Rally for Public Education on Market Square

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

There was a lot going on this past Friday night. It all started with a bunch of fed-up teachers gathering for a rally and press conference on Market Square. Representative Gloria Johnson was the featured speaker and she was joined by about seventy-five teachers who held signs and booed and cheered at appropriate points. But I can’t give a dispassionate report of this rally because it is personal to me. Consider this one an editorial.

Honestly, I’ve wished for years teachers would more aggressively respond to attacks launched at schools and at the teachers themselves. I’m not sure exactly when the idea of the beloved teacher giving all for his or her students became replaced with the image of a self-serving, greedy, teachers union stooge.

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

I have closely observed education my entire life and I know some of this started with William Bennett during the Reagan administration who used his position as Secretary of Education to attack teachers and their unions. After suffering a constant barrage of missives against teachers for his entire tenure, I don’t think the profession ever recovered. His appointment was considered a victory by the neo-conservatives led by Irving Kristol.

Now, most people accept the idea that “schools are failing.” Every international comparison is trumpeted as evidence to that effect. Every teacher accused of misconduct makes headlines. To listen to legislators across the south, you’d have to conclude that teachers and their unions are the number one problem facing our states.

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

The attacks come in various forms. We have legislators in Tennessee, and administrators at the local level, working in lock step with corporations set to siphon off public money. Often, as was the case with Jamie Woodson, they work to make it easier for the companies to access public funds and then they are rewarded with large salaries to work for the very same companies.

Most recently in Knox County, the Parthenon Group, based in Boston, suggested major changes for the schools. They recommended increasing class sizes, reduction of around 300 positions such as guidance counselors, librarians, social workers, school psychologists and others, saying that these positions do not contribute to higher test scores. They say they want to “personalize” public education.

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

What does that mean, you ask? How do you increase class size and “personalize” public education at the same time? Well, you spend public money with private corporations like Pearson and Discovery Ed. You buy tablet PCs from Microsoft. Why from Microsoft? Because all of this is backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They “gave” the Knox County Schools a grant of nearly one million dollars with the stipulation that they must hire the Parthenon Group as a consultant.

So, the Gates give money that really gets spent on their choice of consultant who, in turn, recommends firing 300 staff members in order to fund tablet PCs from Microsoft. Bill and Melinda stop sounding quite so philanthropic don’t they? But who will provide the content? Discovery Ed, the group behind the STEM school movement (sound familiar?), and Pearson. Pearson develops the online text books, provides the PARRC test which sets up students for failure and then guess who profits by providing remediation? Pearson provides the remediation software.

Hollie Nawrocki, Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Hollie Nawrocki, Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

And it’s all to provide a profit for investors. Don’t believe me? A recent quote from the Parthenon Group states, “If Common Core has teeth, the “Performance Gap” will get a lot bigger!” In other words, “make the test impossible, the deficiencies of the students look worse, and we’ll make a lot of money selling remediation software.”

Which is a long way to say that teachers have had it and the public appears to have accepted the entire package – at least until last week when there was some blow-back regarding the Common Core, brought about by an odd alliance of Tea Party members who see it as a plot of some sort and liberals who object to many facets of its implementation.

I don’t even have time to get into Charter schools which are another attempt to take public money and give it to private corporations which are not held to the same standards as public schools and often get their choice of students.

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Press Conference and Rally for Public Education with Gloria Johnson, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2014

Around seventy-five teachers showed up for the rally. Ms. Johnson spoke and made some of the points I’ve mentioned. Additionally, Hollie Nawrocki spoke from a parent’s perspective primarily about the tests that have come to dominate the school calendar. Signs were held and waived during the forty-five minute rally. And then everyone faded into their various directions.

Will it matter? Will enough people take the time to understand that public education as this country has established it may disappear? Will teachers continue to vote people into office who are hostile to their very profession?  How many of you will post this to your FB page to spur further discussion? How many people even read this far to see these questions?

Comments

  1. Tchrblr34 says

    @The Truth

    Teachers that reside in non-textbook adoption states (which out number those states that adopt textbooks) use their state standards, professional content knowledge, test data, and grade-level curriculum to teach their students. This isn’t a novel idea. It’s what teachers are/should be taught to do. Unfortunately, textbook adoption is the easy way out and frankly, in TN, we often choose the easy way.

  2. I agree completely!

  3. Hear, Hear, UrbanGuy. Well put.

  4. Lettie Flores says

    Excellent article, and one I hope gets shared and discussed everywhere. To add to the points about how corporations are contributing to the problem- who creates the tests for NCLB? Pearson, Harcourt (before being bought by Pearson), ETS, etc. Teachers have very little time and energy to fight for their jobs, much less take on the textbook monopoly. In between teaching to over-sized classrooms and trying to manage disciplinary problems in these same classrooms; many of them try to fit in a little bit of actual education. But of course they still have to pay attention to “teach to the tests” they have to give every year that partially determines whether they keep their underpaying jobs. That teachers have become the new “welfare queen” stereotype breaks my heart and enrages me. My mother was an amazing elementary school teacher in one of the poorest school districts in San Antonio, TX, and she saw first-hand how resources (or lack thereof) determined how well students performed. Ipads won’t magically improve scores- paying and respecting teachers who do the hard work every day makes the difference.

  5. This is a very well written blog post. However, you make a lot of reference to putting public dollars into the hands of private companies and suggest that this is a “new” thing. This has been happening for, at least, the last 100 years. This process is called “buying textbooks”. The textbook companies have forged the path of American education for some time now. Educators say they want freedom to teach in their classes. This freedom is merely an illusion. Teachers “teach” what the textbooks tell them to. Go into every school in TN, or America, and remove all of the textbooks and Teacher Editions, this summer. When the teachers return, they won’t know what to do..it will be mass chaos. This will be a clear demonstration of the “illusion” of academic freedom. If teachers want to make a dent in the free market economy and take back education, they need group and formulate their own curriculum and then get the States to back it and pass it. How do you tell if the curriculum is working? You need to have an assessment to check and see if it is working. If it’s not, you need to work with the teachers to ensure they know the curriculum and can get more students to learn it. For the students that consistently under-perform, we have to look at those teachers to determine if they are unable to help kids learn. For those teachers whose students do well, we need to put them on a pedestal and help them help others do what they do. Does all of this sound familiar? What’s the alternative? Let every single teacher in America do what they want in their own individual classrooms? One word…chaos…

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      There is some truth to what you are saying. Text book companies have been supplying material for years. But never have companies integrated themselves to the same degree that some of these companies are doing. Pearson, as an example, provides the content (electronic textooks), the tests which cost many millions of dollars for each state and the remediation software. Not surprisingly, the tests reveal that many students need remediation, making more money for the company. This is something that is trumpeted to investors, assuring them the profits will continue. Charter schools are another example of the manner in which private corporations are gaining access to public money to operate private schools. Often charter schools are sold as an alternative to “failing school.” The schools are determined to be failing by use of these same tests. Interestingly, the same standards, tests and evaluations are not required of the charter schools.

      As for having excellent teachers determine the curriculum, that sounds like a great idea. Instead, Common Core was developed largely by non-educators and funded by large corporations and their extensions, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

  6. Judy S Blackstock says

    Sharing on Facebook!!

  7. You’ve written a very clear explanation of this situation; nice job!

  8. YES! A brilliant analysis of a sinister interlocking doctorate of money-fueled interests mortgaging our children to get richer. Thank you! And may this post be read and considered everywhere!

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