Cross-posted from Marie’s blog. Promoted by Rosi. I swore I wasn’t going to do this anymore. I wasn’t going to respond to irresponsible editorial boards that make grossly inaccurate claims about public and charter schools because they will never change… Read more
Elizabeth is a Part-Time Lecturer at Rutgers University New Brunswick, where she teaches a course on wrongful convictions. She is a proud union member of the Part-Time Lecturer chapter of AFT at Rutgers. All opinions her own. Bernie button photo:… Read more
In two previous posts (here, here), I discussed the ways education ‘reformers’ use savvy advertising and marketing to sell the unsuspecting public the notion that US schools are failing, teachers are ‘bad’ and unions are akin to The Walking Dead.
How many of you have heard radio commercials for the math tutoring center, Mathnazium? For the record, I know nothing about this company. I’m not claiming they do anything other than tutor students in math. They may very well be doing an excellent job. If that’s the case, more power to them. But, they are a business looking to make a profit, so their advertising has to appeal to parental fears, and make promises of success. I don’t have an audio clip of their NY market radio spots, but the ones I’ve heard make simplistic claims about US math PISA scores-similar to the graphic below-to make it sound like our schools are failing kids in math education.
Billboards. TV commercials. Telemarketing. Glossy mailers. Market testing. Private lobbying firms. Real Estate deals. Hedge fund CEOs and investors. Shell companies. Shady real estate transactions. A large and captive market. All this with government backed loans and taxpayer money.
This is the face of public education today. Or the face of what used to be public education, but is quickly becoming privatized by those with enough capital to invest in it and making billions of dollars in profits in return.
Cashing in on Kids is a new website devoted to educating people on the growing profit making market in k-12 education. The joint project, created by the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest, highlights the problems that arise when public money is delivered into private hands to manage public sector services, in this instance education.
The central administration of the Newark Public Schools sent out a letter last week to “families”-a letter over the signature of state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson -that displayed unforgivable insensitivity by suggesting crime would go up because Newark’s children were not confined to their schools for the two days of the New Jersey Education Association convention. It posted the same letter on its website.
Click to enlarge the letter.
The e-mailed letter, sent to school principals Nov. 12 for distribution home through students, was withdrawn within two hours and then taken down from the website, according to multiple sources in the Newark schools.
However, in at least one school-perhaps more-the original version was sent home to some 700 families.
I originally posted the letter sent to me by a Newark teacher. I later took it down and deleted all references to it because of concerns I had about its authenticity. The letter contained grammatical mistakes. Its last sentence ended with a comma-as does the sanitized version. It was sloppily written., And, of course, it contained volatile language about the imagined criminal propensities of Newark children.
As I reported yesterday, a group of elected officials, activists, and ordinary citizens converged on Trenton to heighten awareness of the plight of minimum wage workers and urge passage of a state-wide referendum in November to raise that wage from $7.25 to $8.25. There were about 25 speakers over the course of the hour and a quarter news conference. Here’s the highlight reel, with comments from most of the speakers, edited for time.
The small conference room in the State House was packed with a diverse group of politicians, activists, union leaders, and ordinary citizens. The event was a press conference sponsored by women’s groups to raise awareness of an upcoming ballot initiative. It was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the vote in 1920.
In addition to electing a (hopefully new) governor on November 5, there’s a statewide referendum on the same ballot to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour and peg it to the cost of living. Arguably, that vote will have more impact on the lives of everyday New Jerseyans than the contest at the top of the ballot.
Earlier this year, Governor Christie put the needs of New Jersey’s working poor on the back burner and vetoed a minimum wage bill. His rationale was that we could not index the minimum wage to the cost of living. Yet, while the cost of living has continued to increase, the state’s minimum wage (which is the same as the Federal minimum despite the fact that we are one of the more expensive states to live in) has not gone up in many years, eroding the purchasing power of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey workers.
A New Jersey worker earning minimum wage (and 60% of them are women) in a 40-hour/week job, will have an annual salary that puts her $4,200 below the federal poverty level. And despite the rhetoric of the Tea Party, many of these women are not teenagers at their first job, but are breadwinner heads of households.
As one of the speakers, AFT-NJ President Donna Chiera, put it, the battle for income equity is fully tied in with other systemic inequities in our society including voter suppression, marriage equality, affordable housing, and the plight of undocumented residents.
So far, the ballot initiative has not received a lot of press. Today’s event was held to raise awareness of this initiative. You can expect business and industry associations to pour a lot of money into a campaign to defeat this in November, even though companies like Costco have amply demonstrated that a livable wage helps both employers and employees.
The Democratic candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor spoke at the press conference. Here are their remarks. I’ll post some remarks from some of the other speakers later on.
Chris Christie is in Somerset County today at a “Town Hall” at Raritan Valley Community College, which serves both Somerset and Hunterdon. It got started late, but when it did, according to the excellent coverage via Twitter from the Ledger’s @jennaportnoy, there were all the familiar production values (taxpayer-funded, to be clear), video intro to stir your blood in anticipation of Being Near Greatness, and with Christie right back up on his tax cut soapbox, apparently, again, failing to acknowledge that we can’t afford that.
Before his arrival, some of the people who work at RVCC, the faculty represented by AFT Local #2375, wrote Christie an open letter. Honestly, I wasn’t necessarily going to run it today, but then Christie decided to haul out that old chestnut of his:
.@govchristie: “There is an extraordinary divide in my experience between the majority of members and the leadership of unions.” cc @njea
AFT Local #2375’s open letter (below, on the jump page) is not only about how Christie devotes himself to driving a wedge between the public and public workers, but also about fulfilling the state’s funding obligations (a hot topic this week) to community colleges like RVCC. The letter, almost prim at its start, spits Christie’s own words back at him, and by the end requests that he stop making declarations of public support for higher ed. Unless he put NJ’s money where his mouth is.
No doubt over the next few days you will engage your students in discussions and activities surrounding the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If not for your efforts, the only thing some children today would know about him is that they get a day off for his birthday.
And thank you for everything you do to enrich the lives of your students. You work hard both inside and outside the classroom to bring the world—past, present and future—to your charges. Sometimes you have to move mountains, sometimes you ride waves, sometimes you're doing both simultaneously, but you do it all because it's your passion, your calling. You can't think of anything else you'd rather be doing than teaching 24 wide-eyed first graders about the developmental stages of a butterfly. Or helping one terminally stuck 9th grader slog through algebra (that was me).
And your dedication shows. New Jersey has one of the best public education systems in the country.
But, as you all know, that is changing. I won't go on about corporate education 'reform' because I'd be preaching to the choir. But if somehow you missed what's been happening in New Jersey education policy over the past two years, I suggest you sit down and read every post ever written by Jersey Jazzman. Then read columnist and author, Chris Hedges, beautifully poignant piece about why the United States is destroying its education system.
Last month, Governor Christie called on the New Jersey lawmakers to pass his version of education reform during the lame duck session of the legislature. The governor listed four bills as crucial to his reform agenda. Among those bills was the controversial ‘Opportunity Scholarship Act’ which would provide corporations a 100% tax credit for contributions made to a state run voucher program, which would then distribute the funds. This legislation would divert from $360 million to over $1 billion in tax dollars away from the public education system to private and religious schools. As a result of the governor’s announcement, voucher proponents have renewed their efforts to get this bill passed claiming that vouchers would help poor children in New Jersey.
The Latino Action Network opposes the publicly funded voucher bill because we see it as a big gimmick that benefits corporate interests that would do nothing to help poor children stuck in failing school districts. Not one penny of corporate money would fund the scholarships established by this misguided legislation.