Guest post by Los Angeles resident and edublogger Understanding Equity.
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
Next week, you will have the opportunity to vote for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This is the first time I have made an appeal of this nature. As a retired teacher working with many other concerned teachers, parents and community members, our main concern is the direction that education is taking around the country with a trend towards a system of corporate and privately managed schools whose main focus, much like the HMO’s of the past, is creating profits for their operators and investors. All across the country and here in California, these schools are becoming the subject of FBI and state investigations into massive fraud.
While you may be hearing what sounds like dire statistics about the state of education in California, you are not being told that we are almost dead last in the country on per pupil spending and first in highest class sizes. In addition, California not only has a large number of English Language Learners but also has suffered major cuts in funding during the recession. Thanks to California voters and the support from the present State Board of Education and incumbent State Superintendent Torlakson, Proposition 30 passed with improvements in funding on the horizon.
Since we can no longer depend on the media to consistently provide us with in-depth and unbiased reporting, it becomes more important than ever for the public to consider numerous viewpoints before coming to final conclusions. My attempt here is to accomplish just that.
Please take note of the following:
As demonstrated above, Marshall Tuck and recently departed LAUSD Superintendent Deasy are cut from the same cloth. It’s vital to understand that Deasy and Tuck have been supported by the same members of the corporate world who have recently attempted, but failed miserably, to “buy” seats on the LAUSD Board of Education with the infusions of millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Instead, voters chose educators who had no identified ties to outside entities and no stated interest in political careers.
One of the main issues at stake in this election is the anti-teacher Vergara lawsuit. In the following article, UC Irvine Law School Dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, writes about the lawsuit funded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch. Chemerinsky explains why the judge’s decision to side with the plaintiffs is wrong. Tom Torlakson is appealing the decision while Marshall Tuck supports it.
According to the lawsuit, if teacher tenure is eliminated, the opportunity to replace “ineffective” veteran teachers with new “miraculous” ones will be greatly increased. But we have yet to hear from Tuck and his corporate sponsors, Eli Broad and the Waltons, exactly where these “miraculous” teachers will come from. In fact, here in California, we are facing a teacher shortage as fewer high school students are entering the profession:
“Some large states, like heavyweight California, appear to have been particularly hard hit. The Golden State lost some 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13, according to a report its credentialing body issued earlier this month.”
Most of you are familiar with the nationwide attacks on the teaching profession and teachers unions. You have been told that “bad” teachers are the main reason why students underperform and that unions protect those teachers from being fired. In 2008, Michelle Rhee spearheaded these attacks when she was featured on Time’s cover as a witch with a broom sweeping out “bad” teachers. Two years later, she resigned in disgrace after having illegally fired a large number of teachers, leaving the Washington, D. C. schools in disarray and with an unresolved test cheating scandal.
It’s vital to note that the U.S. has the highest rate of poverty among developed nations with students living in poverty struggling the most in school. In contrast to the claims in the Vergara lawsuit, nations with high levels of achievement, like Canada and Finland, have teachers who are also highly unionized. If you were to judge a country’s educational achievements by union status, the Vergara supporters would be required to rank Canada and Finland at the bottom of international benchmarks. Instead, these two nations appear to understand the adage that “teachers’ working conditions are their students’ learning conditions.” Both also support their schools financially and pay their teachers excellent salaries which clearly encourages the best and brightest to commit to the profession as a lifelong career.
A second issue of importance is the unholy connection between education policy based on standardized tests and billions in profits for corporations like Apple and Pearson who supply schools with computers and software. According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the investment in technology is required to carry out standardized tests. Presently, there is NO research that has shown that more testing produces better outcomes for students. Imagine if all that money on testing and related materials could be diverted back into the classroom!!!!! Our own California State Board of Education, supported by Tom Torlakson, has taken a much more reasonable approach to standardized tests and the costs involved. There is little doubt that Marshall Tuck would take a different view because he is determined to use test scores as the main basis in teacher evaluations, even though this use has been universally proven to be highly inaccurate by top educators and researchers.
Please take a moment to review the material I have included. What we do know, is that these billions of dollars are enriching corporations and recently, both Apple and Pearson have been implicated in bid-rigging charges involving ousted LAUSD Superintendent Deasy. His recent departure also highlighted the dangers of playing too fast and loose with tax payer funded school construction bonds for a project that was not based on sound educational practices and had no financial plan on how to fully fund and maintain it. As an example, just today, KPCC reports that LAUSD is going to request 8 million dollars to increase police presence for students taking the iPads home, an expense that was never considered in the original budget.
So, before you make your decision, please take a look for yourself at the corporate donors who are attempting to shape education policy to benefit themselves and the wealthiest of wealthiest.
While Marshall Tuck claims that he does not support all of these individuals and their corporate agendas, there is little doubt as to why they are funding his campaign. We can expect that Tuck will reward his funders in the form of policies that will continue to reap huge profits for them and their stockholders.
Thank you for reading this. Perhaps you will have a chance to talk to a public school teacher or parent of a public school student. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends and neighbors and ask them to share also.