Saturday, October 24, 2009

NYCorE's Political Education and Mobilization (PEM) work group

Join NYCoRE’s Political Education and Mobilization (PEM) work group as we launch our educator political education series for the 09-10 school year. Through these forums we will interrogate the ways in which current education reforms are aligned with corporate-thinking and how deeply these reforms shape our work lives, the lives of our students and the local community.
First up, Obama & My Classroom.

What are some of the major elements of Barack Obama’s (& Arne Duncan's) education platform? How does this federal discussion affect the lives of teachers, students, and families in the New York City Public school system? What are the political ideologies that support this stance? How might we, as educators, respond? These are just some of the questions we will be looking at during this first gathering.

Join us, and please invite other interested educators and concerned community members.
Wednesday, Oct. 28th
5 – 7 pm
CUNY Graduate Center365 5th Ave. (@ 34th St.)
Room 5409 Please bring ID.For information or to RSVP, contact Edwin

Friday, October 23, 2009

GEM Supports PR General Strike & Joins 150 NY Protesters

(click title for YouTube video)

We of the NYC Grassroots Education Movement – GEM/UFT extend our solidarity today with the Puerto Rico General Strike of Workers. We join with our brother/sister Puerto Rico workers in echoing their demands:

NO to the layoffs of any public sector workers. Restore the public jobs of all fired 25,000+ workers.

NO to the privatization of public services which only serve the profiteering interests of corporate greed.

NO to the draconian Law #7 that has cancelled all public sector labor contracts and worker rights.

NO to the Puerto Rico Government’s attempts to criminalize and repress workers who exercise their human and democratic rights of free speech, assembly and organization

We stand united against this dictatorial corporate/government drive to privatize the public services both in Puerto Rico, here in the United States and here in NYC with the deplorable actions of Mayor Bloomberg.

GEM opposes the privatization and union busting of our public school systems, here and there, facilitated with autocratic mayoral control and private charter schools.


Monday, October 19, 2009

The Truth about Charter Schools

Are They Really the Solution to the Crisis in Public Education?

Charter schools continue to expand into the Harlem community and communities throughout NYC and the entire country. They purport to stand for more parent choice and power and for an opportunity for quality education for students who have been historically denied that opportunity. But what is the reality?

• Do Charter Schools actually represent a genuine movement to establish parent choice and equitable education for ALL students?

• Do charter schools provide adequate channels for the democratic input of staff and parents?

• At this forum [last Sept. 2nd], we [invited] parents, students teachers and community members to consider the role that charter schools play in the larger national agenda to privatize education in the United States.

• Charter schools are opening while public schools are closing or being placed in smaller spaces that hinder their growth. Charter schools also have stricter admission policies. With all these “at-risk” or “failing schools” closing, where are their students going to go? Who will accept them?

Click brochure cover above for a downloadable pdf.

Our post about the forum that took place in the State Office Building in Harlem, last Sept. 2nd got inundated with spam comments, so we're reposting the above paragraphs. It was sponsored by the Office of Senator Bill Perkins, the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), the Coalition for Public Education (CPE), the Center for Immigrant Families (CIF), Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence (BNYEE), and parents and teachers from NYC schools, including P.S. 123, 30, 197, 241, and 368.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The dismantling of the MS 126 library

Watch the story of how the John Ericsson Middle School library in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, lost its space to charter school needs.

Updated Video here . . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oct. 20th GEM meeting to focus on strategy

Do you have a charter school in your
public school building?

Will a charter take over your school’s
art, music, AIS, library or science rooms?

If the answer is Yes, you are not alone.

More and more charter schools are pushing into our public school buildings.

Help build a grassroots movement of educators to mobilize against this takeover of public school space.

A democratic society depends on excellent public schools. If public schools had adequate resources and funds to do the job, there'd be no need for charters.

Come to a Grassroots Education Movement meeting on preserving our public schools.
• Discuss and strategize how to fight back.
• Hear what educators and communities have done to organize.
• Find out what is happening around the city.

Tuesday, October, 20th
4:30 PM

CUNY Graduate Center
Room 5414
34th St. & 5th Ave.

(1 train to 33rd St., or the N, Q, R, W, F, V, B, or D to 34th St.)

Bring ID

Friday, October 9, 2009

An expendable library in Brooklyn

We were following this story last week about the unjustifiable conversion of great middle school library in Brooklyn into a room for planning, meetings and small classes.

That's because the three charter schools sharing the building with JHS 126 have the clout under BloomKlein's charterization campaign to get what they want when they want it.

According to Daily News staff writer Elizabeth Lazarowitz,
Access to the library for more than 400 middle schoolers will be restricted to one side of the space for less than two hours each day, with an extra hour on Wednesdays.
Why they think that a room full of bookshelves is the best use of that space for meetings or classes is beyond me, particularly when such care went into creating that library for kids doing their first research projects and having a place to get themselves lost in a world of literature and dreams.
Last year, the library got an overhaul, with volunteers painting the walls with a castle motif. Now, the 13 donated computers, comfy recliners and futon have been removed.
What else is wrong with this picture?

The same old story about charters using the building on their way to their own facility, then not moving out as originally promised or planned. And of course the overcrowding. Lazarowitz reports 1,400 kids are being stuffed into facility designed for 1,320.

— jw

Thursday, October 8, 2009

STD testing and the DoE

There's an "education and testing" program for sexually transmitted diseases coming to 100 high schools citywide this year set up by the NYC Department of Health and the DoE. Apparently they hit 110 schools last year.

High school teachers were told to distribute letters addressed to Parents and Guardians to their students. These letters contained information about the program and what looked like a permission slip, but really wasn't. I wouldn't want to bet how many of these letters actually made it home. Quite a few kids refused to take them from me in the first place, and some left them under the seats on the way out.

The "permission" slip is actually the reverse of permission:

It reminds me of the Patriot Act, where if parents do not want military recruiters hounding their kids to join the army, they have to send in a form to opt out. Most don't know about that stipulation, which is what the government wanted when it designed that law: with no draft, they have to look for other ways to get young people signing up for wars. Same thing here. If parents don't know about important issues, privacy included, the government can go about their business with their kids.

Knowing that most of these letters were not going to reach the parents of my students, I was concerned that the students would be tested without parental knowledge or consent. It also worried me that the letter didn't specify the kind of test (blood or urine) the kids would be getting, seemingly automatically, if they didn't return the "do not educate or test" order. The letter did say the results of any testing would be strictly confidential and that only the student can legally access this information. Some of us really doubt whether anything on the DoE computers can ever be strictly confidential.

I called the office that put this letter out and got from them the following information:
It is a urine test, not a blood test.

NYS state law says that children age 13 and older can get tested for STDs without parent consent.

If the child attends the informational part of the program, he or she will not be forced into taking the test. The testing is still optional and they wouldn't force test.

That the parent permission slip is only a "courtesy," and it's not needed at all.
None of this information was provided in the letter. Nor was it provided to teachers responsible for handing these out so they could answer questions about the protocol.

When I asked why they couldn't send us all an email about it, the response was disheartening. They would speak to the teachers when they see them, but they couldn't contact the teachers personally. That's an asinine response right there. Whenever the chancellor wants to pat himself on the back, he sends an email out to every educator in the system through DoE email. You just press Send.

What I did find on NYS law is this:
Can a minor (age less than 18 years) consent to his or her own HIV test?
In New York State the capacity to consent to an HIV test (either confidential or anonymous) is determined without regard to age. Informed consent for minors varies, depending upon the minor's situation.
Capacity to Consent is Required and is Not Based on Age Alone
The capacity to consent is defined in the Public Health Law as the: "ability, determined without regard to the individual's age, to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of a proposed health care service, treatment, or procedure, or of a proposed disclosure of confidential HIV related information, as the case may be, and to make an informed decision concerning the service, treatment or disclosure." (Public Health Law Section 2780.5).
Whenever the DoE looks as if it bungles something, one has to suspect whether these are errors in judgment and/or procedure, or if they are really trying to corral an unsuspecting population into being tested en masse.

Because if they are really trying to be on the level, someone could have taken the trouble to explain the NYS law regarding the testing of minors and privacy. They might have also consider doing away with that meaningless "permission" slip, since it's the student himself who makes the decision on whether he's going to get himself tested.

What I didn't ask and perhaps should have is for a list of schools that are getting this program. Is it truly a citywide program or in just particular schools, if you know what I mean.

By the way, one has every reason to suspect the DoE of mismanaging this program or worse. An easy Google search found two instances of local school systems imposing STD testing on minors. There was a case of forced STD testing back in 2003 that upset the NYCLU enough to file a lawsuit against the city. Last summer parents in Port Chester, NY, some parents felt a similar program was intrusive.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vending junk food and sugar

Parents and teachers met with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott this summer to ask that all junk food be removed from school vending machines. They report that effective October 1st, all vending machines were filled with baked products."

This is a victory, but in one sense only: Reason prevailed in this particular case.

The people in charge of our school systems are making the wrong decisions for our kids. Junk food should never have been put in the machines in the first place. That's a no-brainer.

Neither should Snapple have gotten a contract to stock the machines solely with their brand of sugar water — not only because they landed that no-bid contract, but because it gave them to the right to imprint the word SNAPPLE, and only the word SNAPPLE, onto the braincells of every kid in the city for as long as they attend public schools.

Being a watchdog for this chancellorship is a full-time job. They do these things when they get away with it.

More of us have to take them on.

Related to this issue, see "Let 'em NOT Eat Cake" over at Ednotes, where Patrick Sullivan is quoted, beginning with:
"It looks like the Chancellor's reg was updated to protect the firms getting the new vending contracts."

— jw

"DC is definitely a mess."

There was an article in the Washington Post yesterday about the more than 220 teachers who lost their jobs and the "abrupt loss" of 300 security guards whose company went out of business the night before.

Protests resulted in skirmishes and arrests at more than one school.

This is all happening under the chancellorship of Michelle Rhee, who learned something about teaching in her three years with Teach for America. More significantly, she learned she didn't want to be in a classroom for the rest of her career and instead founded The New Teacher Project, which is systematically turning an honorable profession into a drive-by experience on the way to greater things.

(A whole website was devoted to the DC chancellor and her Rheeform through much of 2008.)

Here's a comment by someone who lives in Washington and has been witnessing what's going on there:
It is not calm actually. Students were protesting and I have a feeling this is just the beginning. It gets even worse. I forgot to tell you this little tidbit. I don't know if it hit the news in NYC but... the contracted company that supplies the DC school system with its guards in the high schools wasn't getting paid in a timely fashion from DC so much so that the company went "belly up" and suddenly told its employees they no longer had jobs. So there were high schools all over the city without guards. Rhee tells the principals that the teachers need to fill in as this is an emergency situation. So all these teachers do not get lunch or preps and find themselves being forced to act as school security guards. Yipes!!! Then it was on the news that the DC police were going to try and step in until a new security firm could be hired. DC is definitely a mess.