Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Arne Duncan donut-ization® of public education.

4LAKids: Sunday 7•Feb•2010 LXIV
In This Issue:
STOP L.A. UNIFIED’S ‘CHARTERIZATION’: Handing over L.A. schools to outside operators will turn out to be yet another failed attempt at reform.
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
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PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.

● “Democracy must be reborn with each generation and education is its midwife.” John Dewey (1859-1952) , American philosopher and educator

● “I believe that all reforms which rest simply upon the enactment of law, or the threatening of certain penalties, or upon changes in mechanical or outward arrangements, are transitory and futile.” - John Dewey, from the Jan 16, 1897 issue of School Journal - “My Pedagogic Creed”

● “When teachers are forced, against their better judgment, to focus on teaching test content to the exclusion of almost everything else, I can only conclude that the high-stakes testing movement nourishes totalitarian regimes.” from the introduction to Education Hell: Rhetoric vs Reality: Transforming the Fire Consuming America’s Schools, by Gerald W. Bracey

● “The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.” - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

BURIED IN THE SMALL PRINT of the Obama administration's proposed education budget is a provision to transfer ALL federal funds for promoting parent and family involvement/engagement to charter schools. National PTA provides detail and a opportunity to weigh in on this proposal here:

COINCIDENTALLY – AND APROPOS TO PUBLIC EDUCATION BEING THE “CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE OF THE 21st CENTURY”: the Civil Rights Project at UCLA published a study Thursday showing how poorly charter schools do at equitably serving minorities at best, perpetuating and promoting segregation at worst. One pundit has described the findings as “Undoing Brown v. Board of Education, One Charter School at a Time”.

THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE ADVISORY ELECTIONS (the electors 'advise' a panel whose names have been kept secret > the panel 'advises' the superintendent > the supe 'advises' the Board of Ed > the Board 'chooses') have brought out a lot of interesting adverbiage in the press – words like ballot stuffing, flawed, chaotic, disappointing, disgusting, irregular, tainted, unfortunate, questionable, “a joke of a vote” - and allegations of special interested community organizers busing in voters - have graced the media. And for good reason. This isn't “Chicago politics”...this is politics as portrayed in the Bob Fosse musical “Chicago” - as played by a preschool theater troupe – and without the songs and the bumps and grinds. 'Give 'em th' old razzle dazzle; razzle dazzle 'em!'

Charter school operators and management organizations stand to gain the most in the Public School Choice process, brand new schools worth hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.

● The parents and 40,000 students in play are collateral.
● The president of the charter school association has suggested tossing out the PSC parent vote.
● The local leader of the League of Women voters has discounted the community vote - a vote the League is being paid $50,000 to run and count!
● And everyone from the 7th grade to the LA Times was shocked (Shocked!) when it was discovered that 6th graders might vote! (Why shouldn't 6th graders vote? They have six more years in the system!)

Yes gentle reader, there are Brown charter schools and White charter schools and Black charter schools – separate and unequal. In Santa Clarita there's a proposed Hebrew charter school ...and the Charter School Folks are saying that that kind of ethnic polarization and racial isolation is A Good Thing! Bobbi Fiedler is alive and well! (OK, she is – in Northridge!)

In an interview in the Jewish Journal []: The Superintendent of LA’s public school district bravely addressed the claim that LA’s charter schools are “segregated.” Ramon Cortinas (sic) said “If charter schools are doing the job for the student, and it is a better job … I’m not as concerned about racial isolation.”
●●smf: Racial isolation / segregation / ghettoization / redlining / discrimination / profiling – we must be ‘so concerned’ …all are antonyms for equity.

SCHOOL REFORM IS SUPPOSEDLY DATA DRIVEN. The UCLA study is yet another research-based national study; we now have more research data to add to the rest showing that charter schools aren't the magic bullet. And we have other data and track-record experience from Philadelphia that shows that when charter school management organizations run neighborhood schools (Think Mayor's Partnership, Think Green Dot @ Locke, think every outside provider applying under PSC) those hybrid schools underperform BOTH charters AND neighborhood schools.

But Phil Ochs sang to us in the sixties:
“Monopoly is so much fun ...I'd hate to blow the game.
And I'm sure in wouldn't interest anybody
Outside a small circle of friends.”

AN EDUCATOR FRIEND – responding to an offer from a philanthropist - wrote last week asking for suggestions for what schools need. My suggestions:
● adequate funding
● signs that say "welcome parents" ...and schools they're affixed to that mean it.
● arts & music programs
● tardy sweeps that sweep kids into class rather than into the dean's office
● lockers in the Beaudry hallways, with bells that ring every 55 minutes and laughter in the corridors occasional stolen kiss in the stairwells.
● the old LAUSD cinnamon rolls on the menu occasionally.
● the supe's and the board of ed's permanent records published online.
● condoms used as water balloons.
● a sense of hope ...and a sense of humor ...and a sense of wonder.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

by Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools

With great sincerity and pride in his State of the State message on January 6, 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared that "education will be protected" in the new budget.

Two days later, when the budget was presented, the Governor revealed that this "protection" consists of continuing manipulations of the system to avoid providing what the State Constitution requires and what the Governor promised to our children. Instead of placing faith in our people, believing that we can understand the economic crisis in our state and in our nation and communicating with us honestly, the Governor prefers deception.

Mary Jane Burke<< Superintendent Burke | Photo by Tim Porter | Marin Magazine

After cutting funding for public schools $18 billion over the last two years, the new budget purporting to "protect education" reveals the following facts:

· General purpose funding for schools, would be reduced by $1.5 billion. (This represents a cut of about $250 per student). Other cuts to child development programs, county offices of education, K-3 class size reduction programs and a negative cost-of living adjustment total another $997 million for total cuts of almost $2.5 billion. (This adds another $150 per student for a total proposed cut to public schools of $400 per student in the 2010-2011 school year.)

· The Governor is including $7 billion in his budget in anticipation of receiving additional federal funds. The nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Analyst says, "The likelihood of Washington agreeing to all of the Governor's requests is almost non-existent." If these federal funds are not provided, additional cuts in health and welfare resources affecting children and families and the elderly and homeless will be made.

· Despite signing legislation in July, 2009 to certify the minimum funding level for public schools, the Governor is now reneging on that promise.

The Governor plans to manage these cuts and still meet the Proposition 98 minimum education funding required by the State Constitution using blatant manipulation. He proposes a gas tax swap to purposely create an additional reduction in the minimum guaranteed funding for schools. Use of such gimmicks is insulting to the intelligence of the people of our state. Most of all, it is irresponsible because of the negative impact on our children in public schools. The final insult is that these cuts would result in permanently lowering base funding for schools in years to come.

In the last two years, schools which in 2009-2010 represent about 40% of the state budget have absorbed 60% of the cuts. Last year, schools made the required cuts with the promise that they would then be able to plan on stable funding at drastically reduced levels until the economy allows programs to be restored. Once again the Governor's promise was only words. In recent years, thousands of teachers, support staff and administrators have disappeared from our schools. Counselors, librarians, nurses, instructional assistants, custodians, grounds-keepers, cafeteria workers, principals, instructional specialists and other staff have been lost.

To divert attention from his convoluted manipulations, the Governor is attempting to use "divide and conquer" tactics by pitting various interests—cities, towns, counties, education, social services, child care, law enforcement—against each other. The good news is that such tactics will not work. On both a state and local level, coalitions have been formed to insist that fairness prevails and to insure that all agencies are working together to provide the best possible support for all of the residents of our community and our state. The crisis in confidence in government and the cynicism about elected leaders comes from the lack of honesty with the residents of our state.

Today, the demands for a world-class education are increasing exponentially, as they should be. The issue confronting us is whether or not public schools, which have been the foundation of our democracy and the common experience that has molded a diverse people into a nation, will survive. In California, we risk losing an entire generation of our youth. In Marin County where support for schools is unprecedented, this budget will mean that fiscal solvency for our districts will be a challenge. Now is not the time for tricks or dishonesty or demagoguery. It is time for bold leadership and action. Trust begins with honesty. We must let our elected leaders know that we will accept nothing less.

This budget approach is unworthy of our state.

STOP L.A. UNIFIED’S ‘CHARTERIZATION’: Handing over L.A. schools to outside operators will turn out to be yet another failed attempt at reform.

By Gloria R. Lothrop and Ralph E. Shaffer | Blowback Op-Ed in the LA Times

February 3, 2010 | As The Times continues to lead the parade to charterization of the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the most overused and misunderstood phrases on the paper's editorial page is "reform." Change is not necessarily reform. Genuine reform produces lasting, beneficial improvements and isn't concocted by editors or frustrated school boards willing to try just about anything.

That was never more evident than during the debate over the current plan to allow outsiders to operate dozens of LAUSD campuses. As The Times notes in its Feb. 1 editorial, "Bidding to run L.A.’s schools," the district's mislabeled Public School Choice initiative has resulted in ugly misinformation campaigns and popularity contests over which organizations should run several L.A. Unified schools.

Change, yes; reform, hardly.

Privatizing public education is but one of many elixirs offered over the years as panaceas for whatever ails California's schools. One fad after another has been foisted on children, their parents and teachers by supposed do-gooders, many of whom really wanted to promote a particular ideology or seek financial gain.

The once tried but eventually discarded fads include "new math," single-sex classrooms and the nearly forgotten 6-4-4 plan, under which students spent the final two years of high school on a junior college campus. Other reforms tried over the last century include the look-say approach to reading and integrated English and social studies classes. Today we have vouchers, charters, the No Child Left Behind Act and the Obama administration's misnamed Race to the Top fund.

Some "reforms" have been reinvented through the generations. Bilingual education was a problem some 160 years ago when English-speaking Americans moving to Los Angeles overwhelmed the existing schools -- in which the language of instruction was Spanish. Modern reformers have attempted to solve the problem of multilingual classrooms by immersion, sheltered instruction, the use of a native language to teach basic subjects and so on. The method varies with the political mood of the day.

One of the genuine reforms, championed by early 20th century progressives, was vocational education. A 1901 Times editorial called for the establishment of a polytechnic high school in Los Angeles emphasizing manual training. Such instruction was not part of the traditional curriculum, as teaching young people a trade had been the responsibility of the home, craft guilds and unions or private businesses.

Times Publisher Harrison Gray Otis was no progressive, but as a businessman he realized the need for high school graduates trained in occupations that an industrial society needed. When such a school, Manual Arts High, opened in 1910, The Times was ecstatic.

Now, ironically, vocational education doesn't have a place at Manual Arts, an L.A. Unified school operated by a nonprofit organization. At Locke High School in L.A., a campus operated by charter school organization Green Dot, everyone must take a college-bound curriculum. Both schools are at the forefront of the "everyone goes to college" movement.

The possibility of economic improvement appeals to parents and students who desperately want to escape the circumstances they're in. But assigning unprepared and disinterested students to a University of California or California State University curriculum is a disservice to them. Furthermore, the wisdom of offering vocational training is demonstrated by high enrollments at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, DeVry and similar institutions. Even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa now supports expanding vocational education classes at public schools.

It won't be long before the folly of today's experiment of putting control of schools up to bid is seen by another set of editors and school board members who will have to undo the damage done by today's "reformers." Unfortunately, legal and financial barriers will keep the schools in the hands of entrepreneurs long after the public, Times editors and school board members realize that this "reform" was more detrimental to our children than any of the failed experiments of the past.

* Gloria R. Lothrop and Ralph E. Shaffer are, respectively, professors emeritus of history at Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly Pomona.

By Edgar H. Schuster | Commentary in Ed Week

February 3, 2010 – When the 9/11 Commission reviewed factors that made our country vulnerable to the 2001 terrorist attacks, it found that “the most important failure was one of imagination.”

Imagination, defined by one dictionary as “the ability to confront and deal with reality by using the creative power of the mind,” is a critical faculty in our world. And where better for it to be nurtured and to flower forth than in the writing classroom?

Yet, if we examine the draft standards for English language arts from the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a project led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, we find imagination mentioned nowhere. In fact, most of the 18 proposed writing standards are singularly unimaginative. They are also woefully out of balance, in the direction of relatively noncreative forms of writing.

It comes as no surprise that many of these standards are already reflected in state documents. Who would quarrel with students’ need to establish a topic, sustain focus, represent data accurately, revise their own writing “when necessary,” or use technology as a tool?

Or, consider the proposed 9th standard: Students are expected to “demonstrate command of the conventions of standard written English, including grammar, usage, and mechanics.” English teachers have been asking students to demonstrate such command ever since standard English arose.

Yet what is “standard written English”? If it is the English of our best essayists, then we will find that sentence fragments are not uncommon. In fact, many of the “rules” of the grammar classroom—never end a sentence with a preposition or split an infinitive, for instance—simply are not rules here and never have been. Moreover, when standard and rhetorically effective English clash, imaginative writers of both fiction and nonfiction typically opt for the latter. Even the great usage expert H.W. Fowler preferred “idiom” to grammar when the two were in conflict.

This is not to say that such standards should be scrapped. But they badly need to be leavened by fresher, more imaginative ingredients.

Despite their unoriginal, even pedestrian, view of writing instruction, there is one respect in which the NGA-CCSSO standards-makers have veered far from the ordinary. Of the 18 proposed core writing standards, eight, or nearly half, refer explicitly to writing arguments or explanations: the second and fourth, and standards 13 through 18.

Do these two modes of writing deserve this much attention? And, for that matter, do those who write in these modes follow the standards of the core-standards-makers? To be sure, the standards-makers know that other modes exist. They even devote a sidebar in the draft to narrative writing and concede its importance. But in their initial sentence, they note that narrative is “a component of making an argument and writing to inform or explain.”
"When standard and rhetorically effective English clash, imaginative writers of both fiction and nonfiction typically opt for the latter."

To see what good, real-world writing is really like, let’s look at some of the selections from Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan’s anthology, The Best American Essays of the Century.

It is not easy to find essays that are purely explanatory or argumentative, but Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” is clearly an attempt to explain. In doing this type of writing, the proposed core standards say, students “must do” the following:

“Synthesize information from multiple relevant sources ... to provide an accurate picture of that information.” (Standard 13)

“Convey complex information clearly and coherently ... through purposeful selection and organization of content.” (Standard 14)

“Demonstrate understanding of content by reporting facts accurately and anticipating reader misconceptions.” (Standard 15)

Hurston seems blithely unaware of these standards. She opens her essay:

I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother’s side was not an Indian chief.

I remember the very day that I became colored. …

Her penultimate paragraph reads:

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company! It’s beyond me.

Hurston follows none of the standards above, for “writing to inform or explain.” She doesn’t need “multiple sources,” her explanation is not “complex,” and the reader is not likely to have misconceptions in the first place. What she does do in this essay, however, is remind us in the grim, gray world of writing standards that there is also humor in the world.

The following are additional standards, for “writing arguments”:

“Establish a substantive claim, distinguishing it from alternate or opposing claims.” (Standard 16)

“Link claims and evidence with clear reasons, and ensure that the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.” (Standard 17)

“Acknowledge competing arguments or information, defending or qualifying the initial claim as appropriate.” (Standard 18)

Are we in high school or law school? And again, are these standards that real writers follow?

Some do follow them. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” does, for example. But another brilliant essay, H.L. Mencken’s “The Hills of Zion,” a passionate argument against evangelical Christianity and anti-intellectualism, does not. Like Hurston, Mencken chooses, with good effect, to do none of the things that students “must do.” He attends a revival meeting, and essentially lets the facts speak for themselves.

I don’t want to argue that these standards are not worthwhile. But I do maintain that they are not a realistic reflection of arguments in everyday life (letters to newspaper editors, for example, are often limited to 150 words). And I am convinced that, were they to be adopted, the dropout rates among students bound for the working world would make our current rates tidings of comfort and joy.

I offer one more standards-breaking illustration from the Oates-Atwan anthology: William Manchester’s “Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle of All,” one of the best essays of the lot. It has everything: humor, passion, pathos, information, description, narration, argument, and more broken rules than a Rabelaisian convent.

The essay does not “establish and refine a topic or thesis” (Standard 1), it establishes several. It does not “sustain focus on a specific” anything (Standard 3). It does not even “create a logical progression of ideas or events” (Standard 5). And as for the “conventions of standard written English” (Standard 9), most English teachers I’ve known would not approve of starting 12 sentences with “but” and 11 others with “and,” “yet,” or “so.” Or with using a total of 30 sets of dashes in one essay, not to mention using “I” 12 times in 20 lines. They might also question using a colon after “said” to introduce a quotation, or having single-sentence paragraphs such as this: “And now it is time to set down what this modern battlefield was like.”

Last fall, the National Council of Teachers of English issued the following call to everyone for submissions to the National Day on Writing (Oct. 20, 2009):

“We invite letters, memoirs, lists, poems, podcasts, essays, short stories, instructions, reports, editorials, video clips, biographical sketches, speeches, invitations, hopes and dreams—writing that matters most to you.”

“Writing that matters most to you”—that’s the spirit that animates all good writing, from William Manchester’s essay, to kids’ kindergarten attempts. I urge the core-standards-makers to reconsider the excessively narrow and unrealistic standards they have proposed. Were those standards to be implemented K through 12, they would kill that spirit and diminish the role of imagination, which the poet Wallace Stevens once aptly described as “one of the forces of nature” in the world of words.

●Edgar H. Schuster has taught English at both the high school and college levels. He is the author of Breaking the Rules: Liberating Writers Through Innovative Grammar Instruction (Heinemann, 2003).

by Kenneth J. Bernstein | a blog entry in TeacherKens Diary

●● smf: Bernstein, a Social Studies teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, wanders afield but finds and ties up some loose ends as he shares his thinking on The School-to-Prison Pipeline

Gulag politics. The idea of locking up your opponents. In the old USSR it was political opponents and critics of the Communist regime. Perhaps it seems inappropriate to use that term here, in what is supposedly a democratic republic. But consider this:

“With 1 out of every 100 Americans - more than 2.3 million - now behind bars, the United States imprisons far more people - both proportionally and absolutely - than any other country in the world, including China. Representing only 5% of the world's population, America has 25% of the world's inmates.”

Those words are from a book by Linda Darling-Hammond titled The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. The application of the term "Gulag politics" is courtesy of Derrick Jackson, who writes

“It is a good bet that the United States has frittered away a decent chunk of our former global advantages with gulag politics.”

Darling-Hammond is a major figure in education policy. Now holding an endowed chair at Stanford University, she was a close adviser to Obama during the campaign, and was the favorite of many of those with whom I associate in educational policy circles to be the Secretary of Education, if for no other reason that besides being a well-known writer and policy expert, she actually taught school.

Current National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen recently wrote in his "Road Diaries: Teacher of the Year" blog, in a piece titled Teachers Should Be Seen and Not Heard, about his experiences at a recent conference with three governors, a professor and others describing how schools need to be redesigned.

Eventually the moderator asked Mullen what he thought. The response?”

“Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending non educators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value.

"I'm thinking about the current health care debate," I said. "And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms."

The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone's attention.

"I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach."

Perhaps that selection from Mullen seems like a distraction from the topic of this diary. It is not. Those of us who teach understand we cannot continue to cut our spending for education and expect to effectively educate our children, especially those most in need of our attention, those who if they do not get our help are far more likely to wind up as part of our penal system, and not contributing to our economy and our society. In effect we will be treating them as the Soviet Union treated their political prisoners - lock them up and forget about them.

Let me try to explain my understanding.

States are in economic crisis. Bob Herbert's column, Invitation to Disaster, takes us through the scale of the crisis. Immediate disaster was staved off by the stimulus, but that money will be running out.

“The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has pointed out that if you add up the state budget gaps that have recently been plugged (in most cases, temporarily and haphazardly) and those that remain to be dealt with, you’ll likely reach a staggering $350 billion for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years.”

The impact of this will be heavily felt in education:

“Without substantial new federal help, state cuts that are now merely drastic will become draconian, and hundreds of thousands of additional jobs will be lost. The suffering is already widespread. Some states have laid off or furloughed employees. Tens of thousands of teachers have been let go as cuts have been made to public schools and critically important preschool programs. California has bludgeoned its public higher education system, one of the finest in the world.”

Of course, as Herbert points out, education is not the only area which will suffer. But let me point this out: states are severely cutting the money they give to local school districts at precisely the same time the tax base of the localities has collapsed as a consequence of the housing disaster. Teachers will lose jobs, class sizes will grow, electives and services will be cut. And even if this is only for two or three years, for younger children that could be crucial as it undermines their gaining the foundation for long-term educational success, and for older children they will not gain the knowledge necessary to be prepared for college. Of course, the college issue might not matter, as state schools see their support cut from financially distressed states, and as increasing number of students need financial aid for themselves because their families are under financial distress. The combination is effectively eating the seed corn of the future - theirs as individuals and ours as an economy, a society, a nation.

How does this relate to my use of the term Gulag? Jackson's column is titled Common sense on prison, education funds, and is occasioned by Gov. Schwarzenegger of California this week proposing a state Constitutional amendment that would prohibit spending more on prisons than on education. The Governor said that in the last 30 years, prison spending increased from 3 percent of the state general fund to 11 percent while higher education spending declined from 10 percent to 7.5 percent.

"Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future,’’ he said.

Jackson provides data similar to that I encountered in Darling-Hammond's book:

“Nationwide, the Pew Center on the States says prison spending rose six times more than spending for higher education in adjusted dollars from 1987 to 2007. The national federal and state prison population nearly tripled in that time, from 585,000 to 1.6 million. Including local jails, the United States had 2.3 million people locked up by 2007. This is more than the 1.5 million inmates in more-numerous China and 2 1/2 times more than third-place Russia.”

He has written on this issue several times, and reminds us

“New York State went from spending twice as much on universities in 1988 to spending more on prisons than higher education in 1996. President Clinton’s push for national service was dwarfed by a $23 billion 1993 Senate crime bill that spent twice as much on boot camps than national service and $3 billion for prisons but only $1.2 billion for job training and drug treatment for nonviolent offenders.”

Allow me to return if I may to Darling-Hammond. She notes that the money states spend prison costs are eating into funds they would otherwise spend on early childhood education, an investment that has been found to dramatically increase graduation rates and reduce participation in juvenile and adult crime.

We squander our human capital, first by not educating, and then by paying to incarcerate, many of those locked up lacking the education and skills to contribute to our economy.

“The implications of these social choices for our national well-being are enormous. Dropouts cost the country at least $200 billion a year in lost ages and taxes, costs for social services, and crime. With only three potential workers for every one person on Social Security in 2020 (as compared to 20 workers for every retiree in 1950), having one-thrid on the nonproductive side of the equation will undermine the social compact on which the nation depends.”

We know that one major contributor to our burgeoning prison population is a set of drug laws that are inequitable, and fall disproportionally on the poor and minorities. Jackson explores that, and notes that Massachusetts Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate called such laws crazy. He concludes his column like this:

“It is refreshing to hear a Democrat like her and a Republican like Schwarzenegger say that our criminal justice priorities are insane, with education always getting the strait-jacket. It is the first step out of the asylum.”

Is the term"gulag" inappropriate? I think not. Perhaps those locked up, often repeatedly, in our penal system are not political prisoners the way those in the Soviet Gulags were. They are certainly at least political footballs. And they are removed from society - often permanently, with the loss of the right of vote, being barred from many occupations. Increasingly we have charged young people as adults, meaning their records do not get expunged. We permanently bar those with drug offenses from many federal benefit. We thereby increase the percentage of our population that we exclude from the full benefits of a society for which in many cases we have failed to prepare them with proper education.

And because prisons are expensive, and too many will still demagogue the issue crime, our expenditures for our penal system continue to escalate at a time when the funds for government as a whole are plummeting, with a consequence that we further cut education, thereby contributing to a future increase in crime - a real Catch 22.

There are other ways. As it happens I am also reading a book by a college friend, Mark Kleiman, on a different approach to the issue of crime. I will when I can also offer a review of When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment.

Perhaps is is Serendipity to encounter the columns by Jackson and Herbert at the same time I am reading the books by Darling-Hammond and Kleiman. Perhaps I might have eventually made the connections among them anyhow, who knows?

What I do know is this: we face some stark choices. We are going to have to decide what really matters to our future. If our answer is punitive, increasing the use of the penal system rather than attempting to avoid having to incarcerate people in the first place, we will find ourselves on a path that is not only financially unaffordable, it should be morally unacceptable.

What is even worse - as our prison population continues to expand, we are cutting the services in those prisons that could educate and rehabilitate first-time offenders.

I think Jackson's term "Gulag politics" is appropriate. I think we need to address this issue. I know we cannot address this issue if states, which in many cases cannot have unbalanced budgets, do not get additional assistance from the Federal government, which can.

We face some critical choices. Our future as a nation may well depend upon our decision.

What do you think we should do?


HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
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GOOD REPORT, FOR THE MOMENT, ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOL DISTRICT’S FINANCES: By John Fensterwald | The Educated Guess | ... 7:17 AM Feb 3rd

UNION, NAACP SUE OVER NYC SCHOOL CLOSINGS: The union said the plan to close the schools violates state law because... 7:16 AM Feb 3rd

LAUSD BEGINS REFORM PROCESS OF LOW PERFORMING (…and brand new!) SCHOOLS: 89.3 KPCC - [Go to story and podcast] ... 7:11 AM Feb 3rd

Briefly: A GLBT HARASSMENT-FREE SCHOOL OPENS IN L.A.: By Nicole Santa Cruz | LA Times February 2, 2010 | Aiden Aiz... 9:00 AM Feb 2nd

Groundhog Day: ABSTINENCE-ONLY CLASSES MAY BE EFFECTIVE FOR YOUNG TEENS - Other forms of sex education may work to... 8:52 AM Feb 2nd

Groundhog Day: CRAZY-QUILT DEMOCRACY IN ACTION TODAY IN LAUSD SCHOOL REFORM - Ballot stuffing expected. Results co... 7:41 AM Feb 2nd

CHARTER SCHOOL ADVOCATE CHOSEN AS VIRGINIA SECRETARY OF ED: from the US Charter Schools Resource Update Gerard R... 5:54 PM Feb 1st

Cartoon.: 10:06 AM Feb 1st

BE CAREFUL OF THE CHARTER SCHOOL BANDWAGON: Studies in California and elsewhere have shown mixed results: ... 8:01 AM Feb 1st

OBAMA BUDGET PLAN: Increased Federal Spending for Education: The LA Times reports | http://bit. ly/bHGFbv : A ... 6:28 AM Feb 1st

SURGEON GENERAL & FIRST LADY UNVEIL PLAN FOR HEALTHY CHILD CARE SETTINGS: from California’s Children blog | http:/... 5:19 PM Jan 31st



BILL GATES: $335 million investment in teacher pay incentives has high risk of failure.: 2010 Annual Letter from B... 4:01 PM Jan 31st

EDUCATION HEADLINES FROM AROUND CALIFORNIA: from Rough & Tumble and FCMAT News Class cuts wreak havoc at Californ... 3:38 PM Jan 31st

NYC MAYOR IS A BILLIONAIRE, LA MAYOR HIRES HIMSELF ONE: What does Steve Lopez think about that? 3:05 PM Jan 31st

IGNORANCE BITES CALIFORNIA IN THE WALLET: A new poll [] shows that the people want control of ... 2:22 PM Jan 31st

“The Master Plan at 50: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts" - LAO STUDY [] ACCUSES CALIFORNIA’S... 1:36 PM Jan 31st

CLASS WARRIOR: Profile of Arne Duncan: Carlo Rotella, The New Yorker, February 1, 2010, p. 24 "How... 1:17 PM Jan 31st

FRESNO USD’s CHARTER PLAN SPARKS CONFLICT OF INTEREST CONCERNS: Corey G. Johnson | California Watch Blog January ... 1:17 PM Jan 31st

California Education News Roundup from UCLA/IDEA

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD. He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He is an elected Representative on his neighborhood council. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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