Friday, June 6, 2014

How I Got Involved in the Anti-Predatory Reform Movement

In 2009 I lost my job as Coordinating Field Librarian for the southeast area of Los Angeles Unified School District – responsibility for 50 K-12 school libraries.  Rather than fight to get a position in a local school library (because many of my friends and colleagues were in danger of losing THEIR jobs), I decided to retire.  I had worked for over 40 years.  But I truly wasn’t ready to retire.

In order to support our school libraries (California is 51st in funding them, behind Guam) and bilingual education, I had been following the writing of Dr. Stephen Krashen and through him, the writings of Susan Ohanian.  The two became my guiding lights in understanding the mess that public education had become.  I began seeing posts on the Internet, on Facebook – and Robert Valiant’s DUMP DUNCAN Facebook page really caught my eye.  I knew that my district was infected with the Broad virus.  So I kept looking for more information that tied the Common Core and Charters, Vouchers and VAM together as the plan to take over our public schools and completely privatize them.  After all, it was Duncan who said the Katrina was the best thing that happened to the schools in New Orleans.

I bought the original Badass Teacher Association t-shirt from Mark Naison and wore it to a Los Angeles Unified School District Board Meeting where I criticized our Broad virus superintendent for lying to us and trying to fire teachers, hire TFA, and turn schools into technology factories. In fact, we do have schools that have employed what is called the “Blended learning” model where one teacher is responsible for 90 children.  Leonie Haimson and Class Size Matters is what we need in Los Angeles too.

My outrage grew and I kept reading Dr. Mark Naison in New York, Jo Lieb and Jesse Turner in Connecticut, Kipp Dawson and Yinzercation in Pennsylvania, Sandy Stenoff and Rosemarie Jensen in Florida. Phyllis Bush in Indiana, and so many more people, especially the bloggers:  Paul Thomas, Seattle Education’s Dora Taylor, Patrick Walsh, Kris Nielsen, Ken Priviti, Johnathan Chase, Fred Klonsky, and his brother too, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, Renee DInnerstein, Leonie Haimson, and Mercedes Schneider with her solo driving trips to New York, her writing a book in a summer, and more. A blog that grabbed my heart was Peggy Robertson’s – I knew that we needed to take direct action. And Opt Out seemed the logical step to be taken.  I was thinking about my five year-old granddaughter who was suffering in a kindergarten that did nothing but pencil and paper work – no blocks, no paint, no clay, no dress-up, etc. etc.

I know I am leaving out a lot of people who have kept me going these past five years.  I find it exhausting at times.  I will be in Washington DC in July, and would love to be in Seattle in June.   If I could, I would go everywhere that we are needed, although, in fact, Los Angeles, is probably in the deepest doo-doo, because we have more charters than anywhere else in the country combined, and we have a Broad virus as our Superintendent – a man who purchased his PhD with the funds of another school district (Santa Monica).  We have just elected a wonderful UTLA President. But there is so much to be done.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Letters to Obama

Today I found that Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody have sent the 400 or so letters to Obama that they collected this month.  We of course had hoped there would be many many more. They were accompanied by the petition to Dump Duncan which I think has 6000 signatures.   While some may feel this is not a good time to approach and reproach Obama since he is running a seemingly close race against Romney, others feel that in fact he needs to know how teachers feel betrayed by him and the class he seems to represent.  He has furthered the cause of privatization of our schools, high-stakes testing, value added assessment of teachers, and more.  He and Duncan are destroying our public schools and of course, leading to the destruction of our unions.

I was also honored to find that my favorite blogger, Fred Klonsky, published my letter on his blog today.   He is so thoughtful, humorous, artistic, talented, intelligent, and more.

The letters can be accessed here.

Here is my letter:

Letter 1
October 17, 2012

President Barack Obama Dear Mr. Obama:
I am a retired teacher and teacher librarian, a mother, and a grandmother. I have worked in education for forty years. I attended all public schools in Los Angeles and went on to a fine public university for both undergraduate and graduate school. I have seen our schools go from places of nurture and caring that provided every subject a child needs, to essentially institutions that teach to the test and discourage creativity. As a teacher I chose to work in the areas of Los Angeles that were considered most dangerous and poverty-stricken. I felt that I was needed there more and I could do the most good.
So far you and your education secretary Arne Duncan act as if most teachers are lazy and unable to teach our students. I find this shocking and outright treasonous. You are judging something about which you know not. Neither you nor Arne Duncan have any idea what it is like to teach in most of our inner city schools. Neither you nor Arne Duncan attended any of these schools, much less rubbed shoulders with the students who are struggling just to get through the day. And, therefore, you haven’t seen what teachers do to keep our students in school, to try to reach them, help them with problems that are beyond monstrous in some cases. We encounter children who are homeless, victims of physical and sexual abuse, victims of neglect, and more. Our children are in neighborhoods where they encounter drive-by shootings and murder. Getting from home to school and back again is a torture.
We are lucky if our students can read by third grade. We are really fortunate if their parents taught them well in their first language so that learning a second language is much easier. Most of the time our students don’t have time to read a book, don’t have parents who can take time off from their two or three jobs to take their children to the library. And they certainly don’t have enough money for a home library.
Do you look at the statistics? Do you see who does well in school and who doesn’t and WHY? It isn’t because we can’t teach. The same teachers teaching the high scoring students are teaching the ones who score the lowest. And often these are the best and most caring teachers. Otherwise they would have gone to a private school at LOWER PAY to get away from the poverty belt.
More high stakes testing, more teaching to the test, and more stunted classrooms with 45 students in them, no art, music, PE or libraries – these conditions will not raise the level of our students. They will do the opposite.
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Listen to the experts in Finland. Look at what they do and how they value their teachers. And begin to implement some of THEIR policies and see if our children don’t do better.
But first of all, address the need for decent jobs for our students’ parents, and the need to adequately fund our schools and libraries. Speak to the real pressing needs of our country; stop waging wars in other lands and sending drones to kill innocents. Stop giving money to bail out the banks and start hiring people to rebuild our bridges, roads, schools and parks. Put the money where it is going to benefit the majority and not the 1%.

They will tell you what I am telling you in this letter, only more eloquently.

Joan Kramer
40- year educator
Haven’t stopped fighting yet 

I hope other teachers will write the President and keep up the fight for our schools, our students, our unions, our communities, and our future.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Charles Kramer's ties to Obama's Health Care Program

On July 17th I was taking a Google research class and learned how to research "news" by confining the search to any date I wanted.  In doing so I came across a great photo of my father testifying at the Senate Internal Securities committee -- before Rep. Richard Nixon, I believe -- about his work in the New Deal and his ties to "communism".   Meanwhile, after finding several "news" references to my father and his "comrades" Nathan Witt andJohn Abt, all of whom worked for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in the 30's, I casually entered my father's name in the Web search box.  Strangely enough, a story came up that astonished me.  My father wrote the original health bill in 1947 for Senator Claude Pepper of Florida that sadly wasn't passed, but that somehow is linked to Obama's health care plan.  A right-wing ideologue published a book about Frank Marshall Davis, a friend of Obama's grandfather, who this ideologue says was Obama's mentor in Hawaii when Obama was TEN YEARS OLD.  So because this man was a "communist" and knew Claude Pepper, he must have told Obama about Dad's "socialized medicine" healthcare bill.  What is the Sir Walter Scott quote-- "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!" Clearly these right-wing ideologues are so intent on discrediting Obama that they will say anything without foundation.  This man even admits he has no proof.  But meanwhile he writes an entire book.  Oh what a scary world we live in!!  Here is a website that "proves" Obama's tainted ties to caring about humanity.  Please don't believe these people.  The majority of developed countries in the world have "socialized medicine".  In fact, Obama's health care should be single-payer health care.  In fact, this is what these right-wing ideologues truly fear -- real health care for all.

Sleazy Deasy's Effort to Control LAUSD

May 8th - attended a LAUSD Board Meeting to protest cuts to libraries, nurses, counselors, psychologist, etc. etc. etc.  Sat through two and a half hours of a staged presentation by so-called Dr. Sleasy Deasy.  He literally hired a local group to come and support him in cutting the hours and credits and teachers required for graduating from high school.  He also required that students earn a "C" average whereas formerly a "D" would do.  Only La Motte and Kayser argued against him.  The community group was the scariest of all because they were voting against their own children.  Clearly Dr. Sleaze wants to cut out kids who are failing so that the LAUSD scores will go up.  He wants to cut teachers and destroy the union so he can hire all Teach For America idiots.  This has to be the most destructive person who has hit LAUSD.  And this is because Monica Garcia and other board members took money when asked to make Deasy the sleaze ball head of the district.  DUMP MONICA is our first task to fight this.  We must change the forces on the Board and get people such as Kayser and La Motte -- the only ones who vote for teachers and students.  Here is a link to my speech that got caught on TV somehow.  I was just expressing my outrage at Deasy and the news picked it up.  Tokofsky said it best:  Deasy does a "fire, ready, aim" rather than studying what is really needed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Inquisition Begins Again 2012

Last time I wrote it was June 2011 after the inquisition of my Teacher Librarian colleagues by the LAUSD lawyers.  Starting this Monday, April 23, my friend will once again be interrogated by the lawyers in a hearing to defend their right to keep their jobs, or any job for that matter.  The district has decide not to fund:  any Libraries, any Adult Education, any Pre-K programs, and much much more. 11,000 teachers apparently received the notorious "pink-slip".
The scary part this time is that our new Superintendent John Deasy is such a bully that no one has planned any actions, no one is sending letters, no one is speaking out except for a few isolated demonstrations on behalf of Adult Educ. or Pre-K.  This is not a way to win.  But Deasy et al have threatened to use any action or writing or speaking out against an employee.  He has already proven what a bully he is when he entered the classroom of a substitute teacher and didn't like what she was doing and said so. She politely asked him to leave.  He fired her immediately.  Substitutes have little protection.  Outrageously Deasy had the nerve to show up at the free screening of the movie "Bully" shown to 6000 LAUSD students.  I guess being top bully he should have had a lot to say.  He constantly lies and changes direction to suit his needs. After all, he purchased his PhD.  What does that say about him or about Monica Garcia who chose him along with her Gates/Eli Broad lackey friends.  Recall Monica Garcia is in full swing right now.  We need to elect at least one more decent educator to help Bennett Kayser and Marguerite LaMotte defeat the forces of privatization.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Disgraceful Interrogation of LA School Librarians

I returned from Costa Rica at 2:00 a.m. May 1st in time to help garner support for Los Angeles school libraries at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC. We collected wonderful comments from supporters on postcards. Only one person I asked started ragging on me about taxes. I'm so sick of that. And now my friends -- 80 or so Teacher Librarians -- are being interrogated by LAUSD lawyers about their ability to teach because of a recent motion that we need to have "recency" in the small classroom in our original credentials. Thanks to one TL, Michael Bernard, Hector Tobar of the LA Times came twice to see what was going on and wrote an eloquent piece in May 13th's LA Times. My husband wrote an eloquent letter to the Times but I doubt it will be printed so I'll share it here or try to-- for some reason this blog isn't letting me cut and paste it:
To the Times: Re: Disgraceful Interrogations
Ray Bradbury missed the mark in Farenheit 451, in which firefighters in a dystopian future burn books. As it turns out, it's not books but librarians getting burned, and it's not firefighters but the school district doing the burning. One librarian at a time, their careers are demeaned, their livelihoods shattered, in legal proceedings meant to show that libraries are not "classes", and librarians are not "teachers", and are therefore expendable. All to save our dystopian school district a few bucks, while it squanders millions on new schools (with soon to be empty libraries), grotesquely overpaid administrators who spent us into this mess in the first place, and billable hours for the lawyers conducting this sordid little inquisition. Brian Hudson.
By the way, my husband is a lawyer! Thanks to great support from Susan Ohanian sending out her blog around the country, people posting over 10,000 hits on Facebooks because of Neil Gaiman's tweets on Twitter, the LA Times wants a follow-up article. And another about Roxie Ross's 40 years at Narbonne High School after Tobar was honored at our LASLA Spring Luncheon. One Math professor sent Susan a link from his email about LA librarians calling it "Waterboarding Librarians" - perfect title!! A true gulag as Susan said. Teacher Librarians are being treated to McCarthy-era tactics. It is truly distraceful!! All in the name of busting public employee unions and collective bargaining rights. If LAUSD succeeds with TLs, this tactic will spread. We need to fight for our rights as well as funding for education so this nonsense will stop!
PS - June 29, 2011 -- The Administrative Law Judge presiding on the gulag actually decided that all Teacher Librarians "who testified" were teachers and should have their "reduction in force" designations rescinded. Partial victory for common sense. Thank you Hector Tobar and Michael Bernard, Neil Gaiman and Susan Ohanian, among others. Thank you to the TLs who fought and testified under these horrible conditions.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Elena is starting kindergarten Monday Sept. 13th

Elena is starting kindergarten on Monday and I don't have enough words to express how worried I am about her and the fate of education in general. There is a sinister force at work on the land and unfortunately some of the "best" minds are in charge. Bill Gates with his gazillions is funding the effort to privatize education, destroy teacher and classified unions, and generally dumb down education to a teach-to-the-test mode. I write about this a great deal and think about it every day. I do believe it's the reason our libraries are going away -- libraries help create critical thinkers and life-long learners. Gates and his ilk don't want people who can really critique a society that is now so inequitable that children are going to sleep hungry, families are losing their homes, and people who have worked all their lives are no longer employed or employable. Closer to home what this means is that Sleazy Deasy (Dr. he says), a Gates man, is poised to take over the Los Angeles Unified School District when the current superintendent steps down next June. Cortines was also in the pockets of the rich -- very ambitious for himself and willing to take money that most of us saw as unethical (such as $150,000 a year from Scholastic, a company that makes a huge profit off our schools). But Cortines at least is an educator. Most of the folks now making decisions for our children do not know anything about education. Witness the Los Angeles Times -- the reporters who went into the classrooms to "judge" the teachers only did so because they knew what "value added" score each teacher already had and judged accordingly. They admitted on KPFK radio last week that they really weren't competent (my word) to judge educators. Yet, their story stands, and everyone thinks it will benefit education that these scores are printed in the Times. In my own experience, some of the best, most interesting and inspiring teachers, are not the ones who "teach to the test" so their students' scores may be lower. So what! Will Elena still love to learn, love to investigate, love to sit and pay attention as she does now? I have my doubts. I will do everything I can to continue her love of learning. We need all teachers, parents, education workers to unite and defeat this effort to destroy education. Check out this link to the group California Advocates United to Save Education (CAUSE) and a group that is calling for a Million teacher mark for July 30, 2011. Please get involved!