More Cuts = More Corps

Once again the American people are faced with across the board cuts to federal spending that will undoubtedly trickle down to negatively affect the growing “middle class” by increasing taxes and lowering services.

The elected leaders of our country, after years of uncontrolled spending and corporate pandering, now expect the American public to place their children’s education and the nation’s health on the line to help pay for their inability to effectively and efficiently manage our resources.

“The current salary (2013) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.

The median personal wealth for members of Congress grew to $911,510 in 2009, up from $785,515 in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly half of the members of Congress are millionaires.”

With 535 Representatives earning $174,000 the American people are paying our elected officials more than $93,090,000 in salary which does not include benefits. This is in addition to the money they receive from retirement payments.

The first sequester brought about a Congressional pay “freeze” which amounted to a savings of $856,000.

However, since Congress got us into our debt problems it is only reasonable to expect them to get us out by refusing their entire $174,000 salary until the federal budget becomes more manageable.

Instead, the American people will be convinced that legislators are doing everything they can to stop the uncontrolled spending which mean, educators, who make an average of $53,000 a year, must take a pay cut or loose their jobs in order to help bolster the economy.

In the meantime, corporate takeover of health, education, and incarceration are forcing our nation’s children into a lifetime of slavish servitude to a 21st Century workforce, running after the “middle class” carrot that is getting smaller and smaller as the “middle class” grows.

Until we understand that an excellent, child centered, experiential, developmentally appropriate education is the only answer to the myriad of social and economic problems we face in America, we will remain enslaved to the system of capitalism that has devoured the democratic system of government upon which our country was founded.

One man, one vote is the only hope our children have.

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No New Thing Under The Sun

Who better to “examin[e] everything from teacher recruitment and performance, to whether the current school calendar is appropriate, and how the state‚Äôs more than 700 school districts are structured” than a “retired Citibank Chair and Time Warner President Richard Parsons . . . the SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, State Education Commissioner John King, and the chairs of the Senate and Assembly Education committees, as well as private sector advocate[s] . . . Geoffrey Canada.” At least that is the thought process of Governor Cuomo.

This is the makeup and charge of Guomo’s newly appointed education commission that includes a banker, a businessmen, a lawyer, two politicians, and an educator thrown in for good measure.

It is unclear how, but the Governor expects this group to be more interested in the educational needs of children than “the priorities of the financial interests.” Cuomo also named Randi Weingarten to the panel with no response from the President of the American Federation of Teachers.

There are however no parents on the panel, no education advocates, no students, no in-class or even retired teachers or administrators on the panel, except for Geoffrey Canada. This is no surprise since this is almost the same make-up as the State’s Board of Regents.

Is there any wonder why our system of education is in the failing condition that it is? Both locally and in the State, businessmen, lawyers, and politicians are running the educational show and have been doing so for years. And for years, education, locally and in the State, has been failing our children miserably.

We, the people of the United States, have the ultimate say in the policies our elected officials create and the decisions they make. When our voices are not heard the educational failure our children experience is not attributable to those we elected, the onus is on us for continuing to re-elect the individuals who choose not to listen. Our voice is our vote, it is time we speak up.

Our children suffer educationally and because of the lack of an excellent education provided our society suffers with them.

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Accountability Is The Answer

While the district struggles with the controversy over the superintendent search process, more bad news emerges from the State. Our report card was released and we have again failed to educate 49% of our children. As well, only 36% of our schools are meeting expectations.

Who is responsible for this failure, everyone. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, the superintendent, School Board members, and the community.

Education is a serious business that we are not taking seriously. We concentrate on the business end of education while totally neglecting the research surrounding highly effective educational practices.

As a community, we continue to vote into office those who repeatedly make inefficient and ineffective decisions regarding our system of education. The most inefficient and ineffective decision the Board makes is the superintendent they hire to lead the district. These superintendents have yet to increase the graduation rate much above 50% for more than two decades.

Administrators are responsible for the culture and success of individual schools and yet only 36% of our schools seem to have adequate leadership. And, since it is the responsibility of the administrator to determine teacher competency through evaluation, where does that leave our students?

In all the finger pointing, no one seems to want to hold students accountable for their lack of success. It doesn’t matter if they do their homework or not. It doesn’t matter if they show proficiency at grade level or not. It doesn’t matter if they behave themselves or even pass a test. Students get pushed along at the elementary level until they hit the Seventh grade wall and are no longer passed on.

The most powerful piece in this puzzle, parents, is the least culpable. Being an effective parent is a learned behavior and because we are failing to teach our children how to be successful human beings, we also fail to teach them how to be successful parents. This is the vicious cycle that continues to enslave us to the failure of our system of education.

Accountability at every level is the only way to break the cycle.

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SOS – Help Is On The Way to Washington

This weekend, March 30, thru April 2, 2012 Save Our Schools will be marching on Washington to “Take Our Message to Capitol Hill”.

Save Our Schools is a national movement to save public education. This movement began nearly a year ago as the siege of public education by private plunderers began to overtake this nation’s public schools replacing them with private and charter schools that sought to dissemble teacher unions, lower teacher’s pay, and take educational dollars away from the poorest of our children in urban settings.

Their first march on Washington brought national attention as citizens, comprised of parents, students, educators, and celebrities, gathered in the Mall behind the White House, marched, and then held conferences in order to organize and build.

Public education must remain public in order to insure that every child has the opportunity to succeed. Public education must also undergo a drastic systemic overhaul in order to insure that every child has the opportunity to succeed. The Save Our Schools movement seeks to create long term systemic change in education by giving educators a voice in the process.

Private and charter schools are not the answer but an exacerbation of the problem. They rob public school systems of educational dollars with no measure of accountability in place for their success or failure.

While the Save Our Schools movement is an important step on the road to education reform, before any true, fundamental, change can occur, there must be a united, collaborative effort between and among all stakeholder groups in education.

Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and education leaders must join together in one accord and fight against the current system of education that is destroying the future of our neediest children.

Marching on Washington, lobbying in Albany, protesting in Rochester, are all necessary and important steps that must be taken in order to effect change. If our leaders in education are not willing to take these steps, we, as a community, must ask, “How committed are you to our children’s educational success?”

Change is necessary, change agents are crucial.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

Everyone knows and understands that the system of education must change before our children will be properly educated. Why has it taken so long for so many knowledgeable and capable groups to come together and affect that change?

Why are parents waiting for legislation that gives them the power that they already have in order to come to the aid of their children who are failing in a system designed to fail them?

This situation is no longer the fault of the School Board or educational leaders. This community is not standing up for its children but allowing rhetoric and irresponsibility to stand in the way of real action.

We fought for the right to vote our School Board into office and with the exception of Mary Adams, Board members were re-elected. This was not done with the expectation for change.

Outside extremist have done more to further the cause and bring adults to justice in the Jada Williams case than the activist groups have right here in her own community. There were no marches on Central Office, no call for action, no petition to the State Education Department, no call tree to State Ed Commissioner John King, no 310 Appeal filed.

This community complains that the Board of Education makes decisions irrespective of its views or voice when in fact the Board makes its own decisions because the community refuses to stand together, support one another, and, in one accord, make their voice heard.

We have proven that actions speak louder than words. Those times when solidarity has awakened the Board to our cry we have been acknowledged. However, instead of pushing forward, we back off and then have to spend time regrouping for the next united effort. This is counterproductive to the cause of real systemic change and it is exhausting.

The Board of Education is not the problem here. The lack of commitment to action is the brick wall that stands in the way of our progress. Our children are dying while we discuss our next move. We must ACT NOW!

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A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Last night more than one hundred children, parents, teachers, and community members gathered to join Rochester Parents United in support of Jada Williams and her family. This was the first of four rallies that will be held throughout Rochester.

The evening began with Rochester Parents United Vice-President Allen Williams, former School Board member, calling for parents to support “Parent Trigger” legislation.

Pastor Marlowe Washington invigorated the body telling parents to not just sit at the table, but to prepare the table. Pastor Marlowe eloquently stated that parents must begin to be more involved in their children’s education. Parents must take an active role in the system of education for our children.

Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, President of RPC and former candidate for School Board, spoke next to explain Parent Trigger legislation, its options, and how parents can use the law to create a new system of education for our children. Joined by a coalition of parents from Buffalo, New York, Mr. Mitchell advocated for the “take over” of the district by parents.

Parent Trigger legislation is supported by Assemblyman David Gantt and RPU hopes to receive the support of Senator Joe Robach. Parent Power organizer Carrie Remis is working closely with RPU to refine Parent Trigger legislation to remove some of the roadblocks parents in other states have met.

At the end of the rally, the floor was opened to comments and questions from the community. Several parents spoke about the problems they have had with the district. Howard Eagle, CETF member spoke in support of RPU presenting a united front to effect widespread, fundamental change in the system of education.

NAACP President Edward Goolsby also spoke in support of Jada Williams and made it clear that the NAACP is involved in protecting Jada’s civil rights on a national level. Mr. Goolsby also noted that voting for our educational leaders was an important part of the process.

The next RPU rally will be held on April 16, at the Frederick Douglass Resource Center, 36 King St., from 6:30-8:30 PM.

The movement is gathering momentum.

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Do The Right Thing

Today, March 19th from 6:30pm until 8:30pm at the Cross of Christ Deliverance Temple, 597 North Goodman Street, there will be a rally to support Jada Williams. There is a great deal of controversy concerning this issue and whether the comments this young girl made in her essay were racist. Unfortunately, the crime that was committed was lost amidst the issue of racism.

This community must realize that to support the denial a young Black girl’s civil rights is to support the denial of a mature White woman’s civil rights. Freedom of speech belongs to everyone. We do not have the right to pick and choose who gets to say what they believe or feel and who does not.

We must realize that there is no good reason to support wrong. Wrong is wrong regardless of age, race, gender, affiliation, or allegiance. Harming another human being is wrong. Denying another human being their right to speak freely without fear of retribution is wrong. Not supporting Jada Williams is wrong.

There are no shades of gray when discerning right from wrong. There are no mitigating circumstances, no reasons, no causes. To support the wrongdoing of some is to cause the breakdown of justice for everyone. Once wrong is supported for any reason, for anyone, it can be supported for every reason, for everyone.

We cannot allow this precedent to be set. What Jada’s teacher did was wrong. The principal of Nathanial Rochester School #3 was wrong when she supported the teacher. The superintendent was wrong when he supported the adults in this situation and the School Board was wrong when they supported the superintendent.

This community must realize that in order to change the problems within our system of education, our community, our nation, we must look beyond issues of race, creed, color, money, and politics and determine our course of action based on what is right. What is right for our children, our community, our nation.

Support Jada Williams! It is imperative that we teach our children that what is wrong is never right.

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Regents – Get To Know Them

The New York State Board of Regents are responsible for the general supervision of all educational activities within the State, presiding over The University and the New York State Education Department. The University of the State of New York is the nation’s most comprehensive and unified educational system. It consists of all elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions, libraries, museums, public broadcasting, records and archives, professions, Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities, and such other institutions, organizations, and agencies as may be admitted to The University.

Regents are elected to office by the State Legislature and serve a five year term. They serve on a volunteer basis and generally have little to do with or in the field of education in their professional lives.

Recently Rochester attorney T. Andrew Brown was elected to the Board of Regents filling the position left by Vice-Chancellor Milton Coefield. Rochester has one other representative on the Board, Regent Wade Norwood.

Most people have no idea who the New York Sate Board of Regents are or what they do. Yet, this body of individuals is responsible for making decisions that have severely impacted education throughout New York State.

Special education policy, standardized testing policy, charter school policy, teacher and administrator evaluation policy, and funding policy, for New York State, all fall under the purview of the Board of Regents. Yet, by Vice-Chancellor Coefield’s own admission, the Board of Regents exacts little to no accountability from local school district’s or school boards. However, they will withhold funding from our children in order to force compliance with their regulations.

When we talk about the failing system of education, that discussion has to include the Board of Regents. We must understand that this body enacts policy and legislation that districts are bound by and then accepts no responsibility for the unprecedented failure of education in New York State. In order to change the system of education we must change the entire system which includes the Board of Regents. Educators must conduct education not politics.

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Waste Lots, Want Lots

At the recent Policy Committee meeting the transportation issue was again brought to the table.

It was noted that we spend an “awful lot of the district’s money on transportation.” At the November Policy Committee meeting several options were presented that would save the district up to $10 million dollars in one year by returning to the neighborhood schools model and hardening the Zone lines when transporting students.

At that time the issue of neighborhood safety was raised. Specifically, was it safe for elementary students to walk to school through dangerous neighborhoods? The question was asked if the State would provide additional transportation funding for busing students to school if their neighborhood was deemed unsafe. The answer from the State was, “No”. This only makes sense since the children who would walk to school in unsafe neighborhoods actually live and play in those same neighborhoods when school is not in session. As well, the Rochester Police Force could very well supply police protection for students by way of crossing guards and added police patrol during school arrival and dismissal times.

Though it would save the district millions, hardening Zone lines for the coming school year would have a drastic effect on both families and schools. It was suggested that hardening Zone lines should be completed gradually so as to have as little impact on student placement as possible.

The neighborhood schools concept was brought to the district years ago and the community was ignored. Had district leaders done their due diligence at that time and addressed the problem of transportation efficiency we would already be on the road to saving millions of dollars.

Superintendent Vargas began the “Coffee and Conversation” meeting by reminding attendees that the next budget season is upon us. He also stated that the district is facing a $12 million dollar deficit. As a community it is imperative that we ask, “How much of that $12 million can be recuperated by addressing areas of waste?” We must do this before we remove more teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff, security, and other people from our schools.

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Don’t Standardize or Privatize, Revitalize Education

First you fail to properly educate children. Next you blame the teachers for the lack of education the child receives. Then you blame the union for supporting the teachers who are not educating the children. Finally you use data and lack of funding to convince the community that children would be better served in private schools by novice teachers with fewer resources. This is the basic formula for shutting down public education across the country.

Instructional time lost due to standardized test preparation rarely enters the equation as the push to link test results to teacher evaluation takes attention away from the detrimental effects of standardized testing.

Privatizing education doesn’t address the lack of discipline, instructional materials, and a relevant curriculum that supports critical thinking skills and multiple intelligences within the dysfunctional system of education but hides it behind the curtains of controversy covering educational failure.

When parents unite to protest the failure of public education, proponents of privatization solve the problem with “Parent Trigger” legislation which gives parents the right to “fir(e) all or some of the staff, turning the school over to a charter operator, or closing the school.” And, once again, the dysfunction within the system of education becomes a non-issue.

Educational failure has become so prevalent that “inequality in the United States has increased to the extent that the gap between the rich and poor is larger now than [in] 1928.” Teaching children to pass a test instead of thinking critically is one reason for this increase.

Our children are not widgets on an assembly line that have all the same parts that will work in the exact same way. Education cannot be “standardized” into a “one size fits all” delivery system.

Privatizing education only serves to create a larger gap in the social class system separating America.

The answer to the problem of educational failure is to begin to properly educate our children. We must recognize the unique qualities within our children, nurture them and cause them to flourish. When our children are successful, America is successful.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

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