Sunday, January 25, 2015

#197 January 25, 2015- Wisconsin's Educators Under Siege

Teaching is a challenging job.  Anyone who disputes this statement has probably never tried to get a classroom of children or young adults, to engage in any productive academic task.  Teaching and education fills a vital need in our society by helping shape and prepare our young people for their future roles as community members in an ever changing world.  Finally, teaching is a profession.  It isn't something that can be done well without training, preparation and a strong dedication to the students, families and communities who are served by our public schools. 

Sadly, there are many who don't understand or accept these truths for any number of reasons.  It may be simply due to ignorance of the challenges that are inherent in guiding a diverse group of learners towards achieving academic success.  Not enough members of our society truly know what it is like in a classroom in 2015.  Some people don't respect educators because of the mis-perception that teaching is a lesser profession, or not even a true profession at all.  There is simple jealousy at the misconception that educators work short days, have summers off, and enjoy Cadillac benefits because of ill-gained, union coerced contracts.  Finally, there isn't universal agreement in our society as to just what we are trying to accomplish through our public school systems.  If public schools exist for simple skill building and transferring of "facts" then they fill a different role than if we are trying to instill a sense of community, curiosity and a lifelong love of learning.  

Recent years have taken us farther down the path towards creating a system of public education that provides a basic educational foundation resting on acquiring a set of skills within a set time-frame.  This approach relies on students moving through a series of predetermined benchmarks and standards and assumes that all students will be relatively uniform in their achievement.  Along the way we measure and quantify student achievement using standardized tools, and work to "fix" or "intervene" with students who fall behind.  In short, the emphasis on standards and testing has created an environment that is competitive, based on individual "success" (defined by people outside of the educational community), and designed to achieve very narrow and specific outcomes for students.

The United States has lost ground among developed nations in promoting quality education for its students — a troubling trend that the Common Core State Standards is designed to counter.

Gov. Scott Walker says his state's "ACT scores are up and Wisconsin now ranks second in the country." But scores are not up, and the state's national ranking is misleading.

All of this is happening under the false pretenses of equity and accountability.  Because we have clear evidence of existing gaps in opportunity and achievement in our entire society, we see blame being attached to public schools and educators in ways that are unfair, underserved and ultimately harmful to those who are supposedly being helped by the proposed "reforms."  While these "reforms" claim to be attempting to address inequities and supposedly are seeking to put all students on an equal footing and path to success, the reality is that by standardizing and measuring education we harm those at risk, while widening existing gaps.  

Instead of working as a community to address our challenges in a positive way, our current leadership in Wisconsin is taking the approach of disrespecting educators, dismantling public schools and dividing communities.  The idea that we need to privatize education and undermine public confidence in our public schools flies in the face of truly looking for equitable and socially just solutions to the existing challenges we face in education.|By Heather DuBois Bourenane

Wisconsin's Controversial Schools Bill | The Progressive
“My son and his school are not for sale,” said Peg Randall Gardner of Milwaukee, ten hours into a hearing on AB1, Wisconsin’s latest school privatization bill. “These are real children living real lives in the classrooms of our state, and it’s their future that this bill sells out,” she told the Com…

This misguided approach to "fixing" public education also targets the professionals who work in our schools.  The idea that we can achieve better educational outcomes by deprofessionalizing our educational workforce is simply ridiculous.  While it is true that we need to find ways to add diversity to our school staffs, we also need to recognize that education is a profession that requires significant training and expertise.   

Scott Walker to propose alternative teacher licenses, drug tests for public benefits : Wsj
The governor announced Thursday several budget proposals that he said will help make more Wisconsin workers ready for jobs.|By Dee J. Hall | Wisconsin State Journal

Gov. Scott Walker is proposing an alternative pathway for people to become licensed as teachers in Wisconsin.|By Channel 3000

A new proposal by Governor Walker that would allow potential teachers with "real life experience" to...

The disrespect that is shown to those working in our schools has consequences.  In order to learn and achieve our students must be engaged and motivated.  Few students will find significant success unless they feel connected to their schools, their curriculum and the educators who work with them in classrooms.  Yet, the current climate fails to recognize the importance of this reality.  We see lip service given to the importance of engagement and community, but in the end we can see the emphasis being given to test scores, assessments and measurable academic progress.  Measuring engagement of students and educators is less precise than measuring knowledge of "facts", but it is every bit as, if not more, important.    

Each year, K-12 schoolteachers in the U.S. who are not engaged or are actively disengaged miss an estimated 2.3 million more workdays than teachers who...|By Gallup, Inc.

Teachers overwhelmingly report that they love their jobs, but hate their workplaces. Teachers weigh in on why they love the classroom and how...

Is this agonized self-doubt found across most professions? Is there a dentist blogging out there whose most popular post is “Are You A Bad Dentist?”
Oklahoma is experiencing a critical shortage of teachers—and here's why
The Oklahoma legislature is failing teachers—and students. Oklahoma has led the nation in ...

This disrespect extends beyond the morale of educators and the impact that has on students.  It creates a system where the professional expertise of educators is disregarded, ignored and invalidated.  Educators have long worked to build community, nurture individual skills and provide instruction at a level appropriate for their students.  In our drive to close gaps we change our instruction and spend more time engaged in activities that fail to engage and motivate our students.  We get trapped in a cycle where we define success by test scores, and fail to meet our students' most basic developmental needs.  Testing has a place in our system, but not on the lofty pedestal it currently occupies.   

If test-based accountability were going to be a great boon to public education, wouldn't we know it by now?We've been doing this federally-mandated get-good-scores-or-else thing for over a decade now. If it were working, wouldn't we know...

China’s high-pressure high school and college examination system is contributing to a wave of student suicides, warns a study released Tuesday by the Beijing-based nonprofit 21st Century Education Research Institute.|By Dexter Roberts

This system of standardization and assessment does more than demoralize, demonize and degrade educators.  In fact, if it actually helped our students then professional educators would willingly change their ways and practices.  However, in the drive for creating a system that produces "career, college and community ready" graduates, we too often fail to see the reality that our students operate in.  Race and class are huge factors in a student's success in K-12 education and beyond.  In addition, each student is an individual and has a variety of life experiences and circumstances that further complicate and enhance their educational progress.  By tying educational success to specific indicators and outcomes we don't truly address the needs of our students.        

The real issue is not teachers, but concentrated poverty.

Current trends in education are deeply disturbing, but there is still time to change our path and regain control of the process.  It begins with educators and supporters of public education being vocal in their opposition to the proposed "reforms."  It continues with community members listening to the professionals who work in our schools and joining the fight.  Our end goal should be a system of public education that is truly public in nature, not the current system that rests in the hands of an elite few.  A system that respects the work that educators do, and that recognizes the value of every student. 

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . Dr. King's message resonates as loudly now as it did decades ago.  We are stronger as a society when all citizens have opportunities and equal rights.  This unites those of us with a Progressive vision of social justice and gives us hope for the future as we struggle against those who would "divide and conquer." 

Martin Luther King Jr. insisted that gains toward racial equality must be accompanied by living...|By WILLIAM P. JONES, UW-Madison history professor, and PETER RICKMAN, community organizer with Wisconsi...

The Bad . . . As a proud, lifelong Wisconsinite it is so demoralizing to think that the rest of the nation will be judging us by the actions of our current governor.  As he prepares to enter the national political stage we will need to make the rest of the country understand that his views are not those of all Wisconsin citizens.    It is terrifying to think that simply by tapping into the deep pockets of the Koch's, Walker could be considered a legitimate presidential contender. 

The competition among Republican presidential hopefuls for the support of the Koch brothers heats up this week at an invitation-only seminar that kicks off the “Koch primary.”|By ASHLEY PARKER

Real political leaders don't use recycled ideas that have failed miserably in other places.  They look for new, improved ways to resolve the challenges we face.

Several states had a theory: mandating drug tests for welfare applicants would save taxpayer money. The results have been nothing short of a fiasco.

The Ugly . . . As we face the prospect of right to work legislation in Wisconsin, it is important to remember that we are already a society that is less respectful of workers than most other developed nations.  Without the protections of unions to elevate all workers we won't see any improvement in our status. 

Economist Heather Boushey explains why that hurts the economy as well as American families.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

#196 January 18, 2015- Public vs. Private The Struggle Continues

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

-Frederick Douglass

Human history is one of continual struggle and conflict.  We find ourselves in a constant state of change and tension with a few moments where a brief equilibrium is established before the balance is overturned.  While each incident and issue has its own unique set of characteristics, we often find general themes that emerge over time.  In fact, while human behavior and interactions often appear to be incredibly complex, the reality is that we can usually identify one of these themes as the source of the conflict.   

One of these is the struggle between individual rights and the needs of the collective whole of a society.  Here in America this debate has its roots in the very founding of our nation.  We often hear about how the founders of our nation put a primary importance on the rights of the individual to make choices for themselves.  This rationale is used to defend a variety of social, political and economic positions and is the cornerstone that many Conservatives attempt to use to justify the need to "reform" anything in the public sector.  Yet, at the same time we also are faced with constant reminders that we are not isolated individuals, but rather connected parts of an inter-related whole.  What happens to one segment of society will impact the reality for the rest of our nation. 

This perpetual struggle for power has been both a source of painful conflict, as well as a basis for our progress as a society.  We have seen it play out in almost every facet of our society as individuals seek to gain and maintain power over the larger collective group.  The basis of the conflict runs through our national dialog from the documents that form the foundation of our government to debates in the present day.  At times the struggle as nearly torn our nation apart, and at others has given us the strength to persevere in difficult circumstances.  Over time the pendulum of power and public opinion has swung back and forth between the power of the individual and the power of a unified whole. 

The swings of power have enabled us to weather the storms of controversy, and emerge if not stronger, at least intact as a nation.  The differences that we have, however strong they may be, have an outlet through protest, the ballot, the courts, the press as well as other freedoms and rights we enjoy as American citizens.  For all of the inherent, human flaws that our nation's social, economic and political systems have, we still should recognize the reality that we enjoy opportunities to make change that are not always available to citizens around the world.

It is also important to remember just how fragile these freedoms and opportunities truly are.  The historical struggle for power is one that is often dominated by a small group of well-connected, powerful individuals who are able to dictate the direction that a society takes.  The majority of citizens, while great in number, have to be constantly vigilant and active in their efforts to maintain access to the sources of power, whether political or economic. 

The current state of affairs in Wisconsin clearly demonstrate the potential dangers that exist to the rights, freedoms and opportunities that we claim to hold so dear.  We've seen challenges to voting privileges, restrictions on access to public hearings and debate, and many other examples of what amounts to a seizure of power by a group elected by a minority of potential voters.  This group of Conservatives claim to want to expand personal freedoms and to value the core American ideals of liberty and justice.  Yet, the end results of their actions are directly opposed to these principles.  In the name of personal liberty a majority of citizens are seeing their actual opportunities to prosper economically, socially and politically dwindle.  The balance in the struggle between individual rights and the rights of the collective has shifted sharply towards a small number of individuals. 

Education is one of the battlegrounds where this conflict is currently playing out in dramatic, obvious and vitally important ways.  In education we see the balance between the needs of the individual to advance their own interests and achievements, blended with the needs of our society to have institutions that produce educated and engaged citizens.  It is well documented that a true democracy can not exist without this base of informed citizens.  In the same way, our economy can not function without a mix of entrepreneurs, inventors and employees who are ready to live and work in a productive society. 

In order to accomplish this we have developed a system of public education that has attempted to fill the needs of the larger society.  Here in Wisconsin we have long recognized the role that public education plays and even have given it formal recognition in our state Constitution.  Private schools have a place in this system, but it is one that is privately supported and not the universal norm for students.  Our public schools have a history of providing a solid base of opportunity for most students, and have the potential to become an even more egalitarian source of training, instruction and opportunity for all citizens. 

In short, while our public schools are not perfect, they offer the best possible solution to the myriad challenges that we face in educating our citizenry.  This is true for a number of reasons, all of which return us to the struggle between the public and private aspects of our society.  While we must always remember and recognize the need of individuals to advance their own interests and to seek out ways to improve their standing in society, we can never forget that the long-term success of our society rests on the stability provided by a balanced and equitable system that provides opportunity for all citizens to participate and prosper.  Individuals can achieve in this system, but not at the expense of the good of our collective whole.  Public education, unions, public regulation of private industry, all these are examples of efforts to insure that we don't fail to perpetuate our democratic ideals.  Ideals that promote the beliefs that all members of society have value and are entitled to equal opportunities. 

This is why the current state of affairs in public education is so deeply troubling and potentially harmful to the long-term health of our democracy.  While we have never fully supported or implemented an educational system where all the people were truly represented we are seeing a concerted effort being made to centralize power and to control educational opportunity in ways that haven't been seen in decades, if ever in Wisconsin.  This vision of centralization and privatization runs counter to everything that public education can and should be. 

While it isn't surprising that those who stand to profit from these efforts are supporters of recent "reforms", it is somewhat puzzling that ideas like vouchers, expansion of testing and other "reforms" are meeting with support (or at least indifference) in the general public.  However, once we look at how education "reform" is marketed it becomes clear that the attempts to advance a privatization agenda is being done through manipulation of the political system and shrewd marketing tactics.  The very values that make public education so valuable are being used to undermine the arguments that would make public education a truly inclusive and positive endeavor. 

At the heart of this lies the fact that in order to be truly public, discussions about public education must be open, transparent and accessible to all.  For much of our history this has meant that decisions are made publically by elected officials, by those appointed by elected bodies, or by individuals who are readily accountable to the public.  Our current debates around education either are being done in less visible ways, or are being directed by propaganda that misleads the public and presents a false reality around our public schools, educators and the students who learn in our classrooms.  Here are a few ways that this is happening. . .

Public discussion and debate is stifled- This has been a hallmark of the current administration in Wisconsin.  Public hearings are held, but the public is either ignored, or their testimony is delayed.  Lobbyists and organizations are given the first chances to speak and are often the only voices heard.             

Today was the “public” hearing on Wisconsin republicans’ school accountability bill. I wish somebody would have told me that by “public” they meant that the “public” gets to watch legislators talk to each other and that at some point during...

Legislation is shaped by non-educators- When testimony is heard, or legislators consult with outside "experts" they rarely hear from professional educators or those who work in the field of education in a real, meaningful way. 

A ventilation outlet for a disillusioned, dejected, and obfuscated late-20's Wisconsinite. Opinions expressed on here are my own and certainly subject to...|By Wisconsin Soapbox

"We don’t have an education problem. We have an economics problem that has caused an education problem." There was one common theme at yesterday’s...

Real issues are ignored- Focus is put on test scores and other data, while information that really shapes students' lives is not valued.  

For the first time in at least five decades, 51 percent of public school students are poor, a new report says.

The Subgroup Scam & Testing Everyone Every Year
This post is a follow up to my previous post in which I discussed the misguided arguments for maintaining a system of annual standardize testing of all students. In my post, I skipped over one argu...

The end result is legislation and policy that fails to meet the needs of students, educators and the community as a whole.  Instead, we are given rules and regulation that is often harmful and that further weakens our ability to provide access to opportunities for students and communities that need it the most.  

Why The School Takeover Bill is Wrong for Wisconsin: Recap of the AB1 Hearing|By Heather DuBois Bourenane

Assembly revises school accountability bill : Wsj
The bill removes an academic review board.|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal

School accountability bill a 'disaster,' former state Sen. Dale Schultz says : Ct
He says Assembly Republicans are "playing with fire" in eliminating some local control for education.|By Todd D. Milewski | The Capital Times

The Common Core standards for kindergarten require kids to learn how to read, even though many kids aren't developmentally ready.

As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. it is important that we take time to look at the world in a different, and more reflective way.  We can't allow ourselves to fall victim to empty rhetoric that promises freedom through individual actions in a marketplace driven purely by individual desires.  This individualistic thinking leads us to a segregated, unjust and unequal society.  Thinking collectively, acting collaboratively and working to address the needs of all citizens will bring us closer to a nation that truly values "liberty and justice for all." 

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . We need more programs like this to break the cycle of recidivism that plagues our society.
The Madison-area Urban Ministry program is set up to expand in its second year.|By Pat Schneider
Being a part of something bigger than one person is at the core of our human nature.

The institution may be at a historic low in size, but a new study suggests that membership has psychological benefits.|By John Guida

The Bad . . . The people of America need to be aware of the gaps that are growing and the fact that we are moving away from the values that we claim to support.

To understand the growth of income inequality—and the disappointing increases in workers’ wages and compensation as well as middle-class incomes—it is...

Jobs are coming back, but pay isn’t. - 2015/01/14

The Ugly . . . The inconsistencies in public opinion and knowledge were made clear in a survey conducted on behalf of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (a conservative group) where respondents were in favor of right to work legislation (62% for it) while at the same time approving of labor unions in Wisconsin (58%).  This same survey showed that a majority felt that right to work would either have no impact, or would harm workers and the economy.  This survey shows just how confused people are about unions and this confusion has allowed Conservatives to "divide and conquer" here and across the nation.     

Sunday, January 11, 2015

#195 January 11, 2015- Public Education- Which Side Are You On?

Modern American society is frequently portrayed as being involved in an epic, life or death struggle.  We use the imagery of violence and war to describe the conflicts that arise on a regular basis.  Our media thrives on this constant turmoil and the fear that it generates, and many of our social, economic and political leaders use the strong emotional responses to generate support for their positions of power.  We find ourselves being lead from one crisis into another, with our beliefs, our well being and our very fabric of existence constantly under siege.  This sense of crisis is magnified for the general population during elections, policy debates and other times of discussion, but is always present in cable newscasts, on talk radio, and in political discourse.

Yet with all of this rhetoric and conflict that exists it is reasonable to wonder if it is real, or a creation of a small number of people who seek to gain and maintain power.  In other words, are the people of America really as strongly divided as we appear to be, or are our differences magnified by external sources like the media?  A look at polls and other sources of data give us contradictory information.  On one hand states like Wisconsin are seeing more polarization, and an increase in communities and districts that are highly partisan politically.  Yet, other surveys show a majority of citizens having very similar interests and ideals when talking about our social and economic needs and wants.  This division between what we want, and how we get it to happen creates a sense of tension and conflict that contributes to our social, political and economic divisions.

In order to navigate these challenges that we face, we must find common ground and compromise.  This has been a driving force in the political evolution of humans and a major reason why America's founding documents have the characteristics that they do.  The ongoing struggle to unify a diverse society has its roots in the political philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries.  Philosophers like Thomas Hobbes wrote about the need of humans to escape a state of nature where life was "nasty, brutish and short."  In order to elevate their status, people needed to cede some of their power to a larger entity, the state or government.  Just how much power and control people needed to give up has become a central facet of our ongoing political struggles, and is very evident in modern American political debate.        

These struggles go well beyond "pie in the sky" philosophy.  When we talk about taxes, rights, regulations and other legal controls placed on our lives, we get to some very fundamental issues.  These debates are also clouded by the issues around race, gender, social class and other divisions that exist in our society.  These divisions are rooted in a number of historical, emotional and other contexts and are often sources of intense conflict.  Whenever we attempt to reach consensus around any issue we find ourselves confronting a variety of challenges and long standing conflicts that go back for generations. 

Yet, if we are to really thrive and survive as a unified nation, we must find ways to work through these conflicts and arrive at socially just and sustainable compromises.  There should be room in our debates for a variety of viewpoints, but we must also be aware of the existing barriers that exist for many citizens and the simple fact that we have a long history of inequality in a nation built on the concept of "liberty and justice for ALL."

This brings us back to the question as to whether the issues that divide us are ones that we can overcome, or if they are insurmountable?  It is obviously very difficult to try and address all the needs that exist in our society at any given point in time.  A large, socially and economically diverse nation like America will always face challenges around issues of equity and opportunity.  No nation in the world has solved these challenges in a truly fair manner.  What we need to do is identify key issues that will make positive change happen in our society, and then work to address the problems that we face in a unified and socially just manner. 

Identifying these key areas of conflict help us focus our attention, and channel our energy in ways that will make positive change happen.  This is especially true because we know that, while compromise and collaboration are the heart of our democracy, there are those involved in policy making who don't keep the greater good in mind when making decisions.  It is because of these simple facts of human nature, that power corrupts and greed is a part of all of us, that we all have a responsibility in creating policies, legislation and institutions that really represent our ideals.  Left to its own devices, even the most noble of political systems will fall prey to corruption, greed and become unjust.  We are all stewards of a very valuable social contract, one that is too frequently forgotten or ignored.      

Debates around public education are providing us with an opportunity to defend some of these core values that are shared across our entire society.  Education is widely held to be one of the most important tools that provides opportunity and equity in our society.  Yet, it has long been a resource that has been unequally distributed among our citizenry.  Surveys show us that most Americans value education, like public education and want to support educators, students and schools in providing this valuable resource.  At the same time, inequitable school funding policies, conflicts around pedagogy and other barriers cause challenges that we must work to overcome. 

With any challenge or problem there are multiple potential solutions.  The same holds true in education.  However, it is important that we look carefully at the rationale, motivation and potential impacts of any reforms or solutions that are offered.  When we look carefully at the current ideas for improving public education it quickly becomes clear that there are two main competing camps that emerge.  These two sides see very different purposes for education and have different visions for what our schools should look like. 

On one side there are those who seek to privatize and standardize our current system of public education.  They have used the current inequities, so clearly observable in our Achievement Gaps and inequities in educational outcomes, to foment a sense of crisis around education.  Their solutions focus on creating a system of private schools, establishing artificial measures of accountability, and centralizing control of educational policy making decisions.   The potential impacts to public education are devastating.  

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Principals and teachers at failing public schools would be fired and the schools would ultimately be closed under the latest draft of a school accountability bill circulated by Assembly...

Republican lawmakers are assembling a wish list for education in 2015.

As the governor and Legislature begin new terms, here are nine subjects sure to cause fireworks — and one request for more transparent decision-making.

While they use the language of freedom, choice and equity, the results of their policies do little if anything to positively change our current system.  If anything, the changes that are being touted by "reformers" in Wisconsin will only perpetuate and expand existing problems.  Few who work in schools, or who understand the implications of these "reforms" are able to offer any positive rationale for implementing them.        

Why Accountability Bill (AB 1) Must Be Stopped AB 1, otherwise known as the “accountability bill” is...

Arne Duncan has met his worst nightmare -- an NEA president armed with facts and guts. She tells Salon what's next

Our public school system is set up to serve the public. All the public. It is not set up to serve just parents or just students. We all depend on a society in which people are reasonably well-educated. But a "choice" system says, "No, ...

Another day, another story of a taxpayer-funded voucher school closing its doors in the middle of a school year. A private Milwaukee high school run by a voucher-school operator that's come under scrutiny...

The information that the Conservative "reformers" use is based on faulty logic, questionable data and fear based rhetoric. 

When is it fair to blame teachers for student performance? If you do your homework, you’ll learn that teachers are not to blame for as much as many — including U.S. policymakers — may think.

Did it get any easier to be a teacher in 2014? (No.)

Can we stop pretending it doesn't?

Education "reformers" have built a strong case in the mind of the public.  They have worked hard to marginalize educators, demonize educator unions and to undermine confidence in our public schools.  Yet, their solutions don't produce measurably better results, and in fact often expand existing gaps in equity and opportunity.  This leads us to question what the motivations and rationales are for these "reformers."  Once we decide to do this it becomes clear that there are a small number of well connected individuals who will see immense profits, economically and politically, from the destruction of our current public education system.  These individuals are using their political influence, and the general apathy of the voting public to expand their control of the debate and the outcomes around public education. 

Just like "Right to Work" legislation harms a majority of workers, so to do education "reforms" harm a majority of students.  Both of these initiatives find support among the same circles and for many of the same reasons.  However, there is a different narrative that offers an alternative to the one currently being touted as the solution to our educational problems.  This version of school reform seeks to return our public schools to the control of educators, students, families and communities.  Instead of centralizing power in the hands of plutocrats, it disseminates it to the hands of those who are qualified and invested in the system.  While lacking the widespread political voice that privatization has, this reform movement has a grassroots base and builds on the values that our national identity is rooted in. 

It isn't simply a movement that exists in opposition to privatization, but rather is one that has a vision for a public education system that meets the needs of students as well as the needs of our larger society.  It is based on sound educational practices and on the developmentally appropriate needs of our students.     

What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests
A bill is being drafted that would end annual testing requirements. What would schools do without them?

While the word "crisis" and the metaphors of war are often overused, in the case of public education we are seeing them quickly becoming a reality.  If we are really going to create a viable system that meets the needs of all citizens it is important that we recognize this and decide which side of the struggle we are on.  The future of our society is truly at stake.
How Do I Fight Back Against the Wisconsin Public School Takeover Bill?
Republicans have starved our public schools of critical resources for years and now Wisconsin Republicans just introduced a bill to label most of our poorest...

The Good, The Bad and

The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Organized labor may be getting a bad rap in the press and in political circles, but history shows us that nothing can keep workers down forever.  As the challenges increase, so to do the solutions and opportunities for a labor movement that is working to revitalize itself and return to its activist roots.   

Why a new kind of labor movement is the key to avoiding national oblivion

The Bad . . . While labor organizers at the grassroots level work to make positive change happen, we see the establishment and political leadership failing to see the power that labor brings to the table.  In fact, much of the political debate around organized labor misses the intent and purpose of unionized workers.  Unions are organized to magnify the power of the individual through collective actions.  They are not simply financial resources for political candidates who don't really represent the workers who finance their campaigns.  Until labor finds a way to exert its influence beyond the "checkbook" we will continue to see policies and legislation advanced that actually harms the majority of working Americans. 

Paying for all those pensions inevitably means less money for parks and schools. It’s a conundrum Democrats can no longer ignore.

This disconnect between what workers are asking for and what they get for their investment is clearly demonstrated in our widening economic gaps.  In the end we are seeing the "American Dream" dismantled and replaced by a relatively rigid class system.  A system based not on the merit that is lauded by "Market Based Reformers" and "Capitalists", but one that rewards existing wealth and perpetuates existing class structures.    

Many Americans like to believe we live in a meritocracy. But it's not a view that holds up if you look at the data. Like the graph below, on how students perform on the SAT , by family income:

The Ugly . . . A large part of the problem arises from the fact that our democracy has become one where few who are able to actually participate.  This means that those who are elected are not truly representative of the entire population and are not accountable to all citizens.  We are facing a crisis in our society that threatens the foundation of our political structure.  Those who currently hold power in states like Wisconsin (in this case Conservative Republicans) are doing everything they can to restrict voting rights, silence dissent and cement their stranglehold on the power that they claim to loathe.    

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one: Scott Walker in 2011 balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit. After the onslaught of political ads in Wisconsin over the last four years, I think you’d be hard-pressed to...|By Jimmy Anderson

One Wisconsin Now deputy director Mike Browne weighed in on the liberal group's expectations and priorities for the 2015-16 legislative session.|By Jessie Opoien | The Capital Times

In the end we are left with a polarized system where anyone who disagrees with the majority is silenced and branded as an enemy of the state.  This in a system where dissent should be the driving force of change and positive policy creation.

Wisconsin Assembly to consider limiting debate, dispensing with amendments all at once