2014’s Best and Worst Players in Public Education

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TIME magazine’s decision to demonize public school educators and due process with its now notorious Nov. 3 cover story was a ” here we go again” moment in  year that seemed full of them. The economy began to pick up steam but the attacks on public education continued – in the media, courtrooms and at the ballot box. While there were undeniable setbacks, the year also saw real momentum build against high stakes testing and educators notched some key victories at the local and state level.

As 2014 draws to a close, let’s take look back at some of the individuals and groups who emerged during the year who either made you stand up and cheer or made you hiss and boo (and hopefully get even more politically involved). This is by no means a definitive list. There are many more onions to give out, but there are also as many, if not more, apples. Use the comments field to tell us who you would nominate.

Let’s get the boos and hisses out of the way first.

The Onions Go To …

David Welch

David Welch

Deep-Pocketed Privateers

While “Koch” is the name most people associate with the relentless and widespread corporate raid on the nation’s public institutions, the billionaire brothers Charles and David have plenty of company — particularly among the wealthy “reformers” who demonize teachers and the public education system to either reap the benefits of school privatization, impose misguided “reforms”, or both. There’s the band of education reform foundations, including the Walton Family Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation. And then there individuals who aren’t billionaires necessarily but certainly have enough wealth to play major, if not decisive, roles in political races and in courtrooms. In 2014, David Welch, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter, was the individual most responsible for attacks on teacher due process in California last year by bankrolling the Vergara v. California lawsuit. It’s not that everyone shouldn’t play a role in influencing public policy, but clearly the wealth of individuals like Welch, Art Pope in North Carolina and others tip the scales heavily in favor of corporatist reform ideas. And don’t expect the mounting evidence showing these schemes don’t benefit students to compel them to rein in their agendas.

Campbell Brown

Campbell Brown

Campbell Brown

The future of education is on everyone’s mind, which is why the issue attracts so many strong opinions – including from a dizzying array of celebrities. Many of these folks receive an undue amount of reverence and attention from the media. Case in point: Campbell Brown, whose former career as a longtime CNN news anchor has given her public assault on teacher due process a brighter spotlight than it deserves. Brown isn’t merely voicing an opinion, however. In August, a group she founded, the Partnership for Educational Justice, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a small group of parents challenging teacher tenure in New York. In announcing the legal action, Campbell praised the plaintiffs’ bravery and said she was “just proud to be holding [their] coats.” Since then, Brown has filled the op-ed pages and cable news programs with shoddy data and discredited talking points to buck up her argument that due process for teachers is an obstacle to student achievement. There is no evidence supporting this claim and Campbell has actually been challenged by some in the media, not only for her feeble arguments, but also because she has refused to disclose the funders behind the Partnership for Educational Justice. Brown likes to talk a lot about “transparency” in the education debate but the public isn’t allowed to know who is proud to be holding her coat.

High school testingHigh-Stakes Testing Zealots

What better way to describe the loyal devotees of high stakes “test and punish” testing regimes? Unfortunately, many of them are still calling the shots, ignoring evidence that these tests shortchange our students and are a lousy and unfair measure of teacher performance, and also disregarding the outrage of millions of parents. When none other than Arne Duncan says that standardized testing “is sucking the oxygen out of the room,” it’s safe to say that the conversation is moving in the right direction. Still, legions of high-stakes true believers are out there, hands over their ears, yelling “What about those PISA scores!” “What’s wrong with accountability??” “Bad unions!”

“People who don’t know what they’re talking about are talking about increasing the use of commercial standardized tests in high-stakes decisions about students and about educators,” says NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, “when all the evidence that can be gathered shows that it is corrupting what it means to teach and what it means to learn.”

 bright-red-apple-on-desk-of-teacher-in-classroomDemocrats for Education Reform

The term “education reform” has acquired a bit of a stench over the last few years, as the ideas with which it is most closely associated – high stakes accountability, vouchers, merit pay, charter schools, not to mention teacher bashing – have not worn well with much of the public. For some reason, a group of folks thought that attaching the word “Democrats” to their organization’s name would serve as some sort of disinfectant to make these misguided policies less odious to segments of the public. But make no mistake: With the help of Koch Brothers cash, DFERs (as members like to be called) are behind many anti-public education and anti-union state referendums. In 2013, the California Democratic Party passed a resolution calling on DFER to cease using the name “Democrats,” saying their program is clearly a front for a right-wing corporate agenda.

MichiganCapitolThe Worst Governors in America

The 2010 elections produced a cataclysmic shift in statehouses across the country as a crop of right-wing governors were voted into office. The damage these governors – Scott Walker of Wisconsin. John Kasich of Ohio, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, and Rick Snyder of Michigan – have since inflicted on their states’ public education systems and workers’ rights has been overwhelming. Unfortunately, all of them, with the exception of Corbett of Pennsylvania, were re-elected in 2014.

Now get ready to stand up and cheer.

The Apples Go To…

manholdingstopsignSusan Bowles

In April 2014, kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles of Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Gainesville, Fla., posted a letter on Facebook telling parents of her students that she was refusing to administer the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR), saying it was simply wrong to give the test to her young students. “I know I may be in breach of my contract,” Bowles wrote. “I cannot in good conscience submit to administering this test three times a year, losing six weeks of instruction. I am heartsick over the possibility of losing my job. I love my job. There is nothing I would rather do than teach. I have cried and cried over this, but in the end, it’s not about me. So, come what may, this is my stance.”

Bowles’ courageous post quickly went viral and Florida’s overtesting regime found itself under even more scrutiny. Bowles kept her job because a week later, the Florida commissioner of education announced “in light of all the attention focused on this issue over the past few days” that students in grade K-2 would no longer be required to take the FAIR test. Bowles self-described act of “civil disobedience” demonstrates what can happen when one determined educator stands up and says enough is enough.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Many lawmakers in Washington have been fighting for schools and students but special recognition has to be given to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren for leading the charge on one of the most pressing education issues of the year: skyrocketing student debt. In June 2014, Warren introduced in the Senate the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would provide relief to some 40 million Americans struggling with student loan debt. “Exploding student loan debt is crushing young people and dragging down our economy,” remarked Warren while introducing the bill. “These students didn’t go to the mall and run up charges on a credit card. They worked hard and learned new skills that will benefit this country and help us build a stronger middle class and a stronger America.” Unfortunately, the bill was blocked twice from advancing in the Senate, falling only two votes short in the second attempt in September. These setbacks won’t stop Warren and supporters of the bill. “The next step,” Warren said after the vote, “is we’re gonna have to keep hitting on this.”

Moral Monday protesters

Moral Monday protesters

Education Voters

“I hope people will see that we have no choice but to be politically active. I know a lot of people are turned off by politics, but we must be involved to give teachers and students a voice,” said Jessica Fitzwater, a music teacher in Frederick County, Md., and the 2014 NEA Activist of the Year. Luckily for students across the country, thousands of teachers and education support professionals worked diligently this year to push for common sense education policies at the local and state level and hit the hustings for candidates who support public education. Some of the most dedicated and inspirational educator activists can be found in North Carolina, where the Moral Monday movement has attracted thousands of people from across the state and given educators a platform to tell the governor and the conservative legislature that they’re destroying public education. Now with the 2014 elections over and state legislatures scheduled to go into session in January, educator activists in North Carolina and around the country will be ready.

“Educators are not the type of people to back down when it comes to what is best for students,” says Florida teacher Lucia Baez. “Regardless of which party came out ahead, we will do what is best for students. Their future requires we all work together.”

demsforpublicedDemocrats for Public Education

2014 saw the formation of a much-needed and long overdue new organization to advocate for public schools. Democrats for Public Education (DPE) was launched in June by Ted Strickland, former governor of Ohio, and political consultant Donna Brazille. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin was soon named co-chair. According to the group’s mission statement, DPE believes every student should have “access to a strong and safe neighborhood school with well-prepared and supported teachers, deep and engaging curriculum and social services to meet their mental, social and physical needs.”  Their message is clear: public education is a fundamental civil right and schools cannot be improved by cutting funding and attacking the very profession that is charged with teaching our students.

fergusonteachersFerguson Educators 

Every year, teachers and education support professionals step up and show extraordinary dedication and bravery in the face of unforeseen disasters and crises. We saw true heroism at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012, and at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013. In 2014, in the wake of the violence, chaos and unrest following the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the nation once again saw educators go above and beyond in serving and protecting their students. Educators from Ferguson-Florissant NEA, Jennings NEA, Normandy NEA and Riverview Gardens NEA, banded together to assist in the community’s recovery and to bring a degree of normalcy back to the lives of their students.

Because many Ferguson schools shuttered due to riots, these educators took the opportunity to comb the streets, cleaning up broken glass, tear gas canisters and other debris. The district also offered free lunches and mental health counseling to students and their families — critical services in a community where many kids don’t get proper nutrition unless they are in school. Educators also organized food drives to assist families who were too afraid to go outside during the unrest and sold I LOVE FERG t-shirts to raise money. Elementary school teacher and Ferguson-Florissant NEA member Carrie Pace helped create a makeshift school at the local library, where parents could drop off their children for a day of art and science projects. “Our community values education, as all parents do,” Pace told NBC News.  “I hope that it’s healing in some way, if nothing else I think it is a total breath of fresh air for the kids who can be here.”

  • Marc Wheelin

    How do you leave out Cuomo?????????

  • ginny

    Yeah, right. Billionaires are in the reform movement for the money. What are you smoking? When corporations see the academics of the workforce diminish and can’t find competent employees to fill jobs that require highly trained skills and real-world education, they’re not only concerned, they’re alarmed. And too many students are being mis-educated (i.e. half of them at Harvard think that America is as much of a threat to world peace as ISIS, yet can’t tell you who we fought in WWII, who wrote the Constitution or what century the Civil War was fought…)
    And we can’t fire pedophile and other criminal teachers (in Berendt’s case in CA, the taxpayers had to pay $40K for his legal bills, his pension for life — oh, and they’re having to pony up $169,000,000 to the victims — the San Francisco Chronicle said the union actions were “shameful”…but yeah, it’s those rich guys’ fault.)
    The unions are gouging the taxpayers while hurting the most vulnerable children that they claim to care about (i.e. DeBlasio trying to close the charters in NYC — despite the fact that half the poor blacks in Harlem attend them, over 80% are graduating and most heading for college, the NEA tried to end the very successful and popular Opportunity Scholarship Program in DC, also benefitting poor blacks — some are even getting to attend Sidwell Friends where Obama’s kids go…but hey, that’s BAD because it’s a Republican program…then there’s the American Indian Charter Schools, which went from being among the worst in the state to among the top five in the country (Washington Post)…and the unions are trying to get their charters pulled. Oh, and their principal was forced out. Your hypocrisy is stunning.

    • Padraig


    • Monique jane

      Billionaires ARE in it for the money. Those involved with the indoctrination of “Common Core” pushed this onto governors in 43 states. NOT ONE TEACHER was asked to be part of the original design group! ( College professors are NOT familiar with the needs/realities of classroom make-ups in 2014.) As far as “too many students being mis-educated, perhaps it’s because teachers, the trained professionals of academics & child development, are not listened to or respected in any way. THEY are the education experts, but have NO say in anything anymore. They are handed mandate after mandate & even threatened, in some schools, “that they better not say a word.”As far as not being able to fire pedophiles, please share where you got that info. If it is a criminal case, the court system is responsible, not the school system. Charter schools are gouging the public schools. They are left with nothing. If it weren’t for the unions, teachers would live at poverty level, as they did in the late 1800s & early 1900s. As far as O’Bama’s kids going to a private school, I ask, “Why?” O’Bama supported the “Common Core”, as the strategies that will challenge all students. What’s good for 1 is good for all! These hypocrisies ARE stunning!

      • Preston Morimondo

        Tell me–what billionaires or millionaires are involved with implementing Common Core? I’d like to know. since I’m one of the college professor shills who helped to design it and I’d like to know who duped me into this evil plan of forcing students to have reasonably good critical thinking skills before entering college.

        Seriously–get your demons straight. The Koch bros. et al. are the ones spearheading the drive away from Common Core.

        And really–misspelling the name of the President of the United States? How old are you?

        • Veteran

          This may come as a surprise to you but I too would like to have my students work at grade level. I actually had a pretty good idea of what that would look like before Common Core. However this year I started out with around fifty in my classes and they elected to read books three years below class level when given a choice. The simplest reforms are to adjust the teacher student ratio, they are the most expensive to implement so alternatives such as blaming the teacher or suggesting I work “smarter” are offered. The game is played to maximize profits not improve education so large corporations like Pearson make millions testing students and telling me what I already know when what the student needs is a little more one on one time with the teacher.

          • Preston Morimondo

            I agree. My class sizes went up when the big financial crisis hit. Now that the economy is better, it seems that instead of lowering my class sizes, the administration would rather hire more administrators. Lots of corruption going on, but from what I’ve seen, Common Core is a well-engineered solution to a real problem.

          • Cathy

            Yes the Core is great the testing is a joke and fifty in a classroom is a sin!

        • James Realini

          Really? you are a college professor?
          Your FACEBOOK page indicates you are something else. You should change your avatar if you are going to lie about who you are.

        • slk5

          lets have a contest…10×1,000. i get 10,000…dont tell me your answer, instead tell us how long it took to do a simple one second problem!!!

          • Preston Morimondo

            Let’s have a contest. . .how many of your students can tell you why 10×1,000 is 10,000? How many parents can’t do their kids’ Common Core homework because they can’t transfer concepts from one context to another? In both cases, the numbers would be quite high.

          • slk5

            how long did it take you!!!

          • Preston Morimondo

            For the first, longer than it should have, because I wasn’t taught math through Common Core principles. For the second, instantaneous because I see it every day–mostly from people who have eagles for their avatar or who write things like “We the People” to preface personal statements.

        • Freeeducation

          Preston, quit being a snob and correcting grammer.

          • Preston Morimondo

            I did nothing of the kind. Monique was putting an apostrophe between the “O” and the “B” in “Obama”–apparently as a token of disrespect. I find that childish.

        • FloridaKTeacher

          Wow. I cannot believe I have finally stumbled across someone who was actually a part of developing the standards! And you admit it!

          I am the Kindergarten teacher referenced above. What background did those of you on the committee have in early childhood education or child development? The standards and the way they are assessed are NOT developmentally appropriate. You are skipping foundational education and jumping straight to critical thinking for children whose brain development is not ready for this complex thinking.

          Setting the bar high is not a bad thing, if the standards are attainable by average children of that age. If they are unattainable (as evidenced by the results of Utah’s Common Core testing last year), they are NOT good.

          One of your standards for Kindergarten is:

          Use the most frequently occurring inflections and affixes (e.g., -ed, -s, re-, un-, pre-, -ful, -less) as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word.

          For Pete’s sake, we are teaching them letters and sounds! Your standards have virtually erased Kindergarten and turned it into 1st grade. These are LITTLE CHILDREN we are talking about.

          Let me ask you this? What should be our ultimate goal as educators? You produce good test takers, or to produce responsible and productive members of society?

          How many schools have you visited to see how the standards are working? How many teachers have you spoken to? How diverse of a population have you looked at in seeing how your standards are working out?

          Shame on you. Shame on you for not caring about children and their future. I stand by my actions. I stand by my beliefs that Common Core has dine great damage to our students and education as a whole. What do you stand by?

          Susan Bowles

          • FloridaKTeacher

            Sorry. In my haste, I made some typing errors. Edited:

            Let me ask you this. What should be our ultimate goal as educators? To produce good test takers, or to produce responsible and productive members of society?

            I stand by my beliefs that Common Core has done great damage to our students and education as a whole.

          • FloridaKTeacher

            Nice job trying to back pedal, Preston. The fact of the matter is, elementary students are expected to extrapolate information and respond to text with cognitive skills above their developmental level. Elementary students in math are presented with a myriad of strategies, and are expected to use a specific one on the tests. You have no idea what a mess you have been a part of creating because you don’t know what is going on in the classroom. Stop trying to pass it off that it was someone else’s fault. If you and your committee members were in charge of putting together the best standards to serve our children for a better future, I would have thought you might involve real teachers. Not one early childhood educator or child development expert was involved. And while I do not teach high school, why would you emphasize non-fiction in Language Arts removing opportunities for children to be exposed to great literature? It is a bungled mess which is why it has not been well received.
            Go ahead and continue to defend it. You are the one who has to look yourself in the eyes each morning.
            Susan Bowles

          • Preston Morimondo

            Uhh. . .Susan? Can we stop with the abusive tone? You’re not helping your case by ranting. I helped develop the high school standards because as a college instructor, I know something about exit skills for high school. As I stated, I had nothing to do with the kindergarten standards. I was asked to participate as someone with classroom experience who could evaluate whether I thought the 12th grade exit standards were reasonable.

            As I noted above, there are twenty perfectly fine standards for kindergarten which I would argue are grade level appropriate. I’ll go you one better. Aside from the one you mentioned, which is at best unclear, show me another that is not grade-level appropriate for kindergartners.

            The focus on non-fiction comes as a result of many students being taught by rote what “great literature” means to a given teacher. Too many lacked the ability to analyze it themselves. It’s hoped that non-fiction will help students to understand the implications of lines of reasoning rather than “the right answer.”

            And the “shame” thing? It’s not working. I’m proud of being part of something that may help my college students be able to succeed. The focus on critical thinking skills is much needed.

          • Freeeducation

            Preston it makes absolutely no sense to give up fiction for nonfiction and blame it on the fact that they weren’t taught or they couldn’t analyze it themselves that is a horrible decision it’s throw the baby out with the bathwater kind

          • Preston Morimondo

            No one “gave up fiction.” There is still fiction in the curriculum. The decision was to place additional emphasis on nonfiction. I believe the principle behind this was that it’s easier to see relevance in non-fiction than in fiction. I think if students can’t analyze fiction themselves, it isn’t doing them much good. Learning to analyze the relevance of non-fiction can teach them to see the relevance in fiction.

          • Susan Bowles

            Preston, I think you are being defensive. Or maybe it is the fact you can’t read “tone” in an email. I am not being abusive. However, I would counter that Common Core and high stakes testing is abusive to children. It is for the children that I speak up. They are my top priority. I am still teaching Kindergarten and all of “this” is secondary. For me, the children are always first. I don’t think I have hurt “my case” by anything I have written. You may find this interesting. As much as you want to defend Common Core, there are not many people who are happy with it.


          • Preston Morimondo

            I’ll let you look back over your comment from two days ago to assess the tone. Believe me–I misread nothing.

            Despite your attestations that the kids come first, you haven’t yet pointed out another standard from the Common Core kindergarten standards that is beyond their developmental level.

            I’d correct your final statement to “there are many people who are not happy with it.” I know very many people who teach and who are very much in favor of Common Core.

          • Warthog64

            I’m sorry . . . But the CC$$ is nothing but a money grab by Pearson et al, and tape fact that you are a willing accomplice in the destruction of American Public Schools for profit means you are part of the problem.

          • Preston Morimondo

            There are twenty-two standards on that page. Twenty make clear and obvious sense for a kindergarten class. You chose one of two that aren’t very simple and clearly relevant and presented it as though it’s indicative of all Common Core standards. I worked on the high school curriculum, so I can’t answer to the kindergarten curriculum. My feeling is that kindergarten is being pushed too hard toward academic standards at the cost of non-quantifiable social skills, but it’s not Common Core that’s driving that. That’s been going on for decades.

          • Jackie Conrad
          • Cathy

            I have taught this way for fifteen years before the name Core was ever used. I just always have taught deep to all the standards. I work in the inner city, kids are in high crime and poverty and years behind, high ELL population. These children and now adults are doing well. Many are in medical and law school.

            Deep thinking is not bad. It is the testing that is bad. Kinder does have some strange standards for sure though. If you did not have to worry about all the testing and loss of instructional time you could have deep conversations with the kids. You could also add meaningful literacy activities to what you do already with no worries,much like I used to.

            In your quoted grammar/reading standard is it in SELF reading, writing or in a READ TO discussion that they need to know suffixes and prefixes? Sorry, I do not teach Kinder so meant to ask. If the later, I argue that Many Kinders can do that. However, in reading by themselves that standard needs to be broken down and deconstructed very carefully and completely.

            I remember a few others not developmentally correct, especially with today’s parenting styles and lack of language acquisition in our populace.

        • Warthog64

          Bill Gates . . .CC$$ is his baby! Gates has spent millions in the nine figure range on CC$$.

        • Cathy

          Many are Preston and the Koch Bros are first in line. Your post makes no sense. We want critical thinkers and so taking away CC is helpful? You contradicted yourself there. CC is a great thing. It is the testing one should argue not the deep thinking skills and standards.

          • Preston Morimondo

            I don’t understand your post, Cathy. I assume you’re responding to me, right? I asked about billionaires “implementing” CC, not opposing it. I’ve said nothing about taking CC away. I didn’t contradict myself at all.

        • J. Strauss

          Preston, I don’t know what “designing” you did, but I know this – your name is not listed as a member of the Work Group for Common Core, nor the Feedback Group, nor the Validation Committee. And I know that the creation of the Standards was funded by Bill Gates in response to a visit from David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit. I think Gates qualifies as a “billionaire”. I know that NO practicing classroom teachers were involved in actually writing the standards and that there is no research behind them to show that they would actually work. Anyone who has been involved in any way would know these things.

    • SPW

      States spend an estimated $1.7 billion on the basic costs of standardized tests (according to Education Week) each year. The billionaires who own the testing companies are making a lot of money and are certainly in it for the profits! Keep in mind that the funds being spent on these tests are being taken out of the classroom. We do not have enough money to fund all the advanced level science classes that the students want to take, but have plenty of money for tests that do not inform – or educate. If your fabricated statistics are even close to correct (“half the them at Harvard…can’t tell you who we fought in WWII”) then perhaps it is due to these useless tests consuming valuable instruction time.

      I admit I am not familiar with the California case you discuss – and if what you say is true, it is certainly deplorable and unforgivable. I can assure you that pedophile teachers are as legally accountable for their actions as are pedophile politicians, pedophile lawyers, and pedophile bankers. Regardless of the specifics of the California case, it is not a valid reason to demonize all teachers or deny them due process. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Action). Due process is intended to be used as a tool to fight the excesses of absolute power – to give a fair hearing and ensure justice. If the California case did not reach a just conclusion then the loopholes of the legal system are to blame – not the fact that everyone should be provided a fair hearing.

      As far as your assertion that “unions are gouging the taxpayers” you are misinformed. Teachers support the work of the unions with their own funds, not through the funds of the taxpayers. Teachers unions (like all unions) provide a collective voice during the negotiations of working conditions and contracted expectations. Reforms based on the premise that “unions and teachers are to blame for all the problems in the public education system” – are erroneous, devise, and destructive to the core objectives of public education.

      • Cathy

        Yes, and he claims charters are good then quotes test scores. I can cheat or test prep all year too and get all my students to get 100 percent. They have learned nothing and will not retain the facts on the test, thus what you are seeing now in corporate America.

        Also, parents are not held accountable. 90 percent of my class were more than two years behind grade level when I was transferred in to help provide interventions for a class with teacher shortages. Upon investigating I found out every parent was conferenced with many times over the years, provided supplies and classes to support instruction, given technology, websites and strategies to help their child, and ticketed for numerous and extensive absences. They did absolutely nothing with their child. In fact several of them are illiterate, in jail, and abusive. It is a sad world for children these days. Every year it gets worse. IQ is genetic yet again teachers are blamed. Every teacher I know is a Rock Star! Sadly, most of them are leaving. We will be stuck with unqualified non professionals.

        I also did legal advocacy for years. You will never know the real story behind any of these cases due to legal confidentiality. You will never hear the teachers or the school side of the story due to this confidentiality. Every case I ever worked but one was falsely reported to the media.

    • James Realini

      While I empathize with your perception of the overt liberal indoctrination going at a most US Universities, please review your facts in the other three “examples” you gave.
      1. The fault in the Berendt case is clearly with former (under FBI investigation) Superintendent Deasey who mishandled the investigation into all of the ugly circumstances at Miramonte Elementary School thus allowing Berendt to retain his pension while he serves 25 years in jail. Berendt hired at his own expense the law firm that had been used by the LA Teacher’s Union, it was not the Union defending him. California Law now in effect with the full support of the California Teachers Association now provide administrators with the ability to remove these egregious teachers.
      2. The American Indian Charter Schools are under investigation because their administrator could not account for $3.8 million dollars being redistributed away from the school. The “unions” are not out to remove the Charters, the State government wants the schools run legally.
      3. The OSP in DC was a school voucher program that would take money out of DC public schools in distribute it through these “vouchers” to the very schools the POTUS children were attending. “Vouchers” take money from the children left behind.
      4. The new mayor of NYC is forcing Charter Schools to actually pay the rent at there locations and they do not keep any (mostly African-American) students who fail to improve their test scores. The mayor is trying to put money back into the public schools and out of the hands of the corporate entities pocketing taxpayer dollars under the guise of Administrators salaries (mostly six figure) and “management fees.
      Please Ginny, blame the right people.

      • ginny

        Boy, you’ve really been drinking the union Kool-Aid. Deasy may have mishandled the Berendt case, but his shenanigans were happening long before Deasy was even superintendent. And he was only caught before he was stupid enough to have his pictures (of things like cockroaches on kids’ faces) developed at a regular photo print place. And nobody said the union lawyers defended him — LA Unified paid him a $40K “settlement” (which basically paid for his legal bills), then the union blocked the revised legislation to make it easier and less costly to fire criminal teachers. I don’t know what “CA law” you’re talking about. Please supply specifics because I don’t believe you. (Somehow the lawyers representing the students in the Vergara case don’t either, nor do the ones representing the next one representing teachers that just bypassed the CA legislature and the 9th Circuit court en route to the Supreme Court next year. So I’m sorry — whatever you’ve been told about a new “CA law” is bogus, or written in such a way that it’s meaningless.
        Re: the AICS, they were “under investigation” for bogus reasons too, and have been for years (like why the principal put the schools in a building that he owned….charging him LESS rent than he could’ve gotten from other tenants….and other “conflict of interest” charges that his wife, for instance, was doing their books, and charging the AICS the same or LESS than she was charging other public schools for the same work. Answer this question, James. If the principal was doing anything illegal, WHY WASN’T HE CHARGED WITH A FELONY??? The police investigated at the behest of the board (controlled completely by the unions) and found NO WRONGDOING. It’s the same kind of union bullying that not only led Jaime Escalante (arguably the most gifted teacher this country has ever seen) to quit teaching altogether, but he was so disgusted with the whole situation that he ended up returning to his home country of Bolivia. THESE ARE OUTRAGEOUS ACTIONS, and those who will so harass and punish outrageously successful educators are, in my mind, nothing less than evil. Again, the San Francisco Chronicle (which covered these cases extensively) came down squarely against the unions, also the L.A. Times.
        And your info about NYC/Harlem schools is also wrong. Charter schools are public schools…yet they get LESS MONEY than the failing schools do…..and they want to charge them RENT to locate in VACANT PUBLIC SCHOOLS??? And they do NOT kick out students who don’t keep up their grades — those kids may drop out, but the schools do everything they can to help them keep up.
        So you’re in favor of the taxpayers continuing to pay for FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS….and THE WORSE THEY DO, THE MORE MONEY THEY GET! DO YOU NOT SEE HOW STUPID THAT IS?!
        Do you know that in Sweden and most of Canada that ALL PARENTS GET VOUCHERS from the state that they can USE AT ANY SCHOOL THEY WANT TO? Pro-Choice — what a concept!
        And I don’t suppose you know that ONE UNION – The NEA — spends more money buying and selling legislators, school boards, issues & votes than AT&T, Exxon-Mobil, JP Morgan Chase, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Disney, Walmart, Microsoft and FedEx…
        COMBINED !!! But yeah, it’s those dastardly corporate entities that are the problem. Jeez…!

    • Jay

      Where is your data that Harvard students don’t know the answers to your questions?? Show support and evidence to your point….that is what I teach in my lesson as a teacher! Otherwise, you will get a low grade until you revise.

    • Just sayin

      Unless you are a teacher shut up…

    • Jim Earley

      The estimated market public PK-12 market size is approximately $778 Billion (http://www.thenation.com/article/181762/venture-capitalists-are-poised-disrupt-everything-about-education-market). You can guarantee that the big money is gunning for “reform”, or more appropriately to execute a hostile takeover. It’s already started, and the the only winners in that game will be Wall St. And it will only exacerbate the educational divide between affluent and less affluent kids. The data already clearly show that test scores and student achievement are significantly impacted by poverty.

    • Warthog64

      I didn’t know trolls drank kool-aid.

    • Cathy

      Ummmmm, you do know teachers have kids 2 percent of the time and parent 98%, right? You do know current brain research and what it says, right? The fact that literacy development is cemented before the age of three before teachers even have them, right? You do know it takes up to 700 times of repeat meaningful activity to cement knowledge, right? Meaningful being a key word here. You do know that language levels are practically gone in children these days because of wide spread society changes and technology usage, right? You do know what that means for literacy development, right? You do know that IQ levels are at an all time low and dropping fast, drug usage is widespread, and parenting skills are nonexistent, right? You do know that kids can never catch up when they come to school several years behind grade level, right? You do know that parents threaten to sue the school if they try to discipline their child even if involved in violent behaviors, right? You do know that 95 percent of parents say they do not help or have time for their children’s school success, right? You do know a high amount of children do not live with their parents or are living in poverty, right? You do know it is not the teacher or schools fault right? Okay, just checking.

      Sit down before you hurt yourself. And yes there are billions of dollars to be had in testing and privatizing schools. Not sure where you get your fake facts from. But like I said the dropping IQ levels are apparent in the comments section. Do you tell your surgeon which brain side to stimulate too? How about which McDonalds to sue? Speaking of not getting a good education. It is called research, try it.

    • Mr. Teacher

      You are missing an important point about why charter schools are (sometimes) successful. It’s an illusion, and I am seeing it in my low income district. Parents who are deeply involved in their child’s education are the ones applying for these charter schools, skewing the pool since these students would be successful anyway, because their parents are so involved in their education. This leads to a HUGE education gap, leaving the lower-achieving students (due to lack of parent involvement) all in one school with no high-achieving students as role models to see and emulate, and with a higher percentage of students with behavior problems. The charter schools are destroying our low income areas because of all of these reasons, instead of helping like they say they want to do (when it’s really a money-making and/or political scheme).

  • FrustratedOne

    I tolerated the attacks on the Koch brothers and the attacks on the governors from the right. It is what the left does in any argument. You lost any credibility at the mention of the unarmed teenager from Ferguson.

    • ginny

      Are you a teacher, by any chance?

      • FrustratedOne

        Yes I am

    • NowandthenZen

      If you think everything is “Left” or “Right” – you must be a frustrated one. I worry more about your perspective in teaching from here. When your arguments exaggerate the positions – it produces “Contrast Effect” where people are seen as being one extreme or another. For more info look up “Assimilation – Contrast Effect”. Time to go back to school: http://tinyurl.com/jwnyy4m

      • FrustratedOne

        And yet the individuals cited in this “schooling” are from the right. My post pointed the articles attack on the Koch brothers and Republican governors. My point is that people gloss over the “gentle giant” attacking a police officer and paying the ultimate consequence for his actions. The kids I teach enjoy my perspective. Sucks being you.

        • James Realini

          Ever heard of George Soros?
          It’s always wise to find out where the money comes from before you attack someone.

  • CharlyS

    ONION……In Minnesota, the legislature capitulated to pressure and passed a bill requiring teacher “monitoring and evaluation” in exchange for merit pay (a measly amount of money). It was placed into effect this year and ironically became part of contract negotiations in a local school district last year. This review process involves a pre-evaluation meeting, observation, and pos evaluation meeting. This occurs three times during the school year. The ‘”objectives” to be reached are fuzzy at best and the evaluation outcome is the discretion of the evaluator. I am unaware of any recourse the teacher has in the event of a negative evaluation, which becomes part of the personnel file. The result of this monitoring has had two effects… 1) It has impacted teacher preparedness as teachers have to take time away from normal classroom and prep time in order to prepare for the evaluation. The observation itself is a “false” observation as the “lesson plan” prepared for the observation is prepared to impress the observer.
    2) This tri-annual observation in my opinion, creates an “intimidating and hostile” work environment (which is against federal law). Teachers are totally stressed and intimidated by the process and there is covert and subtle underlying pressure by administration to be subserviant to the evaluator (and the process) and ultimately the administration. There is fear that should one object to the evaluation, the process, or the evaluator, there could be negative consequences. The children in the classroom become part of this evaluation be cause the teacher is evaluated on how “how the class” responds to this intrusive evaluation procedure. Naturally the teacher wants the children to behave during the observation. How this is achieved is I’m sure, as varied as the teacher. None the less, it still adds to the stress felt by all during the evaluation process. I wonder if there is a lawyer who could evaluate the legality of this intimidating and hostile evaluation process, and file a class action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the teachers of Minnesota (this really is the job of the teachers union, Education Minnesota)!

    Most “job evaluations” or “reviews” in other jobs occur once a year, not three times in nine months. There are studies done that indicate such ‘job reviews” are inaccurate, subject to the “evaluatior’s” prejudice and whim, and as such, are worthless in assessing the worth and effectiveness of the employee. Unfortunately, here in Minnesota, the law requiring this evaluation process is 20 years behind the times.

    • Katie

      Whoever came up with the idea of “merit pay” is crazy. There is incredible subjectiveness & of course, the perennial “favoritism”, which runs rampant in public schools. I experienced it first-hand, throughout a lifelong career. In addition, there are a multitude of factors that are completely out of the hands of teachers- student motivation, family issues, behavior issues….. Merit pay is a joke!

      • ginny

        Why, then, when Michelle Rhee in D.C. offered the teachers there $120,000/year (and all they had to do was give up tenure…in other words, they had to be teachers that were recognized as “competent” in one of the worst-performing schools districts in the country for which us taxpayers are coughing up $28,000/year per student), the union wouldn’t even take that deal to their members. The ONLY teachers who need the union are bad, criminal or unqualified teachers…and that’s only about 5-10% of them, but they do a LOT of damage to millions of kids every years. And every teacher in every school knows who the stinkers are, and who the gifted ones are that should be mentoring everybody else. (And btw, bad principals are a problem too — we need to get rid of the “dance of the lemons” that was talked about in “WAITING FOR SUPERMAN.”)

        • Ollie Casey

          You are so deep in the wrong kool-aid . . . Every employee, public or private, needs the advocacy and support of a union. Do you think that any business actually looks out for the rights and safety of their employees? And you understand that ‘tenure’ you sneer at is actually due process protection? Would YOU give up your right to due process? Do you know anything about the history of labor in the world? Do you value your free speech? Oh, yeah. Seems that is something you do value . . . for yourself.

          • ginny

            Gee, I guess FDR (that right-wing wacko) was wrong when he unequivocally stated that public employees should never be unionized because they will end up sitting across the negotiating table with politicians put in place by the unions and have no one representing the taxpayer. Which is exactly the situation we have now, where the taxpayer in CA, where I live, is being hosed not only by being forced to pay half our taxes to support a system that is by every measure failing (despite having among the highest paid teachers in the country) — we’re 2nd from the bottom in math and science scores, just ahead of Mississippi), and out of 330,000 teachers in, you want to know how many we got to get rid of last year? Two. TWO! We couldn’t even fire the monster who taught 7=year-old Hispanics for 30 years and did things like lock the door, tie up and blindfold them and feed them cookies with his semen on them (Mark Berendt — Google him!) We had to pay him $40K, and his pension for life…on top of the taxpayers in Los Angeles (which is bankrupt) paying $169,000,000 — that’s $160 million for those of you who went to public school — to the families of his victims. A bill to make it a little bit shorter than 3-5 years and a little less expensive than $3-600,000 to fire CRIMINAL teachers (forget about incompetents) was not even allowed out of the union-owned ed committee to be voted on. That other right-wing rag, The San Francisco Chronicle, called it “shameful.” And the Democrat judge who ruled earlier this year that teacher tenure, seniority and those draconian dismissal statues was UNCONSTITUTIONAL, wrote that the evidence was “a shock to the conscience.” (Vergara vs. the State of CA).
            I could give you dozens of other equally dramatic and depressing examples, but it’s obvious who’s drinking the Kool-Aid. You’re pathetic, ignorant and arrogant…and altogether too common a voice in this area.

          • slk5

            cals main problem is funds that “were” earmarked for educ, went to house, feed, cloth, healthcare, and incarcerate among others, to undocumented liberal socialists!!! i don’t know exactly how much cal spends, but az spends over 2 billion a year, with funds that were to go to educ, police, fire, health etc!!! every penny spent on illegals, came from something important to the citizens!!!

          • slk5

            the teachers union only benefits students by accident!!! having been a bus driver for my last 30 years before retiring, i got to know many teachers, and principals!!! most follow the union blindly!!! and even though many are conservative people, they vote liberal socialist, as to not rock the boat!!! you can pinpoint the decline of American educ, with the start of the dept of educ, and teachers union!!! schools will not get better, until “students” come first!!!

        • James Realini

          And where is Kevin Johnson’s (Mayor of Sacramento) wife now?

          Michelle Rhee was a disaster even as she quits her most recent job:

          “…In the last week(sic) or so, Michelle Rhee stepped down from StudentsFirst, an education reform organization that she founded four years ago. During her tenure at StudentsFirst, and before then, Rhee meticulously crafted her image as a firebrand who intended to shake up education in the country. Although most of the coverage of Rhee and her departure has focused on her education theatrics, her remarks on the issue of child poverty have been far more troubling.

          In debates about education reform, one very common pattern of arguments has emerged. Education reformers like Rhee jump into the forum and confidently proclaim that poor students are failing to acquire good educations because of bad schools and bad teachers. Then, those who actually know things about child poverty respond that poverty, by itself, is a massive impediment to educational attainment because of its damaging effects on human functioning….”

        • AlwayslearninginPayette

          Ginny, are you kidding? Everyone needs a union.
          I taught in Idaho for 30 years. After 27 in one district, I caught the superintendent sending false reports to the state department of education. When I attempted to turn him in, I was placed on administrative leave for seven months, fired without due process and eventually I had to sue the district in federal court.
          I won, but I wouldn’t have been able to do so if it hadn’t been for the Idaho Education Association.
          Know This! I had done nothing wrong. It didn’t have to with my teaching skills or lack thereof. It had to do with a dishonest administrator and a crooked school board.
          Feel free to tell me how I was incompetent.

          • ginny

            Though I appreciate your many years of teaching (I don’t doubt for a minute that you were competent) and telling about your own experiences, #1) you won’t find me defending bad, corrupt and incompetent principals and administrators either (“the dance of the lemons”.) Both bad teachers and bad principals and adminstrators should find another line of work )or, in your case, be fired.) #2, please don’t base your entire viewpoint of teachers unions on your own individual experiences. Yes, they have helped some good teachers….but the vast majority of the teachers they defend are bad, even criminal ones. Keeping those people in the classroom is despicable — they hurt millions of students every year, and the most vulnerable ones usually get the worst teachers in the worst schools. #3) You could’ve gotten representation elsewhere; the unions aren’t the only ones providing it, or insurance, or any other other benefits you prize. But lifetime tenure after actually teaching less than two years, regardless of competence, is totally unjustifiable. Where else in the world can you get that kind of job security absent competence on the job….and what other profession can hurt so many vulnerable children? It is racist and elitist to deny poor and minority children opportunities to escape failing schools and bad teachers. The vast majority of them are fine, only 5%-10% are bad….but they do a great deal of damage year after year, not only to students, but their parents and beleaguered taxpayers as well. FDR (no right-wing wacko) understood this many decades ago, when he said that public employees should NEVER be able to unionize, because they would put the legislators in place that they would be facing across the negotiating table, and NOBODY would be representing the poor taxpayers. He was right then, and he’s right now. And we’re seeing the tragic results of it.

      • Dr. Philip Shapiro

        Katie, stop whining. Merit Pay works quite well in the private sector and while there are issues aplenty for teachers, a healthy dose of private sector influence would be beneficial. If you truly want to improve public schools, then work to diminish the teachers’ unions.

        • AlwayslearninginPayette

          Astounding. Merit pay, which is what too many CEOs receive for driving a company into a tree, doesn’t actually work. It actually drives wedges between workers and makes them less cooperative.
          I have been on both sides. I worked as a frozen food hourly for a dozen years. I have worked as a public school teacher for thirty-three years. Very little from the private sector will improve education.
          Factually, I can’t think of a single private sector idea that would improve student performance or teacher performance. It is foolishness to say there is.

        • Marilyn

          How do you decide who is a meritorious teacher? Test scores won’t do it despite some who want to base teacher evaluations on them. I have taught both honors/AP classes as well as remedial classes. The honors class students will do well even if the teacher does nothing because they are bright and most are motivated. The teacher of the remedial classes may work very hard but the retention for test day may just not be there. Sometimes the worth of a teacher may be seen only in retrospect as a student matures and realizes how much he or she learned. The bad ones are easier to detect and they can be fired, even if they are tenured. The unions are needed to counteract the arbitrary firing for unjustified reasons (sometimes of excellent teachers). Teachers do not hire other teachers and neither do they have the power to fire the bad ones. So they should not be blamed for the fact that there are some bad teachers just as there are incompetent doctors, lawyers, or any other profession. Actually teachers are glad to see the bad ones weeded out because they give all teachers a bad name in the eyes of some people.

        • Amy

          I’m confused. How does merit pay actually work? some teachers are working in a self contained classroom, some inclusion, some mainstream, some gifted and talented. You also have specials teachers and k-2 who do not take state tests. How do you decide who gets it and how???

  • Michelle Ortega

    In general I think this is a good list, and I appreciate the good work you do. However, the description of Ferguson action as “riots” and “chaos” is unsympathetic to an important movement opposing police killings, a movement which has much impact on the lives of the children you are discussing and which is supported by many teachers. I don’t think that context comes through in this decryption. #BlackLivesMatter

    • Kizar_Sozay

      I too think it was a good list. All that was lacking was switching the onions and apples to where they should be.

  • Bilgewater

    How could the list of governors miss Indiana Governor Mike Pence? That ____ (insert your own invective here) wants to strip the lawful powers of Democratic Indiana Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who out-polled Pence in the election of 2012.

  • Val E. Forge

    One of the best school reforms in the world would be to let those teachers who wish to videotape their classrooms do so. I know of one teacher who did it for 12 years until administration threatened his job to take it down. He had a running bet with any administrator, parent or student who ever questioned what he said happened in his room. He had no takers. Unions (and administrators) don’t like video cameras for the same reason big city police chiefs don’t like citizens with concealed weapons permits; if we can solve our own problems, why keep them on the payroll. Ineffective authority hates and mercilessly punishes any amateur practicing without a license who shows them up with methods other than their own.

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  • Judi Dunham

    The Illinois Education Assn deserves the Onion Award for endorsing Kirk Dillard in the primary election, thus helping Bruce Rauner become our next governor!

  • Bob

    Warren is a loud mouth who hates everything that has to do with money, except for the hundreds of thousands she earned at Harvard. God help the country if she runs for national office: clueless and wants to give away every taxpayers’ money

  • “GO PUBLIC: A Day in the Life of an American School District” is a documentary film project that provides a cinéma vérité window into the world of public education, the dedication of those involved, the myriad of opportunities available and the complexity of effectively serving the needs of ALL students. With the “onions” efforts to undermine public education, we felt a sense of urgency to capture what really goes on in a typical day in public school, to replace fiction with fact and perception with reality.
    50 filmmakers followed 50 subjects – administrators, teachers, students, support staff and volunteers – as they navigate a typical day in a socio-economically diverse urban school district. These 50 filmmakers capture an authentic picture of public education – the care, compassion and commitment of those charged with educating our children, the teamwork it takes from a variety of stakeholders, the challenge of limited and dwindling resources and the textured richness and value of students from all walks of life coming together to learn in this place we call public school. GO PUBLIC, simply by capturing what truly goes on in a typical day, is ultimately a celebration of public education and encourages viewers to become informed and compassionate advocates for their community public schools.

    All the “onions” on this list should watch “GO PUBLIC: A Day in the Life of an American School District” and reevaluate their misguided “reform” efforts.

  • James Realini

    Yes, the VIII one. Bearing false witness.

    • Preston Morimondo

      You catch on quick.

  • Ersilia

    Since I retired, I am so glad I don’t have to pay dues to your organization anymore. I wish I could have back the thousands that I was forced to fork over to you. Your awards are typical of an organization bought and paid for by the far left. You demonize the Koch brothers when Bill and Melinda Gates gobble up the education funds with their ownership of Pearson Publishing (PARCC assessments). I can only hope the members finally revolt and stop buying what you are selling. Free at last, thank God Almighty I am free at last!

  • Warthog64

    Something for the willingly ignorant who don’t recognize CC$$ is about $$$$ . . . .


  • Mr. Teacher

    Charter school “success” is an illusion, and I am seeing it in my low income district. Parents who are deeply involved in their child’s education are the ones applying for these charter schools, skewing the pool since these students would be successful anyway, because their parents are so involved in their education. This leads to a HUGE education gap, leaving the lower-achieving students (due to lack of parent involvement) all in one school with no high-achieving students as role models to see and emulate, and with a higher percentage of students with behavior problems. The charter schools are destroying our low income areas because of all of these reasons, instead of helping like they say they want to do (when it’s really a money-making and/or political scheme).

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  • Bartown Peters

    What about New York’s Andrew Cuomo? He’s rotten onion for holding New York’s Education budgets hostage in liew of the dismanteling of tenure, and a brutal APPR system.