Archive for November, 2013

Steve Perry is Right

November 27, 2013
                                                                                             

 
This column appears in the November 27 – Dec. 5 edition of the Hartford News… The headline is not a misprint. Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Steve Perry is absolutely right when he says that he should not be the sole focus of public education advocates. Perry was at the center of controversy last week following the Hartford Board of Education’s decision to reject Perry’s proposal to create his own charter school management company and take over SAND Elementary School. The day after the board’s decision Perry posted a message on Twitter. Perry said, “The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.” I was among those who called for Perry’s suspension. After reading Perry’s defiant tweets last Friday, I came to the conclusion that he was correct when he said that his opponents should not fixate on him. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
 
I submit that what public education advocates should do is use the events of last week to amplify their general message about the racist, profit-driven charter school industry that Perry represents. There should be more discussion about how Wall Street uses Blacks like Perry as cover while they exploit low income communities of color, and how Wall Street is using Blacks like Perry as a weapon in their war against public employees. Perry is a pawn (albeit a well paid one) in the Wall Street campaign to privatize city and state services and drive down wages and benefits. Activist Josh Blanchfield’s response to my tweets about backing off of Perry was spot on. Blanchfield said, “Perry is a geek show in the corporate carnival of education reform. A freakish distraction. Stay or go, the systemic problems remain.”
 
Public education advocates do an excellent job of making their case against charter schools. Perry has been playing the martyr on his Twitter page, using the outrage over his tweet to enhance his image as the Black man who is persecuted by whites because he is articulate. Perry has painted whites who oppose charter schools as racist. That’s an interesting claim from someone who is staunchly anti-union and is working diligently to privatize education, considering the fact that unionized public sector jobs such as teaching comprise the largest source of employment for people of color. 
 
The website politic365.com reported on the importance of public sector jobs to Blacks and Latinos during their coverage of the federal government shutdown.
“Government jobs remain a major source of employment for African Americans and a much smaller but still significant front of work for Latinos… Steven Pitts, an economist and labor policy specialist at the University of California Berkeley, has said repeatedly that government employment — be it at the local, county, state or federal level – together constitute the largest single employer of black men and women living in the United States. Between 2008 and 
2010, nearly a quarter of all working African Americans were public sector employees. White workers are employed by a wider variety of industries.
The steady spate of government job cuts since the end of the Great Recession has also contributed mightily to the nation’s still critically elevated black and Latino unemployment rates.” 
 
The charter school industry has been rocked by a scandal involving Beverly Hall, a champion of school privatization. Black Agenda Report commentator Glen Ford reported on the indictment of Hall on charges of racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements.
“Hall was a high-rolling player in the nationwide criminal enterprise to destroy public education and replace it with a privately managed, but publicly financed, system. She wound up being hoisted on her own petard, her career wrecked by the same high stakes testing regime that she supported to the hilt, and on whose altar she had sacrificed – fired – 90 school principals and countless rank and file teachers. Hall was caught in the minefield of No Child Left Behind and President Obama’s Race to the Top, trapped in a web of deceit.   

 
“A key purpose of high stakes testing is to ‘prove’ that conventional public schools are inferior to the charter model, and that incompetent or uncaring teachers and their unions are the heart of the problem. The testing regimen is designed to fail large numbers of schools, so that they can be replaced with charter operations. Beverly Hall carried out a reign of terror in her overwhelmingly Black Atlanta district. Every public school teacher understood the rules: if your students get a low score, you are out the door. In return for torturing her teachers, superintendent Hall was awarded accolades and goo-gobs of bonus money and lucrative speaking engagements. She was a kingpin of the privatization gang, not too many notches below Michelle Rhee.
 
But Beverly Hall was trapped in a contradiction. In order to fulfill her commitment to the corporate charter school mob, she had to use her powers as superintendent to disrupt the educational process and make teaching a living hell. However, if she was to further her personal reputation as a school administrator, Hall needed the students in her district to register ever higher scores on the tests. She had to prove, by the numbers, that Race to the Top worked – when clearly it does not – or wind up in the same trash heap into which she was so eagerly throwing her teachers. Since the students could not facilitate her crime by actually achieving the impossible scores, Beverly Hall had to rely on the lowly, terrified teachers to work her scam. Thus, she became the Superintendent of Cheating, and is now free on $200,000 bail.”
 
The Walton family, who own the Wal-Mart chain, have invested huge sums of money in charter schools. The Waltons are notoriously anti-union; they closed a Wal-Mart store in Canada when workers there tried to unionize. Wal-Mart employees in this country who have organized reported vicious retaliation from Wal-Mart management, including termination. Actor Aston Kutcher recently called out Wal-Mart for their low wages, which has resulted in workers being forced to rely on cash assistance. This issue was underscored when a Wal-Mart store in Canton, Ohio started a food drive to benefit employees who can’t afford food as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. The Huffington Post reported on a study by members of Congress.    

 
“Walmart wages are so low that many of its workers rely on food stamps and other government aid programs to fulfill their basic needs, a reality that could cost taxpayers as much as $900,000 at just one Walmart Supercenter in Wisconsin, according to a study released by Congressional Democrats.
Though the study assumes that most workers who qualify for the public assistance programs do take advantage of them, it injects a potent data point into a national debate about the minimum wage at a time when many Walmart and fast food workers are mounting strikes in pursuit of higher wages.”   
Wal-Mart workers nationwide are once again organizing Black Friday strikes to protest the company’s poverty wages. It’s pretty easy to connect the dots, as the Walton family is making big bucks while they impose their business model on this country’s education system.
 
Public schools have serious problems, including segregation and discriminatory disciplinary rates. However the charter school industry is not the cure. If charter school advocates and investors truly were acting in the interests of Black and Latino children, they would be working on the local, state and federal level to eradicate poverty. Poverty is a huge factor in the performance of public school students in communities of color. You will rarely even see the word poverty on Perry’s Twitter page. The child poverty rate in Hartford is 53%. Blacks and Latinos earn approximately 60 cents for every dollar whites make and possess about 10 cents of net wealth for every dollar whites have. A community resident who posted a response to a Washington Post editorial on Perry’s tweet made an insightful observation on how charter school supporters, Democrats and Republicans have avoided talking about poverty and racial economic disparity. 
 
“Just one more example of why, when it comes to the school reform movement, it is necessary to abide by that old truism: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.   I just came back from a meeting in DC where I heard House and Senate committee staffers, both Democrat and Republican, blather about school reform. Of course, none of them had any actual experience in education. So depressing. No one actually wants to try to understand the effects of poverty on children, their brain development, and the really long and hard work required to overcome them (or why schools cannot single handedly solve the social pathologies arising from extreme income disparity). Instead, both Ds and Rs spout their magic one-size-fits-all solutions: vouchers, charters, privatization, or whatever. They just want to declare victory and move on — until the problem comes back around again.”
 
I have presented facts which show that school privatizers will only exacerbate racial and class inequity in this country. Steve Perry is a megalomaniacal, profiteering workplace bully, and he should be held accountable for his behavior. However public school advocates should not allow themselves to become so consumed by their justifiable anger toward this man that they lose sight of the big picture. The community must be educated about Perry’s puppet masters, who are using racialized politics and parents’ understandable desire to see their children prosper as a means of undermining democracy, rolling back the gains of workers and turning education into just another profitable commodity for a corporate state. 
  
Stay tuned for info on CP’s Safe Work Environment Act and Rep. Matt Ritter’s workplace bullying town hall, coming in 2014. Check out CP’s A Public Bank for Connecticut page.  http://www.facebook.com/PublicBankCT  Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines.  https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.
 
 
 
Resources:
 
Archive of Black Agenda Report commentary on charter schools:
 
 
Huffington Post report on Wal-Mart workers being forced to rely on cash assistance:
 
 
Salon report on the planned Black Friday strikes by Wal-Mart workers:
 
 
Black Youth Project report on the impact of poverty on children attending Philadelphia public schools:
 
 
Characteristics of fascism which are a result of corporatism:
 
 
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                                                   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Clark and SAND School Parents Push Back Against the Charter School Hustle

November 21, 2013

This column appears in the Nov. 21 – 27 edition of the Hartford News…

Tuesday night Clark Rising, a grassroots group of Clark Elementary School parents, SAND Elementary School parents and local public school advocates joined forces to fight back against the corporate takeover of both schools by Achievement First, Inc. and Capital Preparatory Magnet School, respectively. The showdown took place at the monthly Hartford Board of Education meeting. Parents told me their chief complaint was that they are being excluded from conversations about the direction of Hartford schools such as Clark, SAND and Rawson, the site of the BOE meeting. I spoke with Rawson Principal Gerald Martin, who claimed that he has been making an effort to reach out to parents. Martin said that he had no personal opinion on the charter school concept and that the decision on privatization should be left up to Gov. Dannel Malloy and the parents. 
 
 
 
Last week Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced that he would not support an Achievement First takeover of Clark School. However that doesn’t mean this plan is dead; the BOE made that clear at the meeting. During the public comment portion city resident Hyacinth Yennie accused the BOE of pitting parents against each other “with so called choice.” She brought up the “blue ribbon” Dwight School which was shut down as an example of the BOE using “failing schools” as a ruse to justify privatization. The crowd at Rawson roared in approval when Yennie urged city officials to “put a leash on Dr.(Steve) Perry.” Perry is the principal at Capital Prep. BOE Chairman Matt Poland was unconvincing as he denied being a pawn of the charter school power brokers and attempted to demonize public school advocates. Achievement First was co-founded by Stefan Prior, Gov. Malloy’s Commissioner of Education. Perry is the central figure in the plan to privatize SAND School. Apparently Mayor Segarra and the BOE are allowing Perry to take a quasi paid leave of absence from his taxpayer funded job (he’s been absent 20% of the school year and arrived late or left early numerous times) so he can act as an agent for the charter school industry. Charter schools are big business. Really big business. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez reported on the charter school hustle in 2010. He explained how Wall Street investors are reaping huge windfalls from school privatization.
 
 
 
“One of the things I’ve been trying now for a couple of years is to try to figure out why is it that so many hedge fund managers, wealthy Americans, big banks and executives of Wall Street banks have all lined up supporting and getting involved in the development of charter schools. And I think I may have come across one of the reasons: there’s a lot of money to be made in charter schools. And I’m not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools.
 
“It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets Tax Credit. And what this allows is it gives an enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities, and it’s been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools. And I focused on Albany, New York, which in New York state is the district with the highest percentage of children in charter schools. Twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany are now attending charter schools. And I discovered that quite a few of the charter schools there have been built using these New Markets Tax Credits.

“And what happens is, the investors who put up the money to build the charter schools get to basically virtually double their money in seven years through a 39 percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they’re lending, so they’re collecting interest on the loans, as well as getting the 39 percent tax credit. They piggyback the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits, like historic preservation or job creation or Brownfields credits. The result is, you can put in $10 million and in seven years double your money.

“And the problem is that the charter schools end up paying in rents the debt service on these loans. And so, now a lot of the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt — their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year, or huge increases in their rents, as they strain to pay off these construction loans. And the rents are eating up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state.

“So, one of the big issues is that so many of these charter schools are not being audited. No one knows who are the people making these huge windfall profits as the investors. And often there are interlocking relationships between the charter school boards and the nonprofit groups that organize and syndicate the loans. And so, there needs to be sunlight on this whole issue. And the state legislature right now is considering expanding charter school caps, but one of the things I press for in my column, there has to be the power of the government to independently audit all of these charter schools, or we’re not going to know how public dollars are ending up in the coffers of Wall Street investors.”
 
Black Agenda Report commentator Bruce Dixon recently wrote a column on charter schools. Dixon talked about the true socioeconomic and political purpose of school privatization. “Doug Henwood, a radical economist and founder of Left Business Observer, says it as succinctly as anyone when he sums up the goal of bipartisan corporate education reform imposed on poorer neighborhoods as ‘…low cost privatized holding tanks leading to McDonalds jobs for the lucky, or to prison for the not so lucky…’ along with classes delivered by computers rather than unionized teachers. But as useful as this summation is, it leaves out one element worth noting. You can’t run a global empire without a military class, any more than you can run a prison without prison guards… Before the era of corporate reform there was at least one achievement of genuine small d democratic education reform pushed through by the administration of Chicago mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s. Since then parents in every public school have been allowed to elect parent councils, with reps from among rank and file teachers, which have veto power over title one funds and principal’s contracts, which are limited to two years. The ‘innovative’ answer of downtown bureaucrats, corporate elites and subsequent mayors to parents taking a hand in running the schools has been to simply close Chicago public schools and replace them with charters over which parents have no say. What mayor, and what alderman really wants organized parents running their own neighborhood institutions? It’s bad for business if you’re a privatizer, or a politician who takes cues and campaign contributions from privatizers. And ultimately habits of local democracy are bad for empire.”
 
Last week Jonathan Pelto exposed how Perry used workplace bullying to further his attempt to take over SAND School and start his own charter school management company. Jonathan reported that Capital Prep teachers came forward to complain about Perry’s administrative team pressuring them to write letters to the BOE supporting Perry’s plan. Administrators told teachers to use their work emails to send these letters and to copy Perry on the emails, which would provide Perry and his team with a record of which teachers were playing ball. Jonathan pointed out that Perry using his subordinates to lobby the BOE is a clear violation of BOE policies, which prohibit the use of work emails for political activity. Late Tuesday night the school board voted 5-3 against the SAND proposal. Mayor Segarra said he would not support the plan due to a lack of support by the parents. Congratulations to the Clark and SAND school parents and public school advocates on their victory! The link to Jonathan’s report, DN’s archive on charter schools, Gonzalez’s New York Daily News column on the school privatization cash scam and Dixon’s commentary are available in our Resources section.
 
The Community Party supports Jonathan’s call for Mayor Segarra, BOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, Poland and the entire BOE board to hold Perry accountable for his behavior. Their failure to do so should be viewed as an act of collusion.
 
Stay tuned for info on CP’s Safe Work Environment Act and Rep. Matt Ritter’s workplace bullying town hall, coming in 2014. Check out the CP Facebook page.  http://www.facebook.com/CommunityPartyAction. Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines.  https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.
 
 
Resources
 
Jonathan Pelto’s column on Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Steve Perry using workplace bullying tactics to lobby for the creation of his own charter school management company, and the privatization of SAND Elementary School:
 
 
Democracy Now! archive of reports on charter schools:
 
 
Juan Gonzalez’s New York Daily News report on the school privatization cash cow:
 
 
Black Agenda Report commentator Bruce Dixon’s column on charter schools:
 
 
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Political Roundup: Clark Elementary School Parents Fight Back/Workplace Bullying in the National Football League

November 14, 2013
This column appears in the November 14 – 21 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: Parents of students who attend Clark Elementary School in Hartford are fighting back against a proposed corporate takeover of the school by Achievement First, Inc.  Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the Hartford Board of Education, led by Superintendent Christina Kishimoto  are colluding to turn Clark into another charter school. Kerri Provost  (http://www.realhartford.org/) and Jonathan Pelto (http://jonathanpelto.com/) have been covering this developing story. Jonathan provided an update on Monday. 
                                                                    
                                                                                                    ***                     

Hartford’s Clark Elementary School Community says “NO” to takeover

 
Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school company that was co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, is continuing its campaign to get the Hartford Board of Education to close the Clark Elementary School and hand it over to the charter school operator.
In response, Hartford parents, teachers and community residents are fighting back.
The blog Real Hartford has a great summary of recent events in an article entitled “N” is for No: Community Speaks Against Closure of Clark School.”
In addition, according to a press release from the coalition formed to fight off the Achievement First attack, “Scores of neighborhood residents, civil rights activists, education advocates, teachers, classroom support personnel, and legislators” joined together last week to “speak out against proposed displacement of Clark School students.” 
The event, last week, was put together by the Clark School’s Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) and School Governance Council (SGC). 
According to Clark School PTO President and SGC member Lakeisha McFarland, “Many of our parents are upset because we feel our school is being snatched from us… It’s very painful for our parents. Our kids are succeeding and they’re making it seem like they’re failing.”
Joneisha Brown, the parent liaison at the Clark School for the district’s Title I Program added, “I can’t support a scheme that breaks-up families or disrupts our children’s education… I don’t think it’s fair to the children to ignore the good things that are happening at Clark; we have a long way to go, but let us keep going.”
One of the issues Clark parents are raising is Achievement First’s apparent inability or unwillingness to provide services to Hartford’s Latino children or children who requires extra special education services.
As the following chart reveals, Achievement First has completely failed to take its fair share of students who face language barriers such as needing extra help with English.
Year Achievement First % English Language Learners Hartford % English Language Learners
2010- 2011 4.6% 17.7%
2009-2010 4.8% 17.5%
2008-2009 0 14.4%
 
 
                                                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                               ***
 
Clark School parents have formed Clark Rising, a grassroots response to the attempted takeover by Achievement First. Clark Rising will attend the next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, November 19 at 5:30 p.m. at Sarah J. Rawson Elementary School, 260 Holcomb Street in Hartford. Check out Kerri and Jonathan’s sites for updates. 

 
The Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, which has been well documented by the national media, is a layered issue. Workplace bullying, racism and mental health are all components of this story. 24-year-old offensive tackle John Martin has been vilified by many current and former National Football League players for his reaction to the abuse directed toward him by left guard Richie Incognito. Suddenly workplace bullying is being discussed on media outlets such as ESPN. The puzzling reaction by many Black NFL players, including Cognito’s own teammates, to Cognito’s obvious display of bigotry has been baffling. The league is once again being forced to confront the mental health issue, which has been a hot topic due to the numerous suicides of former players and the 2012 murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovann Belcher, who shot his girlfriend to death in front of their 3-month-old child and then turned the gun on himself at the Chiefs practice facility in front of coaches and a team official.
 
If Incognito demonstrated the type of behavior that has been reported during the past couple of weeks (threatening, racist texts and voicemails) toward a co-worker at a place of business, it would clearly be grounds for him being fired on the spot.  However the culture in the NFL is clearly different. An obnoxious, racist bully like Incognito is viewed as a “leader” by his teammates. Incognito was appointed to the Dolphins’ leadership council AFTER an incident where he sexually harassed and molested a Black female volunteer at the Dolphins’ annual golf tournament. A Black former Dolphins player told Greg Howard of Deadspin.com that Incognito is considered to be “Black” by his teammates. ” ‘Richie is honorary,’ one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. ‘I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.’ ” 
 
Incognito has been ranked as the dirtiest player in the league by his peers. He has a history of incidents with players and coaches dating back to college. Do these traits qualify him for “Blackness” in the eyes of other Black Dolphins players? if so, that’s a sad commentary on their obviously warped view on what being Black means. Howard broke it down.
 
“Oh, OK. Incognito’s an honorary black guy, then. Just a misunderstanding. There’s just a slight problem, though. There’s no such thing as an honorary black person. And that’s because, after nearly half a millennium of slavery and active, institutional racism on these lands, there is no longer anything honorable about being black.
 
“We all know this, of course. Let’s run down all of the most common black stereotypes: Stupid. Lazy. Immature. Inarticulate. Impulsive. Violent. How many of these traits are good, desirable, honorable? And surely, it’s no accident that any African-American who’s smart, or rich, or articulate, or has white friends is considered white. These are all good things, traits of which whites are the sole proprietors.
 
“So maybe Incognito deserves the benefit of the doubt. Maybe because he’s spent so much of his life around blacks, he’s aware that, like white people, black people are unique, each one a tiny part of an immense, indescribably diverse diaspora. Maybe he was like a brother to a few black guys. Did his background and experience turn him into some sort of unofficial black guy with a license to run around saying what he wants? F— no, no matter what some former Dolphin says.
 
“The unfortunate reality in this country is that racial stereotypes have been so widely taught and internalized that we judge people, first and chiefly, by the color of their skin. Incognito probably feels black sometimes, like when he’s drunkenly calling Mike Pouncey “nigga.” He might even think he’s black sometimes. But fortunately for him, Incognito is white. He doesn’t have to worry about whether or not he can hail a cab. He doesn’t have to worry about being followed in a store. He doesn’t have to worry about being stopped and frisked for no reason. He doesn’t have to worry about being excluded from a job. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone holding their ground.”
 
Martin meanwhile has been portrayed as “soft” by current and former players; multiple media outlets have reported that Dolphins coaches instructed Incognito to abuse Martin in order to toughen him up. Martin is being criticized for leaving the team instead of responding to Incognito with physical violence. Former player and ESPN analyst Chris Carter reported that Dolphins players told him that Martin joked with teammates about the messages from Incognito that he’s now complaining about. If this is true, Martin has some explaining to do. That being said, the response to Martin leaving the team appears typical in a league where no one is allowed to show vulnerabilty.The Chiefs played a game 24 hours after their teammate killed his girlfriend in front of their child and then fled to the Chiefs practice facility, where he took his own life in front of Chiefs general manager Scot Pioli, coach Romeo Crenel and an assistant coach. The explanation from Crennel for not cancelling the game was that NFL coaches and players coach and play on Sundays.  
 
The NFL needs to seriously examine its culture. Former players such as Junior Seau committed suicide rather than seek help for depression, which apparently was the result of cumulative brian injuries that he and others suffered during their playing careers. Rookies are subjected to extortion, as “tradition” dictates that they must pay exorbidant amounts of money for team dinners and trips as a form of tribute to veteran players. Incognito reportedly took a rookie’s credit card and purchased a jet ski. Workplace bullying is now recognized as a serious issue. The forms of abuse which are typically dished out in NFL locker-rooms must be addressed. Now.
 
Stay tuned for info on the Community Party’s Safe Work Environment Act and Rep. Matt Ritter’s workplace bullying town hall, coming in 2014. Check out the Community Party Facebook page.  http://www.facebook.com/CommunityPartyAction. Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines.  https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.
 
 
 
Resources:
 
November 6 Clark Rising press conference on the attempted Achievement First takeover of Clark Elementary School:
 
 
Jonathan Pelto’s reports on the Clark Elementary School issue: 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Deadspin commentary by Greg Howard on the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal:
 
 
Workplace Violence News website; features resources on workplace violence and bullying:
 
 
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party