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From Chuck Olynyk: “Turning Back the Pages”

May 22, 2011

“Orwellian” is the word that Chuck used that popped out at me in this post, as well as the abject ignorance of a public willing to sell its future down the river just to punish teachers. 

As I was looking at Chuck’s post, I also was eyeing a story about yet another tornado, this one in Missouri that flattened a hospital and some towns.  And I thought, wasn’t there just flooding in Lousiana and Mississippi?  It’s seems as if for the good folks of the south, there is nowhere to hide anymore.  Texas is suffering the worst drought since the Dust Bowl and even Republican farmers can no longer deny that climate change is real. 

There seems to be nowhere to hide either  from the regressive, social darwinistic policies of the past, especially if you happen to be a teacher.  I of course work “9 months a year, ” getting, according to one LA Times reader, 1000 dollar raise every year and making “45,000 dollars” a year! Oh my god, well actually I make much more than that and I deserve every penny but apparently this reader thinks everyone should live in poverty and never get raises. 

I wonder if he knows that the first year teacher making 45,000 dollars pays 8% into retirement and takes home about 1900 a month- that’s TAKE HOME pay- now of course average rents for a one bedroom apartment in an area without drive by’s is about 850 a month so there goes 50% of the teachers paycheck. Let’s say this teacher drives a cheap compact, say a Toyota Yaris and the payment is about 200 dollars a month and then of course he or she needs car insurance that’s another what, 180 bucks a month at least? Then there’s gas- we’re now almost at 3/4 of the paycheck and we haven’t even gotten to food and utilities.  There’s nothing left for emergencies, hobbies, anything.  Not even savings.  Yeah, that’s livin’ large. 

Meanwhile, I can’t help but notice the almost complete collapse of the business district of Sunland-Tujunga in the past month and the alarming increase in crime along Foothill Blvd near Sunland park, nor the quadrupling of the homeless population in the area and the poverty that is increasing. 

More and more residents are taking buses, foreclosures have continued unabated and I saw four LAPD police cars in one area yesterday and five sheriffs vehicles today in areas that are normally devoid of any problems.  There is a hopelessness that seems to have enveloped the area.  But apparently the solution is at hand, according to many readers of the LA Times and that is to destroy teachers unions. Yes, that will put our society back on the right track.  It’s not bankers or Wall Street that are the villains, it’s those greedy public school teachers with job security- security that every American should have.

I continue to hide myself out in one of the last outposts of academic freedom other than Magnet schools-the Options schools composed of continuation and community day schools- if you can call teaching kids who don’t want to be there “freedom,”  but yet, freedom it is- from district mandates and paperwork- hell, we don’t even have to do ISIS.  I have my weekends mostly free and don’t have to stress about planning for Monday.  In exchange, I and the other  2 teachers sacrifice some feelings of safety and true teaching to be out of the eye of the storm, at least for now.    Of course some of the kids are trying but some need 6 months of rehab more than they need to sit in a classroom surrounded largely by others who continue to tempt them to take drugs and ditch school. And a few have shown interest in an academic decathlon class for next year so I am busy ordering materials and holding my breath that we can put a team together.    Am I  still a teacher? I don’t know anymore. And to be honest, I don’t really care.

FROM CHUCK: TURNING BACK THE PAGES

Today is Sunday, May 22, 2011 and Day 132 of Year Two. Friday, during my conference period, I continued my walkabout around the campus of Roosevelt High, demonized by the film “Waiting For Superman,” a film which Oprah touted and which Bill Gates spent $2 million dollars on for a “social campaign,” which slammed Randi Weingartner of the NEA. I try to reconcile the media coverage of the “drop-out factory” of the infomercial for charters with what I see on the campus. Remember, this is my first year here at the School of the Big Stick. So it’s looking at murals, wandering in and out of buildings constructed during various phases, sitting in the Japanese Garden, then, what may have been the best part of this walkabout, looking at the cases on the first floor of the A Building.

It’s sort of a “Dead Poets Society” moment. In the movie, teacher and alumnus John Keating takes the students before a case filled with past glories, exhorting the boys to “make your lives extraordinary.” I’ve been by those cases before, but this time, I was looking through my camera. Maybe I was playing anthropologist and attempting to understand the culture of the place. Cases with memorabilia from each decade of the school’s existence, right back to the Twenties. (Hopefully there isn’t a custody battle over this between the seven Small Schools, proliferating like X-Men titles).

It hasn’t become any easier to reconcile this on Sunday morning, so I shift gears.. Coffee and listening to a treasure I never knew existed, jam sessions by Jimi Hendrix and Traffic done in some unknown studio in the Sixties, something you know was done just for fun, just for the love of music, but now on CD and being marketed, whether by the survivors or someone just bootlegging it. It doesn’t matter. The music’s out there and I get to enjoy two of my favorite acts, five of my favorite musicians just jamming together.

Some of these sessions don’t work, hawking them, at least. But acts are aging and it’s a way to make a buck. The name of the artist sells this stuff—and sometimes it’s a joy, like “Manassas Pieces” by Stephen Stills and Manassas, then there’s the 2-disc piece of garbage mastered from stretched-out tapes, “A Hot Buffalo & Byrd Burrito” by the same folks.

The name seems to sell the product, but let the buyer beware. Caveat emptor. Like Bill Gates and Microsoft. Bill’s a great guy. He’s a humanitarian. He was never about creating a near-monopoly, and even of he was, folks like RiShawn Biddle and Steve Peha over at Dropout Nation, would say, “So what?” http://dropoutnation.net/2011/04/21/bill-gates-school-reform-movement/ and http://dropoutnation.net/2011/04/22/you-cant-defend-a-failed-vision-of-american-public-education/.

There’s comments of the same ilk to yesterday’s Howard Blume piece, “L.A. teachers union seeks to halt school district initiatives,” http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-20110521,0,1358739.story, where those who disagree with comments posted are called morons and challenged to watch “Waiting For Superman,” and we are treated to the keen observation that “Education is the biggest scam in the history of this Nation.” Since Nation was capped, it must lend a certain dignity, no?

No.

Bill Gates may be a great guy, and Oprah may be very generous (although her self-congratulation carefully orchestrated to be televised as news taints a lot of her good, but neither of these folks are educators. They didn’t take classes in college on how to scaffold lessons or deal with students with special needs.

But when Bill Gates pulls out the checkbook, elected officials listen. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/education/22gates.html?_r=2

And that’s wrong.

In 2009, Bill Gates spent, according to the NYT article, spent $373 million on education. But it not as simple as “overhauling large schools and opening small ones” (funny, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation isn’t advocating the Small Schools approach these days) anymore. It is about funding advocacy groups, organizations to counter what unions have sought to protect for years. Seniority, test scores for evaluation, due process in layoff and firing, all are under fire.

The checkbook speaks. Paying people to work inside school districts, analysts who interpret the issues for the media, bloggers (hey, can I get a paid gig? Just a thought…), acting as “entrepreneurial change agents.” I found Teach Plus, members of a national organization financed heavily by the Gates Foundation, to be particularly disturbing: they helped Indiana lawmakers do away with seniority-based layoffs.

And few are aware of just who is on the Gates’ payroll. Superintendent John Deasy once was. School Board member Yolie Flores is on the payroll. How many key people are being brought on by Dr. Deasy, whose positions are being funded by said payroll?

“Orwellian.” The word itself is chilling. It’s the word used by Bruce Fuller of UC Berkeley, who wrote “…through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think…” A blogger whose institute was given $500,000 felt the need to censor himself. “There can be an exquisite carefulness about how we’re going to say anything that could badly reflect upon the foundation… Everybody’s implicated…”

You can see the outgrowth of it in LAUSD. UTLA filed Friday with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to file an injunction in order to halt District “reforms”. If the injunction is not filed, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to undo actions that are illegal, such as LAUSD’s failure to follow through on negotiations over teacher evaluations (remember Deasy’s offer I wrote about a couple of weeks ago?) “Many teachers are eager to move forward with an improved evaluation system, said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.” Isn’t that what Bill Gates is paying for in the first place? You have to admire that honesty. At least he stays bought.

There’s also another court action, challenging the legality of handing over half of Jordan High School and all of Clay Middle School (via the sham of formally closing it, then handing it over) to the charter company Green Dot.

Please be at the Beaudry Building on Tuesday as we stand together and say no to the RIFs, not to the charterization, no to the bad-faith negotiating of LAUSD. The circus starts around 2:00 p.m.

“We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

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