Why Democratic Presidential Candidates May Have to Choose Between Teacher Pay Raises and Charter Schools 

Why Democratic Presidential Candidates May Have to Choose Between Teacher Pay Raises and Charter Schools

“The problem with charter schools isn’t that they’re competing with public schools; it’s that they’re supplanting public schools.”

By Jeff Bryant

For years, the safe havens for education policy debate in the Democratic Party have been expanding pre-K programs and providing more affordable college, but in the current presidential primary contest, another consensus issue has been added to the party’s agenda: salary increases for K–12 classroom teachers. Kamala Harris has gotten the most press for coming out strongly for raising teacher wages, but other frontrunners including Joe BidenPete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders have also called for increased teacher pay.

But what will happen when a consensus issue like teacher salary increases comes into conflict with a lightning rod issue like charter schools? That’s a scenario currently playing out in Florida.

A recent law passed by the majority Republican Florida state legislature and signed by newly elected Republican Governor Ron DeSantis will force local school districts to share portions of their locally appropriated tax money with charter schools, even if those funds are raised for the express purpose of increasing teacher salaries in district-operated public schools. (Charter schools in Florida, as in many states, do not receive funds that are raised through bond referendums, mill levies, or other forms of local funding initiatives.)

Florida teachers have openly opposed the new law, and local school districts have taken it to court to have it overthrown. But given this new law, it’s not at all hard to imagine a scenario, even at the national level, where Democrats pushing to increase funds for teacher pay will have to confront an expanding charter school industry—and now voucher programs—that would claim their portion of that money to use as private institutions for whatever purposes they wish.

“An Effort to Redefine Public Schools”

“The problem with charter schools isn’t that they’re competing with public schools; it’s that they’re supplanting public schools,” says Justin Katz in a phone call. Katz, who is president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, recently helped organize a rally in West Palm Beach where more than 200 teachers and public school advocates showed up to voice their opposition to distributing funds raised by local tax increases to charter schools.

The protest “was very specific, local, and personal,” Katz explains, because voters in the county had approved $200 million in funding for their schools in a measure that specified increases could be used for teacher raises in traditional public schools and not for funding charter schools.

The referendum was overwhelmingly approved by more than 72 percent of voters. But under the proposed new law, a proportional share of 10 percent, or about $20 million a year, would have gone to the county’s 49 charters. Only a final hour amendment in the state’s Senate averted the loss, when the bill was altered to apply to future bond referendums only.

The language of the referendum that was passed was “crystal clear,” Katz says, that money raised by the bond efforts would not go to charter schools. But the loophole being used to argue for charters to get their share is the use of the term “public schools.”

The new law is “an effort to redefine what are public schools,” he says, in order to give charter schools a right to claim a portion of any publicly raised education funds, regardless of the intent for raising the money. He fears that once charters claim that right, private schools in the state’s school voucher programs will claim it too.

What Katz fears aligns to Governor DeSantis’ recent comment that “if the taxpayer is paying for education, it’s public education,” which seems to mean that virtually any education provider—charter schools, private schools, and even homeschooling—is “public education” and therefore has rightful claim to public funds meant for teachers, local schools, and any initiative voters approve, regardless of the intent.

Public Money to “Non-Public” Schools

“Our objection to sharing bond referendum money with charter schools is that it’s not what the money was intended for,” says Anna Fusco, the president of the Broward Teachers Union.

Broward, the county immediately to the south of Palm Beach, also recently passed a local referendum that raised $93,000, enough funding to boost teacher salaries by as much as $8,000. Like the Palm Beach initiative, the Broward referendum funds were intended not to go to charters, although the language was not as specific. Broward has over 90 charter schools educating 45,919 students, over 20 percent of the district’s students.

Fusco says, “it was fair to not include charters in the referendum” for several reasons. Because nearly half the charter schools in the state are managed by for-profit companies, new funding voters had approved for teachers could instead be used to expand profits for charter management companies.

Fusco also believes many charter schools are “non-public” because they “get to choose their students.” Studies have shown Florida’s charter schools, compared to public schools, serve significantly lower percentages of low-income students, students with disabilities, and students who struggle with English.

She also points to other recent legislation that gave charter schools access to state funding for building leases and executive pay and big new loopholes for bypassing local school boards and employing uncertified teachers. She contends the law undermines the charter industry’s argument for needing local referendum money. And because of the new loopholes, bond referendum money would now go to charter schools even though they can bypass the very school boards that pushed for the bonds, and even if the money was earmarked for wage hikes for certified teachers, charters could use the money to hire uncertified teachers who lower the status of the teaching profession.

A “Long Game People Haven’t Noticed”

“This is part of an incremental and deliberate effort to take apart our public school system,” says Karen Castor Dentel in a phone call. Castor Dentel is a board member of Orange County Public Schools and former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives. A native of Florida and graduate of the state’s public schools, she taught in an elementary school last year, and her mother was Florida Education Commissioner from 1987 to 1994.

Castor Dentel sources the assault on the state’s public schools to former Governor Jeb Bush, who initiated a series of reforms he called the A+ Plan that included imposing a school grading system based on test scores. Gradually the test-based system was used to evaluate teachers too—including evaluating teachers based on the scores of students they don’t even teach.

Bush’s plan also called for changing teachers’ salary increases from a traditional step plan based on seniority and continuing education to a system of bonuses and merit-pay schemes based on test scores and other measures. The most preposterous of these schemes based teacher bonuses on scores they earned on their college entrance exams. Districts are now rushing to abandon these plans.

“The purpose of this was to shame schools and teachers,” Castor Dentel insists. “We already knew which students needed help and which schools and teachers needed more support. But it’s easier to label schools and teachers failing and hand everything over to a private charter operator than it is to do what these schools and communities actually need.”

While Bush’s plan cracked down on teachers, it loosened the regulatory environment for charter schools and provided them with new funding sources. By the time Bush left office in 2007, charter schools across the state had grown from a modest 30 to well over 300. Today there are 655.

The educational success of the A+ Plan continues to be hotly debated, but it’s undeniable that the welfare of public school teachers in the state suffered significantly under its regime.

The state has dropped to 46 on a national scale of average teacher salaries, and at least one credible analysis has deemed the state the fifth worst state in the nation to be a teacher.

Due to low pay, deteriorating employee benefits, and demoralizing working conditions, Florida teachers have refused to work beyond school hours, increasingly called in sick, and are leaving their jobs at higher rates. The state now has an acute teacher shortage and struggles to fill vacant positions. And in what’s being called a “silent strike,” experienced teachers are leaving the profession early, and people who would be highly qualified for teaching are choosing other employment opportunities.

In the meantime, charter schools have flourished and now account for nearly all the state’s growth in student enrollment.

“It’s been a long game,” Castor Dentel says. “The agenda has been imposed so slowly over the past 20 years that people don’t notice. It’s a cancer that started in Florida and is now spreading everywhere.”

Have Democrats Found Their Way?

If the Florida model for education is a disease, Democrats have certainly been infected. Much of what was in Bush’s A+ Plan formed the policy agenda of the Obama administration, which also pushed for evaluating schools and teachers based on test scores and expanding charter schools.

“Democrats have been promoting a conservative ‘school reform’ agenda for the past three decades,” education historian and bestselling author Diane Ravitch observed. “Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education.”

But because presidential hopefuls are rallying around teacher salary increases, have Democrats found their way back?

No doubt, what got Democrats to pay attention to the plight of school teachers was the series of teacher protests staged across the country last year and into this. The highly visible strikes emboldened candidates running in 2018 midterm elections to campaign for increasing investments in public schools. The teacher uprisings also took the schools issue away from Republicans and made it less about “accountability” and more about the massive cuts political leaders in both parties have enacted to the system.

In Florida, teachers are forbidden to strike by law and the state constitution. “Any teachers engaging in such action would endanger their professional status,” explains Fusco. “They could lose their licenses and jobs for life and lose their pensions too. Our union will never, ever encourage a walk out.”

However, the laws haven’t stopped teachers from speaking out against efforts to divert local tax dollars for teacher pay to charter schools. Their protest messages are about educating voters on the impact of charters rather than opposing them outright.

Teachers who protested in Palm Beach County, according to Castor Dentel, “made their protests more about the responsible use of tax dollars.”

“Parents and voters are just starting to get engaged, but they aren’t always clear on the issues,” she says. “They don’t understand that charter schools aren’t really like public schools.”

“For now, our effort to push back has to rely on educating people on what these bills in the state legislature are really doing,” says Fusco. “We hope people who aren’t in education and don’t even have children in schools listen to us.”

“This obsession with crushing public schools to promote privately operated things that are being called ‘public’ is not universally accepted,” says Katz, “and people are just starting to sour on it.”

Maybe Democrats will too.

 

 

To learn more about school privatization, check out Who Controls Our Schools? The Privatization of American Public Education, a free ebook published by the Independent Media Institute.

Click here to read a selection of Who Controls Our Schools? published on AlterNet, or here to access the complete text.

This article was produced by Our Schools, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

 

 

Source: Why Democratic Presidential Candidates May Have to Choose Between Teacher Pay Raises and Charter Schools | Common Dreams Views

Boston Music Scene Legends Come To Talking HendrixFriday Night from 7-8 p.m. on www.activatemedia.org

Boston Music Scene Legends Come To Talking HendrixFriday Night from 7-8 p.m. on www.activatemedia.org

By Ed Wroblesk

This week we have three special guests along with a co-host on this week’s show. Our first guest is Pamela Ruby Russell who will be at the Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Saturday June 1st singing with the group Love and Flame featuring “Count” Viglione, our second guest is John Tamilio, guitarist from the group 3D who hit the Boston, Massachusetts scene in the mid 1980s and will also be at the Middle East on saturday June 1st performing as well, and our final guest for this week’s show is singer/songwriter Andy Pratt, with our special guest co-host from local area radio show Voices Of Time’s host Alan James Patterson who interviewed Andy recently on his show and is letting us use part of the interview for all of you listeneres of our show at the bottom of our article will be the link to the full show Alan did with Andy who also performed in the studio at the Boston Free Radio station studio some songs and the whole show link is a full two hours of Andy being interviewed, singing and original studio record songs of his material as well, Andy another Bostonian who will be at this spectacular event in Cambridge on saturday night June 1st to perform with all our guests plus more see in our music news section all the details, times, and performers to be at this once in a lifetime event for the Boston music scene reunion. More information about all our guests appearing on our show this week is below:

Andy Pratt information:

Andy talks with Alan James Patterson about what he has been up to lately, along with some interesting stories of his days of the past on the music scene. Andy who’s critically acclaimed hit “Avenging Annie”, released in 1973 and also written by Pratt, would later be covered by The Who’s frontman Roger Daltry which was released in 1977 on one of his solo albums entitled “one Of The Boys”. The song peaked at number 78 on the Billboard hot 100 for Pratt, and stayed there for 10 weeks and would be later featured in the 1998 film “Velvet Goldmine”. Pratt has released 29 albums the most recent being from 2015 entitled “Do You Remember Me” relaesed on Continental Record Services label. So if you’re a big fan of Andy be sure to tune in friday night and come out to see him perform on Saturday night June 1st.

Pamela Ruby Russell:

Pamela who saw Jimi Hendrix Once at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve and still has the program from the show!! It was,DEFINITELY mind blowing! says Russell, And later that summer she also saw him at Woodstock!!! Pretty cool!!! ” I awoke in the mud to hearing him playing the national anthem” she says. Pamela was also fortunate to have seen the Beatles at Shea Stadium and she also mentioned that she saw Janis twice… once when she wasn’t famous yet at the old World’s Fair site in Flushing NY opening up for Rick Derringer and the McCoys!, and then of course at Woodstock with Jimi. Pamela used to be the assistant buyer and sales person of cassettes when they first came out… at the Record Hunter on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street… that store was the gold standard of record stores back in NYC in the early ’70s, her roommate was the 45’s buyer… it was quite a year!!! All the A & R guys used to give us tickets to all the shows… But I first got exposed to music as a young 8 year old, studying piano, she said.

Pamela doesn’t currently have a band right now, but she will be taking the stage with Count Viglione and his band Love and Flame saturday night June 1st at the Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pamela had been on a hiatus with her music… working as a photographer, pretty seriously at it. But have been planning to record new songs this coming summer and will probably work with the same co-producer, Peter Calo, a monster guitarist and arranger… he’s been Carly Simon’s musical director and guitarist for years… she usually brings in musicians whom she trust to be true to their own selves… and whose color palettes harmonize well with her songs paint with sound rather than arrange… I leave the playing up to players who are far better than her she says. Pamela recorded years ago with a funk bass, bagpipes and a gorgeous violin.. along with a guitarist who played a drone in a strange tuning, it was perfect, says Russell. Another time she had huge drums, the same violinist, a French bass player… and an Andean flautist.. the bassist said to her, “I came in to play… just a gig.. for your recording and to my surprise and joy, you gave me the sky… and let me create with you.” she trusted his musicality and allowed him to shine. Pamela find that you get the best out of musicians when you give them the space to do what they love… she has never made much money with music… it has always been her love. It would be lovely to get some songs place in films… have other artists do her material… even get her own recordings heard… she hasn’t given up on her dreams. she love her songs and she love the process of creating them. When the windows open and she can allow her Muses the attention they deserve… it is Paradise for her.

John Tamilio of D:

In a world where there appears to be everything but peace, Rev. John Tamilio and legendary Boston band 3D release “Everything But Peace.” Essential listening for our times.
3d performing at the Reunion saturday night, June 1, 2019 @ The Middle East Restaurant, Cambridge
Everything But Peace is now in release, the follow-up to A Bit Like You
Everything But Peace is a powerful song, a message from an iconic Boston area band from the 1980s

So Be Sure To Tune In This Friday night from 7-8 p.m. on www.activatemedia.org

Source: Boston Music Scene Legends Come To Talking Hendrix | Dover, MA Patch

With Viral Tweet, Activist Urges Defeat of Massive Grand Canyon Development That Threatens Local Tribe’s Water

With Viral Tweet, Activist Urges Defeat of Massive Grand Canyon Development That Threatens Local Tribe’s Water

“There’s no national news coverage about this and some very rich people want to keep it that way.”

By Julia Conley

This is a developing story and may be updated…

A grassroots campaign is calling on anyone who opposes a huge new development just a few miles from Grand Canyon National Park to make their objections known to local officials as the government of a nearby town prepares to vote on the building of a new housing, retail, and entertainment complex.

A Twitter thread by a grassroots activist called “Jack” went viral Monday, gaining more than 100,000 re-tweets in about 24 hours as users read about an Italian development company’s plans to build a convention center, a spa, more than 2,000 homes, and potentially a water park just 10 miles from the beloved national landmark.

In addition to changing the landscape of the Grand Canyon’s southern rim, the thread explained, the creation of such an expansive development would threaten the sole water source used by the local Havasupai Tribe.

“If any of my tweets ever go viral I hope it’s this one,” wrote Jack. “There’s no national news coverage about this and some very rich people want to keep it that way.”

Jack explained how the Italian development company Stilo Gruppo purchased 3.5 million acres of land near the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 1990 and now hopes to move ahead with the long-planned development, pending approval from the Tusayan town council. 

As Common Dreams reported in 2015, conservation campaigners earlier fought Stilo’s attempt to obtain a permit to build a road cutting through Kaibab National Forest, the first stage of their development.

“The Forest Service is putting Grand Canyon National Park in the crosshairs by considering Tusayan’s dangerous, damaging plan for a mega-resort,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) at the time. “This proposal is not in the public interest and is one of the greatest threats Grand Canyon National Park has seen in its history.”

As the NPCA wrote after the U.S. Forest Service eventually rejected Stilo’s proposal, voters in the local county helped keep the company’s plans from moving forward for decades.

“That all changed when the tiny gateway town of Tusayan (fewer than 600 residents) incorporated and annexed this land,” said the NPCA. “In 2014, Tusayan approved zoning for Stilo to allow 2,176 residential units and three million square feet of retail space (equal to the size of 10 big box stores).”

The NPCA and other opponents warn that the Stilo development would destroy springs that provide drinking water that the Havasupai have lived on for hundreds of years.

“The only water currently available in Tusayan is groundwater, which is pumped from the aquifer that feeds ecologically and culturally important springs within Grand Canyon National Park,” the NPCA explained after the earlier project was blocked in 2016. “More groundwater pumping would likely lower aquifer levels, damaging or drying up the springs. The aquifer is also the sole source of water for Havasu Creek. This creek is the lifeblood of members of the Havasupai Tribe, who rely on it for drinking and irrigation water.”

Common Dreams‘ request for comment from Jack was unanswered at press time.

At a meeting planned for Wednesday, the Tusayan town council will discuss the building of 17 homes, construction that would “[open] the door for Stilo to build the rest,” Jack wrote.

On Twitter, he called on supporters of indigenous people and water rights to contact local officials in Tusayan to urge them to vote against approving Stilo’s development.

“I beg you to care about this. The Grand Canyon has been a home to Indigenous Americans for over 800 years and a protected national park for 100 years,” Jack tweeted.

licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

 

 

Source: With Viral Tweet, Activist Urges Defeat of Massive Grand Canyon Development That Threatens Local Tribe’s Water | Common Dreams News