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Modern School

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Member since: Sun Dec 12, 2010, 01:09 PM
Number of posts: 794

Journal Archives

Detroit: Fire ‘Em All & Let God Sort It Out Later

Over 4,100 Detroit Public Schools teachers received layoff notices this month, according to the Detroit affiliate of NPR. They will each have to reapply next month in order to have a chance at a job in the district next year. Furthermore, new state law now prohibits Michigan school districts from rehiring or laying off teachers based solely on seniority. In Detroit, the decision will be based on evaluations.

Such mass firings are not uncommon in school districts and have become even more prevalent with the budget crises of the past few years. Ed Codes generally require districts to send out pink slips toward the end of spring semester, even though revenues are uncertain until the following fall. Thus, school districts typically send out far more layoff notices than necessary and have to scramble to rehire some of the laid off teachers in the fall.

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has the added problem of declining enrollment due to a shrinking city population and growing number of charter schools. Despite these factors, DPS still saw an enrollment spike last September, forcing the district to hire back all but 400 teachers and will likely face a similar scenario this coming fall.

Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) President Keith Johnson said "they are doing this again like they did last year and it's going to be chaos again in September... I'm preparing for battle." Of course, coming from Johnson, who has repeatedly maintained a collaborationist relationship with DPS (see here, here and here), Detroit teachers should be very nervous. Johnson’s approach to battle will likely involve some gentle pleading and followed by concessions that will trade pink slips for increased class sizes, longer working hours, and wage and benefits cuts.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Tue Apr 17, 2012, 10:49 PM (4 replies)

Land of the Free, Home of the Chickenshit?

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games for saying he idolized Fidel Castro, the New York Times reported this week. He said he respected Castro for his ability to endure, despite numerous attempts on his life. In previous interviews, he said he did not admire Castro’s philosophy, but the man himself.

Guillen has also gotten in trouble in the past for making homophobic slurs. However, the consequences for admitting admiration for the Cuban dictator are likely to be far more serious and long lasting. By doing so, Guillen has offended Miami’s gusano (anti-Castro immigrants) population and the U.S. government, which still considers Cuba to be an arch enemy.

Never mind that in most of the world, including Guillen’s native Venezuela, Castro is not a controversial person in the slightest. Sure, he was a repressive dictator, but this should not be a problem for a nation that has admired, supported and funded dictators throughout the world, including Castro’s bloody predecessor Bautista.

Likewise, all sorts of reprehensible people have been publicly admired throughout history with far fewer consequences. Hell, the Nobel Prize Committee routinely awards peace prizes to terrorists, autocrats and national leaders who flaunt international law and engage in wars of agression (e.g., Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Woodrow Wilson, Barack Obama).

The attacks on Guillen by the local and national press and legislators are what one might expect had he admitted admiration for Hitler or Stalin, or denied the Holocaust. His admission was clearly a dumb move in a city full of Gusanos, but not a justification for any sort of punitive action and certainly not on this scale. What if he had admitted an admiration for Cap Anson, one of the greatest baseball players of the late 19th century and also one of the major influences in establishing racial segregation in the sport? What if he had admitted admiration for Ty Cobb or Rogers Hornsby, two of the greatest hitters of all time and also infamous racists? It is unlikely he would have gotten into trouble at all.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Sun Apr 15, 2012, 09:55 PM (0 replies)

UC Davis Guilty at All Levels in Student Pepper-Spraying Incident

According to a report released this week, the pepper spraying of student Occupy protesters at the University of California, Davis last November, should never have happened. Students had been protesting rising tuition, privatization, and declining student services.

According to the report, the use pepper spray on seated protesters was not justified nor authorized, the Bay Citizen reported. The spraying was carried out at close range, though it is not supposed to be used at a range of less than six feet. Furthermore, the pepper spray used by the police was a high potency variety that was not approved for use on peaceful protestors. As a result, two students were hospitalized, while twelve others were treated and released by fire department personnel.

The task force, chaired by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, held the university completely responsible for the atrocity, blaming campus police and the administration of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. Reynoso is an emeritus professor at the UC Davis law school. The task force was made up of 12 current and former UCD officials, professors, alumni and students.

The report also concluded that campus police leaders never confirmed their assertion that the protest involved outside agitators (not that this would have justified the brutality they used), nor did they consider alternative, less violent options, compromises or communication with the student activists.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Fri Apr 13, 2012, 10:08 PM (2 replies)

This is News? Fox Calls Nazis a "Civil Rights" Group

Jennifer Bisram, reporting for an Orlando, Florida-based Fox New affiliate, called the National Socialist movement a “civil rights organization,” according to the Daily Kos. The National Socialist movement is the largest Nazi organization in the U.S. and is a direct descendent of the American Nazi Party. The group is active in Sanford, Florida, where African American teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by vigilante George Zimmerman. The Nazis say they have responded to several calls by white residents of Sanford who say they fear for their lives.

Balanced reporting?

Fox News likes to portray itself as the epitome of fair and balanced news coverage. However, it can hardly be considered fair, balanced or even remotely accurate to consider a white supremacist organization a civil rights organization. The National Socialist movement is exactly the opposite. Its entire reason for existing is to deny civil rights to people of color, women, homosexuals and non-Christians.

Also, just because white supremacist group coddles a few Florida whiteys with an irrational fear of black people doesn't make them a civil rights group.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Thu Apr 12, 2012, 07:03 PM (5 replies)

Failing Schools? Record Number of Americans Have Bachelor's Degrees

Ever since the Nation at Risk report came out, pundits, politicians and corporate education profiteers have been decrying the abysmal state of public education in this country, including the claim that we aren’t preparing people for college. Yet according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, for the first time in history, more than 30% of Americans aged 25 or older—56 million people—have bachelor's degrees.

70 years ago, only 5% of this same age group held college degrees and the number has steadily climbed since then. According to Good Education, more than one-third of the degrees are in STEM. The data also indicated that gender and ethnic disparities are closing, with 30% of women now holding degrees, compared to 31% of men. The percentage of Hispanic degree holders increased 80% over the past decade, with over 14% now holding degrees.

Of course there are many reasons for the increase, including the fact that more people are going to college because of a greater awareness of how much it can influence their future earnings, improvements in recruiting youth of color and greater outreach by schools.

At the same time, however, the data should make one question the assumption that our K-12 public schools are in terrible shape. After all, one cannot get into most bachelor degree programs without first graduating from high school with the prerequisite skills necessary for admission into a university and success there. The fact that so many young people are getting into Bachelor Degree programs suggests that the K-12 system is functioning quite well, perhaps better than ever.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Thu Apr 12, 2012, 06:58 PM (15 replies)

Michigan Teacher Fired for Supporting Trayvon Martin

While the nation grapples with the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s murder by a white vigilante in Florida, a Michigan middle school teacher, Brooke Harris, has been fired for trying to educate her students about the case, according to Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Harris is not some knee jerk activist teacher who slapped together a seat-of-the-pants lesson on racial profiling or pushed her students out onto the barricades. Good Education reports that she was named teacher of the year for two of the last three years at Academy for Excellence Middle School in Pontiac, Michigan. Harris even asked her principal for approval before organizing a fundraiser in which students would donated $1 and wore hoodies to school. Taking action wasn’t even her idea, initially. The Teaching Tolerance website says that her students were so impassioned about the case that they wanted to do something to help the family.

Superintendent Jacqueline Cassell refused to approve the plan, despite having previously approved other “dress down” fundraisers. Several of Harris' students asked to accompany her to meet with Cassell, which so enraged the superintendent that she suspended Harris. Two weeks later she was fired.

Harris taught at a charter school and had no union, due process rights, or recourse for appealing her firing.

There is a change.org petition calling for Brooke Harris’ reinstatement.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Thu Apr 12, 2012, 06:57 PM (3 replies)

Detroit Unions Give It Away, Snyder Not Satisfied, Will they Strike?

Last week, 30 Detroit public sector unions sold out their members by giving away major concessions to the city, including a 10% pay cut, layoffs, and changes to their pensions, in a completely voluntary reopening of existing contracts well before they expire. The move was an attempt to preempt the declaration of financial failure by the state and the imposition of a financial manager who could dissolve local governmental agencies and union contracts.

The Detroit City Council has decided not to vote on the new contracts because they conflict with a proposed consent agreement negotiated with the state and is telling unions the state is requiring them to return to the bargaining table, mlive reported this week.

Gov. Rick Snyder wants city leaders to approve a consent agreement that would eliminate the need for an emergency manager. Snyder’s agreement would require even more take backs from the unions, including a watering down of the grievance procedures.

3 Council members (JoAnn Watson, Brenda Jones and Kwame Kenyatta) criticized Mayor Bing for delaying approval of the contracts and suggested that by doing so they will jeopardize long-term labor relations with the unions.

Now that the deal is off, AFSMCE local 25 President Al Garrett, is refusing to any more negotiations until their current contracts expire and said he would call for a strike before he agreed to the state-requested reforms.

Posted by Modern School | Thu Apr 12, 2012, 06:56 PM (2 replies)

30 Detroit Labor Unions Sell Souls for Illusion of Security

A coalition of 30 labor unions representing Detroit workers ratified new sell-out contracts this week in hopes of averting the imposition of an emergency financial manager by Gov. Rick Snyder. Under Michigan’s Emergency Manager law (see here, here and here), the governor can dissolve union contracts, abolish collective bargaining and fire elected officials when a city or municipality is deemed a financial failure.

The unions agreed to accept 10% pay cuts, layoffs and changes to city pensions, according to MSNBC. As has become the norm for unions lately, Detroit’s city unions have completely forgotten their reason for being: to improve the working and living conditions of their members. Union officials said they were willing to help save their city from financial meltdown, but apparently forgot that their members were not the cause of the city’s financial woes, which are the result of lost revenue due to the financial crisis, mismanagement, a declining population and tax base, and politicians’ unwillingness to tax themselves and their wealthy friends at a rate that could keep the city in the black.

The unions’ concessions not only contribute to the immiseration of their members, but they won’t even necessarily save their jobs or their union contracts. Under the agreement, Detroit would save about $54 million per year from the concessions, which is less than half of what Mayor Dave Bing had hoped for. Thus, a financial manager could still be imposed, union contracts abolished, and pay and benefits reduced even further.

Indeed, Terry Stanton, a spokesman for Gov. Snyder, said "The state's concern is that the agreement does not generate the savings needed to address (Detroit's) long- and short-term crisis."

When Detroit Mayor Bing called the labor agreements historic he was not far from the truth. Unions have been giving away more and more over the years, but in this case they gave it away without getting anything tangible in return. Furthermore, it significantly improves Bing’s chances of being appointed the new financial manager, which would give him greater flexibility to bust the unions and privatize public works.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Wed Mar 28, 2012, 06:50 PM (1 replies)

The Axis of Evil: China, Iran, Iraq, Arabia, America, Yemen, N. Korea

Executions in 2011

China: Thousands (exact figures are a state secret)
Iran: 360
Saudi Arabia: 82
Iraq: 68
United States: 43
Yemen: 41
North Korea: 30

(Data from The Guardian UK)

Only 20 countries still execute people. The U.S. was the only country in the Americas and the only G8 country to execute prisoners. Executions were up dramatically in 2011, due primarily to sharp increases in the Middle East.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Wed Mar 28, 2012, 06:49 PM (3 replies)

CSU Execs Get Raises, Students Get Fee Hikes & Admissions Freeze

The California State University (CSU) trustees approved a 10% raise for two campus presidents this week, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Their decision to reward these executives came immediately after hearing a grim financial forecast that prompted them to impose far-reaching cuts, including an admissions freeze that will deny admission to 16,000 students and a hiring freeze that will keep classes large and reduce course offerings and student support services.

The CSU system faces a $750 million cut in state funding for the next academic year, with an additional $200 million in cuts if voters fail to approve a tax increase in November. If this happens, the trustees plan to reduce enrollment by an additional 20,000 students and lay off 3,000 employees. Despite the university’s huge budget deficit, trustees offered the two presidents base salaries exceeding $300,000, as well as $12,000 car allowances and $60,000 housing allowances for each.

As usual, the CSU administrators are saying the raises are necessary to attract and retain top executive talent. Yet, what good is this “top talent,” when it has overseen record tuition hikes and program cuts over the past decade? (Tuition has increased six years in a row, including a 9% hike this school year).

The “top talent” argument is also specious. If the schools offered lower salaries, they would still attract qualified candidates and their academic programs certainly wouldn’t suffer as much as they do from budget cuts and tuition hikes. In fact, their predecessors did the job for less and one the executives, Leroy Morishita, did do the same job for less (nearly $30,000 less), as interim president, the L.A. Times reported this week.

If the goal is to provide a quality education, then the solution is to keep executive pay low and do everything to keep tuition low, as well.

Modern School
Posted by Modern School | Thu Mar 22, 2012, 10:10 PM (3 replies)
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