This has not been a slow news week so I’ll get started with all the news that fits.
First up, the teachers and students in Tucson. If you haven’t been following this story, I would recommend that you begin by watching Debating Tucson School District’s Book Ban After Suspension of Mexican American Studies Program on Democracy Now.
This story has a history to it. To read about it in detail, check out Save Ethnic Studies.org and read about an action that was taken last year by students at a school board meeting when the board members were to vote on making the ethnic studies classes basically non-credit courses.
The powers that be thought that all they had to do was ban a few books and close the Ethnic Studies program in Tucson and that would be the end of it. They just dusted their hands off and went home. Because of their actions, which were so severe, the story has gained national attention. They have found themselves in the eye of the storm and they’re not handling things very well.
In this clip, Cholla High School students staged a walkout to protest the Mexican American Studies (MAS) ban. As they arrived at Tucson Unified School District headquarters this is what the Ethnic Studies supervisor Lupita Garcia had to say:
For the most recent information on this struggle for a people to maintain their ethnic identity, check out the Common Dreams article Students Step Up Tucson Walkouts. Here is an excerpt:
In recent days, administrators and board members have issued a series of conflicting and inaccurate statements and carried out the extreme actions of confiscating books in front of children. Last week, a recently hired assistant superintendent from Texas made a troubling call for the deeply rooted Tucson students–many of whom trace their ancestors to the town founders– to “go to Mexico” to study their history.
To find out about actions around the country regarding the banishment of the Ethnic Studies program in Tucson, see Arizona Unbound: National Actions on Mexican American Studies Banishment.
Never a dull moment in the world of education.
As I like to say, Rahm got bus(ted) on this one. There’s even a photo of the bus that was used to take the hired “counter-protestors” to a hearing regarding a school closing from the St. Stephens church in Chicago!
From Mike Klonsky’s post Rahm’s Army:
Scott and other recruits say they didn’t realize until the last minute that they were supposed to support school closings. One said he was promised $50 to speak at a rally “for schools,” but was stiffed $25 after Watkins complained he had publicly revealed at the hearing he was “compensated” for speaking. Many of the recruits end up switching sides and join the community protests in speaking out against the closings. Others earn their money by trying to start a brawl and disrupt the legitimate protests.
And from WGN TV a great film clip Paid to Protest?
And now there is to be a probe regarding this action. According to the Chicago Sun Times:
The Chicago Public Schools inspector general said Wednesday he is investigating reports that bused protesters were paid to carry signs or read scripts at school closing hearings.
News of the probe came as Mayor Rahm Emanuel sloughed off questions about whether the practice was appropriate.
Meanwhile, Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) blasted “paid protesters” he said showed up on three buses at Jan. 6 hearings on whether to phase out Crane High School. He urged Chicago Public School officials to omit their comments from the hearing’s record.
Their appearance was “embarrassing” and “subverts our public process … wherever the money came from,” Fioretti said during the school board’s monthly meeting.
We’ll see where that goes. Stay tuned.
It reminds me of last year when the Seattle school board was to vote on an ed-reform issue and the League of Education Voters (LEV) or was it (Stand for Children?) brought over students from Bellevue, Youth Ambassadors, donned them in orange shirts and had them waving signs during the hearing. I asked one of the students after the hearing what school he was from and why he was there. He told me that some LEV reps (not his words) had brought over students from Bellevue. He was there to support education. He had no idea what the issue was about. His heart was in the right place but LEV’s wasn’t. That they used children to further their cause is reprehensible and speaks volumes to where that organization has gone in our state.
We hear stories from two Massachusetts school committee members who were former Stand members, but who left when they saw a significant shift in Stand’s approach: Roger Garberg (Gloucester) and Tracy O’Connell Novick (Worcester). We hear from the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Paul Toner, on a controversial ballot initiative that Stand is pushing in the state. We also share a clip of Jonah Edelman, Stand co-founder and CEO, candidly speaking at the Aspen Institute about Stand’s true agenda to destroy the power of teachers unions. Then, we talked with the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, about her reaction to this clip and to Stand for Children.
Speaking of organizations, I discovered what looks to be a great one, ParentPrep. It was developed by the Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman (OEO), a small office that does a lot for so many students and parents in need, to assist parents in finding their voice when advocating for their children. And no, it does not receive Gates, Broad or Walton money. Just taxpayer dollars.