Thursday, January 16, 2014

The view from the 'bottom of the academic barrel'

Fred Klonsky's view of our Ed Sec.
Here's how things are looking from down here at the bottom of the academic barrel.

For one thing, there seems to be lots of energy and activity on the organizational front. The Network For Public Education is holding a national meeting in Austin, March 1-2. CTU Pres. Karen Lewis and Supt. John Kuhn, (Perrin-Whitt Independent School District in Texas) are the keynoters. It's probably worth the trip just to hear these two powerhouse speakers. The inclusion of AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten as a speaker has caused a stir. But I'm happy to see her there. I just got done having a scuffle with her on Twitter about the union's past wavering on the issue of teacher evaluation and hope dialogue continues.

I'm wondering about the purpose of holding another national conference and forming yet another national organization. I'm also wondering about who and what issues are going to be left in and who is left out of the process and how to keep the whole thing from blowing up in sectarian warfare?

But NPE staffer Anthony Cody tells me that NPE founder and leader, Diane Ravitch wants to build an alternative to corporate-reform groups like Stand For Children and others who have been using big corporate and foundation dollars to back anti-union, pro-privatization candidates in school board and municipal elections. This new group, I'm told, will organize political support to progressive and anti-privatization candidates running for office around the country. Not a bad idea.

One of the things missing from a cursory look at the agenda is any mention of so-called "pension reform" which is a central piece in the corporate reformers assault on teachers, all public employees and their unions. I hope this gets straightened out before March.

I've been asked to organize a panel on Movement Building and I will. I'll bring in a few local Texas organizers and union activists to help me out. Hope to see you there. Austin's one of my favorite places.

Then comes announcements that two other new organizations are forming, with similar purposes. The first, right here in Chicago by the CTU is seen as an Independent Political Organization (IPO). This has been sorely missing in the city as a vehicle to organize against the power of the Rahm/Madigan Machine in the upcoming elections.

The second, Integrity in Education, was formed in December out in Colorado and is led by teacher, writer, activist Sabrina Stevens. Sabrina, who I greatly admire, is heavily quoted in Josh Eidelson's excellent piece in, The influence of Michelle Rhee and Chris Christie: Education reformers’ revolving door.

My skeptical half is muttering under breath, "Just what we need, some more new organizations" and humming that old Hank Williams Jr. tune, The Coalition to Ban Coalitions. My better half is excited about the prospects of growth, struggle and unity-building.


  1. Hi Mike,

    My name is Bonnie and I work with I came across your blog and thought I’d direct your attention to our infographic, “Common Core Failure”. I think it’s something you and your community would enjoy reading or sharing. Here’s the link:

    Hope you’ll keep up the great work and awesome content!

    Bonnie Moore

  2. As to your last paragraph, Mike, I agree with you. That's been part of our problem--too many organizations, & representing the same interests. What's happened to Save Our Schools Chicago? Insofar as I know (& I am a member!), we haven't had a meeting/action in years. And I understand that, because people are too busy. National S.O.S. isn't doing/hasn't done much, either, & not enough of a presence at either of the D.C. events. That having been said, I'd put my stock on the NPE, especially since they're looking to focus (and FOCUS being the key word here--too many issues, too little focus) on political action, and this is EXACTLY what we need--to get pro-public ed. candidates to run for--and WIN--elective office. The rest can be accomplished through the legislative participation of their successful candidates. I also hope that the CTU's IPO can pull off something in Chicago, and I'd like to see that group as the ONE--let's not start all these other groups,but concentrate on one that has proven that they (CORE/CTU) can get the job done, because they know how to do it.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.