Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Illusion of Public Higher Education

 Horatio Alger
The Illusion of Public Higher Education
Rodolfo F. Acuña

The United States is the land of illusions. Like Disneyland, it is more fiction than reality. The American Dream is part of surreal world, constructed as a form of social control that distorts the memory Americans blinding to the injustices, inequalities and imperfections of American society. Like old Shirley Temple movies, Americans are princes and princesses who pass through bad times believing that they will be saved because they are Americans.

These illusions are built around myths such as that of Horatio Alger that has persisted for over 150 years. For Americans Horatio Alger is as real as Superman.

Horatio Alger Jr in 1867 published the first of over 120 books that told the tale of rags to riches  to young working class boys. The moral of the stories was that if the boys led exemplary lives, struggled against poverty and adversity that they could make it. Someday they would be rich and heirs to the American Dream.

The stairway to the American Dream was meritocracy and education. America was the land of opportunity, every American if he worked hard enough could get an education; it was free and more accessible in the United States than any place in world. Opportunity was knocking, and it was your fault if you did not take advantage of it.

The Horatio Alger Myth resembles fantasy tales such as Superman, Captain America, Spiderman and Batman.  The truth be told, Horatio Alger just like education has never been equal or free in America.

Even during the Post-World War II era when the illusion was more plausible, accessibility depended on the hue of one’s skin and his or her social class. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Something Else- Not School Reform

When politicians and the corporate advocates (lobbyists) choose one set of policies over another, they make important decisions. When they select accountability ( testing, common core, PACT assessments) and market-based privatization they are selecting policies that enrich their benefactors, not policies selected to improve the school lives of children. They avoid policies based upon evidence based practices. Kevin Weiner, in Kappan says, “In doing so, politicians seem willfully ignorant of the direct connection between opportunity and achievement. Our national opportunity gaps lead inexorably to our achievement gaps. Yet the test-based accountability policies still advocated by politicians dis- regard the opportunity side of the equation. Capacity building and supports are relegated to a small footnote within a long diatribe about mandated performance.” Inequality in funding and resources have an effect on students’ experience of school: the ratio of students to teachers; the number of experienced teachers, the number and quality of books, and instructional materials; the condition of the physical plant. Most schools in low-income are in bad shape, the students are suffering, and the politicians and the corporate lobbyists are looking to make money off of “reforms efforts. “ See the video below- Protecting Public Education.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

For democratic participation in critical public school decisions

Funding of California’s k-12 public education system is changing fundamentally.  Some schools will get much more money to educate kids - others will not.   It is critical that teachers, parents, and educational advocates get involved now. The centerpiece of the change  is the Local Control Funding Formula, designed to send additional funds to districts where  “the need and the challenge is greatest.”  The law requires that  parents, students, teachers, and other community members be involved in the process of deciding how new funds are spent. Ed Source has an excellent guide to these changes.

The ACLU of California and Public Advocates have prepared materials in English and Spanish to assist community members to understand the Local Control Funding.

Sacramento City Unified’s plan for Local Control Funding is here.
·      LCAP Timeline and Process- Within a PowerPoint presentation, which the district provides on its website, SCUSD outlines its LCAP development process, Community Planning Process,  timeline, and lists potential community partners to engage with in LCFF implementation.
S    School boards in most districts are adopting plans and budgets for LCFF in April- June.

It tells you how you can get involved.
See the post below with Diane Ravitch on the challenge to democracy in public education. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cesar Chavez film inspires

Cesar Chavez, a feature film on the farmworker leader, was previewed in Berkeley on March 5 prior to its March 28 national release. Based on the audience response, the film will help inspire a new generation of young activists to push for social justice, and will particularly resonate with Dreamers and others pushing for immigration reform.
The atmosphere was electric in Berkeley’s California Theater as a full house waited in anticipation for Diego Luna’s new film, Cesar Chavez. A block long line of people were turned away, reflecting an interest in the movie that Luna hoped would return when the film is released in three weeks.
Having spent years researching and thinking about Cesar Chavez for my book, Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, I was intrigued by how a feature film would handle the long and complex story of the farmworkers movement. And I think it covered the story of Cesar Chavez himself remarkably well for the years covered in the movie.

Chavez’s Remarkable Life

Cesar Chavez’s rise from a young boy carrying cantaloupes in the fields to one of the nation’s leading labor and social change leaders is a story that almost defies belief. Among the film’s great strengths is its focus on how Chavez overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to build California’s farmworker movement.

Koch Brothers and Education

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vergara Lawsuit would take away teacher rights

"It would be very scary to me, if this lawsuit succeeds, to think that I might not have a job next year, not for anything I'd done in the classroom, but because my principal didn't like me, or my clothing, or something I'd said."
 —Laura Lacar, Gahr High School, ABC Unified School District
Last year a group calling itself “Students Matter,” funded by David Welch, a conservative Silicon Valley millionaire, filed a lawsuit, Vergara v. the State of California. The lawsuit challenges a number of constitutional rights for California’s teachers, including “tenure,” due process rights, and seniority rights during layoffs. The suit, hiding behind a group of students, alleges that these teacher workplace rights infringe the constitutional right of students to an equal education. [See what Gary Ravani has to say about the civil rights rhetoric used by Students Matter; and see CFT president Joshua Pechthalt's op-ed piece in the San Jose Mercury News] CFT and CTA joined the defense last year, challenging Vergara as a “…meritless lawsuit by corporate special interests attacking teacher professional rights.”
The trial opened on Monday, January 27.
The lawsuit ignores the real problems of public education
Education Code rules to protect teacher rights from administrative mismanagement are not "unfair" to either students or new teachers. What harms students? Economic inequality, poverty, their parents' joblessness, and underfunding are unfair to students. But this lawsuit ignores these barriers to educational success. The premise of "Vergara" is that public schools are failing, and bad teachers are the reason why. Get rid of the “bad teachers,” and the schools will succeed. This simplistic idea is wrong in a number of ways. Most public schools are successes, by most reasonable measures; and while the role of the teacher is always an important in-school factor, external factors like poverty and underfunding have the greatest impact.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

John A. Pérez discusses California's ban on affirmative actio

California changes its school funding- and your district's budget

 Funding of California’s k-12 public education system is changing fundamentally as a result of Assembly bill 97.  Its centerpiece is the Local Control Funding Formula, designed to send additional funds to districts where Gov. Brown believes “the need and the challenge is greatest.”  The law requires that  parents, students, teachers, and other community members be involved in the process of deciding how new funds are spent. Ed Source has an excellent guide to these changes.

The Governor’s proposed 2014-15 budget includes Proposition 98 spending per K-12 student of nearly $9,200, an increase of almost $1,800 – or nearly one-quarter (24.2 percent) – from 2011-12, after adjusting for inflation. With this significant increase, spending per student would nearly return to where it was before the recession. ( See the California Budget Project below )
Districts now have more money, and a new process for deciding how and where to spend the money.

A goal of the Local Control Funding Formula is to give local school districts more authority to decide how to spend education dollars, and hold them accountable for getting results.  Districts are now deciding on how to spend these increased dollars. And, districts are required to get parental and community sign off on the plans.   At a talk last week at Sac State I made the point that this is a time to insert yourself into the discussion.  Find out what is happening in your district and attend the meetings.

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