Thursday, May 9, 2013

Network for Public Education endorses teacher Monica Ratliff for LA School Board!

Volume 1, Issue: #7
May 7, 2013

Special Edition!

NPE's First Endorsement
Monica Ratliff for
LA School Board

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Welcome to our new members. We are two months old, and we are still growing. We have made our first endorsement, of teacher Monica Ratliff for the LA School Board. We have also added several new items to our activist Toolkit -- at great place to find ideas for how you can get organized and make a difference. You have a role to play, and we are doing our best to give you tools and information to help you get involved. Thanks for joining us on this journey.

Note from Julian
Is Obama Plagiarizing Bush?

Our note of the week today comes from Julian Vasquez-Heilig, who serves on the NPE's Board of Directors. 

I recently had a discussion with several faculty members about suspect plagiarism in their courses. They were very concerned with term papers that were bought online and that ideas were not attributed to their original authors. That's when it dawned on me; we are facing the same issue in the current educational policy environment.

The Democrats' current approach to educational policy is a sure case of plagiarism. What you're about to read are all direct excerpts from George Bush's 1992 Republican Platform (except of course where I replace Republican with Democrat and Bush with Obama. I also took out the word liberal before "special interest" so not to give away the ruse). Does it sound familiar?

On Education Reform:
The Democratic strategy is based on sound principle. Parents have the right to choose the best school for their children...we should increase flexibility from federal regulation. We should explore a new generation of break-the-mold New American Schools.

Too many government and union rules have burdened our schools.We also believe that powerful unions and special interest groups should not be the driving force in education reform.

Alternative Certification
Alternative certification can bring desperately needed new people into the teaching profession. We support efforts to open the teaching profession by reforming the certification system now barring many talented men and women from the classroom.

School Choice
We have an uncompromising commitment to improve public education-which means assuring that our schools produce well-educated, responsible citizens-not the maintenance of a government monopoly over the means of educating. America needs public, private, and parochial schools.
Parents... should have the right not only to participate in their child's education, but to choose for their children among the broadest array of educational choices, without regard to their income. The President has shown unprecedented leadership for the most important education goal of all: helping middle and low income families enjoy the same choice of schools-public, private, or religious-that families with more resources already have.

Accountability, Assessments and Standards
Standards and assessments should be raised, not reduced to a lowest common denominator. We have seen real progress. Perhaps most important, though, is that President Obama has fostered a national debate on education that has challenged every American to get involved... New and tougher standards and assessments are being established for what our children should know. The critical public mission in education is to set tough, clear standards of achievement and ensure that those who educate our children are accountable for meeting them. This is not just a matter of plans or dollars. Competency testing and merit pay for teachers are essential elements of such accountability.
Why has Obama not created "change" in education? Why has NCLB been left alone- even enhanced via "waivers"? I suspect because President Obama's ideas (and Arne Duncan's) are eerily similar to the Republican's ideas of the 1990s. He should at least give them credit so they can't be accused of plagiarism.

What are you (we) going to do about this? 

NPE's First Endorsement: Monica Ratliff  
Underdog candidate in Los Angeles School Board race

Our First Endorsement: Monica Ratliff, a Teacher, for Los Angeles School Board

The Board of Directors of NPE has voted to endorse Monica Ratliff in her runoff election for Los Angeles school board. The election will happen on May 21st.

We asked both Ratliff and her opponent, Antonio Sanchez, to complete a detailed candidate questionnaire. Monica Ratliff's responses revealed someone who is a working 5th grade teacher, well acquainted with the challenges faced by the schools of Los Angeles. Sanchez did not respond.  

Ratliff understands that testing has gotten way out of control. She told us:
"Teachers constantly check for understanding.  LAUSD spends too much money on periodic assessments and other tests that waste money and, more importantly, precious instructional time.  We need less purchased standardized testing. One standardized test at the end of the year is acceptable - depending upon its use. "

She opposes merit pay based on test scores, and the sharing of student data without explicit parental permission.

Her opponent, Antonio Sanchez, has received the full backing of corporate reformers, including donations from New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and billionaire Eli Broad. According to the Los Angeles Times, which endorsed Ratliff, Sanchez  "lacks educational expertise and his positions are unclear.  He tends to speak in political platitudes about key issues rather than offering specifics."

Students of Los Angeles need school board members who are independent of the corporate reform machines. They need people who understand education issues in depth, and that is why we are endorsing Monica Ratliff. 

NPE President Diane Ravitch endorsed Ratliff last week, writing:

"Monica will be overwhelmingly outspent. She can win if friends of public education turn out to vote.
She needs our help.
If everyone who loves teachers sends Monica a gift of any size, she would be the best-funded candidate in the race. Send whatever you can afford."

It is of vital importance that we elect independent candidates like Ratliff. Please visit and donate what you can to her campaign here

NPE Hosts Dynamic Student Leaders  
Webinar Gives Advice on Organizing

This week the Network for Public Education continued its series of webinars focused on giving grassroots activists tools and opportunities to connect with others. We heard from student leaders from around the country, who shared their experiences in organizing on their campuses. Stephanie Rivera, one of the founders of Students United for Public Education, spoke about the value of social networks and blogging. Sarah Smith, a veteran of the Wisconsin war on teachers, talked about starting small and building from where you are. And Chicago high school student Israel Muñoz shared some of the challenges and triumphs of the work to save schools in his city.
The session was recorded and can be viewed here .
When you click on the link, a small application will download, which you may need to click to activate. You also may need to download the latest version of Java.

Many Ways to Connect with NPE  
Newsbriefs, Facebook, Website and Twitter, all growing

Volunteers have been working to build our communication channels in several ways -- and people are noticing!

Ken Derstine has created a successful news source, the NPE Newsbriefs, which offers frequent updates of news and analysis from around the country. This is a great place to catch up on all the things going on in our movement. 

The NPE web site , built by Rhode Island teacher Rob Perry, offers grassroots reports and activist toolkits, as well as a map showing the more than one hundred groups from around the nation that have signed up as our allies. 

Our Facebook page has attracted more than 4000 likes, and is a great place to go to find out what is being shared and discussed. 

And NPE has become a presence on Twitter as well, so please follow us, and keep up with the latest news. 

Please consider making a donation and becoming a member of our Network, if you have not done so already. Thank you!

Parents Organize in Douglas County, Colorado       
If they can make it here, they can make it anywhere...

Parent activists in Douglas County, Colorado, are organizing to take their school board back from members aligned with ALEC. They tell us: 

"In the short span of 3 years, we have seen an erosion in the Douglas County School District while an agenda is being enforced. You may recognize the themes of this agenda:  a voucher program which is currently tied up in litigation;  demoralization of teachers as they are subjected to ambiguous evaluations and bizarre market-based pay programs;  severe budget cuts despite a growing general fund balance; increased class sizes; major increase in the number of charter schools; the list goes on.."

Public Education is Not for Sale: 
But NPE T-shirts Are!

Thanks to the hundreds of you who offered slogans or voted to help us choose the best one. The winner of the runoff, with more than 50% of the vote, was Public Education is Not for Sale!  

Please go here to our new store.Proceeds will support the cause.

Please forward this newsletter far and wide! 

In solidarity,

NPE sq
The Network For Public Education

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