Every Child Deserves a Great Education

Archive for March, 2010

Florida Destroys the Teaching Profession 0

Posted on March 29, 2010 by dmayer

The Florida legislature has decided to throw the teaching profession under the bus with Senate Bill 6.

Florida legislates “low-coursework” or “no-coursework” teachers for its students.

I”ve decided to start every letter to you with a simple reminder: your proposed education reform is all about denial of civil rights and racism. Why you, our first minority President, would want to promote such an agenda is beyond my comprehension. Here are a couple of simple facts that should cause you to rethink education reform championed by Bill Gates, Eli Broad (rhymes with toad), the Walton,” the Dells and other of America”s multi-billionaires.

  • Research shows that the reading and math test scores of students taught by these “low-coursework teachers” actually declined from fall to spring of their first teaching year
  • Students who receive three ineffective teachers in a row may achieve at levels that are as much as 50 percentile points lower than students who receive three highly effective teachers in a row. (The Flat World and Education, Linda Darling-Hammond, Teachers College Press, 2010,” p. 46-49)

Think about that for a minute. If a child gets three ineffective teachers in a row, she can lose as many as 50 percentile points on a standardized test. She can”t make that up. Yet, that”s what Florida wants for its students. Here are the guts of the 61 page bill from FEA – Florida Teachers Express Opposition to Senate Bill:

• Decrease the ability of local school boards and school districts to make a wide array of decisions having an impact on local schools and replacing them with a one-size-fits-all approach mandated from Tallahassee.

• Require that all teachers be retained, certified and compensated based on student test scores on standardized tests — not years of experience or degrees held.

• Penalize school districts that even consider length of service or degrees held when determining compensation or reductions in force.

• Order that teachers be issued probationary contracts for up to five years; then an annual contract every year after that … eliminating due process.

• Mandate more standardized testing for students (end of course exams for all subjects) and for teachers (additional certification requirements).

• Exclude the salary schedule as a subject of collective bargaining. The state will decide what categories of differentiated pay will be provided for.

• The state will have a much greater hand in appraisals.

• Abolish an effective and popular program that rewards those who become National Board Certified Teachers, a rigorous national program that awards certification after a yearlong, independent review of a teacher’s work in the classroom and knowledge of their field.

Why isn”t the legislature making similar law for people in other professions? What happened to the philosophy of less government, Republican legislators? This is nothing short of the state micromanaging an entire profession to lower the amount of money spent on education. It has nothing to do with closing the achievement gap or raising graduation rates as legislators claim. The state wants to give poor and minority children cheap, sub-standard teachers period.

Even with its bold legislative initiatives, Florida did not qualify for today”s first round Race to the Top funding. For the moment, it seems the legislature seems to have sold out its teachers and students for nothing.

To support Florida teachers, become a fan of Florida Teachers Against Pay-For-Performance Salary/ Pay Scales


An Open Letter to President Obama 0

Posted on March 11, 2010 by dmayer

Dear President Obama,

From your speech last week on health care we all learned that you read letters from citizens in trouble. I”m writing this letter to you about my education concerns. Our public schools are in trouble and your current education policy only makes problems worse.

First, I”ll tell you a little about myself. My name is Deb Mayer, and I have become known as the peace teacher. I was fired from my teaching job in Bloomington, Indiana when I made a statement in support of peace before the war in Iraq began over seven years ago. I was doing everything the right way, using materials provided by the school and teaching the topic I was assigned to teach: Iraq. At that time there was much controversy over whether or not the United States should go to war. When a student asked if I favored war or peace, I answered his question honestly, saying that when I pass by the court house square, where the demonstrators gather, I honk for peace because they have signs that say Honk for Peace. I said these four little words, “I honk for peace” and for that I lost my job. When angry parents complained and demanded that I be fired, I was.

I was blacklisted by the school, and when I could no longer find employment, I sued the school for violation of my first amendment right of free speech and wrongful termination. According to the law, in order to prevail, I had to prove two things: first, that I was teaching the curriculum and second, that I was speaking on a matter of public concern. The school responded initially by saying that the war in Iraq was not a matter of public concern — I”m not making this up.

In district court Judge Sarah Evans Barker of Indiana ruled flatly that teachers have no right of free speech. I knew the landmark decision of Tinker v. Des Moines upheld that “Neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” So, I appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of appeals in Chicago. Even though that court ruled that I was fired for my speech in Mayer v. Monroe County Community School Corporation, neoconservative Judge Easterbrook ruled that “a teacher”s speech is a commodity she sells to the school in exchange for a salary.” In other words, my rights had not been violated because I had no rights, only a commodity to sell to my employer. Because I stood up for my rights, teachers in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin lost their right of free speech. So, I appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States asking them, in my attorney”s eloquent legalese, to decide whether the state you live in determines whether free speech is a right or a commodity. The high court declined to hear my case. In refusing, the court gave tacit approval to the lower court ruling. Except for the San Francisco Chronicle here and here, the major media never reported the story. People should know when they lose their freedom. So, as far as most people know, Tinker still prevails. Most universities still teach it, as a matter of public school law, as the landmark decision protecting the free speech rights of students and teachers. Why is that? Isn”t the Constitution meant to protect all citizens? I chalk it up to just one more abuse of the Constitution during the Bush administration, but I had hoped when you became President, Mr. Obama, you might do something to remedy the situation.

My attorney says this court will most likely never rule on the issue, that it will only act to narrow free speech (except for corporations). I had hoped that if I worked hard on your campaign, and you and Democrats held a majority in our government, that either you in the executive branch or Congress in the legislative branch could rectify the abuse of the judicial branch regarding free speech rights at school. That hope has all but vanished because you seem to be continuing the destructive policies of the Bush administration in adhering to No Child Left Behind and deferring to the very rich in making decisions about education.

It wasn”t clear to me at the time of the court”s ruling in 2007, but now I can see how the decision supports the movement that seeks to privatize our public schools — to consider our teachers as human capital and their rights as commodities to be sold to the lowest bidder. The court favors a capitalist society and over a democracy. Many have referred to the evolution in education as The Quiet Revolution, meaning that while we”re not paying attention, the very rich are making strides to over time make our public schools private. I can”t stand by idly and watch as this revolutionary reform takes place, so I intend to write to you with a CC to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about some real education concerns from a teacher”s point of view.

I was recently moved by the story of Brooksley Born and how she was alarmed by the lack of oversight of the secretive, multitrillion-dollar over-the-counter derivatives market, how she worked so hard to warn us about the impending financial crisis, and how she ran into fierce resistance at every turn. Our leaders should have listened to her. She was the expert. I can see the same thing happening in education. Leaders should listen to educators.

Although I have been unemployed for most of the past seven years due to my stance, I am still an expert educator. So, I”m writing to you to make sure that you know some of our concerns. This is only the first in a series of letters that I intend to write to you about my education concerns. I hope you read them and consider what teachers like me have to say.


Deborah Mayer

National Day of Action at PSU — A Photo Essay 0

Posted on March 04, 2010 by dmayer

‘Students, workers, teachers, parents, and their organizations across the nation massively mobilized and organized for a National Day of Action today, March 4, 2010. Below are some of the demands made by students at Portland State University (PSU) and other universities across the country.

Students at Portland State University rallied, paraded, and protested. The Day of Action was endorsed by the Associated Students of Portland State University, International Socialist Organization, Jobs with Justice, Pan American Solidarity Organization, Students for Unity, and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights.

Taking their demands to the street, Vikings made some noise.

Chanting: “They say, Cutbacks. We say, FIGHT BACK!”

Chanting: “They say, Privatize. We say, ORGANIZE!”

I can”t imagine being a college student today. I was a child of the sixties and in college during the Viet Nam war and that was confusing enough. Today the corporate greed, seemingly endless war, and in-your-face takeover of everything by the super rich seems too much to bear. I was proud to join college students at PSU and all those who care about education take a stand today.

Chanting: “Whose university? OUR UNIVERSITY!”

Students crowded the hallways outside the office of the University President and stood silently as a letter of demands was read by a student leader. A partial listing follows:

1. Restore and expand funding for education to provide jobs, education,
health care and social services for all.

2. We demand that funding comes from taxing the rich, divesting from War
and the Prison Industrial Complex.

3. We demand that a livable wage be paid to all workers, alongside with an
end to ALL budget cuts and the privatization of our schools.

Students exited the building respectfully, peaceably chanting:

“Whose university? OUR UNIVERSITY!”

“Whose university? OUR UNIVERSITY!”

“Whose university? OUR UNIVERSITY!”