Monday, November 28, 2016

Indomitable Drumpf

He attacked immigrants
         and won.

He attacked women

         and won.

He attacked the disabled 

         and won.

He attacked veterans

         and won.

He attacked the Truth
         and won.

Who's next?

Who's left?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Donald Trump Sics his Children on Public Education

Ivanka Trump with Eva "I'm not a Republican" Moskowitz

President Donald Trump's arrival on January 20 brings with it, among other toxins, an unprecedented threat to middle-class workers across the nation. For one, Trump supports a national right-to-work law, meant to strip unions of funding and give them less political clout than a Cub Scout. Even if an anti-worker bill somehow dies in a Republican-controlled congress, Trump's appointee to the Supreme Court will take care of those cases meant to crown corporatists and crush unions. They're coming for your pension and there's nothing you can do about it.

Topping the target are public school teachers, whose union was an early and adamant endorser of Hillary Clinton. Like his Queens cousin Governor Andy Cuomo, Trump traces the ills of the inner cities to the infamous and elusive "education bureaucracy", otherwise known as the people who dedicate their lives to children (see public school teachers). While what Trump utters about education has about as much nuance as an orangutan's ass, Trump's trust fund children are primed for a pet project, and both Ivanka and Don Jr. have demonstrated a desire to drive our schools into a ditch.

Take Don Jr.'s recent ramblings at the Republican National Convention, for instance, where he compared schools to department stores that somehow only benefit adults:

Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class. Now they are stalled on the ground floor. They're like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students.                                                                                                                    -Donald Trump Jr.
Tortured metaphors aside, everyone knows that students must take the stairs in order to truly benefit from public education, as we get back only what we put in.  

On the other hand, Don Jr.'s been riding his daddy's gold-plated elevators since birth, which he believes justifies the sanctimony he spews at schools, and can claim the moral high ground only because he lives in a taller building than the rest of us. 

When she's not entertaining the Japanese prime minister, Don Jr.'s little sister Ivanka is visiting with the likes of Eva Moskowitz, the New York City charter school profiteer who'd like to go national. Though Moskowitz refused to become Trump's Secretary of Education because she's a Democrat, after all, Trump's plans to privatize education evidently have nothing to do with party affiliation so Eva's all-in. Nevermind that Moskowitz's schools would make a segregationist blush and treat teachers and kids like cogs in the college and career machine. It seems Ivanka saw into Eva's soul during their first meeting at Trump Tower and vowed to wield all the power of her gold throne to undermine public schools.

And it's precisely the prospect of Donald Trump's unelected offspring pulling the strings on issues like education while simultaneously building his business which threatens the Republic.

How long, for instance, before the grand opening of Trump Charter School, or the grand re-opening of Trump University, fully-funded by the feds? It's probably sooner than we think.  If anything, Eva Moskowitz will make a lot of money in the next few years.

Those voters hopeful that Trump would "get rid of Common Core" and "restore local control" should realize that Donald Trump knows as much about education as, yes, an orangutan's ass. What Trump does know however is that there's money to be made, and public education seems a safer bet than his casinos. Trump has therefore summoned his kids, northeastern neoliberal asstards in search of something bigger than themselves.

The oligarchs have landed and it won't be pretty, for public education or anything else. It will be up to the enlightened to push truth in a post-truth world, to denounce and destroy the graft and greed. The whole world is waiting and watching.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Weingarten Threatens Nurses for Backing Bernie

Rhonda "Randi" Weingarten 

It was only a matter of time before Wikileaks uprooted more evidence of Democrats eating their own. 

The latest is an email from Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), sent to Hillary Clinton hatchet man John Podesta. The email reveals Weingarten's antipathy toward the National Nurses Union (NNU) in the months following their endorsement of Bernie Sanders for president:

Though it's unclear exactly how the AFT slapped the NNU for there their support of Sanders--the implication of the email is clear--an attack on Hillary is an attack on the AFT. And Weingarten's royal "we" sadly implicates all educators in her threat, even the Donald Trump supporters. Members of each union will have to battle it out while Weingarten and Clinton take as many pantsuit selfies as possible. Bernie can go back to Vermont and eat some ice cream. 

The questions surrounding Wikileaks ask themselves, and could easily fill three more debates (save for Trump's sniffling, of course). For example, will we soon find out exactly how pissed Clinton was about the NNU's "sanctimonious" support of Sanders? Pissed enough, apparently, to make Weingarten "go after" nurses? While there's no evidence that either Podesta or Clinton compelled Weingarten's threat, a union leader's loyalty must always default to the workers and not elite politicians. Congratulations to the nurses and their sanctimony for Sanders; Weingarten should realize that we are stronger together only when dissident voices are embraced and not assailed.  

Ultimately, as Sanders said, nobody cares about Hillary's damn emails. Not with Trump in the race. Unless Wikileaks releases an email with a video that shows Clinton chopping off a puppy's head, the boorish and bumbling Trump makes Hillary seem infallible. Trump has been the perfect foil to accentuate and elevate the first woman into the White House, regardless of her serious flaws and failings.    

However, democracy demands the vetting of leaders both during and especially before their terms. As fellow blogger Norm Scott recently wrote, "Let's not throw away democracy in the rush to trash everything Trump and excuse everything Clinton." Indeed, there's almost as much to excuse about Clinton as there is to trash about Trump.    

Weingarten's Wikileaks email is a glimpse of a game most will never get a ticket for. Unfortunately, in this case, the game is most dangerous for union members, since it's using them as prey for a political career.

Will President Hillary continue playing this game in the White House?

Maybe someone should ask her.   

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cuomo Names Mulgrew President of NYSUT (Updated)

Cuomo and Mulgrew: Together Again

New York Governor Andy Cuomo recently emerged at a Queens high school to name Michael Mulgrew the new president of NYSUT, the statewide teachers union. That's right:

"Thank you very much. What a pleasure, what a treat. First, to Michael Mulgrew, who is head of the teachers union statewide, who does an amazing job. Why? Because he really believes in what he's doing."  
Dozens of NYSUT members were shocked to learn that Karen Magee is no longer their president. Consequently, since no working teacher beyond Baychester or Bayside actually voted for Mulgrew, thousands of NYSUT members were disenfranchised in one fell swoop. 

Mulgrew said he's enjoyed his time as President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and will stay on until a suitable slug replacement is found. 

In the meantime, NYSUT members should prepare themselves for more giant check photo ops with Cuomo, and .03% of teachers will even win a $5,000 stipend for PD classes from the Lobbyist for the Students. Nevermind your tenure and pension; they aren't as important as Cuomo's political career. 

And those pondering the legality of Mulgrew's promotion should stop right there. For an obscure clause in the NYSUT Constitution states that any NYSUT member who has lunch with the governor as often as Mulgrew shall be president by default.

NYSUT's battles are now Mulgrew's battles, and its motto in 2017 and beyond will be "victory" assuming the state's constitution is rewritten to steal collective bargaining rights and pensions.

Cuomo also thanked NYSUT for its generous contributions to the New York Democrats, his political slush fund. With the help of Mulgrew and even more delicious lunches, Cuomo just wants to say "I love you" to teachers before he screws them over--once again.

Update: Predictably, reaction to this story was swift and skeptical, prompting Cuomo to reaffirm Mulgrew's promotion at yet another giant check photo op, this time at an elementary school in Brooklyn:
First, to the gentleman who you just heard speak. His name is Michael Mulgrew. He is in charge of all the teachers all across the state of New York, and he is a great champion for them, and he works night and day, and he does a fantastic job, so let's give him a big round of applause and a big cheer, he should get a big cheer, Michael, give Michael a big cheer.  
Governor Andy fully intends to bask in even more cheers for Mulgrew in the months to come. After all, it's much nicer than answering questions about why Cuomo, the founder of the Women's Equality Party, decided to throw NYSUT's first female president under the Tampax Express.

At press time, Magee has yet to comment, and is apparently now pretending to be the president of NYSUT.  

Cuomo would much rather have lunch with Mulgrew than Magee     

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cuomo Appears at UFT Headquarters to Honor...Firefighters

Straining to burnish his Union bonafides, New York Governor Andy Cuomo recently appeared at the Manhattan headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Cuomo surfaced not in support of school teachers, however, but firefighters, who rightly received a rise in benefits with the stroke of a state-funded pen. 

Ironically, while claiming to care about workers, Cuomo cares nothing about working teachers. It seems Cuomo wants to knock teachers out of the middle class so he doesn't have to fight for them.

And it is an assault on decency that the UFT would even allow the Lobbyist for the Students within a block of Union headquarters--let alone inside--proclaiming himself a champion of justice for workers. In case the UFT has forgotten, Cuomo's idea of "justice" includes closing public schools and firing teachers due to destitute and dysfunctional families (otherwise known as low test scores).

Cuomo would also like to see teachers and their pensions disappear, signing his name to
Tier VI and Tweets like this: 

Evidently, justice ends where Cuomo's enemies list begins. Those who dedicate their lives to children will dedicate their appetites to cat food in retirement if Cuomo has anything to do with it.    

Furthermore, a looming 2017 constitutional convention ballot initiative would give Cuomo and his slimy associates the chance to finally enshrine laws that screw anyone who's been mean to Governor Andy, like teachers. A revised New York Constitution might exclude those pesky public pensions once and for all, for example, and Cuomo can do to collective bargaining rights in New York what his brother-from-another-mother Scott Walker did to them in Wisconsin. 

Helping one group of workers while punishing another is not fairness, but moral malfeasance, and cruelty cancels any kindness. The UFT should remember this the next time they open their doors to a man who's harmed their profession more than any politician in state history.      

Sunday, August 21, 2016

NYSUT in Need of Help! for the Heavy Hearts Club

The Heavy Hearts Club turned their backs on teachers in 2015  

Got cash to burn? New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is interested.

The Union needs lots of dough to help re-elect those who recently enabled Governor Andy (Andrew) Cuomo's maniacal quest to destroy public education. That's right, NYSUT is asking members to contribute whatever they can to people who swallowed the following poison pills tucked into Cuomo's 2015 state budget, otherwise known as the Education Transformation Act:

  • Public schools will be labeled "failing" and surrendered to the State if not enough students pass tests the Lobbyist for the Students himself recently called "meaningless."
  • Since the real meaning behind the tests is to fire teachers, the tests must be secretive and flawed--and scores will be manipulated to assist in the firing of teachers.
  • In firing them, remember that public school teachers are now guilty until proven innocent. Justice excludes those who dedicate their lives to children, tenure be damned.  
  • Like the sex offenders that they are, Public school teachers must register with the State every 5 years and whenever they move or change their names. Teachers who fail to do so will be labeled as morally unfit and can never teach in New York again.

Do these laws sound beneficial to the lives and livelihoods of teachers? Didn't think so. Yet the teachers union now wants to use money voluntarily contributed by members (VOTE-COPE) to support the re-election campaigns of many of the same legislators who last year said their "heavy heart" couldn't even stop them from supporting these laws.

(In fairness, however, some legislators said it never felt better saying "yes" to something in the middle of the night.)

Who are the politicians NYSUT wants teachers to dedicate their time and money to until and even after Election Day?

Via Google, The Pen is Mightier than the Person was able to unearth the list of NYSUT-approved legislators who helped enact the Education Transformation Act:  

NYSUT will call these people "champions" of public education, but champions are crowned for words and actions. And since 2015, the Heavy Hearts Club has relied on carefully-worded excuses for their legislative impotence. With the notable exception of Senator Todd Kaminsky, who recently proposed laws to incinerate much of Cuomo's garbage, the legislature would rather pass laws that condone gambling and drinking vodka at 10 AM.

If each and every NYSUT-approved legislator listed above supported Kaminsky's bills in words and deeds, NYSUT's request for VOTE-COPE contributions would speak for itself. Instead, NYSUT wants more money for people who only talk about supporting public education. When it comes time to act, these legislators have either been sleeping or sharpening their shivs.

And don't buy the tired retort of "voted for record funding" whenever these legislators are challenged, for funding is not what it appears to be with a draconian tax cap in place, after all. And who even wants funding that will primarily be used to destroy public education?

A Trojan Horse constructed of cash is rolling across the state, and taxpayers will soon be paying more money for inferior schools, something Cuomo and others have always ironically used to justify their attacks on schools. Is it any wonder why Cuomo recently said, for instance, that "We spend more money per student than any other state in the United States of America, and I'm proud of it"?  Cuomo can at last be proud of public education since it's now covered in his slimy fingerprints.

So what's a working teacher to do in an election year that's been a blinding assault on intelligence?

With seemingly no reason to support most candidates, what next? 

Stop contributing to VOTE-COPE?

Stop caring about politics altogether and surrender to the charter school interests?

Support the lesser of many evils? 

Though teachers should be smart enough to answer these questions on their own, a key cause of this mess is that not enough teachers have cared to even consider these questions, ceding all political passion and opinions to leaders desperate to keep their seats at the proverbial table. Like tandem tumors, cynicism and apathy run riot as teachers "just want to shut the door and teach" and ignore the privatizers lurking beyond their classroom walls. 

To determine whether the Heavy Hearts are truly their friends--and truly deserve their help--teachers should ask them one question only:

Now that you've broken public education, what are you going to do to fix it?

Their answers should be worth about as much as your contributions to their campaigns.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Stronger Together, We Opt-Out

A recent Friday news dump by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) reported that more than 20% of public school parents are still refusing to subject their children to grades 3-8 standardized tests. You don't need Bill Gates to tell you how much thousands of blank answer sheets threaten a test's validity. This number does not even include those kids who finished the test in five minutes because their friends opted-out. Pencils without erasers worked just fine.  

It seems the "toolkit" distributed by the state to combat opt-outs contained only pulled nails and sawdust.   

Standardized tests also line the litter box of a teacher evaluation law (APPR) that was recently declared "arbitrary and capricious" by a state judge. Not to worry--in the newest, slimiest version of Governor Andy Cuomo's putrid law, tests will count even more. The thinking is that our kids will be much readier for community colleges and careers if we make it easier to fire their teachers. Paradoxically, with less job security than a blind barber, the one profession the Lobbyist for the Student's legislation will not prepare our kids for is teaching.            

In his proposed regulations to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), U.S. Secretary of Education John "It's good to be the" King now seeks to smother opt-outs and tamp down an unprecedented act of civil disobedience. As education commissioner in New York, King only fed people's worst fears about the tests, callously implementing a system meant to close schools and shuffle students. Former New York City Mayor and aspiring horse jockey Michael Bloomberg recently noted that New Yorkers "know a con" when they see one, and the bullshit meter broke soon after King started spewing his dissonant hopes and dreams for kids.

Now King's act has gone national and he wants to punish even more schools for refusing the tests. Schools from Dover to Denver must come up with plans to deal with opt-outs, and the plans must be expensive and time-consuming. Because if there's anything public education needs, it's more mandates from distant dickheads who couldn't teach their way out of a wet paper bag.

If and when King's resolutions come to pass, his bluff must be vehemently called. For the federal government denying local resources all because of standardized tests goes against decency, democracy, and likely the Constitution itself.

And now is not the time for the leaders of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to bend over and say "we told you so" to members. Although their favorite presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called this a "war" which we "don't have time for", as long as the rights of students and teachers continue to diminish, a truce will not be at hand. Perhaps Hillary will appoint people who believe in a local community's ability to control who teaches their kids. Or perhaps not. We might have to elect her to find out, as Democratic Party insiders consider Common Core a "political third rail", while Hillary once bizarrely referred to public education as a "non-family enterprise." 

At the conclusion of the 1995 film Braveheart, the hero William Wallace is dead and jaded Scottish rebels have lost all will to fight. To the exasperation of many, however, and at the pleading of Robert the Bruce, the Scots quickly bounce back and continue their war against England, realizing they've won nothing. Dispirited and disenfranchised Americans must carry the same spirit today, and cannot drown in complacency and despair. Greedy demagogues are indeed waging war against our schools, and will stop at nothing until students and teachers are assessed into oblivion.