Sunday, May 17, 2015

#211 May 17, 2015- Data, Equity, Money and Public Education



The ongoing struggles in our nation around equity, opportunity, freedom and the American Dream are the result of a complex blending of many aspects of our society. We are grappling with the reality that there are great disparities in achievement and opportunity for many people living in America. We also are struggling to come to terms with the historical legacy of injustice, intolerance and authoritarian aggression that creates barriers, anger and frustration as we seek to move forward from our present situation. There seem to be either simple straightforward solutions to our problems (bumper sticker slogans and political rhetoric), or no solutions whatsoever depending on which source or perspective you choose to believe. What is clear is that we must address the many challenges that we face in order to maintain the sustainability of our society, as well as to create systems that serve all members of society as equitably as possible.

It is in trying to address the inequities that exist, and in working with the diversity that is the people of America that we see the complex nature of our challenges emerge. What works for one group may encounter barriers or resistance with another. What heals old wounds for some, opens them for others. Critiquing existing systems supports change and offers hope, yet can also create a sense of crisis and fear. Trying to bridge these many divisions often seems insurmountable and we see some members of our society retreat behind walls both literal and figurative in nature. It becomes easier to ignore the problems of others, or to minimize their importance than to work to address the many concerns that exist in our society. Discussion and debate fall victim to this type of thinking as we see an effort made to silence dissenting voices and to keep the fa├žade created by the vision of American Exceptionalism intact.


Democracy and a society based on individual freedom is an inherently messy way to govern a nation. The sheer variety of opinions and the many different needs that the many individuals and groups in our society voice create a cacophony of dissenting viewpoints and definitions of success. It truly takes significant time and reflection to find ways to unite such a wide range of cultures, ideas and philosophies under a single functional and sustainable umbrella. Yet, through all of the turmoil and conflict, America has endured and on the whole prospered. Unfortunately, this prosperity has too often been on the backs of a significant portion of the population that has struggled for recognition and access to the wealth and power enjoyed by some members of our society.

As we seek to move forward there are a small number of things that virtually all who live and work in America agree are important. One of these is the need for a system that educates the people of America to become positive and productive contributors to our society. Yet, despite the agreement that education is important, we are seeing this commonly valued resource become a part of our battles around social justice. This is especially true when we talk about our nation's public education system. Something that seems on the surface to be so basic and straightforward, educating our students in the basics that they need to thrive in society, becomes a source of conflict, fear and anger. This isn't a new phenomenon in America, our public schools have always been a strange combination of resource, and restriction. A place where opportunity exists, but at the same time existing prejudices and inequities abound. Why does something as positive as a system of public education fall short of achieving the lofty ambitions that we have for it.

One reason is that we really don't have a clear definition of what it means to be educated. As a society we struggle to decide whether being educated means something practical and employment related, or something broader and less easily defined. We want our schools to provide both aspects of education for our students, but at the same time aren't always financially committed to broadening our definition of education.       

Between 1886 and 1919, Andrew Carnegie planted nearly 1,700 libraries across America. Over the years they grew. Now they are trying to survive.
npr.org

The President is correct.
washingtonpost.com

How we define success, equity and opportunity are a part of the problems we currently face. We often use data and  to confuse or distract others, and we manipulate "facts" to support our own opinions at the expense of those who oppose our ideas. This is clearly identifiable in the economic aspects of public education where we seek to define our success or failure in economic terms and use dollars to quantify a wide variety of aspects of our educational systems.

The superintendent of public instruction said districts still face cuts if funding is unchanged from the last budget.
host.madison.com|By Todd D. Milewski | The Capital Times

Changes to the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program undermine a long-used measurement for child poverty.
www.npr.org

Wisconsin is projected to fall below the national average in per-pupil spending this school year. This was the major conclusion of Michael Griffith, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Education Commission of the States, at Monday’s “Forum on
weac.org
The Wisconsin Public Education Network met Friday and discussed legislative priorities.
postcrescent.com

This use of data isn't confined to economic aspects. We are seeing a movement to quantify achievement in clearly defined and measurable terms. We are defining student success in terms of test scores and progress towards meeting what often seem to be arbitrary standards that don't always line up with the cognitive development of our students.   

'An appropriate curriculum for young children is one that includes the focus on supporting children’s in-born intellectual dispositions, their natural inclinations.'
washingtonpost.com

With the push for an earlier and earlier start to academics for our kids, we all know the best thing we can do for them is let them play for as long as we can....
happinessishereblog.com

We test and assess students in order to measure achievement, but instead of using this information to improve the quality of education for all students we see the scores used as weapons against our schools and students. The penalties are not equally distributed and focus more intensely on schools that serve our historically disadvantaged populations. 

Standardized testing, school accountability measures negatively affect college readiness and...
sciencedaily.com

Students are asked to take tests they, teachers and school administrators know they can't pass.
newsday.com

On Friday state Representative Kooyenga from Brookfield circulated a new version of a “recovery zone” proposal that he and Senator Alberta Darling have...
mtea.weac.org|By joebrusky

If you've taken a high-stakes test in school before, you know how stressful it can be. But did you realize these five ways that they also perpetuate inequality?
everydayfeminism.com

This system of high stakes testing and accountability impacts both staff and students in our public schools. It causes wider gaps and impacts student achievement and long term success in many ways.  

CPS corrected a coding glitch that caused errors in more than 4,500 educators' REACH performance task scores. The mistake led to incorrect ratings...
catalyst-chicago.org

Kids with a fixed mindset believe that you are stuck with however much intelligence you're born with. When they fail, these kids feel trapped. They start thinking they must not be as talented or smart as everyone's been telling them....
m.huffpost.com


Part of the process of reclaiming public education involves respecting the professional knowledge and expertise that our educators have and allowing them to be leaders in education. Too often we follow the leadership of businesspeople or others who are outside of the field of education to lead our efforts to improve our schools.  We need to recognize the knowledge and professionalism that our educators have when shaping important policies. The efforts to change the way students are disciplined and the ways that we enforce our rules in schools here in Madison provide an example of important work that needs to be lead by school based educators. We know that we need to reach our students more effectively and get them more engaged in the process of learning, but we also know that there are many barriers to making this happen. Instead of relying on broad policies that may not address specific needs we should listen to the students, families and staff members who work in each school and support their efforts to engage all students.


As students streamed inside Reiche Community School one Monday morning, I heard a third grader exclaim, “I’m so glad to be here today!” My colleague
educationpost.org

We also need to shed some of our existing prejudices and work together to resolve our challenges.

Harsh response to the pair’s meeting speaks to passions around the charter school proposal that divided them.
host.madison.com|By Pat Schneider

We know that our schools exist in an unequal society and we know that this reality places some restrictions on our public schools as well as impacts the climate that our students, families and staff members work and learn in. Yet, we should not allow our public schools to be limited by the flaws in our wider society. Instead of mirroring the deficiencies that exist in our society we should strive to have our schools provide the image that society emulates. We can't let our efforts be defined by the inequities, historical legacies and other flaws that we all know are present in American society. We can achieve great things and strive for a socially just society, and our public schools can provide the mechanisms to make this happen.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . First it was Bernie Sanders for President, now Russ Feingold is running to return to the US Senate! The 2016 election just got even more interesting. Hopefully these two leaders can shift the debate in our nation in a more positive and progressive direction. 

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrat Russ Feingold has decided to run for his old Senate seat in Wisconsin against Republican Ron Johnson, who defeated him in 2010.
http://www.nbc15.com

With the former senator's return, Democrats have a strong chance to beat Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. A loss could doom their chances of retaking the Senate.
nationaljournal.com

Progressively minded citizens need to work to reclaim the Democratic Party, or push to support viable 3rd party candidates who will work for the values that so many of us hold dear. Business as usual isn't working well for too many citizens, or for the future of our nation. 

The latest squabble over the Trans-Pacific Partnership shows just how low America's "Progressive" Party has sunk
rollingstone.com


The Bad . . . While we can spend a significant amount of time and energy debating the statistics and shifting numbers around to prove/disprove any position, it is clear that Wisconsin's economic situation is murky at best. It is hard to argue that we are better off because of so called reforms like Act 10 and right to work. These types of legislation have done little to improve the economic status of most citizens. We also are seeing a significant number of groups' economic outlook decline or stay negative under this administration. Combine this with the turmoil and divisiveness of the past 4 years and we can see that economic data can only go so far in defining our state's success and achievement.


The news isn’t nearly as good as one University of Wisconsin professor seems to believe.
jsonline.com|By Marc Levine

The Ugly . . . Madison is still dealing with the violent death of Tony Robinson and the aftermath of the decision not to charge Officer Kenny.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday that Madison police Officer Matt Kenny would not be charged in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Tony Robinson Jr.
wthr.com

While we attempt to come to grips with what this means for our community we are faced with many reminders of the scope of our challenges. Whether on a national level. . .

US' second review before UN Human Rights Council dominated by criticism over police violence against black men
america.aljazeera.com

Or on a historical one. . .

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of a massive police operation in Philadelphia that culminated in the helicopter bombing of the headquarters of a...
m.democracynow.org

It is clear that we have a lot of work to do as we attempt to create a society where safety and justice are balanced in an equitable manner. Every situation is different and based on individual circumstances, yet at the same time the cumulative effect is devastating for our society. It's time for us to have a discussion that moves us forward, recognizing the past injustices (including that done to other groups in our society) while seeking to lift us towards a fair and socially just system.

To argue against the cop in the Tony Robinson shooting - unless you think DA Ismael Ozanne just made everything up - one must argue that cops don't have a...
onmilwaukee.com

Sunday, May 10, 2015

#210 May 10, 2015- Education, Equity and Unity




The United States has always been a nation of stark contrasts. We combine the lofty words and ambitions of our founding documents and the national rhetoric that focus on freedom, liberty, justice and opportunity with the reality that while "all men are created equal" we certainly haven't created a society where all people are treated equally. While this has been clearly evident throughout our history, we are struggling to deal with the issues around equity and social justice in present day America. We are struggling to find ways to talk about significant issues, and certainly are struggling to find ways to combat the growing divides between different groups in our society.

Over the years we've fought wars, rioted, protested, organized, marched and engaged in various other types of civil disobedience, action and reaction to address the inequities that exist in our, and in every, society. Often we look back on our efforts and put them in a historical context that separates them from the present day reality we live in. We look with disdain at those we identify as villains in our past, and lift others up as heroes and examples of the best our society can produce. We talk about how misguided our societal ancestors were, and how we are more enlightened. We celebrate our successes and then suddenly are faced with events or circumstances that force us to rethink where we are as a nation in terms of progress towards social justice and towards achieving the goals of "liberty and justice for all."

There are many aspects of our struggle that make efforts to address our challenges difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible to resolve. There are entrenched prejudices and beliefs that are perpetuated in ways that are often subtle and even outgrowths of efforts to address our societal inequities. Racism, sexism, religious intolerance and all other forms of prejudice don't exist in a vacuum and don't simply emerge out of the blue. They are a part of our societal fabric that goes through our history and that can't be erased or simply removed. We can make reparations, enact legislation and mandate practices and policy changes, but we can't remove the legacy that our predecessors have left us. If ending prejudice was as simple as passing a law, or changing a policy we would have been able to move forward as a society long ago.

We also must recognize that our nation is a special one in many ways, but at the same time it is a human creation that is just as flawed as any other society. To claim that America is a morally superior and more highly evolved society is to ignore the many examples of injustice and intolerance that exist in our past and present. While we may want to claim that America is a place where opportunity and achievement are not tied to class, race, gender or other demographic characteristic, the data tells us otherwise. Having a woman as a CEO, seeing recent immigrants achieve high positions, and even electing an African-American president doesn't change the status of the majority of individuals living in our nation.

In fact, that illustrates another barrier to resolving our challenges around diversity and opportunity. America is a nation that is highly individualistic in many ways, while ignoring the fact that no individual exists independently of the rest of society. When we tout the success of the individual without taking a more comprehensive view of what is going on to the majority of people we lose sight of the reason that we live in organized societies at all. The idea that the individual has rights is important, but the elevating of individual rights over the collective whole of a community is damaging and creates an unsustainable environment.

How a city where blacks are well represented among the city government and police erupted in riots not seen since Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
buzzfeed.com

Our focus on the individual also highlights a difficult aspect of our challenges. Each incident is based on an individual set of circumstances, each act of violence and each response is rooted in the facts that there are good people in bad situations or systems, and bad people in systems that could work. When an incident of horrifying, gratuitous injustice occurs we can clearly see the changes that need to be made, but at the same time these incidents create an atmosphere of mistrust and cause our society to divide along demographic and ideological lines. It is easy to see why so many people mistrust our existing systems, but much more difficult to find ways to create unity and cohesiveness.

Our diversity as a nation is one of our greatest strengths. Yet, at the same time it is a part of our society that has created significant discord and that has resulted in any number of troubling events and a checkered history around our respect (or lack thereof) for the rights and dignity of our own citizens. We look around the world and talk about the human rights records of other nations, while ignoring what is happening within our own borders.

This brings me to the final barrier that I see to our efforts to create a more equitable and socially just society. By making our conversations all about one group at a time we weaken our efforts. As a nation we tend to look at one group and their struggle and then move on to another issue. When we do this we ignore the fact that our most successful efforts to organize and improve our society were not focused only on a small portion of the population. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Civil Rights leader, but he was also a labor advocate and anti-war advocate and gave voice to many other issues. He also recognized the need to include many groups, in fact to make all groups a part of the effort. When we don't do this we end up creating divisions between efforts that might otherwise unite.

By Sudie Hofmann I recently came across a flier in an old backpack of my daughter's: Wanted: Committee Chairs for this Spring's Cinco de Mayo All School Celebration. The flier was replete with cultural props including a sombrero,...
social.huffingtonpost.com

What better way to kick off Cinco de Mayo celebrations than with a free biscuit taco?
wfla.com|By Press Release

By saying that only certain groups are struggling, or that only specific groups are targeted is to ignore our long legacy of inequity and the efforts of those who hold power to maintain their control of our society through political, social and economic means. Brutality and force have been employed on a regular basis here in America whether directed at a specific racial group, a wide range of organizations or as a means to control the general population. Whether it was George Washington leading the effort to end the Whiskey Rebellion, the multiple uses of brutal force used against organized labor, or the continued targeting of specific neighborhoods or racial groups by law enforcement officers our history is far from peaceful.

I should make myself clear, our issues around racial inequity are deep and should not be ignored. None of what I am saying is intended to deny that we have issues around race in America that need to be addressed. I am not arguing that groups that focus on these issues should stay silent, or that slogans like "Black Lives Matter" should not be a part of our national dialog. What I am saying is that we need to find ways to unite our efforts and to change the trajectory that our nation is currently following.

Places like Wisconsin, or more specifically Madison where I live, are becoming more and more divided and volatile. Our public dialog is increasingly hostile and filled with rhetoric that serves to create dissent, fear and antagonism towards others. Unless we change this we face the prospect of losing our ability to talk civilly about these important issues. We know from both distant and recent past that this is dangerous for our entire society. Whether it was the increasingly divisive climate of the 1920's which led to the incredibly challenging times in the 1930's and 40's, or the more recent examples of the struggles that have gotten us to where we are today, fear and anger are not effective ways to create a more socially just society. They may create the climate that fuels radical change, but they also create a climate that is dangerous and unpleasant for so many.  

Gentrified cities, the fall of manufacturing, the filling of jails with black men - all fuelled the violence that followed the killing of Freddie Gray
theguardian.com|By Ed Vulliamy

Once again, our problems around racial inequities are significant and must be addressed. The racial data around incarceration, poverty and any other social indicator demonstrate inequity on a massive scale. They are also problems that have existed throughout our history and ones that we simply don't seem able, or willing to address in meaningful ways. While other demographic groups tend to see some improvement in their overall status, our African-American citizens continually struggle to achieve measurable success in our society.

By Joe Pettit | Originally Published at The Baltimore Sun. February 22, 2012 | Photographic Credit; Chris Ryan/Getty Images Imagine a report that reached the following three conclusions: In Maryland, 35 percent of males passed Advanced...
empathyeducates.org

Yet, at the same time we are seeing trends towards a society that is increasingly stratified on all social, political and economic levels. This is disturbing, but also can give us some hope for a future where we work cooperatively to address inequities for all of our citizens. 

Powerlessness comes from a lack of meaningful choice. Big institutions don't have to be responsive to us because we can't penalize them by going to a competitor. And we have no loud countervailing voice forcing them to listen....
huffingtonpost.com

With more mothers working, women suffer most from failure to give workers control over their workdays
salon.com|By Caroline Fredrickson

We can see that the potential for a more widespread and unified coalition that is actively seeking to create a socially just society is threatening the existing power structure. A structure that is based on "divide and conquer" strategies that serve to direct our discontent towards others and not towards creating a more equitable society. This isn't to imply that there is a "conspiracy" or some other clandestine force at work that seeks to subjugate the majority of people. Rather it is a recognition that those who achieve success and power in any group seek to maintain their hold on that success and power. This is why we are seeing efforts to restrict voting, control media outlets and to change our system of public education increasing. The end result is a distorted view of "reality" for many of us. If we continue to blame individuals (Scott Walker, Koch Brothers, etc.) we may defeat their efforts, but they will simply be replaced by others with the same goals and objectives. The cyclical nature of history often exists because we don't seek to really change our reality, but rather settle for short term objectives that don't deeply impact our society. 

"The revolution will not be televised."
baltimoresun.com|By Baltimore Sun

Baltimore teachers and parents tell a different story from the one you've been reading in the media.
m.motherjones.com

Because education is one of the most important tools that individuals and groups can use to try and achieve upward mobility, public education has become one of the most intense battlegrounds in recent years. Whether it is by attacking educators and limiting their ability to influence their professional world, or by promoting "reforms" that actually increase gaps and divide our communities, the attacks have been relentless here in Wisconsin and around the nation.

Presidential hopefuls have been outbidding themselves in touting school vouchers but racial integration was never part of the original design, which was cooked up out of hostility for public schools and first used evade desegregation.
prwatch.org

As the Obama administration asks Congress to increase funding for charter schools by almost 50 percent, a new report claims charter schools are...
democracynow.org

Michelle Rhee's group is sneakily trying to rebrand itself to advance its anti-union agenda.
alternet.org
The Chicago Teachers Union said Tuesday the district is asking its members to take a seven percent pay cut in its next contract.
chicagotribune.com|By Chicago Tribune

Your child sits in their high school 10th grade Civics and Economics class. The teacher, dressed in a...
womenadvancenc.org

The working lives of teachers have become “unbearable” because of constant monitoring and as a result they are quitting in such numbers that the profession...
independent.co.uk
We've seen standardized test scores used as a weapon to control our public education system and to manipulate public opinion about our schools. We know there are gaps in our students' achievement and their access to opportunities, but standardized testing isn't an accurate way to identify these issues, nor is it a useful way to address the concerns. 

Test makers rake in bucks, students and teachers chafe under the strain. Here's a better way forward for everyone
salon.com|By Dr. Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

A reader, Charlene Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, sent the following comment in...
dianeravitch.net

Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, 44 percent of school administrators admit that they've cut PE or recess to focus on test prep
truth-out.org|By Eleanor J. Bader

Kim Abler, an arts curriculum specialist, has helped garner multiple federal grants for MPS and also launched a nonprofit that’s exposed thousands more district students to the arts.
jsonline.com|By Erin Richards

The Madison School Board member says that opting out of standardized tests is a reaction to a problem that does not exist in local schools.
host.madison.com|By Pat Schneider

Standardized testing also gives us an opportunity to peek behind the curtain and see who is really driving education "reform." Whenever we try to identify the powers behind any societal initiative it is useful to "follow the money." 

Corporate thieves and hedge-fund parasites are working with political leaders to impose a school "reform" agenda that will privatize public education.
socialistworker.org

Congratulations to the Democracy Campaign for shining a spotlight on the "legalized bribery" in the Legislature.
host.madison.com|By Cap Times editorial

The bids are being sought because of Gov. Scott Walker's proposal in his 2015-17 spending plan to abandon the Badger Exam.
host.madison.com|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal

Microsoft last year announced a testing and certification partnership with Pearson, using the cloud to make exams accessible.
libn.com|By Claude Solnik

All of the challenges and the scope of the problems we face may seem insurmountable. Yet, there is hope for the future, if we are willing and able to put in the hard work and commit ourselves to the struggle. One thing we should always remember is that our society is changeable and we can see this in the attitudes and opinions that are expressed on a larger scale. 

As the Supreme Court considers extending same-sex marriage rights to all Americans, we look at the patterns of social change that have tranformed the nation.
bloomberg.com

We also can't forget that "without struggle there is no progress," and that all our achievements come as the result of concerted efforts to make change happen. While I'm certainly not advocating violence, neither am I advocating meek silence. As part of a larger group, Wisconsin public employees, that took to the streets in 2011 I fully support those who demonstrate and advocate vocally for issues of social justice.

Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray's death, and so they appeal for order.
theatln.tc

Class were canceled at 18 Detroit public schools on Thursday after Governor Rick Synder’s plans for struggling district prompted teachers’ absences
theguardian.com

By Juan M. Thompson | Originally Published at The Intercept. May 3, 2015 | Photographic Credit; David Goldman/AP After prosecutor Marilyn Mosby charged six Baltimore police officers with the killing of Freddie Gray, this city, which had...
empathyeducates.org
In the end our efforts must be based on a cooperative and organized coalition that incorporates a respect for the concerns and struggles of individual groups with a desire to elevate all members of our society. We can't allow our efforts to be derailed and our coalitions to be divided. While our experiences and our conditions may differ, our end goal should be the same, a socially just society where freedom, opportunity and equity are the norms for every member. 

But making it easier for parents to opt out is not the end game. The end game is designing a system where parents and educators don’t even consider opting out of assessments because they trust that assessments make sense, guide...
lilysblackboard.org

nytimes.com|By David Leonhardt,

You could start with the term “achievement gap.” This article names what's really going on, and it's much more damaging than that.
everydayfeminism.com

Authored by Jesse Hagopian and the NPE Board of Directors Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the...
networkforpubliceducation.org

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . There is some great potential for Senator Sanders to inject some reality into our next presidential race.

Sometimes it can be scary and confusing for kids when they’re faced with an unknown, like a politician who actually repr…
medium.com|By Kimberly Harrington

Her campaign isn't saying whether it will reveal the bundlers who are raising huge sums of money.
motherjones.com

The Bad . . . While the Wisconsin legislature debates our next state budget and tries to claim they will fund public education, the reality is that our system for funding public education is inequitable and inadequate no matter what is finally decided.  

STATE BUDGET FOCUS 2015-16 CUTS TO PER PUPIL FUNDING, BY COUNTY To find your county, pass your cursor over the charts. Click to enlarge. For more information on these charts, click here .
reformwi.org



The Ugly . . . While our governor travels around the country talking about how his reforms have helped Wisconsin, and how he's taken the tough stands that will make Wisconsin's future better the citizens of his state are left to cope with the mess that he is creating. It seems that every day a new element of his agenda is revealed, each one more damaging to our state than the last.  


State tax funding for Wisconsin’s state parks would be zeroed out and user fees would go up under a plan approved by Republicans on the Legislature’s budget...
wpr.org



 





Sunday, May 3, 2015

#209 May 3, 2015- Unions, Public Education and the American Dream



America is a nation that is supposed to be based on the concepts of freedom, opportunity, justice and equity for all. In order to achieve these lofty goals we have grounded our political ideology in the concept of democracy and the ability of the individual to exert some influence on the society they live in economically, politically and socially. We can see the efforts of individuals and groups to achieve these ideals throughout our history in struggles for civil rights, freedoms and an ongoing search for social justice.

What is troubling is that we are hearing those who claim to love America most, those who claim to value freedom, opportunity and equity most, those who are among the most vocal in trumpeting the ideals of America, espousing values that directly contradict the goals of freedom, opportunity, justice and equity for all. Instead of honoring the spirit of our founding documents and the legacy of the struggle for social justice that weaves throughout our history, these leaders of the conservative movement, and other political leaders have become the voice for the economic and political elite in our society.


Our nation is one that is built on change and on challenging the status quo. We have made mistakes along the way, but whenever there are periods of progress we see an effort made to change the existing power structures of society. Different groups take the lead at different times, and the stated goals of every movement may appear to be different. Yet, the Progressive ideals that emerged in the very beginning of our nation's history are always present.

Some groups have become relative constants in the push for a better America where the "American Dream" is achievable for a majority of citizens. One of these groups is organized labor. Unions and other labor organizations have provided a counterpoint to the conservative message of individualism, consumerism and the power of an unfettered market. Where the prevailing conservative rhetoric has been one of excessive spending and concentration of wealth in the hands of the minority, unions have a long history of improving the standards of living for all citizens. During periods of the greatest stratification in income and social class, unions have provided a mechanism for the majority of the citizenry to have a voice, and to have hope for upward mobility.

Because unions provide hope and opportunity for so many, it seems curious that there would be such a negative portrayal of unions in our political and economic discourse. Unions are blamed for the fall of industries and businesses, as well as portrayed as undemocratic and un-American. We see a concerted effort by those in power to curtail the power and voice of the American worker through anti-union rhetoric and policy making..

How big business stifled one of the most crucial institutions of the US economy.
qz.com

AlterNet uncovers an anti-Obama program linked to the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, spoon-fed to employees of a major home-improvement chain.
alternet.org

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says he has the “courage…and capacity” to take on powerful interests, including unions, at the federal level. Walker, a Republican who is likely to enter the preside...
wrn.com

Why is it that unions take so much heat in our current political climate? Those who have shaped the view of unions as anti-American and the defender of the inept have done a masterful job of twisting the concepts of freedom and independence in a way that produces results that are contradictory to the stated goal. In other words, by giving American workers the freedom to not unionize, we actually see the power of the individual reduced. In an unequal environment, like the workplace, where the minority has access to the most power and other resources, the individual has fewer enforceable rights. Any individual employee becomes replaceable and essentially powerless. It is only through collective action that the individual gains any traction towards a better working environment. A quick glance through history gives us ample evidence of this.


Anti-union forces have also convinced us that the only way we can all succeed is through a free-market that allows the "job creators" the ability to do whatever is needed to grow their own wealth. Wealth that they will then allow to "trickle-down" to the rest of us. Once again, history provides us with powerful evidence that wealth flows upward and becomes concentrated, it doesn't get shared with the majority of those laboring to create it. Organized labor has long been a way to get wealth to flow back to a greater number of people in ways that tax breaks and incentives to business have failed to accomplish.  

The Pew Charitable Trusts has released an analysis showing that while the percentage of households in the middle class declined in all 50 states between...
wpr.org

How the minimum wage hurts us all.
washingtonpost.com

Massive union-backed protests, an improving economy and regulatory action undertaken by the Obama administration all contributed to McDonald’s’s decision Wednesday to raise workers’ wages. But the move won’t likely be enough to...
politico.com|By Brian Mahoney and Marianne LeVine

Anti-union sentiment is being fomented and entrenched in the thinking of many and is damaging to our democracy as well. The democracy that our conservative brethren claim to love is unsustainable when only a small number of individuals can access power in any meaningful way. We have seen how the power of the ballot has been weakened by excessive financial contributions that essentially buy candidates.

Unions became targets of conservative politicians because they have historically supported Democrats. This has led to a call for Democrats to abandon their support for organized labor. In reality, it should be organized labor who need to abandon the Democrats. The current two-party system has become a quagmire that fails to represent the vast majority of the electorate. Republican policies have shifted to the extreme right, and the Democrats haven't offered a strong alternative in many states, Wisconsin being one. This failure to harness the power of the citizenry is damaging to our democracy. The time has come for organized labor to unite with other groups and restore democracy to our democracy. 

Democrats need to look to the future — to millennials, start-ups and technology
jsonline.com|By Marc Eisen

The wealth gap keeps growing, but nothing will change unless Americans realize they are having the wool pulled over their eyes.
host.madison.com|By DAVE ZWEIFEL | Cap Times editor emeritus

Anti-Union forces have relied on a combination of misleading rhetoric, misleading data and a divide and conquer strategy that pits workers against each other. The Wisconsin Uprising was a direct response to this strategy that sought to drive a wedge between the public and private sector unions. This strategy relies significantly on keeping most citizens ignorant about the benefits that organized labor provides our society. It is here where we see the second aspect of the continuing effort to centralize political, social and economic power emerge.

Education is one of the cornerstones of a sustainable democracy. This means that we need a citizenry that is educated, not just in the basics that are needed to live our daily lives, but in ways that cause them to question and challenge the status quo. The "Three R's" may be enough for daily work, but the role of citizen requires an ability to analyze information and to think critically about the world we live in. This is why education is often "rationed" in many societies. Too much knowledge in the hands of individual citizens can be dangerous to those who seek to maintain their power.

America is a somewhat unusual nation in that we have a system in place to provide education to all citizens, and we have laws that are supposed to create systems that are equal for all. While we haven't always lived up to this ideal, the fact that this is a part of the fabric of our society gives us opportunity and hope for a future where education is a resource accessible to all, and one that can drive change for the better.    

The rapid growth of market-driven charter schools erodes a cornerstone of American democracy.
usnews.com|By Jerusha Conner

Because education has this potential power, and public education is the home of a highly unionized workforce, it shouldn't surprise us that politicians who are under the influence of the wealthy and powerful have focused their attention on controlling public education. The same anti-union agenda that seeks to weaken the voice of the people is present in the efforts to weaken public education and limit access to education for many citizens. 

Red-state politicians in Wisconsin, Iowa and North Carolina pick a fight with professors. They're dangerously wrong
slnm.us|By Aaron R. Hanlon

Education reformers stymied by teachers unions and liberal state legislatures increasingly are turning to the courts to get their way on everything from funding charter schools to making it easier to fire teachers. It’s an end-run strategy...
politico.com|By Stephanie Simon

As public educator unions have seen their power diminish we are seeing individual educators lose their ability to express their ideas and advocate for their students. The loss of income and the loss of contractual protections like "just-cause" create an environment where public educators are unable, or unwilling to speak their mind about "reforms" that harm students and schools. 

Audrey Beardsley, a professor at Arizona State University, recently visited parents, educators, students, and state leaders in New Mexico. There she learned that...
dianeravitch.net

This has led to a disturbing trend in education. Veteran educators are leaving the profession in droves, and fewer and fewer younger educators are entering the field with the intent to make it a life-long career.  


While other school superintendents prepare for more budget cuts from the state, Dave Polashek is throwing in the towel.
wbay.com

Educators are currently in especially high demand, but fewer and fewer high school graduates want to become teachers, a new report finds.
www.huffingtonpost.com

Kathleen is joined by a professor of Sociology to discuss what he calls “A Crisis In American Education.” The crisis? That teacher morale has hit a new all-time low. The result is that large numbers of teachers are leaving the profession, and...
wpr.org

All isn't lost, in fact the opposite may be true. Once again we look to history for evidence that there is always a pushback from the people. Centralization of wealth and power leads to a resistance that makes change happen. We can't always predict the form that this change will take, but we know that it will come. The question for us now is just how long can and will we wait to make this change happen. The more stratified our society , the more difficult the struggle to change becomes. As Patrick Henry said in the late 1700's, "These are the times that try men's souls," but no matter the challenges we also have the knowledge that we can move our society in a positive direction. It is up to us to decide if we are going to be "sunshine patriots" or utilize the freedoms, opportunities and power we have to accomplish our goals of a socially just society.

Milwaukee Area Technical College’s education professionals voted overwhelmingly this week to recertify their union, despite Gov. Scott Walker’s labor legislation limiting bargaining.
jsonline.com|By Karen Herzog

By: Hallie Schmeling Dear Non-Union Teachers in Wisconsin, Let me start by introducing myself. I’m Hallie, a 27-year old, fifth year teacher in South Milwaukee, WI. I am certified to teach math, sp...
youngteacherscollective.org
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . MTI will lead an effort to stock local food pantries for the summer again this year. We know that summer can be a difficult time for many of our students who rely on school meals as a staple of their diet and this food drive can help replenish the shelves of our food pantries in preparation for the summer months.

The MTI Cares Committee is organizing a second annual food drive in partnership with AFSCME, MMSD, and Second Harvest FoodBank. The food drive is scheduled to take place during the week of May 11 – 15. The deadline to sign up to participate in this district-wide event is April 29, 2015.
madisonteachers.org

Here's a candidate that I can support in 2016

From the Mother Jones archives.
motherjones.com

The Bad . . . As Governor Walker continues to devote a majority of his time and energy to his bid for president we are seeing him remain consistent in being inconsistent. He appears to be willing to change his positions quickly based on his audience and how he can gain the most political advantage. He also tends to avoid issues that will cause him political damage or that are controversial with alarming regularity. Of course, this isn't a characteristic that is exclusive to him. However, his actions have caused a significant amount of damage to the citizens and state he was elected to serve, and he was elected based on the incomplete or inaccurate information that his campaigns provided the electorate.

Both Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch have said the state already has the necessary balance between preventing discrimination and protecting...
host.madison.com|By Jessie Opoien | The Capital Times


Gov. Scott Walker suggested that voters should seek a constitutional amendment to allow state-level bans.
host.madison.com|By Jessie Opoien | The Capital Times

The governor has flip-flopped on several issues, but this one is a big deal.
postcrescent.com

The likely GOP presidential contender just laid off a big chunk of Wisconsin's environmental watchdogs.
m.motherjones.com

Republicans in the state Legislature want to eliminate personal property taxes. Realtors and cities say that would shift $290 million.
host.madison.com|By Steven Verburg | Wisconsin State Journal

Of particular interest to me is his, and many others, continuing effort to undermine public education with vouchers and charters that don't do enough to earn the public's money or trust.
Gov. Scott Walker will be the keynote speaker at the American Federation for Children's national policy summit on May 18 in New Orleans.
host.madison.com|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal

A new study set to be released at the Statehouse Thursday will reveal how beneficial school vouchers are to Indiana taxpayers and students.
theindychannel.com|By Lauren Lewis, Eric Cox

MPS high schools took Wisconsin’s top two spots on this year’s Washington Post list of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” — those that are best in the nation at challenging their students to achieve through college-level exams. Six MPS schools in total made the national list, which was releas…
mps.milwaukee.k12.wi.us

The Ugly . . . Money shouldn't be considered free speech. Money is a corrupting influence in politics and policy making at all levels of government.

Large Pile Of Cash Announces US Presidency Bid April 13, 2015 A LARGE stack of money has announced that it will make a run for the White House in 2016. The pile of cash, estimated to be around 1.2 billion US dollars, said yesterday at a...
waterfordwhispersnews.com

Billionaire hardware store chain owner John Menard Jr., who reportedly funneled $1.5 million to a secretive, dark money group that spent undisclosed millions to help Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP senators win a wave of recall elections, also contributed $30,000 since the beginning of 2009 to…
wisdc.org