“Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental…The freedom to learn…has been bought by bitter sacrifice. And whatever we may think of the curtailment of other civil rights, we should fight to the last ditch to keep open the right to learn.”

—- W.E.B. DuBois, “The Freedom to Learn.” (1949)

“The arrogance, my God, of saying because we know how to run Kmart, we know how to educate children. It represents a giant defeat of democracy.”

— Thomas Sobol, professor emeritus, Columbia University Teachers College and former N. Y. State Commissioner of Education.

Detroit Schools at the scaffolds: teachers fight back!

There are a number of issues to report regarding Detroit schools and their teachers, kids and the autocrats bent on taking over public education in Detroit and turning the educational system into a privatized ghetto of regimented testing and despair. I will try to keep this succinct (a feeble attempt at best), but at the same time please understand this struggle is taking place in urban schools all over the nation and this is important – for we are not alone and the struggle and it will find expression at the AFT union convention this summer. Detroit teachers know this, and so do others throughout the nation. I have, and will continue to report without cynicism to readers about the struggles of working people against school closures, cuts in pay, lay-offs, give backs, mayoral control and the fight-back against illegitimate No Child Left Behind standardized ‘testing’. They are all related as any perusal of my articles at dissidentvoice.org or dailycensored.com will show. Please see my posts at http://www.dailycensored.com. You can find them under my name.

Robert Bobb of Detroit: Michelle Rhee in drag, or is it Kevin Johnson?

Robert Bobb was appointed emergency financial manager for Detroit’s public schools by Michigan Governor, Jennifer M. Granholm for a year long term in March of 2009. And who helped with Bobb’s moving expenses and Bobb’s salary? Well of course, Eli Broad the billionaire ‘philanthropist’ who is working in tandem with Gates, the Walton Family Fund, the Fisher Family (the owners of the Gap), Reed Hasting (NetFlix), Wall Street and of course Bill Gates, all of whom support and finance the massive and brutal privatization restructuring efforts our nation’s schools. Not surprisingly, Robert Bobb is a graduate of the Broad Foundation Fellowship in Urban Education, a training ground for turnaround artists and the new managerial elite that are fulcruming themselves into positions of power, especially in urban cities.

Bobb is little more than a shill for Eli Broad and his cartel, right up there with Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of Education in the killing fields of the privatization efforts in Washington, D.C., and her sweetheart, Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, who is embarked on his own vicious rampage to privatize schools and decimate public education. They’re not alone. Carbon copies leave the Broad seminary each and every day.

According to Eli Broad, in an interview with the Detroit News, Broad admitted he contributed $28,000 toward Bobb’s new Detroit salary and moving expenses, plus hundreds of thousands for other material needs connected to Bobb’s leisure lifestyle as a carnival barker of educational privatization efforts:

“We think there is a huge opportunity … to turn around Detroit Public Schools, (Bobb) is perfect for the job, and we want to be supportive on a continuous basis” (Susan Ohannian.org, Bobb set to spend $40M on advisers for Detroit Public Schools, http://susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=8904)

Some history about Robert Bobb

Bobb is an old hack, a ‘hopper’ who has been shilling for the privatizers for a long time.  The Washington Post reported as far back as 2005 about Bobb when he was a City Administrator for D.C. schools where his tenure can only be seen as a failure.  Now Washington D.C. has replaced him with Michelle Rhee to gut public education but under Bobb’s watch, according to the Post at the time:

“The auditor for the D.C. Council is recommending that the city appoint an independent official to handle contracts after finding that Mayor Anthony A. Williams and City Administrator Robert C. Bobb circumvented procurement laws when they arranged last year to pay four consultants more than $150,000.

In a report dated June 3, Auditor Deborah K. Nichols said the Office of Contracting and Procurement, which now falls under the mayor’s control, should be made “truly an ‘independent’ agency free from any pressure or constraints” from Williams or Bobb.

The findings, first reported by the Washington Times, end Nichols’s investigation into sole-source agreements issued by the mayor’s office and Bobb outside normal procurement channels. Three of the four consultants knew Bobb from his former job as city manager in Oakland, California” (The Washington Post, June 8, 2005, Montgomery, L. Williams, Bobb Shouldn’t Handle Contracts, Auditor Advises, http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/850660861.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Jun+8%2C+2005&author=Lori+Montgomery&pub=The+Washington+Post&edition=&startpage=B.05&desc=Williams%2C+Bobb+Shouldn%27t+Handle+Contracts%2).

Yes, Bobb is a serial privatizer and he loves cronyism, non-disclosure and secrecy, while at the same time harboring distaste for democracy, children, and parental concerns not keeping with his philosophical mission, and the law.  Diverting public funds towards private corporate interests is what he learned at the Eli Broad Academy and he is scurrying diligently to apply his knowledge.

Bobb is at it again: $40 million dollars set aside to pay for private consultant fees and perks for ‘the turnaround artists’ in Detroit while schools close, children are thrown to the wolves and teachers are laid off

The Detroit Free Press noted in October of 2009:

‘Robert Bobb, the state appointee overseeing the Detroit Public Schools, has set aside nearly $40 million to pay for consulting fees and perks for a turnaround team he assembled to strengthen the district’s financial management, angering unions that have suffered 2,500 layoffs since summer (at the end of the 2008-09 school year, Bobb eliminated about 72% of the curriculum and instruction department — about 181 people, including 11 department heads. Those cuts are to save DPS about $16 million a year, Bobb announced this summer.

The deficit-ridden district has leased riverfront apartments for consultants, as well as paid $400 a week per person for food in addition to airfare to fly some out of town for weekends, according to invoices and school officials. Some of the consultants come from Washington, D.C., and Cleveland — cities where Bobb and his top academic consultant previously worked’ (Chastity Pratt Dawsey
Detroit Free Press
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091010/NEWS01/910100322&template=printart You can also find this at writer Susan Ohanian’s website at http://susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=8904)

A spokesperson for Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm hurried to explain, falling all over herself in an attempt to provide cover for Bobb’s nepotism.  The nepotism was necessary she claimed:

‘Because of the depth of the district’s problems and the enormous work that needed to be done, he would come if he could bring a trusted SWAT team with him, and the Broad Foundation would help pay for it all’ (State says it’s cool for Robert Bobb to hire ex-employer for Detroit Public Schools, Jonathan Oosting | MLive.com August 12, 2009, http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2009/08/state_says_its_cool_for_robert.htm)

SWAT team?  “Cool”?  The muscled militarized language and the metaphorical disregard for our children and teachers is despicable, which is why Granholm herself should be given the bum’s rush out of office.  Even so, it has that all too familiar ring to it for anyone who follows these hooligans.

Detroit Public Schools Board member Ida Short is one person who has followed the sickening disorder, confusion and disaster created by these neo-liberal politicians and deep pocketed entrepreneurs and hustlers scrambling to take over public education.  She came out and said the governor and the Legislature needed to track Bobb’s spending:

’We’ve been pimped, we’ve been hoodwinked and the public    needs to get wind of this.  He’s supposed to be here remedying our debt, not spending our money. This is what the last state takeover did to us’ (Bobb set to spend $40M on advisers for Detroit Public Schools Chastity Pratt Dawsey
Detroit Free Press

All of this while Detroit schools face a $250 million dollar budget deficit and the unemployment rate is 50%.  Bobb doesn’t care.  He defends his actions by saying the consultants will save more money than they cost in the long run and have saved about $20 million so far.  Sure, that’s what they all say when they contract public funds to private interests.  Neo-liberalism is always defined as ‘cost-effective’ when in fact not only does it contribute to spiraling deficits, it is all done while teachers are laid off, classified staff are let go, public employees are black bagged, services and programs cut and children are denied a decent adequate education.

Taking a closer historical look at Bobb’s contribution of public funds to private capital

According to reporter and writer Susan Ohanian, one of Bobb’s dearest friends and colleagues is Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former president of Urban Superintendents Association of America. As Susan Ohanian noted, take a look at their Corporate partners.. As CEO of Cleveland Schools, she won the Richard R. Green Award, an award sponsored by Council of the Great City Schools and Aramark, involved with George W. bush’s despicable Secretary of Education, Rod Paige.  Current Cleveland provided a blistering summary of her job performance in Cleveland. They also described her corporate connections here.

According to Ohanian:

‘Byrd-Bennett was Supervising Superintendent for the Chancellor’s District in New York City, responsible for direct oversight of the lowest performing schools in the New York City public school system. According to an official biography, she “was credited with dramatic improvements in student achievement.”

As Cleveland Schools CEO, Byrd-Bennett defended the use of Compass Learning and other “drill and kill” programs, telling a Baltimore Sun reporter, “I would argue that there is very little intervention [for struggling students] that isn’t rote. For some things, you just have to learn facts to build to higher-order skills.”

In Crain’s Business News she calls such programs “solid, research-based programs that raise student achievement levels for our children and that allow the adults to do the work they do in a manner that is accountable for the children.”  Not unsurprisingly she Byrd-Bennett is also Executive Officer, Washington D. C. for New Leaders for New Schools and on the 2009 Broad Prize Review Board. (Bobb set to spend $40 million on Detroit Schools” (http://susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=8904)

In other words, like her colleagues, she loves No Child Left Behind, the anorexic bulimic learning model of education that is turning our children into slaves.

Leveraging public officials into office with private funds is the parlor secret the billionaire philanthropists use to get their ‘man’ into place to create the new infrastructure for venture capitalists, business entrepreneurs, Wall Street investors and for-profit and ‘non’-profit educational maintenance organizations.  To do this, the public jobs must vanish and be replaced by loyal corporations and for-profit entities who, as Sobel noted, say they know how to run K-Mart.  But do they?  K-Mart, you might remember, went bankrupt and so are the cities and the nation under the protection of the new-age ‘turnaround’ artists employed by the ruling class.

According to Carol Goss, president of the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation:

“The Broad Foundation two years ago told us they’d never come here — and now they are investing,”, told Crain’s Business News. They invested in the plan Bobb is bringing forward in terms of the financial turnaround.” (Crain’s Business News).

The Skillman Foundation, itself another philanthro-capitalist ‘outfit’, is backing the astro-turf Detroit Parent Network, as I wrote in dailycensored.com (Detroit Public Schools: Canary in the Coal Mine of Public Education http://dailycensored.com/2009/12/27/detroit-public-schools-canary-in-the-coal-mine-of-public-education/).

Parent Network is the brainchild of the privatizers and Bobb deceives and uses parents much like Ben Austin of Green Dot Schools does in LA.  Many of the parents are simply confused and Green Dot, Academica, Inc. (an EMO out of Florida with large national business plans) and Skillman (and many, many more) play on parental frustration with public schools to gin up support for their depressive privatization policies.  It’s a form of ‘public mugging’ and hapless ‘crowd control’ and it happens and repeats itself all around the country.  Health care is where you can clearly see the astro-turf phenomenon clearly, but it is borrowed and used whenever ‘angry groups’ are enlisted by the billionaires and their henchmen.  That is why we must build consciousness through mobilization.

Rounding up steers for ‘the head count’

There is quite a bit of public money that is at stake and Bobb needs to collect it.  For example, Education Week reported that Detroit’s public schools were making a full-court press effort to get students back in school in September of last year. Why?  It’s because of the ‘Head Count Day’ which is when official enrollment numbers are recorded for state monetary and fiscal purposes.   Bobb knows this, for he was hired to not only cut public educational expenditures, but also to wrangle up children like steers and then cash them in at the state level for public funds.   Quoting Education Week:

Robert C. Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager, has been making the rounds at bus stops over the last few weeks to talk with parents and students. The district has also gotten a boost from comedian and education activist Bill Cosby, who flew into town twice to lend his star power to the effort (1High Stakes for Detroit Schools on Count Day, September 30, 2009, Education Week, www.edweek.org).

The philanthro-capitalists love and need the fixers like the Kevin Johnsons’ (Sacramento), Paul Pastoreks’, Paul Vallas’ (New Orleans), Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosas’, the Dr. Ackermans’ (Philadelphia), Joe Klein (New York) Michelle Rhees’ (Washington D.C.) and of course Arne Duncan (Chicago, now Secretary of Education under Barrack Obama, or better said under the philanthro-capitalists). The capitalists need malleable mendacious politicians to gain faux support amongst the hoi poloi in their efforts to create the new privatized educational garbage pit they want to call public education.  The only thing public about it, of course, is that it is paid for by taxpayer funds — even if it means Bobb has to ride the buss to rope them in.  Gates’ calls it “experimentation” and the good Dr. Frankenstein is supporting it all over the nation.

The list of political supplicants just gets longer each day, city by city and each and every time the crime scene is examined and evidence shipped to the lab, forensics reveals the same billionaires and Wall Street thugs that bankroll the new urban school systems are key players.  It’s a criminal conspiracy, really, and would be indictable under the RICO Act if we had a moral commitment to children; but instead it is being supported by president Obama in his efforts to raise test scores and compete for the 21st century.  In the interim it is literally destroying and taking lives of children and working teachers and parents while sucking the education out of schools and replacing it with the tyranny of training.

Bobb’s contribution to neo-liberal policies: $40 million in contracting out to private firms in less than one year and massive cuts in public expenditures!

There is no doubt that Robert Bobb is good for business and bad for families, working people, teachers and kids.  Here is a closer look at the consultants who received at least $40 million from Bobb’s largess just within one year.  Look closely, for it is your money, taxpayer money and it is going to Granholm’s financial SWAT teams to storm the vestiges of public education and loot the public treasury.

Susan Ohanian does an excellent job at providing a closer look at some key consultants hired by DPS.  Among the private consultants with significant roles in the restructuring of Detroit Public Schools. For example, there’s:

• Comprehensive Financial Management Consultants, with an office in Southfield, sent DPS bills for $493,325 for dozens of auditors to work for one month to reconcile the schools’ financial records and bank deposits;

• The Portolan Group, based in Berkeley, Calif., was contracted to fill the role of chief operations officer to assess and make recommendations about the performance of facilities and food services. The firm was to be paid $193,800 for 1,160 employee hours. The dismissed chief of facilities and food services had earned $127,906 a year plus benefits. In an amendment to the contract, the company will be paid an additional $196,700 from Aug. 1 to March 1 (2009) for one full-time executive and other part-time staff to work one to two weeks per month;

• The New York-based firm Alvarez & Marsal was contracted at $500,000 — including travel and lodging — for a four-month period to review special education services, then design and implement an improvement plan.

When Alvarez & Marsal were turnaround consultants in St. Louis in 2003, individuals got only $250 a week for food. According to a Seattle Times report, they left the city in chaos and rage.

In the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Bill McClellan wrote:

“I suggest we sue William Roberti and the turnaround firm of Alvarez & Marsal.  They were charlatans.  One thing about us, we know charlatans. This is the original River City, and we’ve had a long line of out-of-towners playing the part of Professor Harold Hill. Harry Ornest with the hockey team and John Connelly with the Admiral are two of my favorites. But nobody can compete with Roberti.”

After St. Louis, Alvarez & Marsal moved on to New Orleans, with an $18.6 million contract to overhaul the school district’s muddled finances and helping reopen schools after Katrina. According to their website, “they assembled a new 13-charter school system from the ground up.” Concurrently, they were working for the American Italian Pasta Company “to improve business performance and focus on improving its portfolio of pasta brands”;
• Fanning Howey Associates, an architectural firm in Alexandria, Va., is contracted for $647,150 to assist in the summer construction program and long-range planning for the capital bond application to the state;

• Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, PC, of Washington, D.C., have billed the district $333,606 for 2 1/2 months of financial consulting, including about $45,000 in travel expenses for nine workers;

• McCrary Security Consultants of Florissant, Mo., billed DPS $58,960 for two consultants working two weeks to assess the DPS security department, including expenses. Afterward, a contract was signed for $53,600 a month, plus $5,360 for expenses for the two experts to work as needed through October:

Lt. Colonel Charles E. McCrary, Sr., the president of McCrary Security Consultans, is retired Chief of Security for St. Louis Public Schools and former Assistant Chief of Police for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. To supplement their pay of $58,960 for two weeks work, his firm offers “School Security Team” Starter Set of 12 Books for $203.49 plus ship/handling. The website is colorfully named http://www.bossforce1.com (Ohanian, ibid).

Public Financial Management Inc., Robert Bobb’s former employer, was the lucky recipient of a no-bid contract for which the Broad Foundation picked up a hefty part of the tab.

Similar to the outsourcing to military contractors such as Blackwater (Xe) in Iraq or Afghanistan, these are no bid contracts. They are discretionary, capricious and under the tight fisted decision making of subordinate Bobb and his paymasters.  It must be lovely to lunch and dine with contractors and the business elite and then serve as a public executioner: you get to lay off hard working public employees in the midst of a Great Depression caused by your own handlers and then contract out their work and the work of laying off more of them to ‘guillotine enterprises’ like those listed above.  Bobb gets paid handsomely for all of this, both by Eli Broad and by the Detroit taxpayers.  Does he get kick backs?

This is a stunning example of both the policies of neo-liberalism and the actual politics of privatization and is vivid and direct testimony as to the speed at which these economic serial killers are traveling.  One has to be on predator watch consistently to connect the dots, to follow their scent and the task is not easy.  One thing we do know though, the patterns involved in the criminal activity are the same and thus plausible inferences can be drawn from the evidence that we see strewn all over this nation.  This, plus the fact the whole spectacle is partially public, makes the job of getting under the yellow tape around the crime scene and bagging evidence of the wholesale larceny of the public treasury a bit easier.

The plan is working: Detroit poised to close more public schools, layoff more public workers and Robert Robb says he wants mayoral control to decimate the public sector and siphon off more public funds

Mayoral control

Amongst the business elites and American ruling class mayoral control is capturing all the heavy breathing, city by city, throughout the nation —  in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Milwaukee and elsewhere.  Why?  As recently passed educational rights advocate Gerald Bracey once said, “it’s the new tyranny.”

Mayoral control puts the school district and decision-making, right along with decisions as to how to transfer public funds to private entities into the hands of a unitary executive, the mayor.  No more fussy school boards with their own ideas, no more messy democracy with its heated debate, no more full disclosure or sticky wickets like transparency, as issues and the concentrated privatized efforts to confront them are held close to the vest and of course, with mayoral control the players are controlled as well. It’s a cartel. The mayor receives campaign contributions from wealthy and eager entrepreneurs and corporations and then uses governmental power and public funds to do their bidding, from closing schools to urban gentrification.  A few people get rich but lots of people get thrown into poverty.

Take a look at New Orleans for a glimpse of the executive salaries where mayoral control exists.  All this while the working class receives layoffs and budget cuts for basic services, and thousands of former residents still remain refugees (http://dailycensored.com/2010/02/08/is-arne-duncan-clinically-a-paranoid-schizophrenic/).  Mayoral control, spelled out in the language of power means the dictatorial concentration of power directly in the hands of the ruling class representatives of urban cities and you bet Bobb wants mayoral control.  Detroit teachers are fighting back and beginning to organize, as we will cover in a few paragraphs and Bobb needs to move quickly as a result.

Bankrolling mayoral control

The bankroller for mayoral control efforts that are seizing the nation is of course, Bill Gates.   Take a look at what Gates did for New York’s efforts to assure mayoral control was kept in place in August of just last year.  According to the New York Post:

“America’s richest man chipped in to help preserve mayoral control of New York City schools.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates — a pal of fellow billionaire Mayor Bloomberg — has secretly bankrolled Learn-NY, the group that joined the campaign led by The Post to extend mayoral control.

Gates funneled about $4 million to the pro-mayoral-control forces during the fierce, dragged-out legislative debate, The Post has learned. A spokesman for Gates confirmed the donation and the approximate size.

The donation helped pay for Learn-NY’s extensive public-relations, media and lobbying efforts in Albany and the city. The effort include advertisements, parent organizing (emphasis added) and canvassing — including a five-borough bus tour and trips to the state capital” (Carl Campanile, Gate’s $4 million dollar lesson, August 8, 2009 http://www.nypost.com/p/news/regional/item_ekjA6OeXIrxZjDATHPbkuJ).

Parent organizing: this is the astro-turf creationist laboratory that we spoke of earlier, set up by the likes of Ben Austin and LA Parent Revolution, the Skillmans, Academica, Inc. and its ‘community meetings’ (http://dailycensored.com/2010/02/03/the-for-profit-educational-maintenance-organization-academica-inc/) all of this is part and parcel of managing perceptions, buying favor and controlling both the political process and the minds of beleaguered citizens through money.  The billionaires are financing and purchasing disillusionment.  They’re thugs in suits.

But there’s more, it hardly stops there:

As the social engineer he believes he is the delusional Gates knows he needs mayoral control; he won’t invest in his privatization plans without it; nor will the baited breathed entrepreneurs and Wall Street eager to get their hands on public funds to accumulate more profits be on board.  According to the Post, Gates commented in August 2009, at the time of the $4 million dollar handover, that:

“He made it clear that he liked having city CEOs in charge of education decision-making and accountable for results.

“You want to allow for experimentation. The cities where our foundation has put the most money is where there is a single person responsible. In New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, the mayor has the responsibility for the school system,” Gates said during a CNN appearance.

Another billionaire philanthropist — Eli Broad, a proponent of charter schools — also gave millions to Learn-NY” (ibid)

It doesn’t get any clearer than this.  Again, none of the billionaires or Wall Street will invest in any structure of education that gives working people a voice in decision-making; it must be top down all the way and with no-bid contracts to private corporations, all the way to the end.  Remember, Robert Bobb is a Broad graduate, as are most of the players in the urban cities under mayoral control now.  They are either connected with Broad or have his imprimatur on their backs.  So too does Randi Weingarten, the head of the AFT.  The game is surely in play.  This is the next economic bubble.

Closing schools, first order of the day

According to the Detroit Free Press of February 11, 2010, Bobb is moving rapidly now:

“Roughly 40 Detroit public schools will close, and the district will impose layoffs, furloughs and other concessions upon its staff this year to help close a $200-million deficit, emergency financial manager Robert Bobb said Wednesday.

Bobb said the closures will include underutilized high schools. Neither Bobb nor district officials would say which schools will close.

And the plan isn’t a total surprise. School officials talked last year of possibly closing 60 schools over two years (More Detroit schools to close

Bobb plans layoffs and more to cut deficit, says he wants mayor to control the district” (Freep.com., NAOMI R. PATTON
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER, February 11, 2010, http://freep.com/)

It’s not to close the deficit, it is to decimate the teacher’s unions, seize and secure public facilities and funds in an all out effort to privatize schools under a Charter Management Organization agreement or what is now called Portfolio Schools, the language employed by Wall Street.  This most certainly will cause further deficits.

This is all about the “smash and grab” policies that the ruling class is using to confiscate public funds, fire public workers and virtually replace the public school system with private contracted out workers — the Wal-Martization of education.  It is about assuring Gates’ and other billionaire investors that hit men like Bobb can get the job done and it is no doubt is being planned at high levels in the Obama administration with the help of Race to the Top and Arne Duncan.  City officials also work in tandem with privatized urban planners and ‘hard money men’ who see an opportunity in gentrification and real estate development.  It always is; Chicago under Duncan is just one example.

The Detroit Freep went on to note:

“Bobb’s comments came during the Crain’s Newsmakers of the Year luncheon at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, where he and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing were lauded as “change agents in charge.” (ibid)

Jeffrey Dahmer was a change agent too.

The ruling class representatives wine and dine with billionaires, entrepreneurs, Wall Street and the corporate media while the working class gets pink slips, 50% unemployment, foreclosures, permanent war abroad eating up trillions of dollars and drastic cut-backs in social services.  It’s social Darwinism on a grand scale.

Detroit Federation of Teachers

Not so fast.  There is the little matter of the Detroit Federation of Teachers and we can only hope that their efforts to block school closures, firings, standardized tests and other privatization efforts are successful.  They must be, for if not, the teachers will become second hand clothes in this scenario and they know it.  The good news is that the struggle of Detroit teachers is happening on many fronts.

The struggle against standardized testingand NCLB

To begin with, Detroit teachers are fighting back against the decrepit standardized tests.  They have to move fast for Robb certainly is.  According to the Detroit Federation of Teachers:

“On Wednesday, February 3, 2010  Bobb announced that he was immediately imposing three new sets of standardized tests on DPS students and teachers, in addition to all the other standardized tests required this year.   Each of the new tests will result in the cancellation of yet another entire week of instruction in math and English/reading, beginning this week.

Detroit Teachers argue that there is no scientific evidence that the new tests are a valid measure of student achievement.  Most are impossibly difficult — designed purely to demoralize students and help Bobb in his campaign of dishonestly blaming Detroit teachers for the problems in the schools, cutting programs, shutting schools and laying off teachers and support staff “ (e-mail from DFT).

As the e-mail went on to note:

“Each of these illegitimate Design for Failure tests will cost DPS millions of dollars.  This money could instead be used to purchase the thousands of books still missing from DPS classrooms, and recall laid-off teachers in order to reduce class size.” (For more information contact you can contact Joyce Schon at 313.434.7075) (ibid).

Detroit Teachers, online stated on February 5, 2010:

“Numerous events in the recent days show that Detroit teachers are part of a growing struggle against the attacks on public education and public services generally — the march by city and county workers this Thursday, the MEA’s refusal to sign the Race to the Top grant, and the refusal of several Detroit suburbs to sign as well. We must take full advantage of this situation and reach out to our allies immediately” (Fight Unfair Standardized Tests, Detroit Teacher, February 5, 2010 http://detroitteacher2.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/fight-unfair-standardized-tests/)

According to recent news from Detroit Teachers, online, teachers, parents, and students alike rallied Monday, February 8th in protest of what is known in Detroit as the “Q2 Benchmark Assessment”.

The cite, which was posted February 9th, 2010 indicated students, parents and the Detroit board of education president, Robert Mathis stated the tests are not only illegitimate but that they are designed to:

(1) completely disrupt the teaching and learning in our schools, and

(2) make every DPS teacher and student appear to be a failure, so that

(3) Bobb can then begin completely dismantling our public schools this spring and summer under the completely dishonest guise of “reform.”

The cite goes on to note that:

“As educators, we know this type of testing does not promote learning. WE MUST DEFEND THEIR RIGHT TO LEARN AND GROW AND NOT BE TESTED TO DEATH FOR THE POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL GAINS OF CORRUPT INDIVIDUALS” ((http://detroitteacher2.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/detroit-board-of-ed-president-demands-q2-test-be-stopped-now/)).

Mathis went so far as to send a letter to Robert Bobb on February 5th, 2010.  Detroit Board of Education President Mathis demanded in the letter that Bobb and his corporate minions obey court rulings by Judge Wendy Baxter, stop abusing his power according to Public Act 72 of Detroit’s city charter and cease and desist from making any further academic decisions effective immediately; specifically, administering this benchmark assessment (ibid).

Although schools in Detroit were notified of the assessment in early February, testing was to begin the week of the first week of February. Even though some Detroit schools have begun administration of the standardized test, others have postponed testing in response to President Mathis’s letter.  It is clear Bobb wants to use the test results to close schools and privatize them.  He needs public schools to fail for the sordid strategy.  He is banking on public failure and the failure of our children to shape the future for the ruling class.

The struggle against the Q2 Benchmark Test for Detroit

Detroit Federation of Teachers clearly are on the side of children, their parents working people and communities and they argue that:

“The new tests (Q2 Beenchmark) are a reflection of what we have argued….  (it) is the worst of all the terrible aspects of the new Johnson/Bobb “union contract” — that it is based on the ideology that the teachers are the problems with the schools, and that teachers must be attacked in order to improve education.

Our most effective response to the tests is to complete the removal of Johnson next Thursday, (this would have been the 11th of February, my editorial) take back control of our union, and use the resources of our union to organize a campaign to expose Bobb and what he is doing to the people of Detroit, and demand the real reforms that will improve education in our schools. Save our Schools! Save Our Union!” ((http://detroitteacher2.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/detroit-board-of-ed-president-demands-q2-test-be-stopped-now/))

One third grade teacher proctored the tests for her class and commented:

“The student test documents were a disaster. I am pretty sure you heard about this already. The 3rd grade documents were so confusing for the children and me.
Since we got the documents right before testing, we had no time to go over the forms and test sheets. Wow, Bobb has no clue on what he is  doing.  Ridgeway must be under pressure, because she usually get these things right. One writing prompt on the 3rd grade document asked this question after reading the story:

Which parts of the selection will be useful? Useful to whom or what?

I had trouble figuring out the specifics of this question, imagine a third grader. It’s crazy to have a student form with information for the teacher to complete on it. The children were so confused. A student asked me “how do you fill in number 7.” Number 7 is the writing portion not a multiple choice portion. So I had to go over the test book and answer document, stop the test, and explain what and what not to mark. There was nothing in the document we used to read to the students. The 4th and 5th grade teachers said the answer sheets for them were all wrong. Multiple choices were A-D in the booklet. However, the answer sheets had A-C. Wow!  I am totally exhausted with the dibels, bursting, and now Q2” (e-mail from a third grade teacher in Detroit).

It’s a Wal-Mart curriculum and workplace now

This all sounds like the ‘hanging chad’ spectacle that we saw in the voting in Florida in 2000 when George W. Bush stole the election with the help of the Supreme Court.  Surely this is a form of child abuse.  If you doubt it is, then a simple look at the article published in the on-line site Alternet will give you a fresh scent of the outhouse Bobb and Johnson are creating for Detroit’s educational future.  According to Muriel Kane, in her article Detroit Schools’ Offering Classes in How to Work at Walmart Attacked as ‘Subservient Worker’ Training:

“Four inner-city Detroit high schools have decided that employment with Walmart is an opportunity worth training their students to pursue. The schools have teamed up with the giant merchandiser to offer a for-credit class in job-readiness training that also includes entry-level after-school jobs.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the principal at one of the schools optimistically suggested that “the program will allow students an opportunity to earn money and to be exposed to people from different cultures — since all of the stores are in the suburbs.”

The announcement of the program outraged Donna Stern, the Midwest coordinator for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights And Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN):

“They’re going to train students to be subservient workers. This is not why parents send them to school” (Detroit Schools’ Offering Classes in How to Work at Walmart Attacked as ‘Subservient Worker’ Training
By Muriel Kane, Raw Story
Posted on February 12, 2010, Printed on February 13, 2010

Kevin Johnson and the fight for legitimate union representation

Kevin Johnson, the corrupt union boss for the Detroit Federation of teachers, has been the subject of controversy himself.  As I wrote at dailycensored.com:

“The controversy has been heating up for quite a while (see www.bamn.org for more or dailycensored.com).  Perhaps soon-to-be-recalled, DFT President, Keith Johnson, late last year huddled with Robert Bobb, to put together the contract agreement that would force teachers to give up concessions demanded by the city, including a pay freeze, millions of dollars in cuts in health care, reduced prep time, the introduction of merit pay and the expansion of charter schools, and the $500 a month deduction from pay checks, insultingly packaged as an “investment” on the part of teachers (this is the Termination Incentive Plan).  Also contained in the illegal contract is what is called the Priority Schools clause.  The ‘clause’ allows an unlimited amount of ‘priority schools’ to be run as charter schools, by teachers being treated as Walmart associates or at will employees based on one year contracts.  The move would create a system of not just ‘associates’ but also would allow any administrator to cherry pick teachers, using favoritism and discrimination.  This is all an attempt to meet the market-based application requirements of Race to the Top (Detroit Teachers Rebel against decades of degradation and the policies of Race to the Top http://dailycensored.com/2010/01/18/detroit-teachers-rebel-against-decades-of-degradation-and-the-policies-of-race-to-the-top/)

The meeting to recall Kevin Johnson took place on February 11th, as planned.  Teachers had collected 1,300 signatures to recall the man, but as Michigan Public Broadcasting reported the teacher’s union meeting where the matter of recall was supposed to be handled erupted in what the station called “chaos” (DFT meeting breaks down amid accusations of vote-rigging (http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/michigan/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1611414/Top.Stories/DFT.Meeting.Breaks.Down.Amid.Accusations.of.Vote-Rigging?dsq=34008153#comment-34008153).  Although the majority of the members at the meeting tried to put the recall proposition on the agenda, the board would not allow it.

Lisa Sinnett, a teacher at Western International High School summed it up nicely when speaking of the vote tally:

“They lied.  And so if I had any doubts in my mind to listen what Keith Johnson had to say – which is what I wanted to hear what he had to say when I came in to address what people said – I don’t have any more doubts that that was a corrupt and false vote” (ibid).

The union ‘leaders’ say that the vote was fair and they say the recall petitions did not meet union constitutional requirements.  According to Detroit Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Mark O’Keefe:

“It was an honest vote, people counted it, you could see the numbers” (ibid).

Not so, says a blogger at the Detroit Teachers website:

“they are just making stuff up! THERE IS NO CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT FOR CHARGES TO BE DEEMED VALID BY THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OR PRESIDENT.  Dismissal of the petitions by Johnson’s appointed “recall committee” is like an alleged criminal acting as his own judge to dismiss the charges against him. The recall procedure is described in Article VIII: Recall of Officer as follows:

Section 1.

(a)    Petition for the recall of any officer for violation of his obligation of office shall be initiated by a recall petition clearly stating specific charges and signed by not fewer than one thousand (1000) members in good standing from not fewer than twenty percent (20%) of the schools or work locations.

(b)   No officer shall be subject to recall proceedings without being given at least 30 days written notice of the charges preferred against him and tan opportunity to appear before the membership at a regular or special meeting. Two-thirds of those present and voting at the meeting shall be required to recall the officer.

This procedure is simple for a good reason; to provide guidelines for a democratic process.

Johnson has been given more than enough notice; we have more than enough signatures from more than enough work locations. He does not get to declare the charges invalid. If he wants to argue their validity, he can do so in his appearance before the membership. (Of course we will give ample evidence that the charges are absolutely valid.)

Thirdly, the past two meetings were not disrupted by a “small group of dissidents”. They were disrupted by Keith Johnson when he attempted to ignore members and deny our democratic rights. When he tried to declare his agenda approved at the last meeting with the vast majority of the members present standing and clearly and loudly voting NO!, this membership refused to relent to his dictatorial tactics. He also disrupted our meeting by illegally adjourning, and cutting the lights.  The threat that anyone who disrupts will be removed by the police is an empty threat. Johnson has tried this at the past two meetings, and in both cases the police have recognized that the members are only exercising their rights and refused to act as Johnson’s thug” (ibid).

I spoke with Donna Stern, the representative from By Any Means Necessary (www.bamn.com) about the dismal affair and she had this to say:

“From our point of view, not so dismal. We were unable to force a vote, but neither was Keith able to go forward and run a routine meeting with his agenda. The situation is still in flux. Our next move is to show how little support he has by trouncing him in the delegate elections March 11 and then making a major fight against the Weingarten policies at the convention (e-mail).”

So it stands, for now.  In the interim, as working people in Detroit face foreclosures, massive wage theft, the dismantlement of public education, and everything else buckled to the Second Great Depression it is now up to the forces of working people’s mobilization to deliver a knock-out punch to Bobb and Johnson.  If they don’t, we can be assured that the Walmartization of public education will continue unabated.

We all have much to learn from Detroit teachers and their struggles and I encourage you to support them in their efforts, for their struggle is our struggle as the miscreants and suited thugs operate from the west coast to the east coast and in between to force our children into a ‘de-rangement’ and ‘de-form of education’ that not only threatens their ability to learn, but stands as a threat to us all.