more concerned with paying off their donors with giant tax breaks than they are with the health of the American people. Believing as I do that there is “more day to dawn” for America, I’m confident that the opportunity to have this conversation will come. I’m equally sure that progressives must be prepared to build on the consensus about the right to healthcare with ideas for a medical care system that is just and equitable to all Americans.

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Network for Public Education

In many ways the person best giving voice to the problems of public school teachers is Diane Ravitch. I have little doubt that if she were on a ballot for president of either of our two national unions to be voted on by all of the members, she would win hands down. Her efforts to push back against the corporate privatizing agenda for our public schools has been more clear, consistent and cogent than any of the work of our union leaders.

On Sunday, the Network for Public Education, an organization she founded, launched the first in a series of videos alerting the public to the dangers posed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to public education. For the first time in the history of the office, we have a secretary who does not believe in public education yet whose job is to oversee our nation’s public schools. As I write this, the video has been viewed 350,000 times, the result of skillful organizing of supporters of the Network to share the video on their social media sites, blogs and what have you. This blog post is part of my commitment to share these videos as they are published and thus promote information to arouse the public of the threat to the vital institution of public education in our country. I urge my readers to sign up to lend their support to this important effort.

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Time for Chuck Schumer to Stand Up for Working People

Are you wondering why New York’s Chuck Schumer, the Minority Leader of the United State Senate, hasn’t gotten behind Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation? Here a bit of insight. Long the darling of our state teachers union, Schumer has taken huge amounts of political contributions from sectors of our economy whose interests are inimical to those of working people. According to OpenSecrets.org, Schumer has taken the following amounts since 1989 from businesses with much to lose from taking profits out of our medical system.

Securities and Investments – $12,823,522
Lawyers and Law Firms – $8,188,027
Real Estate – $6,059,229
Insurance – $2,098,920
Health Professionals – $1,383,810

If like me you expect progressive Democrats to support health care as a right; if like me you can’t understand why most of the industrialized world grants this right to its citizens at much lower cost; if like me you can’t understand why we have a system of private insurance with huge administrative cost when Medicare operates with about a 3% administrative cost; If like me you can’t understand how a leader like Chuck Schumer from a progressive state like New York can fail to support Medicare for All, then take a few minutes and email Chuck Schumer demanding that he get behind Bernie’s bill. We all know it will be a long road before we accomplish the task of providing truly universal coverage to Americans. Good leadership can shorten that road, however.

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DACA Protest

Judi and I were pleased to march in Hicksville on Saturday with some five hundred others to protest the decision by the Trump administration to end the DACA program, the executive order by President Obama that provided a mechanism for children brought to this country illegally by their parents to live, go to school and work in our country. It was heartening to see so many people willing to give up a precious Saturday morning to express their outrage at the anti-immigrant policies of the current administration.

Hicksville is a very appropriate place to have held this march. Increasingly, it is an immigrant community. As we marched from the Hicksville Long Island Railroad station to the Governor’s office on Old Country Road, immigrants working in various shops and buildings along the route came out to applaud us, obviously moved by the support of the marchers for the cause of justice for immigrants. Their response reminded me of just how unwelcoming our country must seem to all immigrants these days.

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What the Public Doesn’t Know About Teaching

Lay people have an image of public school teaching as an easy way to earn a living. You’ve heard the comments about all of the holidays teachers get; how they are done working by early afternoon; and, of course, the ten weeks of summer vacation that infuriate who have to spend most of their summer working.

As I watched the postings on Facebook of teacher friends this week as the school year began in my area, I was reminded of just how ignorant the public is of what it means to teach in our schools. Over the Labor Day weekend, teachers were commenting on their inability to sleep, the anxiety of the coming school year causing them to toss and turn. On returning to school, the comments turned to how fatigued people were feeling, their bodies reminding them of just how much energy gets sapped from a day of standing on one’s feet and finding imaginative ways to engage the minds of children whose natural inclination is to want to be elsewhere. How many members of the public know what it takes out of a person to speak publically for five or six hours a day – how physically and intellectually draining that is. That, of course, says nothing about the time taken to prepare to fill those five or six hours.

Teachers, like many in the helping professions, have a high rate of problematic children of their own. Early on in my public school teaching career, one of my students, the child of a teacher, gave me an insight that I found useful throughout my teaching days. I no longer remember what I said to her to elicit this response, but her words were a teachable moment in my career. “My fucking mother has time for everybody else’s children but no time for me.” Having something left for one’s own family after teaching all day is a struggle every teacher with a family knows.

Incidentally, teacher union leaders often wonder why it’s so hard to get people to do union work after school. Their knee-jerk answer often is that members are apathetic. Sure some are, but as surely many can’t imagine finding the energy to teach their classes, take care of their own families and in many cases go to graduate school several nights a week and volunteer to do union work on top of everything else..

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Today It’s Opioids

The magazine Mother Jones reports that there were 64,000 deaths in the U.S. from drug overdoses last year. 64,000! Our society seems in the gravitational pull of some force pulling generations of our mostly young people to abuse one drug or another. Some years ago it was methamphetamine. Now it’s opioids. In 1969, the year I began to work in Plainview-Old Bethpage, Quaaludes, Seconal, Tuinal and such had kids literally falling down in the hallways of our high schools.

Human beings have always sought altered states of consciousness. We seem to be wired for it. Just watch little kids spinning themselves around, giggling in dizzy rapture. Yet most human societies have found ways to work drugs that alter consciousness into their culture. There are social norms for the use of drugs that allow people to experience different levels of consciousness without serious danger to themselves or others. Most often the consciousness altering substance is not used alone but is part of some communal ritualized behavior. In our society, drug taking tends to be a lonely business. How often do we hear of an overdose victim found alone in his home? Prince immediately comes to mind.

It seems to me we spend very little time thinking about what it is about our culture that makes for our cycles of mass drug abuse. Surely, how we live, how we earn our livings, how we raise our children, what we really value are factors. I don’t claim to know for sure. Yet I suspect that our preoccupation with matters economic and almost no time spent on the philosophic is rendering us an emotionally and spiritually hollowed out people who increasingly long for escape. Until we address what it is about us that that lures generation after generation to free themselves from the angst of living as we do, the only thing to speculate about is what drug will serve as their next vehicle of escape.

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Our Word Must Be Good

The decision this morning by the President to end the DACA program is but the latest example of racism cloaked in legal mumbo-jumbo. Put in the mouth of our racially insensitive attorney general, this decision will have a profound impact on the lives of some 800,000 young people currently living, working and going to school in the United States. Perhaps even more importantly, at a time when trust in government is at what I suspect is an all-time low, it will seriously erode whatever faith in government remains.

The people covered by DACA, the so-called Dreamers, answered the invitation of the United States to register for DACA status and thus obtain two year renewable permission to work, go to school and participate in the Social Security System. The federal government now has their names and addresses. In good faith, these people, who know no other country but the United States, trusted our government trusted us, to abide by the terms of the invitation. That trust has now been betrayed in our name by a miscreant president who clearly cares more about keeping a campaign pledge – red meat thrown to racists and economically anxious Americans quick to believe that their economic plight is caused by illegal immigration – than he cares casting 800,00 innocent people adrift in legal uncertainty.

When President Obama issued his DACA executive order, he was speaking for us to 800,000 people literally indistinguishable from countless other Americans except that they were brought to this country by illegal immigrant parents. Most know no other country. They have been raised American. To any reasonable mind, they are American. Our word to them must be made good. Promises like this must be kept if government is to be trusted.

Today’s post is a milestone. It is the 1000th I have written. Thank you for staying with me. I trust the next thousand will continue to merit your attention.

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Decorating is Work that Must be Paid

In my last post, I advanced the notion that if teachers are expected to decorate their classrooms, they should do so on school district time. Gifting hours of their labor to school districts should not be a requirement of the job. And yet it is. I never met an elementary who started the school year with an undecorated classroom.

This morning I go to the EdWeek website only to find a video clearly aimed at propagating room decoration as part of a teacher’s job. Watch this video. Listen to how one teacher talks about having spent 25 vacation hours setting up her room. Damn it, if setting up one’s classroom before the start of school is mandatory, then teachers ought to demand that they be paid for their time. Interestingly, in my days in elementary school, most of my teachers spent the first few days of class having us them set up our classrooms for the new term. Imagine trying that today.

As many of my teacher friends begin the grind of a new school year, I like to take this opportunity to wish them all a professionally gratifying school year. Remember, your year can always be even more gratifying if you find some time for your union.

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We All See What’s Happening

I met an old friend for breakfast yesterday. During our catching-up conversation, he found himself talking about his grand-children, noting their lack of social skills and correctly connecting that problem to their incessant connection to their smart-phones. We all see this happening, are distressed by the thought of a generation of children whose human connections may be stunted for their entire lives and yet are fearful of doing anything about it lest we be seen as enemies of progress, 21st century Luddites.

Next week children will be at school bus stops weekday mornings, staring at their phones, completely disinterested in conversing with their assembled classmates. They will file into their schools and in many of their class sit for extended periods of time staring at a computer screen, their schools promoting digitized education as the way to personalize a child’s instruction, letting them learn their own way, at their own pace. Few parents will voice any concern as to why their children are spending so many of their waking hours engaging a computer screen. Some of their teachers know that important elements of an education are increasingly being displaced by gadgets of one kind or another. Too often, however, they keep that knowledge to themselves lest they be judged by their supervisors to be inferior teachers. Other teachers, trained in the era of test driven accountability, technologically mediated instruction, I fear don’t even realize that they have become agents of a meretricious corporatism deskilling children of the abilities necessary to be engaged citizens of a democratic society.

Wouldn’t it be great if this new school year we began to think about taking charge of our technology and at least mitigating its control of us and our children? Why don’t we declare technology free school days. In every classroom, teachers and students talking to one another for the entire period, finding time to talk about what is going on in our country and the world, sharing each other’s humanity, maybe even talking about what new technologies are doing to that humanity.

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It’s Free Work Time

If you drive by your local elementary school, you will no doubt see the teacher parking lot filled, teachers having once again felt compelled to provide hours of unremunerated work getting their classrooms ready for the start of school. Heaven forbid that children come to school and find their classrooms undecorated. Their psyches might be irreparably damaged by a decoration deficiency trauma. Where did we ever get the notion that decorations make for better learning. Isn’t it just as likely that they provide almost endless distractions? Especially today, what with children coming to school with web enabled phones luring their minds from the teacher to cyberspace, do we really need all the wall-bait for wandering minds? If we do, if these days of unpaid work that teachers put into room preparation are absolutely essential, if how one’s room looks is a factor in a teacher’s evaluation, shouldn’t teachers be paid for these workdays that they have historically given for free?

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Implicit Racism

Several time in the last few days I tactfully tried to point out to friends on Facebook how some of their posts are implicitly racist. Most of these people are not consciously racist. Some are union members with whom I’ve worked on anti-racist causes. Yet as members of a culture born in the original sin of race, we all have buried in our psyches often hidden prejudices that lurk waiting to be triggered by the right stimulus. Most of us don’t have any problem, except perhaps the President of the United States, recognizing KKK members Nazis and other self-identified racist haters. They wear their hatred on their sleeves. But how many of us recognize how in America the length of the prison sentences a person gets is directly related to the blackness of his skin? How many are willing to understand that the implicit bias of too many police causes them to assume black males to be an inherently greater threat to them than a white person observed manifesting the same behavior? How many will admit that they experience anxiety when a black male gets on an elevator in which they are the only other passenger? How many seeing a group of seemingly Hispanic men lined up on a corner seeking day work perceive them as a threat to their community? These are all examples of the implicit racism in our society that minorities live with every day of their lives and which are barriers to their full participation in our society.

I can think of no greater service to the future of our nation than if our public school teachers, especially those in predominately white communities, would find imaginative ways to have our school children confront their inchoate biases, biases sucked in with the air they breathe in a nation still struggling to come to terms with issues of race. Education remains the best tool we have to purge the racist poison from our society.

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Thank You, Opt-Out Movement

New York State is touting a miniscule decline in the number of children withheld from the state’s grades three through eight examinations in English and mathematics. The drop from twenty-one percent last year will probably embolden Commissioner Elia and the Ed Department bureaucrats to continue to pressure the parents of our state into submission to a testing regime that is destroying public education. The State is also spinning a nominal increase in the test scores as proof of the efficacy of its test and punish approach.

Frankly, I have no idea whether the decline in opt-outs is statistically significant. It strikes me that roughly twenty percent have consistently boycotted the examinations in recent years as part of one of the truly progressive public education movements of the years of my involvement with public education issues. Think about it for a minute. The movement loses most of its eighth grade parents each year requiring it to recruit significant numbers of new parents each school year. Maintaining twenty percent of parents willing to defy the authority of the state, with many school administrations attempting to strong-arm them into submission, is no mean feat.

The continued well being of the opt-out movement is one of the very few positive signs in a world of public education that is beset by enemies. At a time when we have a national administration that seeks to turn our public schools over to corporate interests; when we increasingly see school leaders confusing training with education; when so few of those chosen to lead our public schools are empty careerists who no abiding loyalty to the institution of public education; when significant numbers of students in our schools are coerced into measuring their self-worth by their math and ELA scores; when test preparation crowds out the socialization of children to be participating citizens of our democracy; it is a shot in the arm for people committed to liberal education to know the opt-out movement not only exists but continues to thrive.

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New York’s 1967 Constitutional Convention

Every twenty years, citizens of New York State are asked whether they think there should be a constitutional convention. I did a little work yesterday preparing for a talk I’m scheduled to give on the question in October. Constitutional conventions are opportunities for political mischief, mischief that can seriously erode the rights and opportunities of working people. We don’t need a constitutional convention to amend our state constitution. Amendments can be made through the regular process of being passed by two successive sessions of the legislature followed a vote by the people. Numerous such amendments have been made over the course of years.

The last New York constitutional convention I’ve learned was in 1967. Voters were convinced to support it out of the generally held belief that New York’s constitution had become antiquated and stood in the way of effective government. Although there was apparently intense party jousting from April to September, the convention did some up with a package of amendments that broadened the rights of New Yorkers. In the political give and take of shaping a package, in the log rolling that inevitably take place when politicians practice their craft, repeal of New York’s Blaine Amendment found its way into the mix. The Blain Amendment prevents the expenditure of state monies to support religious schools in any way other than providing transportation. Religious communities had been seeking its repeal for a long time. After spending about six months debating amendments and forty-six million 2015 dollars, the package of amendments was put to the voters of the state. In their wisdom, they rejected the package.

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