Fairport NY superintendent Dr. William Cala’s notes from his talk at a Rochester Teachers Association forum on 3/5/15.
Shared with permission:
Today I will make no apologies for what I am about to say.
First, Let me say that it IS possible to fight the bureaucracy in Albany and win.
In 2003 in Fairport we had had enough of 20 straight years of late state budgets. We refused to put a budget up for vote until Albany passed their budget. As a result the legislature delayed school districts’ May vote by 2 weeks as they got their act together to pass the state budget. This was the first time in NYS history that this had happened. Imagine the power of resistance!
Two weeks ago the Board of Regents withdrew the request of the commissioner to make stand- alone field tests mandatory. This happened because parents, teachers, administrators and a few noisy superintendents raised their voices.
We can no longer remain silent.
Last Saturday I went to the Little to view a documentary on the persecution of the Bhai’s in Iran. The Bahai’s have been persecuted for decades. The government has treated them as second class citizens and has prohibited their going to college. Subsequently the Bhai’s have established an underground university that is connected to Universities all over the world.
My takeaways from this film clearly were that we must do something to help the wonderful people of Iran who are being oppressed, however, the film reminded me of where we are going in the United States.
In the 1970s teachers had academic freedom to design their schedules, their curriculum and to tailor each day’s lesson to the needs and wants of their students.– After 44 years in education, I have seen that freedom whittled down to nothing. In fact, our “reforms” are third-world colonialism-type solutions for a 21st century world. The autocratic imposition of a national curriculum looks frighteningly like what we see in places like Iran. I work in Kenya and I see failed Education Policies of the third-world being forced upon us here in the United States. Kenya too has national exams and the opposition is growing steadily as the people can see that these methods are doing much more harm than good. Measures such as what we see in Iran and Africa that are being rejected are those to where our government is gravitating. Just last week the Oklahoma legislature voted to ban the teaching of AP History because it was too critical of the government.
Why is this happening???
It’s really very simple. It’s about power and the fuel for power: MONEY. Not money for you and me, oh no. Money for the very, very few.
Thanks to a little discussed law passed in 2000 at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Banks and Equity firms that invest in charter schools and other projects in underserved areas can take advantage of a very generous tax credit, as much as 39% to offset their expenditure in such projects. In essence, that credit amounts to doubling the amount of money they have invested in just 7 years.. Moreover, they are allowed to combine that tax credit with job creation credits and other types of credit, and collect interest payments on the money they are lending out-all which adds up to far more than double in returns.
And it’s not just U.S. investors who see the upside of these investments. Rich donors throughout the world are now sending money to fund our charter schools. Why? Because if they invest at least $500,000 to charters under a federal program called EB-5, they’re allowed to purchase immigration visas for themselves and family members, yet another mechanism in place to ensure that the money keeps rolling in.
Proponents of the so-called education reform insist that investments like these are all about how successful charter schools are, however, the prolific research on charters does not bear out the claims that they are making. It is also a bit naïve to take this on faith when there are billions of dollars of profit and for some, a path to U.S. immigration at stake in these investments.
More than doubling your money in 7 years!! What do you get on your investments??? My CDs are in the 1% range. (Safe and sure investments such as those in Charters).
Any questions about why Charters are so popular with the wealthy? Any questions why the wealthy insist on supporting Charters even though the research is quite clear. Ever wonder why it is next to impossible to get any statistical information out of charters?
Money cures conscience!
The destruction of public schools is a cash cow for:
The Koch Brothers
The Walton Family
And the precious few of the rest of the 1%
The richest 8 Americans increased their wealth by more than $87 billion in 2014. That’s more than our nation spends on Food Stamps and about equal to NYS’ $92 Billion operating budget of 2014 of which only $22 Billion was spent on education.
Silence No More
This is all about MONEY…..The Billions of dollars that are being made on the backs of our children.
The game has been rigged for decades.
And Our recent commissioners and our current Plutocrat Chancellor Meryl Tisch are beholding to the 1%.
With each new commissioner comes a claim that the test results championed by the previous commissioner were inflated and didn’t prepare kids properly
Oh Yes, the scores were inflated…much too high.
First Commissioner Richard Mills said it about Thomas Sobol
Then commissioner Steiner said the same thing about Richard Mills
Then Commissioner King said the same thing about Steiner’s tests.
Imagine: 80% passing the tests under Steiner and only a Third passing the King tests.
It’s all rigged to perpetuate itself and keep the money flowing. If students fail the test, then teachers are failures and public education should be dissolved. If students score well on the tests, then the tests are deemed “too easy” or flawed. In the test construction business, if too many kids from any particular minority sub-group score too well, the question is eliminated. Those are the basic metrics of the testing industry.
What do you think would happen if everyone passed the tests????? I guarantee you that there would be no praise for teachers, students or public schools. But surely, all kids (especially the poor) Must NEVER pass the tests as that would bring the cash flow to a halt.
I cannot help but reflect upon this state of affairs and think of that refrain in the song by Roger Daltry and The Who:
“Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
But let’s not forget the name of the Song:
—We Won’t get fooled Again….Oh No!
We Have our work ahead of us.
How often have we observed that the groups that are representing us in Albany (School Boards, Administrators, Superintendents, Teachers) fail to adequately represent us because they “do not want to make waves andthey want to continue to have a place at the table with the Governor and the power structure in Albany. The truth is that the only place at the governor’s table we have had was to be THE MAIN COURSE. We have been eaten alive.
Silence No More
We have been told that we should negotiate with Cuomo. I tell you today that there is NOTHING in his “Opportunity” agenda that is good for public schools, good for communities, good for teachers and most importantly good for children, urban or suburban ….NOTHING. This is not an “Opportunity” agenda but rather an OPPORTUNISTIC money grab.
We should NEVER negotiate with people who cannot be trusted and who don’t keep their promises.
*Cuomo made a promise to the Working Families Party before the election
-He broke those promises after the election
*Cuomo made promises about APPR. Before the election he told legislators to write a bill that would hold teachers harmless for 2 years given the disaster of the Common Core Tests. Tests that, BTW he declared as garbage and insisted that they not be a part of a student’s record for the next two years, yet he uses the same statistics from the same flawed tests to create a system to break unions, fire teachers, eliminate tenure. Amazing hubris.
-After the election he vetoed the very Bill he promised to enforce
*Cuomo promised to fight corruption by creating the Moreland Commission
-When the investigation got close to his friend Sheldon Silver and even closer to home, he killed the commission
*Before the election he promised to reduce the significance of testing
-After the election he increased the stakes for state testing to exponential levels
*Before the election Cuomo took $1.6 million in campaign contributions from Charter supporters. BTW this past election there was $11million in Lobbying from Unions and over $30 million from Charter supporters.
-After the election in his new 2015-16 Budget he increased special CHARTER SCHOOL aid by a whopping 21%- With No Strings attached I might add. They didn’t have to agree to anything. But it doesn’t stop there. He proposes lifting the cap on the number of charter schools in NYS in spite of the fact that there is significant evidence that Charters DO NOT perform as well as regular public schools. Remember how important it is to kill public schools and that charter investors (the 1%) keep their income flowing.
Before the election the governor signed tax break legislation that benefited World Corps (a Rupert Murdock Company).
-After the election Cuomo signs a $700,000 book contract with the same company. His response: I didn’t know they would benefit from this legislation.” There are only two possible conclusions from this statement: He is either negligent or corrupt.
Last week it was made public that all of e-mails of the governor’s administration will be automatically purged if they are older than 90 days.
-This is unheard of and stinks to high heaven. Even if this were a good practice (I assure you that it is not in a democracy) one would think if you had nothing to hide you would put a freeze on that practice given the proximity of Preet Bharara.
The Governor has a legal and moral responsibility to uphold the decision by the courts of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity yet schools have had their adequate funding reduced by billions of dollars under this governor’s tenure.
WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH THOSE WHO DON’T KEEP PROMISES AND TREAT TRUTH AS A FOREGIN LANGUAGE
We are smack in the middle of an episode of Game of Cards. Specifically, Season 1 Episode 3. Where the education bill of the president is being crafted. I watched that episode and I was convinced it was completely non-fictional and perhaps written by our own politicians.
MLK said that Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
This is NOT the time to demure to unbridled power and tyranny. It’s time to speak Truth to Power.
SILENCE NO MORE
The Governor’s agenda is an agenda of Opportunism. It’s the agenda of the wealthy. The intent is to convince everyone that public schools are failing (using a rigged game) then close our public schools and privatize them by selling them to the highest bidders.
SILENCE NO MORE
Deitrich Bonhoeffer said:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself Evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
WE KNOW NOW WHAT AND WITH WHO WE ARE DEALING
LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO ADDRESS ROOT CAUSE OF POOR SCHOOL PERFORMANCE: THIS TRAGEDY OFGENERATIONAL POVERTY THAT IS CRIPPLING THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN.
Nobel Prize winning economist and Princeton Professor Paul Krugman said the following in his February 23rd NY Times column titled “Knowledge Isn’t Power:”
“Regular readers know that I sometimes mock “very serious people”- politicians and pundits who solemnly repeat conventional wisdom that sounds tough-minded and realistic. The trouble is that sounding serious and being serious are by no means the same thing, and some of those seemingly tough-minded positions are actually ways to dodge the truly hard issues.
Krugman goes on to hit the nail on the head:
“…..Whatever serious people may want to believe, soaring inequality isn’t about education: it’s about power. Just to be clear (he goes on) I’m in favor of better education. Education is a friend of mine. And it should be available and affordable for all. But what I keep seeing is people insisting that educational failings are at the root of still-weak job creating, stagnating wages and rising inequality. This sounds serious and thoughtful. But it’s actually a view very much at odds with the evidence, not to mention a way to hide from the real, unavoidable partisan debate.”
….while the education/inequality story may once have seemed plausible, it hasn’t tracked reality for a long time.
…..as for wages and salaries, never mind college degrees- all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge: it’s about who has the power.
He goes on to say that:
“…there’s a lot we could do to redress this inequality of power. We could levy higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and invest the proceeds in programs that help working families. We could raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to organize. But given the determination…..to move policy in exactly the opposite direction, advocating such an effort makes you sound partisan. Hence the desire to see the whole thing as an education problem instead. But we should recognize that popular evasion for what it is: a deeply unserious fantasy.”
We know why children do not learn and do poorly in school
We know about violent neighborhoods
We know about chronic illnesses
We know about Child Abuse
We know about Domestic Violence
We know about poor health care
We know about teen pregnancy
We know about toxic stress
We know about the lack of books in homes
We know about parents who are unable to read to their children
IT’S CALLED POVERTY. The Elephant in the room that no one cares to approach.
Ed Doherty and the January Report on Poverty via the RACF.
What must we do as a society to ensure success for all of our students?
We have heard from a Nobel laureate that we must address the issue of income inequality via taxation of the wealthy. That we must invest these proceeds in programs that help working families, we must push for a significant minimum wage.
We must support evidenced-based programs like the Nurse Family Partnership
We must invest in adequate and affordable child care
We must insist on UPK for all children beginning at age 3.
We need better health care for the poor
We must deconcentrate poverty:
By: Regionalizing school populations by SES
Provide safe affordable housing in the suburbs giving urban children access to suburban schools.
We must invest in libraries not close them and reduce their hours
We need to bring books to parents’ homes
We must insist upon fighting teen pregnancies by implementing evidenced-based programs such as:
i. ARK Assisting in Rehabilitating Kids
ii. BART Becoming a Responsible Teen
iii. CAS Children and Society’s Carrera Program
iiii. Project TALC
v. Raising Healthy Children
vi. Sisters Saving Sisters
Heard of any of these? Of course not….those in power have no interest in evidence
We must combat child abuse and domestic violence by supporting programs such as:
i. School Based Mentoring
ii. Community Based Mentoring
iii. Functional Family Therapy
iiii. The Good Behavior Game
And many, many more….Heard of them? Of course not.
We must provide door-to-door transportation for our urban children if we are to adequately provide safe arrival and dismissal from schools. We do it in the suburbs but apparently urban kids aren’t as important.
We should dedicate our entire communities to building positive assets in our children through evidenced-based programs such as that of the Search Institute.
Perhaps we should look at the 48 pages of recommendations I made and left with RCSD, the City of Rochester and the Democrat and Chronicle in January of 2008 and have been patently ignored. Perhaps it’s because they go to the root of the problem rather than padding the pockets of the rich.
This leads me to what I want for all of our children, rich and poor, urban and suburban:
I want the same kind of schools that President Obama sends his girls, the private Sidwell Friends where there are no high stakes tests and common core.
I want the same kind of schools where Public School Basher Michael Bloomberg sent his daughters, the prestigious Spence Schools in Manhattan.
I want the same kind of schools that APPR and Common Core enforcer John King sent his kids to, the Woodland Hill Montessori where there is no Common core or High Stakes Tests.
Let’s remind the governor and everyone else that uses education as the scapegoat for a heartless, and uncaring and avaricious agenda that while teaching our children the content they need to be successful in our public schools:
We Teach them compassion
We teach them respect
We teach them to be creative
We teach them resilience
We teach them tolerance
We teach them cooperation
We teach them Problem Solving
We teach them to be good people
We teach them to be good citizens
We teach them to discover their own talents
We teach them to save and respect the earth
And most importantly, we teach them to love and to be loved.
I want Governor Cuomo to figure out an APPR score for that.
And finally, we teach our children Democracy.
Democracy is not compliance with laws that are harmful and downright evil.
Democracy means having a meaningful voice.
SILENCE NO MORE
Frederick Douglass said “I prayed for freedom for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.
Our silence must be broken not only with words but with action. That’s why we rally…..that’s why we march.
Rosa Parks broke the law! She prayed with her legs as did an entire city for months to put an end to injustice.
The laws governing our schools are no less evil. Our schools are more segregated than in 1954 at the time of Brown vs the Board of Education. Our country gets poorer each year and our schools are inadequately funded. Rochester is the poorest city in extreme poverty in the entire United States. Our current laws and proposed laws expect that the most noble of professions TEACHING is to work the miracle of what decades of institutional, governmental and societal neglect and racism have foisted upon the most vulnerable among us…..our children…..our future.
Make no mistake that the laws governing education are feeding the school to prison pipeline. I hope we didn’t need John Legend to inform us that we have more black, poor, men in prison today than all of the people in captivity through slavery.
It’s time to speak up. But more importantly, it’s time for action.
William Faulker said:
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”
SILENCE NO MORE
Thanks William Cala, and also to Monroe County Against Common Core.