Friday, March 31, 2017

Whatever Party They Represent, Charter Supporters Love Tests

As many of us having been warning for many years, support for charter schools crosses party lines. This is not only true in New York State where Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Senator John Flanagan take huge contributions from the charter school industry, it is true nationally, where President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy Devos are at least as strong a supporter of charter schools as was Barack Obama and Arne Duncan.
Those seeking to protect their children from nationally aligned tests and a curriculum that turns instruction into little more test prep are getting no relief from the new administration. in fact, there is going to be more, not less support for charter schools from this administration. Since the best funded and most powerful charter chains are huge supporters of national testing and the rating of schools and teachers on the basis of student test scores. we are likely to see even more testing.
Nowhere is this more apparent in New York State where the largest and best funded charter school chain, Success Academies, just issued an edict saying that no child in their schools is allowed to opt out of state tests. And this makes perfect sense when you realize that Success Academy's campaign to raise the charter cap is all based on the higher test scores its schools get than neighboring public schools.
So here is something that every parent in New York State and around the country needs to realize- every time someone asks elected officials to support charter schools, it means that testing will become MORE important and oppressive, not only in the new schools created, but in all the public schools forced to compete with them to keep their funding.
Those parents who want instruction for their children free from government mandates informing instruction need to realize that their children's freedom will be constricted, not expanded, if more charters are created. And that testing will become increasingly entrenched in our educational system, at the expense not only of our children's learning, but their freedom to actually enjoy their childhood.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Link Between Broken Windows Policing and Deportation:

Of all the new information presented during last nights forum on Defending Bronx Communities at Fordham University, what I found most disturbing was the revelation of how the DeBlasio Administration's imposition of "Broken Windows" policing- arrests for minor offenses such as jaywalking, drinking in public and jumping over turnstiles- has led to deportation of many undocumented immigrants.

Apparently, all arrests for misdemeanors are automatically recorded in all national law enforcement data bases including those of the FBI and Homeland Security and if the person arrested is undocumented, can trigger deportation proceedings

The head of the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women, Zeinab Eyega, gave a chilling example of how this could work. One of the families her organization worked with consisted of a woman from Chad and her teenage sons living in a shelter after they escaped a domestic violence situation. Although the shelter was in the Bronx, her two sons attended school in Queens One day, one of her sons lost his metro card and had no way to get home. So he decided to jump over the turnstile at the subway station nearest his school There he was arrested and taken to the local police station, where the mother was told she needed $150 dollars to get him released. The mother didn't have the money and the Sauti Yetu Center had to give it to her. But that wasn't the worst outcome. Six month later, Homeland Security began deportation proceedings against her son for committing a crime while having undocumented status and at age 17, he was deported back to Chad, by himself. To this say, Sauti Yetu lawyers have been unable to arrange for his return.

This story is horrible in many respects. First, that Homeland Security would start deportation proceedings against a teenage boy, separating him from his family. But second, that an official policy of the NYPD, overwhelming targeting youth of color, would put large numbers of undocumented immigrants at risk

There are many, many others features of "Broken windows policing" which are questionable, including its contribution to gentrification of neighborhoods, but its role in facilitating deportations suggest that the practice is so morally compromised that it needs to be ended, or at least modified so that none of the arrests lead to more than a traffic ticket.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Four Reasons I Defend The Opt Out Movement

1. It defends the integrity of childhood against those who would seek to standardize and routinize instruction so that creativity, spontaneity and play are excised from our classrooms, preparing children to be obedient and submissive employees when they enter the workforce or fodder for the prison industrial complex.
2.. It denies the data to those seeking to privatize education and undermine the teaching profession by using computerized learning as a substitute for the mentoring, relationship building, and creative thinking that real teaching involves.
3. It unites people across lines of race, region, religion and political ideology the way NO OTHER MOVEMENT IN OUR NATION DOES, in a common defense of children's right to learn, and teachers right to teach.
4. It calls attention to the misuse of test data to close schools in high poverty communities which are true community spaces and who refuse to sacrifice everything in their building to the production of high test scores.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why Children Need After School Programs: A Message To Donald Trump

Clearly Donald Trump didn't grow up in a neighborhood where after school programs were a life line for children. I did. Many of us needed a safe space not only to get away from tough kids and bullies, but our own parents. My parents, though they were hardworking people who had troubles of their own, rarely had a kind word to say to me and often hit me when they got frustrated with my rebellious personality. Having a place where I could shoot baskets or play nok-hockey or just know that I wasn't going to be yelled at was a God send. i spent countless hours in the after school program and night center at PS 91 in Crown Heights. And i clearly wasn't the only one because those places were always packed.
It was the same way in the Bronx. If you read the Arthur Crier and Howie Evans narratives in "Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930's-1960's," you will see how the after school programs and night centers of the Bronx not only saved lives of children who lived in gang ridden neighborhoods, they launched many careers in music and sports.
The mentoring young people received in those programs was as priceless as the safe spaces they provided. You find a successful person who grew up in a poor or working class neighborhood, likely as not you are going to find an after school mentor played an important role in their success.
Taking away after school programs from children is a crime.It was done once in my lifetime during the 1970's fiscal crisis in New York and now Donald Trump wants to do it again. For shame! Our children deserve room to grow, to relax and to feel safe and find adult mentors to protect them, nurture them and inspire them.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Without Immigrants, NYC's Economy Would Grind to a Halt

You cannot launch a program of mass deportations without totally destabilizing the New York economy. First of all, the business districts of many outer borough working class communities almost totally dependent on immigrant run enterprises In New York, there are at least ten times as many bodegas, pizza parlors and Chinese take out spots- almost all immigrant owned and operated- as there are fast food restaurants. They supply the food for the workers of "the city that never sleeps" not McDonalds and Burger King.

Secondly, the taxi and car services that EVERYONE in NY, especially its wealthier residents depend on to take them to and from airports, the theater and restaurants, and in many cases work, all are driven or operated by immigrants. This is true of Uber, Lyft and neighborhood car services as well as of yellow and green cabs. If you ever REALLY had a "day without immigrants" in NYC, the city would grind to a halt, literally.
And finally, we have child care
. The vast majority of child care workers and nannies hired by middle class and wealthy New Yorkers are immigrants. Should THEY stay home, their would be collective hysteria in a significant portion of the city's two income, high end families

In all of the areas I indicated, the immigration status of those working varies markedly, and includes significant portions of undocumented people . If you terrorize them, and create panic in their ranks, the entire city will pay the price of such a misguided and inhumane policy

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Tribute to Teachers

Here's to all the teachers:

Who feed kids who need food
Clothe children who need clothing
Hug children who need hugs
Love children who need love
Respect children no one respects
Listen to children no one hears 

In a country where cruelty and indifference are too often glorified, you are the nation's moral compass and its true heroes

Monday, March 6, 2017

Immigration Control Through Intimidation: Deportations The Trump Way

It is not clear the ICE is deporting more people under Trump than it was under Obama. What is changed is who they are deporting and how. In a number highly publicized incidents that are now too numerous to be accidents, the Trump ICE is going after people who have committed no violent crimes, who are part of families well.established in local communities, and doing so with "shock and awe" tactics that spread fear among immigrants of color. The goal seems to be to create such fear that immigrants of color will chose to go home, or will cancel their plans to come to the US.I call this strategy "Immigration Control Through Intimidation." It has pitted neighbor against neighbor, traumatized tens of millions of people and made many others wonder what kind of country they are living in. Any policy whose conscious goal is to create fear in large number of vulnerable people deeply compromises the society which chooses to implement it.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Why Fighting for Schools and Fighting for Immigrants is the Same Battle

If my stance as a fierce defender of immigrant rights loses me some friends I acquired fighting Obama Administration education policies, so be it. To me, the two issues are inseparable. You cannot fight to defend the public schools of the Bronx without defending their students, many of whose families are recent immigrants from West Africa, the Dominican Republic, South Asia, Mexico, the West Indies and Eastern Europe. Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to 150 brilliant high school students from the Bronx who reflected the vitality that immigration has infused into Bronx schools and neighborhoods. They represent a future of our country that some want to deny, or curtail. I will fight for them with every ounce of energy I have, just as I fought to protect the hardworking teachers and staff in the public of the Bronx from unfair attacks.
Anyone who seeks to demoralize, intimidate and destroy the dreams of the immigrant students of the Bronx will have to go through me. The way I see it, fighting for their future is fighting for everyone's future

Friday, March 3, 2017

Where the Music Came From: Mourning the Loss of Great Music Programs in Our Public Schools

Just had a thought. So much of the amazing music we had in the 50's and 60's- whether it was the beautiful harmonies of doo wop singers, the girl groups and the Beach Boys; the incredible horn and guitar playing of soul and funk musicians like Sly and the Family stone and the Famous Flames, or the supremely talented back up musicians at Motown and Stax Records, was a product of great music programs in the nation's public schools after World War II. There were bands, orchestras and choruses, all taught by trained music teachers, and talent shows and musicals, and in NYC, great original student written shows called "Sing." Great musicians and great singers were being turned out all over the country by the thousands and tens of thousands.
Today, especially in our cities, especially in our poor communities, many of those music programs have been shut down. And an appreciation for harmonic singing and instrumental musical performance seems to have dissipated.
Yes, there are electronic substitutes and all those sounds can be replicated synthetically. But there is nothing like live music to lift the spirits, whether you play it or listen to it, and those skills, unfortunately, are no longer being nurtured and cultivated in our schools to the degree they were fifty and sixty years ago.