Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Best of the New York City Edublogs


September 30, 8:22 PM
by Lorri Giovinco-Harte, New York City Education Examiner

The edublog is a phenomenon that has been gaining increasing popularity in the online community. Written by a vast array of individuals who have an interest in education and educational issues, these blogs provide important information and commentary about what is happening in the world of education.

Within the New York City ‘edublogosphere’ , there are numerous blogs being written by teachers, parents, and administrators that are acting as a grass-roots movement in leading the New York City educational system towards a much needed change.

There are so many to choose from, yet there are three that I believe to be the best in providing real and current information about New York City schools. They are as follows:

NYC Public School Parents

The site is largely written by Leonie Haimson, a New York City parent, and provides critical information to parents of public school children. Haimson is smart, outspoken, and tenacious. If there is an issue surrounding New York City schools then she is right on top of it. She is very well known throughout educational and political circles and is not afraid to speak up in advocacy of New York City children.

Education Notes Online

EdNotes is the definitive site for information about union, educational, and political issues. It’s written by Norm Scott, a retired educator and life-long educational activist. Norm has a tell-it-like-it-is style, and whether he’s criticizing the union or the Department of Education, he backs up his commentary with research and personal experience. When it comes to advocating for children, parents, and teachers, Norm goes the distance.

NYC Educator

Written by a New York City teacher, NYCEducator alternates between poignant tales of his experiences in the classroom and scathing commentary on political and social issues. His readership comes from all over the country and reading the comments that people leave on his blog can be just as interesting as the posts themselves. At the end of the day, he is an educator who seems deeply concerned over the issues that affect our children.

So, why not check them all out? You won’t be disappointed.

Lorri Giovinco-Harte

New York City Education Examiner
Lorri Giovinco-Harte has been an educator for 20 years. She has worked as a teacher and staff developer on the elementary, high school, and college levels and holds certifications in English Education, School Building Leadership, and School District Leadership. For more information go to www.lorrigiovincoharte.com

Let ATR Teachers Teach


TAGNYC was contacted by Marjorie Stamberg, a UFT activist fighting on behalf of ATRs. Make no mistake. All teachers are potential ATRs. A year ago TAGNYC warned that the creation of the Absent Teacher Reserve was a way to remove teachers permanently. This ATR scheme is also known as the "Chicago Model" after the city where it originated . Teachers there are placed in non-permanent - ATR- positions and given one year to find a permanent classroom position. If they do not find a permanent classroom position within that year, they are terminated.

Marjorie's campaign is detailed below. This is not her fight. It is our fight. Randi Weingarten has been a failed labor leader. She must be made to 'walk the walk' and deliver. For those who want to contact Weingarten directly: rweingarten@uft.org


Hi everyone,

I'm working on a petition campaign to the UFT, asking the union to call a rally at the NYCDOE to "Let ATR Teachers Teach." We want to present it at an upcoming Exec Board, and Delegate Assembly.

The last couple weeks, there's been a lot of buzz (from the press, from UFT members) that the union is close to some kind of "deal" on the ATRs. Last week's article in the New York Post that there are almost 1,400 ATRs in the system, and that the UFT and DOE are "talking" is very interesting.

Meanwhile, the situation of teachers in the ATR pool is urgent. Obviously everyone is affected. With classrooms more overcrowded than ever, it is outrageous that some 1,400 teachers are being prevented from teaching. This is a direct result of the union's sellout of seniority transfers in the 2005 contract.

The union must act. Attached is a petition calling on the UFT to organize a mass citywide rally to demand that the ATRs be given positions before any new teachers are placed. I would like to ask colleagues to take this up in their schools and the various teacher groups that they participate in. Let's try to have a meeting of those interested in working on this, quite soon.

I hope people at TAGNYC will be interested in working on this. People can get back to me by e-mail, or cell 917-545-5671. Petitions could be faxed back to me at 212 614-8711.



Let ATR Teachers Teach
As the new school year starts, schools are more overcrowded than ever. State money budgeted for reducing class size is used for other purposes. More than half (54 percent) of New York City schools have seen their class sizes or student-teacher ratios increase in recent years. At the same time, there are almost 1,400 teachers sitting in Absent Teacher Reserve, who are ready and able to teach! These are highly qualified teachers, many with years of experience. They are being prevented from teaching because their schools have been reorganized out from under them, and in many cases principals find it "cheaper" to hire less experienced teachers.

The huge ATR pool is a direct result of the 2005 UFT contract which sold out seniority transfers. Previously, tenured teachers were guaranteed a position; today they’re sitting in the Teacher Reserve. So after the DOE created this mess, now City Hall and the media are blaming the ATRed teachers. The "New Teacher Project," funded by the DOE, calls for ATR teachers to be put on unpaid leave after a year – in other words, that they be fired. The DOE says it is talking with the UFT leadership about this. Others are floating the idea of "buyouts," in which teachers will be forced out with minimal severance pay. (Even if they are supposedly "voluntary," many will be pushed out the school door.)

This issue affects all teachers. If tenured teachers can be forced out on a large scale, what job protection is left? And it’s bad for students and parents. When the DOE refuses to reduce class size while keeping qualified teachers out of the classroom, kids suffer. The United Federation of Teachers must speak up and insist that there be no firings, no concessions on the no-layoffs clause, and demand that all ATR teachers who want them be given permanent assignments to classes.

We the undersigned call on the UFT to organize a mass citywide rally calling on the NYC Department of Education to reduce class size and give assigned positions to all teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve who want assignments before any new teachers are placed.








Fax petitions to Marjorie Stamberg at 212-614-8711. PRINT NAME E-MAIL SCHOOL

Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

By ELIZABETH GREEN, Staff Reporter of the Sun | September 25, 2008


The percentage of new teachers in New York City public schools who are black has fallen substantially since 2002, dropping to 13% in the last school year from 27% in 2001-02, city figures show.

The change has dramatically altered the racial makeup of the new teacher workforce, which last year included about 400 more white teachers than it did in 2002 and more than 1,000 fewer black teachers.

The overall teaching force has been less affected: Black teachers made up 20% of the workforce in fiscal year 2008, down from 22% in 2001, while the percentage of white teachers has stayed constant at 60%.

The changing demographics come in a school system that is increasingly made up of non-white students.

Educators and advocates said they have been troubled by the data for several years — and they said they are especially troubled this year, the 40th anniversary of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis, in which black community leaders challenged the city to make school staff more representative of the city.

"We want a school system that values educators who are invested in their students and who reflect the communities of which they are part," a member of the Center for Immigrant Families in uptown Manhattan, Donna Nevel, said.

The Department of Education's executive director for teacher recruitment and quality, Vicki Bernstein, said responsibility for the declining diversity lies with a state requirement that all public school teachers be certified by 2003.

The requirement was introduced in 1998, forcing the New York City public schools to scramble; before 2003, 60% of new teacher hires were uncertified, and 15% of the overall teaching corps in the city was not certified.

School officials said the mandate had a chilling effect on diversity, because the state certifies very few black teachers. According to a state report, in the 2006-07 school year, black people made up just 4% of new certified teachers who identified their race.

Ms. Bernstein said that she joins educators who are concerned by the trend.

Since last fall, she said she has made recruiting black and Latino teachers a priority for her staff. She convened a working group to plot ways to raise the city's figures.

She said her strategies so far include visiting historically black colleges to recruit possible teachers; publishing advertisements that focus groups show appeal to black and Latino applicants, and making a concerted effort to follow through with those candidates as they make their way through the application process.

The city has also halted a program to recruit teachers from outside of America and kicked off an initiative to attract teachers who themselves attended city public schools, by offering a special award to new recruits who are city school graduates.

The 50 recipients of the Gotham Graduates Give Back award receive a $1,000 stipend before the start of the school year and are featured in recruitment materials.

"This is a high priority for us," Ms. Bernstein said. "We're looking at it across every level of teacher recruitment."

The techniques were more aggressively instituted in recruiting for the group of teachers who earn certification while teaching, the Teaching Fellows, Ms. Bernstein said.

Those results are showing up. In the 2006-07 school year, 32% of fellows were black or Latino. This year, 37% were, school officials said.

Teaching Fellows make up between 20 and 25% of new teachers in the city, Ms. Bernstein said.

The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, said the city should consider another move: encouraging people who are already working in the school system but not as fully certified teachers to become teachers.

"I never want to see the mistakes that were made in the '60s and the '70s," Ms. Weingarten said. "Just in watching, in being at new teacher events in the last few years, and in just scanning the crowd, I'm really, really concerned."

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by M.D., Sep 30, 2008 08:34

I am a black teacher that entered NYC public schools in 2003 via the NYC Teaching Fellows. I must say that within my cohort and my assigned college, there were definitely less than 20 black teachers that were selected for the Harlem area, an area primarily black and Latino. In my group of friends that I acquired in the process, I am the only black teacher still teaching and I'm in the process of moving on as well. I do think it's important that black and Latino communities have schools in which the teachers are mostly representative of that neighborhood just to show the kids successful images of themselves. NYC Dept. of Ed. must try harder to get more black and Latino teachers and work on retaining them as well.

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by Marion TD Lewis, Esq., Sep 29, 2008 22:59

I am a former NYC teaching fellow who obtained full and permanent certification in New York State thanks to the fellows program. I must say I have to agree with Randi Weingarten that the new statistics are troubling. It would be interesting to know what the root cause of this problem is. I do not believe that there is anything inherently unfair about the certification process. But maybe I am wrong. I know that there have been teachers who have said that there are cultural biases in the test. I do not buy into that though. I was reading an article in, I think, Scientific Mind, the other day. And they did a study using race and "expectations" and other variables to see how people performed when expectations change. It was fascinating. While this comment is not the place to really delve deeply into this issue, I would say that I think there are a few issues at play here. One is definitely in the head of the test takers. They can't get certified because they truly believe they can't pass the tests. They believe that the test is so biased they can't pass. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But there are many certified teachers who are Black and who can't find teaching jobs. So some of the problem has to do with hiring practices/criterion. But I suspect it is even more complicated than that. I would suggest an indepth study to get to the real root of the problem. By Marion TD Lewis, Esq. A New York Divorce Attorney

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by clarke, Sep 26, 2008 19:02

Hell that ain't just in New York that's going on every where, It's hard for me to find a full time position, and I have a bachelor's degree working on my Master's and I know that the only reason why I'm having a difficult time is because I'm black, and I'm certified in Elem Ed, and also Music and I live in the state of Florida.

Reader comment on:
Fewer Blacks, More Whites Are Hired as City Teachers

Submitted by S.James, Sep 26, 2008 10:05

I applied for the NYC teaching fellows and they rejected me a black woman who has worked and attended NYC public schools instead they hired ivy league fresh faced white kids who knows nothing about the hood except what they study in books and watch on tv. I don't get it or maybe it's just too obvious what the board of ed. is doing.

Diane Ravitch: The Business Model and Its Discontents


Dear Deborah [Meier],

You were a great partner in our debate last week in Washington, where the two of us—accustomed to differing—sparred with former governor of Colorado Roy Romer (who now chairs the group ED in ’08) and Jon Schnur (the founder of New Leaders for New Schools). I think we surprised everyone, perhaps even ourselves, by arguing in opposition to the idea that there should be a larger federal role in education in the future.

Our joint position was that the federal government should have a larger role in providing pre-kindergarten, after-school programs, nutrition, and healthcare, but should reduce its regulatory role in the classroom. Specifically, we agreed that NCLB has failed. NAEP scores increased more in the five years before the enactment of NCLB than in the five years since. Secretary Spellings and others like to refer to NAEP gains since 2000, but NCLB was not signed into law until January 2002. And as I pointed out, scores for 8th grade reading have been flat since 1998, and these are students who were in 3rd grade when NCLB was signed.

We also criticized NCLB’s heavy emphasis on testing and the narrowing of the curriculum. Gov. Romer and Jon Schnur emphasized that our nation is in crisis, that achievement must be much, much higher. I agree with them about that; you probably don’t. But I don’t see that Congress has answers to raising achievement. And it is my guess that the pressure to raise scores on standardized tests is not leading to higher achievement or to more thoughtful citizens, but to greater ingenuity on the part of states, districts, and schools in gaming the system.

As you pointed out (and correct me if I am wrong), some of the smartest people in the nation with great educations learned how to game our nation’s financial system, and they have brought us to the brink of ruin.

And speaking of gaming the system, I see the billionaire Eli Broad—who has done so much to promote the adoption of business models in the public schools—has given Harvard University $44 million to establish an “Educational Innovation Laboratory” at Harvard, headed by Dr. Roland G. Fryer Jr. Dr. Fryer, you may recall, is the Harvard economist who briefly served as New York City’s “chief equality officer.” He had the brilliant idea that the best way to raise test scores in New York City was to offer to pay kids up to $500 a year to get higher test scores.

As I read the story in The New York Times, I learned that Dr. Fryer’s plan to reward 3,000 middle school students with cell phone minutes for test scores and behavior was cancelled because the city was unable to raise enough money from private donors to pay the cost. This is the first time that it has been revealed that this controversial pay-the-student plan was cancelled.

Dr. Fryer, with Mr. Broad’s millions, will now proceed to evaluate the cash-for-scores plan that he designed for students in 4th and 7th grades. Maybe someone will remind Dr. Fryer that it is not customary for social scientists to evaluate their own programs.

It appears that the purpose of the Broad research laboratory at Harvard is to continue the Broad Foundation’s campaign to bring business methods to the schools. What a strange irony that this would occur at the very time that our financial system teeters on the brink of disaster! Do we really want the same “data-driven approach” in our schools?


Top 5 Reasons to Vote Against Wall Street's $700 Billion Bailout

Published on OurFuture.org (http://www.ourfuture.org)
Top 5 Reasons to Vote Against Wall Street's $700 Billion Bailout

By David Sirota

Created 09/28/2008 - 4:01pm

Though the deal negotiated between congressional leaders and the White House is better than what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson originally proposed early last week, it remains an insulting atrocity, having omitted even basic aid to homeowners, bankruptcy reforms and any modicum of future financial industry regulation.

NOTE: David Sirota's views in this post are his own.

There's news this Sunday afternoon of a congressional deal to bailout Wall Street fat cats with $700 billion of taxpayer cash (you can read the draft legislation here [1]). Though the deal negotiated between congressional leaders and the White House is better than what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson originally proposed early last week, it remains an insulting atrocity, having omitted even basic aid to homeowners, bankruptcy reforms and any modicum of future financial industry regulation. Now, the New York Times [2] reports that the Democratic leadership may not have the votes to pass this bailout. So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons (in no order) why every single member of Congress - Democrat and Republican - should vote this sucker down. Please feel free to copy and paste this post into an email to your congressperson. They are deciding right now - let them hear your voice.

When an individual consumer uses a new credit card to pay off astounding debt from an old credit card, it's akin to check kiting, which is is illegal. Apparently, though, when the government does it, it's billed as Serious Public Policy. Because that's what this supposedly prudent bailout bill would do: Force taxpayers to borrow $700 billion from foreign banks to pay off the bad debt of Wall Street banks. During a crisis that is aimed at preventing interest rates from skyrocketing, nobody has been able to explain how adding almost a trillion dollars to the interest rate-exacerbating national debt would do anything other than undermine the plan's underlying objective. Worse, the U.S. Treasury Department itself [3] admits that the $700 billion number is "not based on any particular data point" - that is, they created it out of thin air because "We just wanted to choose a really large number." Slapping that amount of money onto the national credit card when our government can't even justify the amount is beyond absurd - it is insane.
It didn't have to be this way, of course. As I noted in my newspaper column this week [4], Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a temporary tax on millionaires to finance part of this bailout. Similarly, Blue Dog Democrats proposed [5] a future tax on financial firms if and when taxpayers lose cash on the deal. These proposals were discarded in favor of language asking the government to "submit a plan to Congress on how to recoup any losses," according to the Associated Press. Not only is that language toothless, but it opens up the possibility of a plan being submitted that says we should raise middle-class taxes or slash middle-class social programs to pay for Wall Street's misbehavior.

Primum non nocere is the latin phrase for "first do no harm" - the priority principle for any EMT working on a sick patient. It should be the same priority for Congress at this moment - and a growing group of esteemed experts on both the Right and Left are insisting that this bailout bill could make things worse. Here's a review:

* The Washington Post [6] reported on Friday, almost 200 academic economists "have signed a petition organized by a University of Chicago professor objecting to the plan on the grounds that it could create perverse incentives, that it is too vague and that its long-run effects are unclear."
* NYU's Nouriel Roubini [7], the visionary who had been predicting this meltdown, says "The Treasury plan (even in its current version agreed with Congress) is very poorly conceived and does not contain many of the key elements of a sound and efficient and fair rescue plan."
* Harvard's Ken Rogoff [8], a Former Federal Rerserve and IMF official, insists that the prospect of this bailout is, unto itself, taking a manageable problem and making it into a more intense crisis. He says that credit is frozen primarily because banks want to avoid dealing with other banks that might drive a hard bargain, and instead would rather wait for free money from the government. Without the prospect of that free money, Rogoff suggests that credit would probably begin moving again, if slowly.
* Dean Baker of the Center on Economic and Policy Research [9] says that spending so much cash so quickly on such a poorly conceived plan could have the effect of making it impossible to fund economic stimulus that is the real way out of this mess. "Suppose the Paulson plan goes through," he writes. "It is virtually certain that the economy will weaken further and the number of foreclosures and people without jobs will continue to rise. This is the fallout from a collapsing housing bubble...When families respond to their loss of home equity by cutting back their consumption it will deepen the recession. In this context it might prove very important to have the resources needed to provide a substantial stimulus. [and] there is no doubt that this bailout will make further stimulus much more difficult to sell politically."

Meanwhile, it's not even close to clear that this is a problem that requires such an enormous response. As mentioned above, the Treasury Department admits it has absolutely no factual basis for requesting $700 billion - an amount equivalent to about 5 percent of our entire economy. Additionally, the Washington Post [10] reports that "Banks throughout the United States carried on with the business of making loans yesterday even as federal officials warned again that their industry is on the verge of collapse, suggesting that the overheated language on Capitol Hill may not reflect the reality on many Main Streets." Indeed, "many smaller banks said they were actually benefiting from the problems on Wall Street" and "even some of the nation's largest banks, which have pushed hard for a federal bailout, deny that the current situation is forcing them to reduce lending."
The questions, then, are simple: In the face of this bipartisan opposition from objective experts, why should a lawmaker instead believe the same Bush officials who helped create this crisis with their deregulation, the same Bush officials who just months ago said everything was AOK? Shouldn't there be almost complete unanimity among both objective and partisan observers before spending 5 percent of our entire economy after just one harried week of White House demands? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It's time, as The Who said, that we "don't get fooled again."

The mantra throughout the week has been that America has "no choice" but to pass Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion giveaway - that, in effect, there are no alternatives. But that's an out-and-out lie - one with a motive: Making it seem as if the only thing we can do is hand the keys to the federal treasury over to both parties' corporate campaign contributors.
The truth is, there are a number of alternatives. Here are just a few:

* In the Washington Post last week, Galbraith outlined a multi-pronged plan [11] shoring up and expanding the FDIC, creating a Home Owners Loan Corporation, resurrecting Nixon's federal revenue sharing, and taxing stock transactions (a tax that would fall mostly on speculators) to finance the whole deal.
* The Service Employees International Union [12] has drafted a plan based around a massive investment in public services and national health care, and regulatory reforms preventing foreclosures and forcing banks to renegotiate the predatory terms of their bad mortgages.
* For those in the mindless, zombie-ish "someone has to do something, so we have to do what the White House says!" camp, consider the possibility that you are under the spell of the same kind of White House fear that led us to invade Iraq because of Saddam's supposed WMD. Consider, perhaps, that there may not even be a compelling basis for doing anything just yet (or at least not anything nearly so huge), and that the whole reason there is this urgent push right now has nothing to do with the financial situation, and everything to do with creating the political dynamic to pass a wasteful giveaway - one that couldn't be passed otherwise without a sense of emergency. And ask yourself why you would listen to this White House instead of listening to those experts who have been predicting this crisis and are now advising against this bailout - experts like CEPR's Baker. In two separate posts (here [13] and here [14]), he says that letting the problem play out could be the best path, because Treasury and the Fed may already have the tools they need. Following this path, the worst thing that happens is "The Fed and Treasury will have to step in and take over the banks [which] is exactly what many economists argue should happen anyhow," Baker writes. "So the outcome of the worst case scenario is a really frightening day in which the whole world financial system is shaken to its core, followed by a government takeover of the banks. Eventually the government straightens out the books and sells them off again. But the real threat here is not to the economy, it is to the banks."
* Then there is the idea of simply taking the $700 billion and simply give it to struggling homeowners to help them pay off part of their mortgages. This hasn't even been discussed but the thought experiment it involves is important to understanding why there is, indeed, an alternative to the Paulson plan. If the root of this problem is people not being able to pay off their mortgages, and those defaults then devaluing banks' mortgage-backed assets, then simply helping people pay their mortgages would preserve the value of the mortgage-backed assets and recharge the market with liquidity. That would be a bottom-up solution helping the mass public, rather than a top-down move helping only financial industry executives.

On this latter proposal, some may argue that giving any relief to homeowners is "unfair" in that those homeowners created their problems, so why should taxpayers have to help them? But then, is helping homeowners any less fair than simply giving all the money away to Wall Street, no strings attached? I'd say no - and helping homeowners also serves a second purpose: namely, keeping people in their homes, which not only helps them, but helps an entire neighborhood (as any homeowner knows, nearby properties can be devalued when foreclosures hit).

As a preface, let me state that I think we live in a country where politicians too often listen to their donors and to the Establishment rather than their constituents, not the other way around. America is a country where our leaders dishonestly invoke the concepts of "Statesmanship" and "Seriousness" and their supposed hatred of "pandering" to justify ignoring what the public wants (as if giving the public what it wants is somehow not the objective of a democratic republic). So, in short, I don't think there's anything wrong with this bill being "politicized" by coming down the pike right before an election - in fact, I think it's a good thing because the election - and the fear of being thrown out of office forces our politicians to at least consider what the public wants. I mean, really - would we rather have this decision made after the election, when the public can be completely ignored?
Polls overwhelmingly show a public that sees voting for this bill as an act of economic treason whereby the bipartisan Washington elite robs taxpayer cash to give their campaign contributors a trillion-dollar gift. As just two of many examples, Bloomberg News' poll [15] shows "decisive" opposition to the bailout proposal, and Rasmussen [16] reports that their surveys show "the more voters learn about the proposed $700 billion federal bailout plan for the U.S. economy, the more they donʼt like it." Put another way, this bailout proposal has unified both the Right and Left sides of the populist uprising that I described in my new book [17] and that is now even more angry than ever.
Any sitting officeholder that votes for this - whether a Democrat or a Republican - should expect to get crushed under a wave of populist-themed attacks from their opponents. We've already seen it start. In Oregon, Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley (D) is airing scathing television ads [18] hammering Republican incumbent Gordon Smith for potentially supporting the deal. Similarly, this morning on Meet the Press, we saw Republican Senate challenger Bob Schaffer (CO) dishonestly papering over his own votes for deregulation and ripping into his opponent Rep. Mark Udall (D) for potentially supporting the deal. Incumbents, get ready for that kind of election-changing heat in your face if you vote "yes."
This, by the way, could play out in the presidential contest. Barack Obama has been taking the advice of the Wall Street insiders in his campaign in endorsing this bailout. McCain has endorsed the vague outline, but he may ultimately back off once he sees the details, allowing him to then run the last month of the campaign as the economic populist in the race. I'm not saying it would work, considering McCain's 26-year record of supporting the deregulatory agenda that created this crisis. But such a move could end up help him flank Obama on the defining economic issues of the race.

The amount of brazen corruption and conflicts of interest swirling around this deal is odious, even by Washington's standards - and polls suggest the public inherently understands that. Consider these choice nuggets:

* Warren Buffett [19] is simultaneously advising Obama to support the deal, while he himself is investing in the company that stands to make the most off the deal.
* McCain's campaign [20] is run by lobbyists from the companies that stand to make a killing off a no-strings government bailout.
* The New York Times [21] reports that the person advising Paulson and Bernanke on the AIG bailout was the CEO of Goldman Sachs - a company with a $20 billion stake in AIG.
* The Obama campaign's top spokesman pushing this deal is none other than Roger Altman, who Bloomberg News [22] reports is simultaneously "advising a group of investors who are trying to prevent their shares from being diluted in the U.S. takeover of American International Group Inc." - that is, who have a direct financial interest in the current iteration of the bailout.

Add to this the fact that the negotiations over this bill have been largely conducted in secret, and you have one of the most sleazy heists in American history.

If this bill passes, it will be a profound referendum on the dominance of money over democracy in America. That - and that alone - would be the only thing an objective observer could take away from the whole thing.
Money will have compelled politicians to not only vote for substantively dangerous policy, but vote for that policy even at their own clear electoral peril. Such a vote will confirm that the only people these politicians believe they are responsible for representing are are the fat-cat recipients of the $700 billion - the same fat cats who underwrite their political campaigns, the same fat-cats who engineered this crisis, and want to keep profiteering off it. Any lawmaker who takes that position is selling out the country, as is any issue-based political non-profit group - liberal or conservative - that uses its resources to defend a "yes" vote rather than demand a "no" vote. This is a bill that forces taxpayers to absorb all of the pain, and Wall Street executives to reap all of the gain. It doesn't even force the corporate executives (much less the government leaders) culpable in this free fall to step down - it lets them stay fat and happy in their corner office suites in Manhattan.
Even if they believe that something must be done right now, lawmakers should still vote no on this specific bill, and force one of the very prudent alternatives to the forefront. They shouldn't just vote no on Paulson's proposal - they should vote hell no. Our economy's future depends on it.

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[1] http://www.cspan.org/pdf/marketsbill_draft.pdf
[2] http://timesfreepress.com/news/2008/sep/28/bailout-breakthrough-deal-cut-bailout-plan/
[3] http://www.forbes.com/home/2008/09/23/bailout-paulson-congress-biz-beltway-cx_jz_bw_0923bailout.html
[4] http://www.creators.com/opinion/david-sirota/back-in-the-u-s-s-r.html
[5] http://www.politico.com/blogs/thecrypt/0908/Blue_Dogs_seek_recoupment_provision_in_Wall_Street_bailout_package.html
[6] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/25/AR2008092504531.html
[7] http://www.rgemonitor.com/roubini-monitor/253762/rge_conference_call_on_the_economic_and_financial_outlookand_why_the_treasury_tarp_bailout_is_flawed
[8] http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/09/26/is_the_crisis_real/
[9] http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/09/26/bailing_on_the_bailout_or_is_i/
[10] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/25/AR2008092504155.html
[11] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/24/AR2008092403033.html
[12] http://blogs.seiu.org/blogs/2008/09/26/take-a-deep-breath-our-economic-recovery-plan/
[13] http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/09/28/financial_meltdown_the_day_aft/
[14] http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/09/26/bailing_on_the_bailout_or_is_i/
[15] http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aYK_5_fV5D4M&refer=home
[16] http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/general_business/opposition_to_bailout_plan_grows_but_still_expected_to_pass
[17] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307395634?tag=sirotablog-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0307395634&adidYG4T2ZJJAZXD5JM0YF&
[18] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBy-5MuwP0Y
[19] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sirota/questioning-warren-buffet_b_129112.html
[20] http://www.motherjones.com/mojoblog/archives/2008/09/9753_mccain_campaign_lobbyists_wall_street_aig.html
[21] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/28/business/28melt.html
[22] http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2008093927/bloomberg-news-aides-both-presidential-candidates-demand-passage-paulsons-bail

FMPR Update from Angel Gonzalez

Please come to our Weds. Oct. 1st FMPR Support Comm. NY - Meeting where we will discuss what we can do here at this important juncture to support the democratic teachers' struggle.

As usual our meeting will be at:
Hunter College East - 14th Fl
Center for PR Studies


FMPR Update:

Last Friday the Appellate Court of Puerto Rico ruled in a divided (2-1)
decision in favor of the Labor Board's exclusion of FMPR from participating
in the election for exclusive representation of the 42,000 teachers of PR to
be held from October 1-16, 2008. There was no legal basis for the decision
and all arguments of FMPR were completely ignored--the Court simply ruled as
the Labor Board ruled--to disqualify the union because it had been
decertified by the Board for voting to go on strike.

Thus, the ballot will contain only one union choice: the SPM, the SEIU
Affiliate invented in December, 2007 as the "union" arm of the Associacion
de Maestros--the Managerial organization of Principals, etc.--which has
served for decades as the voice of the Populares (PPD). The Popular
Democratic Party (PPD) is the party currently in power in PR (but most
likely not for long, come November, many believe!)--which controls the
judiciary and the government--and serves as the teachers' employer.

The other choice the ballot will contain will be a NO vote--for no union.
The FMPR is conducting a campaign for teachers to vote NO to SPM and will
attempt to have observers in all of the schools. While the union will
appeal to the Supreme Court, it is believed that such a ruling will not
favor FMPR as the Supremo is controlled by Governor Acevedo Avila (PPD) who
has conspired with Dennis Rivera and the SEIU to destroy the militant union.

It is important to note that this decision completely ignores the more than
12,000 teachers who have already signed cards endorsing FMPR as
representative. SEIU, after spending millions on their campaign to compete
with FMPR in their decertification attempt, apparently realized they could
not win in a fair election. The only possible way for SPM to "win" would be
if it were the only choice--thus the long delay in the Appellate's decision.
This delay also serves to cut short the time FMPR would need to develop
legal arguments for the Supreme Court and to generate a "VOTE NO" campaign.

All of these shenanigans indicate clear collaboration among SEIU, the
Asociacion, the government-boss and the courts. Class allies.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

NYC Ed News From JW

Sept. 28, 2008
Hello, good afternoon,

I'm going to put the informational things up here at top, but I'm ending this email with some new sections because our profession is taking some major hits these days, and it's just very hard to keep quiet.

TRS investment funds
The Sep. 22 posting on the UFT website says little more than what I reported last week: they're impacted, yes, but each of the Funds "do not have significant exposure to any one company." I don't know if that helps much.

School TONE campaign (LOL)
The Sept.25 post on UFT website about its School TONE campaign says that "TONE" stands for "Teamwork and Organization: Necessary for Education." The main services it's pushing/offering to schools are saftey walks, incident analysis, review of the school's safety plan, violence prevention, crisis intervention, and training.
The UFT wants us to put up a poster on the UFT bulletin board in our schools about this thing, but I don't have the heart to do go along with this. If someone else wants to post it on the board, be my guest. I'll tell you where I stashed it. Schools all over are having trouble with their mean-spirited, under-experienced, easily bought, and seriously morally challenged administrations, and the UFT comes up with a School TONE campaign that addresses none of these issues? Give me a break.
I don't know of the ramifications of their encouraging us to file incident reports (online at www.uft.org or fax 212-677-6612). Principals don't like these, that's for sure. Diminishes their chance for bonuses, I should think.

More on Teamsters 237 two-year 4% — 4% deal I mentioned last email
James Eterno wrote an analysis of this deal and its implications for our next contract (Nov 2009). He writes:'
"While many people are surprised that a deal that sets a pattern would be struck amidst an ever worsening financial situation at the city, state and national levels, it is apparent that the city already budgeted in settlements for the civilian unions, including the UFT. According to this pattern, the UFT would receive a wage and benefit package that would be similar but slightly lower than what the uniformed unions negotiated. . . . There are no reported givebacks in the 237 deal or any of the current police and other uniform settlements."
He makes the point that if patterns are being set here, then the goal of our union would be to reverse the givebacks of the past few contracts. "The contract should not be exclusively about money," and later: "A contract that equals the pattern and gives nothing further away is not sufficient even in difficult economic times." People should be thinking how they can work collectively to get back what was given away — on top of the 4 + 4 that can be expected through pattern bargaining.

Press releases, and all that jazz
Weingarten "blasted" the DoE for spending millions on new teachers while "excessed veterans work as subs," according to Barr's Chapter Leader Weekly. You can read her press release for yourself, but I could ask:

What's in a name? That which we call a press release
By any other name would do as little.

The corporate strategies of Joel Klein will not go away until someone starts boning up on the historical gains of organized labor.

DoE is chastised by the State Ed Dept for poor record keeping in lowering class size (or not)
On Sept 15th, Leonie Haimson, a parent who started Class Size Matters some years ago to pressure the city for smaller classes, sent out a memo to her mailing list that included this information:
Class sizes and/or student-teacher ratio went up in nearly 54% of NYC schools despite millions of $ of additional state aid. The State Ed dept said that because of the DoE's sloppy reporting and poor performance, it is requiring more detailed reporting — laying out the specifics they're looking for — as well as certified audits. If the DoE can't document well enough this year, it will withhold additional money. Haimson says: "This sort of forthright statement is nearly unprecedented for the State Ed Dept, and is a real step forward in terms of accountability and transparency."

The mayor's forthcoming budget cuts
The mayor will be announcing his budget cuts this week, and there's a petition being circulated as to how the city can saved eucation dollars. This strikes me as a great list, and that's why I am bothering to let you know about this.

* Place a hiring freeze on DoE employees at Tweed HQ
* Cut ARIS ($80 mill. computer system to track test scores)
* Eliminate $80 mill. McGraw-Hill ACUITY contract that creates test prep factories grades 3-12
* End school progress reports (whose validity is suspect)
* Stop the K-2 standardized testing program ($400,000/yerar)
* End the Leadership Academy ($50 mill. over 5 years)
* Cut 2009 School Quality Review ($6.5 million plus travel and lodging to a Brit. company, CEA, to do them)
* Cut the "Think-Link" computerized warehouse ($1 mill.) to share ideas -- there's plenty of ideas, without paying a dime

Full statement here. You can write info@timeoutfromtesting.org, and tell them your name/school/organization.

* * * EDITORIAL PAGE * * *

The burgeoning ATR crisis in the system is making many people nervous about one of the most important underpinnings of our profession: tenure. As Klein continues to maneuver people out of real positions with contractual agreements, fiscal changes, school closings, and some very questionable tactics in the judicial arena, the jury is still out on whether Weingarten collaborated on parts or all of this, or just keeps getting plain outwitted. In any case, there are some people in our union who do not even know what an ATR is. To me this is proof positive that the union has failed to make its case in the public square, and that tenure might well be the next in a long, long line of union givebacks.
Weingarten has said many times that our jobs are safe and she will not give up tenure, but what she has already given up in the name of "fighting" for us is huge. Here's one pretty comprehensive list. We never knew we'd be giving up any of these, until she went about giving them up, so who knows if she's negotiating away tenure at this point.
The chapter leader of Lafayette HS wrote this comment on a blog: "Following the events of the past week, it is obvious to me that the ATR situation will most likely drag on until the next mayor and chancellor take office. The UFT will NEVER allow the ATR's to be placed on unpaid leave. Klein will not negotiate in good faith."

Ednotes responded, and he's one of the savviest of the ed commentators nationwide:

Klein is perfectly willing to pay these people [excessed teachers, ATRs who haven't been placed] as a short term investment in getting what he wanted. The end to seniority and bumping, the biggest roadblock to his plan to undermine the public schools and the union. Once the UFT handed him that all he now has to do is close schools - and don't think there isn't a political not an educational goal in these closings, which by the way the UFT totally goes along with - no attempt to organize resistance, support parents and teachers who want to fight to keep them open.

So Klein will use public pressure to try to embarass the UFT into giving up the ATR's but you are right. The union doesn't have to do anything and they still will be paid.

Klein also gets to send senior teachers anywhere he wants to, smeothing he wanted from day 1. In fact, Klein can manipulate kids and resources to make a school fail and can close just about any school he wants to. Think: Schools with most senior teachers with highest salaries - those that are left - suddenly start getting kids like crazy without money

Then comes plan B. Klein puts pressure on the schools to get rid of them by hook or by crook by making them pay after a certain point. So we will see bad assignements, observations, pressure, maybe even longer commutes - and no parking of course. The people without the stomach for all this may very well take a buyout. Thus ATR's begin to disapeear with only the die hards hanging on.

The ATR issue may be more important to people like me (who are in it at the moment) than to other members. But this profession is OURS, and it is YOURS. The politics of this, and all the social engineering that's being done in the name of "accountability," "financial management," "quality teaching," and "controlling the unions" is something each member has to understand and grapple with for as long as one values the profession itself and your own integrity.

* * * OP ED PAGE * * *

As long as I mentioned accountability, here's something you might enjoy reading if it were not so fundamentally harmful to kids and communities. It was posted on Eduwonkette's blog (Skoolboy is a contributor), and in case you don't know Eduwonkette: she eats statistics for breakfast.

Could a Monkey Do a Better Job of Predicting Which Schools Show Student Progress in English Skills than the New York City DOE?

The title is self-explanatory, and I don't think I'll be spoiling anything by telling you the result of the contest, that the Monkey won 6 to 0.

Here's the final paragraph:

“Skoolboy will forego the cheap jokes about how a monkey could do a better job of managing New York City’s accountability system than the people currently in charge. On the whole, they’re smart, hard-working people, and ridiculing them is not likely to persuade them to change their behavior (as satisfying as it may be at particular moments.) But the system that they have designed and implemented is profoundly flawed, as this comical example illustrates, and it needs to change. Eduwonkette and I are going to keep hammering on this point, because it has such important consequences for students and for schools.”

Regards (and Happy New Year, to those who celebrate)


Bailing Out the Foes of Public Eduction

September 27 / 28, 2008
Quoting Friedman All the Way ...
Bailing Out the Foes of Public Eduction


We live in dubious times when staunch deregulators howl for vigorous and immediate regulation.

Lessons from the past

In 1983, the release by the Reagan administration of the report A Nation at Risk, launched over two decades of attacks on public education by right wing foundations and corporate pundits. Teachers and students were ill equipped to defend against the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute, just a few of the many shock troops aiming their sights on the public schools.

The document stated that we were losing the battle against economic powers such as Japan, "unilaterally disarming ourselves" by miseducating youth.

In a previous Fighting Bob article, Demolition Reauthorization, it was described how "some of the loudest critics of public education, the Hoover Institution, the Fordham Foundation, the Aspen Institute, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation and Fortune 500 corporations everywhere have partnered with the federal government in an effort to, they claim, save our public schools."

The strategy employed so successfully in this all out blitz of the media by supposedly august foundations and think tanks is to attack the public schools, try and drain them of funds through tax payer vouchers to private schools, then to 'save' the remaining public schools, placing them under increased regulation, and when they fail, restructure them and reopen them as newly reconstituted charter schools.

The collapse of the banking, investment and housing industry draws similar parallels.

Some of the same critics of public education have also roundly criticized government. . . until this last week.

As the feds buy up bad loans and "toxic" securities, the critics have found new hope in big government. Republicans and Democrats band together in a newly minted bi-partisanship. The current proposed buyout of the reckless speculation in the collapsed housing finance bubble dwarfs any previous efforts of big government to rescue finance capitalism from its worst tendencies. Indeed big government is under way, in an unprecedented scale of intervention with the Federal Reserve, not only to rein in the floundering "quasi-governmental" agencies of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, but also to throw a life-line to the Mortgage insurance/security agency, (AIG).


Naomi Klein explains this phenomenon when she writes of a pernicious "disaster capitalism" in the prescient document, The Shock Doctrine. Disasters, it seem, breed opportunity. There are only too many financial predators ready to take advantage of others' tragedy, be it war, lack of affordable housing or a decent education. They strike during the shock, quoting Friedman all the way.

In the case of New Orleans, the aftershock is truly tragic; the city, (as well as much of the Gulf Coast, lest we forget) devastated by flood, was truly doubly shocked when thousands of teachers were fired and hundreds of housing units were leveled. Ushered in with new force were "school choice" or vouchers by Bush and Congress, and a latent "Recovery School District" management style, based largely on the philosophy that a newly fashioned and deregulated system of Charter schools would work best.

With the recent demise of several investment banks, insurance companies, and "quasi-governmental" agencies, the nation and the world's financial markets left spinning, the obvious question would be (and following upon The Shock Doctrine's formula): how soon before the wealthy and connected benefit from the current economic meltdown and how much will the taxpayer have to pay to foot the bill?

Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, and AIG: Foes of Public Education

The Bush administration saved Fannie Mae, but Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ed Bernanke sat on their hands while the Lehman Brothers' stock went south. Then they became nervous and bought up AIG.

Fannie Mae survives, barely. Fannie Mae is also fond of charter schools. The Fannie Mae Foundation, the World Bank, and the Washington Regional Association of Grant makers have set up a Public Education Partnership Fund to implement 'reform' in DC Public Schools and to "develop charter school capacity."

Lehman is a notorious privatizer. As noted by educational statistician and writer Gerald Bracey (2003), they sponsored a conference in 1996 with the Center for Education Reform where they boasted: "we've taken over the health care system; we've taken over the prison system; our next big target is the education system. We will privatize it and make a lot of money." Lehman worked to set up a front group called Fight for Children which received, as noted by writer Basav Sen, Walton Family Foundation funding, and support from "Anheuser Busch, Bank of America, Citigroup, The Gap's Donald Fisher, Lockheed Martin, the Marriott Foundation, Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, the New York Times, Northwest Airlines, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Verizon, Wachovia, and the Washington Post." Lehman's CEO made $17,000 an hour while the one hundred and fifty year old company tanked. Even the President's brother Jeb, brought in as a last minute advisor couldn't save the company.

AIG has close links to Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad and his Broad Foundation. Broad is the long-time chairman of AIG Retirement. Eli Broad is the most outspoken advocate of the business model for education-treat school district like corporations, schools like "profit centers", students as "revenue sources". Broad's disciples now control or heavily influence public education in dozens of large urban centers, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Oakland. Broad has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into charter schools-through direct donations to charter school chains like KIPP, Green Dot and Aspire, as well as by funneling money through the Silicon Valley-based New Schools Venture Fund. Eli Broad, and his close collaborator, disgraced former AIG chief executive officer Maurice "Hank" Greenberg (who was forced to resign as AIG CEO when he was caught fraudulently inflating the value of AIG stock a few years ago), are upset with the federal bailout of AIG. They want an even bigger bailout from taxpayers. Public schools that aren't "profitable" should be closed, says Broad-but AIG investors losses must be subsidized! Truly, privatization of profit, socialization of loss!

The deregulation agenda is occurring in the school districts in not only Washington D.C., and New Orleans, Louisiana, but in Chicago and elsewhere in Ohio, and despite tepid results (where those results are even released), Charters continue to gain support.

Charter Schools to the Rescue

In Chicago, where we work with teachers sharpening their knowledge and craft in graduate school and preparing for National Board Certification, teachers are overburdened and discouraged by the relentless before, during and after school preparation for standardized testing. They are told to not worry about social studies, and in many cases, to not even teach science as mathematics and reading consume the bulk of their curriculum. More and more teachers we work with have been handed scripted curriculum written by outside private contractors. When their schools fail to meet Annual Year Progress under NCLB, they face declining enrollment as students are recruited for the burgeoning charter schools growing in Chicago.

Last spring, despite vociferous community resistance, eighteen public schools in Chicago were permanently closed, reorganized with the complete replacement of building principals and teachers or reconstituted as new charter schools. These trends go forward with the substantial political and financial support from the Chicago corporate and banking leaders who typically live in the suburbs or don't send their own children to the schools they have come to control behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, the continuing expansion of charter schools undermines the teacher union movement as charters by law exclude unions. And in the past year the Daley run school system appears to have moved to silence community involvement in school operation by increasing the number of appointed local school leaders and attacking the integrity of school councils across the city. In this brave new world of alternatives to public schools, teachers become lone entrepreneurs in the spirit of the free market advocates who push for the replacement of public education in the United States. And all of this moves forward with Chicago school operations dictated by the mayor's office in alliance with the corporate school agenda of the Commercial Club of Chicago.

Renaissance 2010

But finally, and beyond the merit of Charter schools versus Public schools is the question: why can't we find the will to fix public schools? To fund them properly?

As stated by a Chicago group, Teachers for Social Justice, Charters are being used to replace public schools. Cited verbatim from their blog is the following assertion:

Renaissance 2010 is not just a school plan. It is part of a much larger plan for gentrification and for moving out low-income African Americans and some Latinos from prime real estate areas, in fact from the city altogether. These are the areas where the proposed school closings are concentrated. Gentrification is a central source of profit for developers, banks, and investors and a key element in making Chicago a global city of increasing inequality in housing, income, quality of life, and use of urban space.

Unfortunately, both major party candidates seem intent on expanding charter schools with Obama calling for a doubling of federal money for subsidizing charter expansion. And this support comes in the face of the 2006 Department of Education large scale study which showed public schools outperform charters on the limited, but mandated, measures being used to determine student learning and school success.

This is not to say that Charter schools or their advocates are all the same. Nor does this suggest that everyone who supports charters, supports deregulation, or supports in turn the dismantling of the public school system. As Joe Nathan pointed out for the magazine Rethinking Schools when the charter movement kicked into gear in the mid 90's, charter schools can serve as creative responses to needs unmet by the larger school system, and can offer alternatives that may inform and guide the larger public education system "to empower the powerless and to help encourage a bureaucratic system to be more responsive and more effective." Unfortunately, from the beginning of charter schools free market ideologues have sought to privatize and repackage large swaths of public education into another consumer choice option joined at the hip to the pervasive inequalities of market capitalism.

Much of the thrust of the current charter school movement, and certainly of the last twenty years of vouchers is clearly indicative of those educational policy makers who, with their corporate and foundation backers, see no problem in steering public funds to private and for-profit corporations. And it is those same foundations and corporations today, hat in hand, begging for handouts, who are responsible for the proposed and current deregulation and privatization of our commons. With the current track record comes the even more obvious question:

Why do we let them get away with it?

In this so far victorious war of the soon to be rescued finance industry super-powers against the public schools, disaster capitalism has made an impressive debut. The scenario of wrecking institutions in the public sector in order to save them with intervention by private capital has now spread like a wildfire that can only take hold in the rest of the public sector -- health, housing, and Social Security retirement income provision. Too bad for Lehman that they won't be around to share the rewards from this coming Golden Age of privatization and deregulation for which they can claim such a key share of authorship.

Todd Alan Price, author of The Myth and Reality of NCLB: Public Education and High Stakes Assessment & John Duffy, author and contributor to Democracy and Education, are professors of education at the National College of Education in Chicago, Illinois.

Ask tough questions about the bailout

David Cay Johnston was an economics/tax reporter for the Times. This piece was posted on a forum for journalists. Contradicting most of what we've been told about the credit situation, that he says is not a crisis, Johnston exhorts his fellow reporters to be skeptical and "check it out" instead of making the mistake they made in reporting the Administration's case for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act.


Topic: Letters Sent to Romenesko
Date/Time: 9/23/2008
Title: Ask tough questions about the bailout
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Journalists, start your skepticism.

In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don't repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don't assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don't assume there is a case just because officials say there is.

The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise. And be skeptical of what gullible Congressional leaders, most of them up before the voters in a few weeks, say after being given a closed-door meeting on supposed horrors.

The Administration has scared the markets and some key legislative leaders, but it has not laid out a coherent, specific and compelling need for this enormous proposal, which is the equivalent of a one-time 55 percent income tax surcharge. (Instead the money will be borrowed, so ask from whom and how this much can be raised so quickly if the credit markets are nearly seized up with fear.)

Ask this question -- are the credit markets really about to seize up?

If they are then lots of business owners should be eager to tell how their bank is calling their 90-day revolving loans, rejecting new loans and demanding more cash on deposit. I called businessmen I know yesterday and not one of them reported such problems. Indeed, Citibank offered yesterday to lend me tens of thousands of dollars on my signature at 2.99 percent, well below the nearly 5 percent inflation rate. That offer came after I said no last week to a 4.99 percent loan.

If the problem is toxic mortgages then how come they are still being offered all over the Internet? On the main page AOL generates for me there is an ad for a 1.9% loan (which means you pay that interest rate and the rest of the interest is added to your balance due.) Why oh why or why would taxpayers be bailing out banks that are continuing to sell these toxic loans?

How does the proposal help Joe and Mary Sixpack who can afford their current monthly payment, but not the increased interest rate that has been or soon will take effect? Every day bankers work out loans with customers -- so why are taxpayers being asked to act when banks are largely on strike, refusing to negotiate revised deals with many loan customers?

How about interviewing small landlords who were drawn into these toxic loans. Are banks negotiating with them? If not it means more foreclosures and renters who had nothing to do with this being evicted. Ask why banks are refusing (landlords I spoke to said they are) to negotiate with small landlords.

What steps are being taken to take back bonuses, fees and other compensation from the folks who got rich selling toxic mortgages and illiquid investments that Secretary Paulsen claims are threatening the whole system.

How will adding $700 billion to the national debt ease strains on the credit markets?

As of now we are, as a group, behaving just as we did the last two times the administration sought to rush through a hastily thought out, ill-conceived plan. Why in the world are we being so gullible and naive? whatever happened to the core value of journalism -- check it out?

The questioning on the Sunday talk shows was all softball. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, shame on your anchors and roundtable regulars all for engaging in lightweight faux journalism. This passivity, superficiality and gullibility was at its worse Monday night on NBC in the banter between anchor Brian Williams and a CNBC correspondent with its utter lack of skepticism.

Here are some question to ask:

Do we need a bailout of American and foreign banks? Show us in detail the reasons for this, and the numbers: make the case.

Is there a market solution to this? If so, why impose a government solution? If not what does that tell us about our entire economic theory?

Is there a less expensive solution?

How do we know this will not just be a downpayment on a much bigger

Is there a solution that provides direct help to those who took out these loans, rather than those who sold them?

If AIG and others are too big to fail, what does that tell us about government anti-trust policy and regulatory policy and inaction?

Why have both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley made clear that they want IN on this deal? Get skeptical and ask the basic questions -- who benefits, how much and what makes this plan so attractive that Goldman and MS want to participate? Ditto for GE. That they are others want to be included should prompt a great deal of skeptical questioning.

How does banning short selling of the stocks of 900 companies help the markets? (The markets are heavily biased toward the sell side, so why constrain the shorts, who often turn out to be right about stocks whose share prices has been artificially inflated.)

How is banning short selling of this growing list of companies show a commitment to "free markets," a stated goal of this and a long lost of previous administrations?

During this short selling ban, why are there no parallel controls on insiders getting out of their positions?

Reporters, hit the streets and telephones to ask business owners if their credit lines have been frozen. Look at swings in the stock market and put the recent swings in perspective.

Look on the Internet and see all of the ads for the very toxic mortgages that are supposedly at the core of this mess. Ask why are 1.9% loans (in which you pay that in cash and the rest of the interest is added to your mortgage balance) still being sold? Find out who continues to buy these loans.

Lets do our job -- be skeptical and ask the core questions, not the detailed ones around the edges.


September 26, 2008

Dear Friends,

We hope you and your organization will join us in signing the statement below. The Mayor is announcing his plan next week for city-wide budget cuts, including in public education. The current financial crisis affords us an opportunity to look at the mismanagement of our tax dollars.

By signing this statement we will let the Mayor and the Chancellor know that we – as parents, educators, students, community members and organizations – are the ones who know best the needs of our students and schools.

Please email us back at info@timeoutfromtesting.org
letting us know that we can add your name and organization.

Thank you,
Jane Hirschmann, Time Out From Testing 917-679-8343
Donna Nevel and Perla Placencia, Center for Immigrant Families 212-531-3011

• • • • • • • • • • • • • •


As Mayor Bloomberg responds to the current fiscal crisis and calls for cuts to all city agencies, we believe it is imperative that not one penny of any proposed cuts to public education come from classrooms or direct services to children. Cuts at the school level hurt our children and our schools.


The number of DOE employees at Tweed Headquarters has increased by more than 500 in the last 5 years (from 1,832 in 2003 to 2,337 in 2008). That's a 28% increase! Currently, there are 14 job openings advertised on the DOE website, seven of which have salaries of $170,000 or more. We don't want additional CEOs from defunct Wall Street firms working for the DOE.

We do not need an expensive computer system that duplicates what New York State has put into place for all public school students. Additionally, ARIS is a fiasco – schools are required to spend a massive number of hours correcting data or simply waiting for information to be processed, often incorrectly.
Cut the ARIS contract and save $20 million this year alone.

In 2007, McGraw-Hill was given a DOE contract to provide multiple practice tests annually to all NYC public school children grades 3 – 12 for five years. These periodic (every six weeks), assessments known as Acuity, have turned our schools into test prep factories and have distorted our schools' curricula.
Cut the "ACUITY" contract and save $22 million this year alone.

Education and testing experts have criticized the school progress reports for lack of validity, claiming the reports' formula measures random error and not true progress. Yet, the DOE issues these reports each year, branding schools with a single letter grade, demoralizing school communities, and promoting even more test prep in an attempt to raise test scores that make up 85% of the school's letter grade.
Cut the progress reports and save $4 million this year alone.

The DOE is currently spending $400,000 on a pilot program to expand standardized testing into kindergarten – grade 2, despite the near-universal agreement of early childhood experts and educators that the testing of young children is unreliable and developmentally inappropriate.
Cut the K-2 standardized testing program and save $400,000 this year and millions next.

The DOE just awarded the Leadership Academy a $50 million contract over five years. However, there is no evidence that this costly training prepares effective school leaders.
Cut the Leadership Academy and save $10 million this year and $40 million in the future.

The DOE will pay Cambridge Education Associates (CEA) approximately $6.5 million this year to conduct school quality reviews, plus travel and lodging expenses. Yet, CEA is a British company with little understanding of New York City schools.
Cut the contract with CEA and save $6.5 million and more.

The DOE plans to spend $1 million to develop a computerized warehouse, led by a "director of knowledge management," for schools to share ideas, when it would be much less costly and more informative for staff simply to engage in school visits. There are already thousands of education links alive and many schools have already set up means for sharing without any extra expense to the DOE.
Cut the "think-link" and save $1 million.

We, the undersigned, demand that our children come first and that money be put where it is needed for our children's education. Let's not allow the Wall Street Bail Out come at the expense of our children.

Jane Hirschmann, Time Out From Testing (TOFT)
Donna Nevel and Perla Placencia, Center for Immigrant Families (CIF)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

UFT Urges Department of Education to Save City Funds

By Helping Reserve Pool Educators Find Permanent Posts

Sept. 25

The United Federation of Teachers today reiterated its call for the city Department of Education to help hundreds of seasoned and solid educators do what they are paid to do: teach kids on a full-time basis rather than fill day-to-day vacancies in schools.

Citing the “Let Us Teach” theme of the affected educators, UFT President Randi Weingarten said 1,400 qualified educators in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) are being denied permanent teaching positions because the department did not manage its personnel situation properly.

“By using the ATR teachers to fill vacancies in the way we are proposing – particularly during this period of fiscal uncertainty – millions of dollars can be saved and thousands of kids can be served,” she said.

“Here we have hundreds of dedicated and experienced educators who, through no fault of their own, were excessed from their teaching jobs and are still looking for permanent jobs after many months of trying to get interviews,” Weingarten told reporters during a press conference at UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. “We have canvassed 160 of them so far and they all report that they have applied for 20 or more vacancies in schools without getting a single interview,” she said.

One such ATR is Camille LoParrino, a 20-year teaching veteran and reading specialist who is currently substituting at the Globe School for Environmental Research. “As an ATR, my experience has been overlooked by the Department of Education so that it can hire less expensive teachers,” she said, adding, “People with 20 or 30 years of experience should be highly regarded, not turned into substitutes.”

“I want to teach and I love to teach, but I have been pushed away,” said Lawrence Teller, an eight-year veteran social studies teacher currently teaching technology classes at Far Rockaway High School. “This is a horrible situation for children and teachers. The best person for the job has been kicked out of the classroom because the Department of Education wants to hire cheaper teachers.”

Weingarten’s salvo against the DOE came in response to The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a non-profit organization that gets a significant portion of its operating revenues from working with the Department of Education to help recruit new teachers, reissuing a report from last spring on the ATRs with an updated afterword bashing the UFT earlier this week.

“Back in the spring we called The New Teacher Project a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Department of Education. We were wrong,” Weingarten said today. “We submitted a Freedom of Information or FOIL request for their financial records and it turns out they receive a third of their contract funding from the DOE. It’s clear they have a financial stake in doing what they’re doing, which only makes things worse.”

“It just didn’t make sense to recruit thousands of new teachers to fill vacancies when there is a pool of seasoned and talented teachers who have been trying for many months to secure permanent positions,” Weingarten noted. “The DOE actively helps new teachers land positions by promoting their availability via e-mail to administrators, organizing job fairs and sending them on interviews. It should do as much for the ATR teachers who are truly facing an uphill battle. They are not being placed or sent on interviews, and the burden is completely on them to find new positions.

“It also doesn’t make sense that there are built-in disincentives deriving from the current funding formula that essentially make it hard for principals to accept a seasoned teacher in a school,” Weingarten said.

“What is most angering about The New Teacher Project’s irresponsible blast fest against the union is that they and the DOE ignored our call for a real moratorium on new hiring until the ATRs are placed,” she said. “Rather than give the ATRs a chance, the DOE hired new teachers knowing full-well that this would happen, and then they had the audacity to blame us.

Weingarten went on to say that the DOE’s restructuring and phasing out of schools has resulted in more and more veteran teachers being placed in the ATR pool.

“The DOE’s treatment of teachers in the ATR pool essentially punishes them for having the courage to work in at-risk schools,” Weingarten said. “It’s not fair to ask great teachers to work in challenging schools, close the schools later and then tell the teachers, as The New Teacher Project proposed, ‘You’re on your own and you may be fired.’ Who would want to take on such a challenge?”

Adding insult to injury, no matter how qualified they might be, many ATR teachers are considered financial liabilities by principals because under the current funding formula individual schools – rather than the central Department of Education – are responsible for the salaries of their teachers. As a result, a principal can save money by hiring a new teacher with a lower salary than that of an ATR teacher to fill a vacancy. The principal can also save by continuing to use ATRs on a day-to-day basis – with the cost covered by the DOE – instead of hiring the ATR to fill the position permanently and assuming responsibility for that teacher’s salary.

“If a principal is benefiting from an ATR teacher paid for by the DOE, the principal has no incentive to hire that teacher,” Weingarten said. “So the ATR pool will continue to grow as long as the DOE continues the status quo.”

Weingarten noted that the union has worked hard to help ATRs find permanent jobs, having filed an age discrimination suit against the DOE as well as a union-initiated grievance that is pending. The union has also sought to negotiate a moratorium on new hires to give the DOE a chance to place ATRs and has cited the funding formula for its negative effect on them. Today Weingarten reiterated her call for the DOE to cover the additional salary costs of ATRs and end the pay disincentive for principals in order to put them on equal footing with new teachers in terms of seeking placements.

She added that in light of Mayor Bloomberg’s latest rounds of budget cuts, the DOE should:

* Establish an immediate hiring freeze at the central DOE and at schools for any license areas where there are people in excess and available for placement.

* Embark upon a redeployment of teachers and other excessed personnel in the ATR pool.
* Develop a program to recertify excessed personnel in additional license areas so that they are available to fill vacancies as they arise.

“Instead of blaming teachers, the DOE would do well to work with the union to find permanent jobs for them,” Weingarten said. “They want to teach, and the kids want and need the benefit of their experience. That’s the solution that works for everyone.”

Cindy for Congress:  We are Being Robbed!;  A Progressive Response to Wall St..

Cindy Sheehan for Congress demands that NOT ONE of our tax dollars be used to bail out Wall Street corporate pirates.

Cindy Sheehan for Congress demands a personal bottom-up bail out plan. The Bush crime family plan would cost each and every American (regardless of political party) over 2300.00 to help rescue an irresponsible and greedy industry that is failing because of unregulated speculation and predatory lending and trading practices.

This is our money, people, and if we don't speak up loudly to have our voices heard, we are participating in the biggest robbery in American history. We may as well be driving the get-away car. A crime of historic proportions is about to be perpetrated that you know will go unpunished by the complicit Democrats. The evidence is clear: this incestuous corporate/government co-operation throws it in our face once again that the establishment elite are in it together -- against We the People. Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) is not the only Congress member that receives money from these industries or is invested in these same industries, in a clear conflict of interest!

It is not time for a Bi-partisan solution since we know the two party monopoly is only there to protect itself and its cronies. NO, the time is now for a NON-partisan people's revolution to get to the root of the problem, not throw OUR money at it.

Cindy for Congress is calling for a demonstration tomorrow (9/25) in San Francisco in front of the Federal Reserve Bank
Where: 101 Market St (Corner of Market and Spear)
When: 4 pm to ?


Cindy for Congress and a Progressive Response to the Financial Crisis

There are four human rights that Cindy for Congress believes are basic to everyone, everywhere:

Peace: Not just the absence of war, but the absence of an economy that is always preparing for war. Not just the absence of violence, but the importance of solving problems without the use, or the threat of violence. Protection of the human right to not be "bombed to the stone ages" or not to be tortured for seeming barbaric sport, are rights that are of paramount importance.

Security: The importance of a person's right to not only be physically secure, but also secure from ones own government. Why is it "hacking" when a private person breaks into another's email, but "National Security" when our government does it? The only reasonable usage for a military is to defend our nation from attack and in case of natural disasters: not to be over-extended in immoral foreign wars of aggression to be killed or kill innocent people.

Prosperity: This is the right to education, health care, housing, healthy food, clean water and a job that pays living wages. Where our retirement is provided for and our retirement accounts can't be raped and pillaged by government or Wall Street.

Environmental sustainability: A world where fossil fuels are not needed and the capitalist polluters use their labor and profits to clean up the environment that they filthied. A world where clean and renewable sources of energy are the norm rather than the exception. A world where clean and green companies get the tax incentives and oil companies get the shaft that they so richly deserve.

Cindy for Congress believes that every individual in the world deserves these four fundamental necessities. We also believe that the parasite class is sucking the life out of our communities and families and the recent socio-economic collapse is the result of decades of a consolidation of wealth and power that is culminating in the bankrupting of our nation to benefit this parasite class and plunge working families even farther into a financial morass.

If we are to be intellectually honest with ourselves we know that the Democratic/Republican monopoly in our political milieu are co-equally responsible for the mess and that the solution is not to bail out the finance industry, but to build protections into our economy for we citizens that unknowingly or reluctantly support the rescues and profitization of the parasites with our labor and taxes.

Cindy for Congress calls for an indefinite moratorium on mortgage foreclosures and then reorganization or renegotiation of mortgages after home prices have adjusted to appropriate and reasonable levels with federal government support.

Cindy for Congress calls for an indefinite extension on food stamp and unemployment benefits as an economic and social safety net for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.

Cindy for Congress calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and the downsizing of our military industrial complex to save trillions of dollars per year.

Cindy for Congress calls for easing bankruptcy laws for consumers that also discourage usurious interest rates and predatory credit practices.

Cindy for Congress calls for state and federal jobs programs that put people to work rebuilding our rotting infrastructure and cleaning up our fragile environment.

Cindy for Congress calls for lobbyist money to be completely eliminated from Capitol Hill. Both major party presidential and Congressional candidates receive millions of dollars from financial conglomerates. Public financing of campaigns will level the playing field and force our legislators to be responsive to citizen constituencies. Nancy Pelosi owns 500,000 dollars of stock in AIG and AIG is receiving 85 billion dollars in corporate welfare thanks to our hard earned tax dollars. How is that not a distinct conflict of interest?

Cindy for Congress calls for the re-institution of the Glass-Steagall Act that was enacted during the Great Depression to prevent financial institutions from merging causing the crisis we are in today when they fail. Nancy Pelosi was a major supporter of repealing this vital act in 1999. Cindy for Congress calls for other regulatory measures that would prevent such a crisis in the future.

Cindy for Congress calls for the protection of Social Security and demands that our retirement safety net not be placed into the hands of bankers or Wall Street. The privatization of Social Security is a likely recipe for disaster.

Cindy for Congress demands that any company that gets "bailed-out" by our tax dollars (on a case by case basis and only after a citizen's review) have a strict repayment schedule and a major reduction in CEO salaries, bonuses and "Golden Hand Shakes." No blank checks or unregulated bailouts from the criminal Bush regime. A commission made up of experts, members of Labor and taxpayers must be instituted as an oversight committee on what is really a necessary restructuring of greedily destructive Capitalism.

Cindy for Congress demands that this reverse Robin Hood affect (robbing from the poor to give to the rich) end immediately.
Call your Congress person to urge a rejection of BushCo's "bail-out" plan that is good for crony-Capitalism but bad for everyone else.

Bring your past-due mortgage bills.
Bring your past-due rent or utility bills.
Bring your student loan and medical bills.
Bring your credit card bills with usurious interest rates and immoral fee structures.
Bring YOUR BILLS to send to Nancy Pelosi in DC so we can demand that WE THE PEOPLE be bailed out. No "stimulus" plans, but a bottom up, effective approach. (See: Cindy Sheehan for Congress and a Progressive Response to the Economic Crisis).

Bring your Monopoly or other play money that we can burn to symbolize our government's burning of its fiat currency in wholly inappropriate response to the economy and to show our opposition to the apparent onset of a hyper-inflation cycle.

Above all, bring your righteous and very appropriate anger.

What this government is planning now is the final collapse of our socio-economic system and WE CANNOT ALLOW THEM TO GET AWAY WITH IT this time!

This is the beginning of WE THE PEOPLE finally standing up and saying:
"Hell, no."
"Not with my money."
"Not with my child's future."
Please call the campaign office for more info: 415-621-5027

Cindy for Congress is also developing an online campaign to send our personal bail out bills to Congress. Stay tuned for more info!

White Privilege, White Entitlement and the 2008 Election

White Privilege, White Entitlement and the 2008 Election
by Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin’ redneck," like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re "untested."

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you. White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a "second look."

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it, a "light" burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

see: http://www.timwise.org/