Opine I will

I am a retired elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

A must share

The following was posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog today. This is a must share and we all should distribute the following letter far and wide.


A Parent’s Letter to Frank Bruni of the New York Times

by dianerav

I just received this comment. This parent should be invited to appear on NBC’s “Education Nation,” on Morning Joe, on Rachel Maddow, on CNN’s “Newsroom,” and on any other talk show, most of which put people on camera who have never been public school parents or teachers or principals. She is more knowledgeable than Michelle Rhee or Bill Gates or any of the other “reformers”:

Dear Dr. Ravitch, 

I was composing my own letter to Frank Bruni early this morning, and didn’t see your post until later. Thanks, as always, for your advocacy. Below is a copy of the letter I emailed to Mr. Bruni this morning.

Rebecca Poyourow

Dear Mr. Bruni,

While I usually enjoy your opinion articles, I was dismayed by yesterday’s article on parent trigger laws. It seems to me that you do not know much about the issue and are relying for your talking points on the PR campaigns of the groups that support them, ironically not grass-roots parents’ groups but primarily astroturf groups with financial, policy, and personnel links reaching back to groups like ALEC (groups which you are certainly no fan of when it comes to their impact on other policy areas).

You seem to take for granted several ideas I would challenge you on: (1) that American public schools and teachers are failing, (2) that middle-class families should desert urban, public schools, (3) that charter schools are the answer to any problems in the current public educational system, and (4) that parent trigger laws would a helpful tool for remedying problems.

For the record, I am a parent with two children in my neighborhood public school in Philadelphia. Our school manages to hold together and serve well a coalition of low-income, blue-collar, and middle-class families with striking racial as well as socioeconomic diversity in a Philadelphia neighborhood–61% of our students are economically disadvantaged, 45% white, 45% black, 5% Latino, and 5% multiracial and other designations. We are not a rich school and cannot stage fundraisers such as the ones held by the Upper West Side public schools in NYC profiled in the NYT earlier this summer. In fact, we (and all public schools in PA) were hit hard by the education budget cuts enacted when a wave of extremist state legislators came into our state government in 2010. $1 billion has been cut from public education statewide in PA, and it has impacted our school heavily, raising class sizes while stripping the school of necessary teaching and support personnel, contracting the curriculum (music and language teachers were cut last year, and the school had no money previously for an art teacher), and leaving kids behind academically without the tutoring previously provided.

Yet our school remains strong, continuing to make AYP and to attract neighborhood parents, primarily because of the cross-class coalition using the school. Even if we haven’t raised $1 million for our school, many parents volunteer, run after-school clubs, and try to solicit community resources to help the school provide what has been eliminated because of cuts at the state level. The reward is that our children get to attend an integrated, academically sound public school in our city neighborhood that is open to all. We are part of a growing movement in several cities (including NYC) that has parents choosing to invest their time and energy in public schools, not only for their own families’ good but to strengthen the fabric of their neighborhoods and cities.

Which brings me back to your op-ed. I am a public school parent–not a teacher and not a union employee. I find the representations of the state of public education in the U.S. promulgated by films such as “Won’t Back Down” and “Waiting for Superman” to be harmful and inaccurate depictions of the current dilemmas faced by public school students, parents, and teachers.

Private schools have done a good sales job over the last decade or so, feeding the cultural panic among middle-class parents, creating anxieties in them that they cannot use the public schools and must purchase high-priced private schooling, tutoring, etc. at any price if their children are to succeed in life academically and economically. However, it is the class and educational background of parents that is the most critical variable in children’s success. While many currently make the claim (which you echo) that U.S. public schools are way behind other countries, when socioeconomic class is taken into account, American students do as well or better than the countries we say we wish to emulate. It is poverty that is our greatest problem. Middle-class children who attend urban public schools, even those in schools with very low average scores, do fine. If we want to solve the educational crisis that does exist for kids from low-income families, then creating jobs, stable health care, and an economic security net for their families is one key–and finding ways to create schools integrated by race and socioeconomic background is another–and providing appropriate funding, early childhood education, and smaller classes is a third.

The voucher, charter school, and parent trigger movements aim in precisely the opposite direction by draining public schools of funds desperately needed in this climate of scarcity and creating a two-tier system of schools, segregating kids even further by race, class, English language learner status, and disability. Indeed as the CREDO study by Stanford University shows, charter schools do not provide better educational opportunities; many provide worse. The people behind the push for parent trigger laws are not idealistic parents but chain charter operators hoping to expand their profits at the public expense–and their right-wing backers hoping to undermine our understanding of education as a public good. I hope you do some research on this topic and reconsider your opinion.

Rebecca Poyourow (a usually appreciative reader)


Greed the call of the absurd

Greed, that’s the call of the absurd this week.

I’ve been called greedy several times this week as I questioned the motives and thoughts of some self proclaimed school reformers.  I wear these ad hominen attacks as a badge of pride. You see, they’ve all come when these reform thugs are challenged on their views. When confronted with tough questions, it’s easier to lash out with name calling then to answer.

This week I’ve been called greedy by  Neal McClusky, Associate Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, and Maureen Castriotta , Libertarian School Board member from Roxbury, NJ and candidate for Freeman.

They all think teachers are paid too much. Neither would commit to what they think a teacher should earn. Castriotta even believes the teachers in her own district, in which she is a Board member, are greedy. ( Castriotta is a board member who actively campaigns to defeat her own school budget presented by her board)

Castriotta, thinks public school teachers should be paid little and that they should look at teaching as a calling, a public service. She uses the example of good Catholic School teachers. When questioned whether teachers are professional by  blogger, Jersey Jazzman, she refused to answer.

So am I greedy?

This is a second career for me, I went back to school at 40 years of age, earned a MA in Education, did my student teaching for a semester without pay, completed an additional 33+ credits of graduate work, obtained  a professional certification in District Administration, and I’m beginning my 15th year of teaching.  Over the last several years 100% of my students have been tested as being proficient at or above grade level. I love teaching.

I’ve also volunteered in numerous organizations in my community, covering  senior citizens, business, youth and sports organizations.

I once was offered a teaching position in a Catholic School. The salary was $19,900. When I turned down the offer I explained to the good Sister that being a family man I just couldn’t pay my living expenses on that. She said I should look at it as a mission. I politely responded, then my community would have to start a mission to support my family.  Was turning down that job greedy?

Is it greedy, to expect compensation that would allow me to pay my mortgage, help my children with their college loans, put food on the table? Is it greedy to expect  compensation to cover a portion of my health insurance, that covered my heart attack several years ago, or is presently covering my wife’s chemotherapy?  Is it greedy to work towards saving for the future and  a pension that will cover some of my expenses in my upcoming golden years?

Is that greed?

I knew I wouldn’t become wealthy when I switched careers. I knew my life would be fulfilled with knowing I was helping children touch the future. To me that’s a wealth these so call reformers are blind to.  All I ask in return is to be able to afford to care for my family, put some food on the table, and do what I do best teach.

Is that greed?


Time to OCCUPY Cuomo’s Faux Education Commission hearings

I received the following  E-mail from Carol Burris today.

She has an important message for all of us. Read her account of how she was denied the opportunity to testify before Cuomo’s faux education commission.


It’s time to OCCUPY these meetings. Which one will you Occupy?



Dear friends,

As you know, the governor’s commission is visiting parts of our state to hear “testimony” on public schools.  Read what occurred in NYC by clicking the link below, and send the link to others. It explains the financial interests that are pushing this “reform”
Please attend future hearings. Although they provide the opportunity to testify, I cannot tell you based on my experience, that the selection process is fair.  I can tell you, however, it is worth the try AND it is worth being present.  Even if you do not speak, be there.  If you are allowed to testify, speak up for the profession that means so much to you and to the schools that mean so much to your children.
Here is the schedule
This link let’s you know when the hearings are.  Click on the link in your area, and it will tell you how you can testify.  Even though some are in the fall, sign up now.  You must RSVP to attend and/or testify.  Go to this link, scroll to the bottom and click on the meeting you want to attend

Try to get at least two people to sign onto the principals’ letter against APPR. http://www.newyorkprincipals.org/support-the-paper  I assure you that once the scores come out, we will be active. When folks sign the letter, we are able to contact them with information.  We now have a remarkable 7000 signatories.

Enjoy the last weeks of summer,


This one’s for Campbell Brown

Today I received this tweet from Campbell Brown

She doesn’t quite get it. First let’s understand I really didn’t care to engage on Twitter. She was responding to a Twitter storm over her outrageously offensive Wall Street Journal editorial.

First let me do something she failed to do, disclose.

I’m a fifth grade teacher in a small suburban district a stone throw from the NYC border. This is a second career for me and I’ll be entering my 15th year of teaching. I was a self employed architectural/interior designer for 20+ years. I have 3 children, all graduated from college. I’ve dabbled in local politics, and have spent a good part of my life working as a volunteer in my community. Most of that work was working with children.

I also have also have engaged in community activism and was instrumental winning a huge refund and rate decreases from one of the state’s largest private water supply company. I was also a driving force that instigated the public takeover of this private utility. In this case we went from privately owned to being owned by the community.

I voted for Obama and will vote for him again.

Being a male teacher in an elementary classroom presents very unique challenges. When accusations such as Brown’s surface it paints an ugly picture and we are all smeared with her wide brush.

She claims I’m ignorant, so let’s take a look at her editorial .

Let’s start with the headline she claims

“Teachers Unions Go to Bat for Sexual Predators” and

“The system to review misconduct is rigged so even abusive teachers can stay on the job”

She presents no evidence that teachers ever went to bat for sexual predators. No evidence at all. She cites 97 cases over 5 years , keep in mind there is over 80,000 teachers in NYC. Out of those 97 cases she cites 2 examples where she disagreed with the arbitrators decision. That’s just about 2% out of all those accused and .oo25% of all the teachers in NYC.

Yet her broad brush paints the union as rigging in favor of predators?

Brown fails to present any evidence at all that supports her claim that unions went to bat for any of these individuals.

Brown opines that a mutually agreed upon arbitrator is somehow skewed by the union. She feels the need to explain that the arbitrator would actually get paid. One wonders if she has a problem with anyone in education getting paid.

Brown advocates that the head of the school district should be the one to make a final decision not an independent arbitrator.

Brown also failed to contact the union for their side of the issue. Ms. Brown that’s Yellow Journalism !

There is not one teachers’ union in the country that would rig an arbitration of a sexual predator.

Do arbitrators make bad calls? Sure! The Supreme Court makes bad calls too! To allow the head of a district to make a final call on an accusation is wrong. District superintendents and chancellors are too easily influenced by public pressure. Mutually agreed upon arbitrators is the legal norm across the nation in our democratic society.

Her tweets over the last 2 days accuse teachers unions of not caring about predators. She claims the high ground and we all should follow. She provides no evidence to support her accusations and she demonstrates complete ignorance on the work unions have done on this issue.

Now Brown cries foul when we question her motives. We question her connection to the Romney campaign, and we question her connection to Rhee’s Students First campaign to destroy unions. When she fails to justify her motives she calls our concerns idiocy.

In case you are unaware Ms. Brown, NYS just passed anti-bullying legislation. We won’t let you bully us. We’ll call you out, expose the connections and demand the truth be told.

Ms.Brown made every male teacher’s job just a little bit harder for us. That we’ll never forget.

Post Navigation