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.