Weekly Roundup 9/26

Roundup6This week’s education news has an underlying theme of students, teachers, parents, and community members coming together to stand up for public education. It’s always nice to be able to bring good education news, for a change, and this good news is due to people having the courage to speak out and stand up for themselves and their schools. We hope this week provides a little inspiration for all of you.

York City Schools are being run by a state-appointed chief recovery officer, who is pressuring the school board to allow a corporate takeover of the district by one of two out-of-state private charter companies. Each school in the district, in turn, would be converted to a for-profit charter school. Pro-public education advocates, from students, to parents, to community leaders are standing with teachers and education support professionals to rally against the corporate takeover. The district has to make the decision by November, which conveniently is the same month of the gubernatorial election; current governor Tom Corbett supports the corporate takeover of schools, but he is not slated to beat Democratic opponent Tom Wolf, who has publicly denounced the corporate takeover. Read the Education Votes article to see just how York parents and teachers are working together to take a stand for public education, and to learn more about the abysmal charter school record in Pennsylvania and around the country.

As the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, teachers strike for smaller class sizes, fair labor practices, and other common-sense demands, their district leaders have hired Huffmaster Inc. to supply “replacement employees” to educate students. The company is notorious for making millions while aiding ailing school systems: they are “the company that raked in over a million dollars from the Strongsville school system last year during their teacher strike. Those fees included a ‘$48,000 hotel bill’ for the replacement teachers, and ‘more than $47,000 in rented vehicles, $50,000 in flight reimbursements and $12,000 in gas and mileage payments,’ according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Astonishingly, Huffmaster is already slated to make more than that from Reynoldsburg, which spent nearly $400,000 the first day of the strike, as the school system is contracting for “strike management” consultants who bill more per hour than the superintendent and “strike security” guards. A video clearly shows the security personnel are attempting “to intimidate local parents, children and TV film crews and to prevent them from sharing the truth.” Read the article and watch the video, and then decide if you think it’s time to stand up for teachers and the TRUTH about the current state of education in this country.

The Educationalchemy blog stands for democracy and public education, as well as the power of imagination, and looks to fight corporate greed. In a post this week, the author explores the problems with standards-based education and asks very important questions, such as “Who defines them?” and “What purpose do they serve?” There are some very important points made about the standards and how they currently are being used in education, and the blogger points to some very insightful words from pro-public education writers. This is worth a read, to put the standards back into perspective as the fight about Common Core rages on.

In a lesson in irony, hundreds of Colorado students staged a walkout to protest a “conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority.” Students don’t believe the school board should adopt the proposal, which “calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage… and don’t ‘encourage or condone civil disorder, social strike or disregard of the law.'” Read the article to see what the students had to say about the proposal while they staged their peaceful protest.

In news related to United Opt Out, a testing boycott in New York City has resulted in the City of New York dropping the tests for the entire school system. Last year, teachers boycotted the mandated test at the International High School of Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. As a result, the Measure of English Language Arts Performance Assessment that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards  has been eliminated for 2014-2015. Read the announcement and a related blog post to get the full story.

We’ve been keeping you up to date on the Lee County, Florida, school district that voted to opt out of the Common Core, only to revisit the vote and reverse its decision after being threatened with a $240 million funding cut from the state. This week, Lee County is back in the news because its school board has decided to lessen the testing load for grades K-5 by eliminating the district’s 68 assessments; the 68 tests “were created by the district rather than teachers” and “did not have high-stakes consequences and were used for district progress monitoring.” The decision puts “assessment decisions back in teachers’ hands.” Read the full News-Press article.

Wisconsin has been in education news a great deal because its current governor, Scott Walker, is not a friend of public education and has proposed a voucher expansion that would cost nearly $200 million annually. Walker already “expanded vouchers by $300 million, made possible by cutting $1.6 billion from public education, the largest cuts to education spending in Wisconsin history.” Gubernatorial candidate and Walker opponent Mary Burke is saying voucher expansion is wrong and acknowledges public schools can’t afford it. Burke held a roundtable discussion with NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, and both women explain that voucher supporters use a “choice” narrative when discussing the benefits of vouchers, but point out that the choice that parents want is “to have choices within their neighborhood schools,” which vouchers remove. Read the Education Votes article to see the other ways Eskelsen Garcia and Burke are advocating for students and public schools.

Poverty and hunger are two of the biggest challenges facing public school students today, but it is not an issue that is making national headlines in the same way that the Common Core and ed reform are. This week, Huffington Post highlighted a New Mexico first-grade etcher who has seen too many students coming to school hungry. He starts class each morning by asking which students had not had breakfast and either sends them to the cafeteria or gives them a snack from his supply, which he pays for out of his own pocket. He worked with other school personnel to begin a backpack program to send kids home with food each weekend. Read about Marvin Callahan and all of the things he is doing to help students in the HuffPost article.

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