In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality. About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails. It’s certainly not teaching. “You will not be expected to teach or supervise students,” the letter informs Professor Krugman, who replies: “I admit that I had to read it several times to be clear … it’s remarkably generous.” (After his first year, Krugman will be required to host a single seminar.)
The Real News has been following the student-led movement against cuts at the University of Southern Maine. Now USM president Theodora Kalikow announced that the university will no longer lay off 12 faculty who were fired to help close a $14 million budget shortfall. USM president also acknowledged that her decision was greatly influenced by the student-led protest against the cuts, and said faculty and students should have a greater future role in these types of decisions. Now joining us to discuss this are our two guests directly involved in the fight against the layoffs at the University of Maine. We have Meaghan LaSala, who was a student at the University of Southern Maine. And we’re also joined by Meghan Brodie, who was a faculty member in the Women and Gender Studies Program at the University of Southern Maine. And she is one of the dozen faculty members who were reentrenched on March 21 and now has been temporarily reprieved last week.
“I appreciate the calm and professional manner in which UC police handled this morning’s challenge,” wrote Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway in an official email about our April 2-3 strike at the University of California. This was just after one of us was dragged to the ground and forcibly arrested after publicly announcing an intention to legally picket, and complying with police demands to turn around. The “challenge” for the administration, it seems, represented an opportunity for the labor movement – our strike has been widely covered in the labor media. This confirms for those of us involved in UAW 2865 – the student-workers union which represents 13,000 teaching assistants, readers, and tutors across the UC system – that we aren’t just a student movement crossing over into labor politics. We are a vital and central part of the labor movement today, a movement looking for creative strategies. Along the same lines, we represent an institutional legacy of graduate student unionization, which is a crucial weapon for academic workers who face increasingly precarious conditions.
We just wanted to teach. When I was drawn to teach in Oakland, I saw a chance to give students the chance to do hands-on experiments, to answer their own questions, and explore the natural world. On field trips to the tide pools I found out some had never even been to the Pacific Ocean, an hour’s drive from their homes. I did not enter teaching to prepare students for tests. I wanted my students to think and reason for themselves. We teach the children of the middle class, the wealthy and the poor. We teach the damaged and disabled, the whole and the gifted. We teach the immigrants and the dispossessed natives, the transients and even the incarcerated. In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.
The U.S. Department of Education is forecast to generate $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, students and their families are forecast to pay more to borrow from the department than they did prior to last summer’s new student loan law, which set student loan interest rates based on the U.S. government’s costs to borrow. The higher costs for borrowers would arrive at least a year sooner than previously predicted. James Kvaal, a top White House official, last year dismissed the possibility that student borrowers would pay higher costs under the new law. The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau on Monday warned borrowers about a “jump” in rates. The projection, made public Monday by the nonpartisan budget scorekeepers, provides the federal government’s best estimate of how much the government’s student loan program will cost taxpayers.
An examination of every score that Chicago students earned on state-mandated standardized tests last year reveals that charter schools — which Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) has been promoting — don’t perform any better than traditional public schools.The analysis, conducted by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University, reviewed the 2013 scores of nearly 173,000 students in the traditional school district as well as more than 23,000 students in charter schools and a very small group enrolled at contract schools. (Contract schools are run by private organizations under a contract with the Chicago Public Schools system, while charter schools are considered public schools that are run by private entities under a contract with a school district.)
Late last month, over 100 teachers, students, and parents from across the country gathered in Denver for the United Opt Out National Spring Action, a conference aimed at growing the resistance to corporate education reform and high stakes standardized testing across the nation. While the opt out strategy remained central, the conference attendees participated in weekend-long discussion groups focused on devising even broader strategies to build a broad-based movement aimed not only at stopping the corporate education reform machine, but at transforming and democratizing public education as a whole. The groups focused on a number of areas from winning back local control of school boards to strengthening teacher unions to educating the broader public about the effects of corporate reform on their communities and their children’s futures. Their aim is nothing short of a revolution in the public education system. “This is the education revolution,” said high school senior and conference speaker Alex Kacsh. “We are creating a better tomorrow.” How is not taking or administering a school test part of the revolution? High stakes standardized testing is the cornerstone of the neoliberalism’s corporate education reform agenda – and also its Achilles heel.
School desks placed by parents, district graduates and activists block a street in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters in a demonstration against student dropout rates Tuesday, April 8, 2014, in downtown Los Angeles. Protest organizers say the 375 desks are there to represent the 375 students who drop out of the district every week during the school year. Los Angeles students protesting neglect of poorer schools took to the streets, and brought their desks with them. Some 375 empty desks blocked a downtown street, blocking traffic for several hours Tuesday outside the Los Angeles Unified School District offices. Organizers say the number represents the count of students who drop out of district schools each week. Protesters want a student voice on the school board, and more funding for English language learners, foster children and low income students. District officials declined comment on the protest.
Parents and public school advocates staged a dramatic protest outside the New York City Department of Education on Tuesday against a bid, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and financed by Wall Street lobbyists, to evict special needs students in order to make room for charter school expansion. The demonstration is the most recent development in the battle against corporate education reform in the city, where “strong-arm” tactics by Cuomo and the charter school lobby have overriden an attempt by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to curb the growth of privately-funded charters. Calling out Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Academy charter chain, the demonstrators blasted her for “strong arming” the expansion of her charter schools, adding that she is “stealing classrooms from 102 special needs students.” On March 31, New York legislators approved a budget deal that provides New York City charter schools with “some of the most sweeping protections in the nation,” the New York Times reported last week.
There’s a growing nationwide movement opposing these tests as the result of a corporate-driven agenda that has distorted real learning, widened the achievement gap, increased financial strain on schools and parents, unfairly stigmatized teachers and introduced unnecessary stress into the lives of young people. There’s a litany of grievances cited by critics and the opposition comes from both the left and the right. In many places, activists have encouraged parents to opt out of the tests, which is legally allowed in all states. The most dramatic example of a successful opt out movement took place in January 2013, when teachers led a test boycott at Seattle’s Garfield High School. Teachers refused to administer and students refused to take the state test, which organizers argued wasn’t aligned to curriculum and provided statistically unreliable results. After a months-long standoff with the district, which saw teachers threatened with suspension, the district relented and allowed the high school to forgo the test.
More than 6,000 students in the public schools of Long Island have opted out of the New York State testing program that began on April 1, 2014. The exams, called the ELA tests, are part of New York’s launch of the Common Core. The Common Core has become so controversial now that the actual testing programs are in place in most states that several states are trying to “rebrand” it, with Florida and Arizona giving the testing associated with Common Core new names. The New York tests this year require four ours of “reading” and four hours of “math.” The number is at least 6,000. The Long Island students opted out of the “reading” portion of the tests, according to Newsday. “Forty-one school districts in Nassau and Suffolk [counties], in response to a Newsday request sent to 124 districts Islandwide, said about 5,575 students refused to take the test,” Newsday reported. “An additional district lumped together 224 refusals and absences. Other districts did not respond.”
Here is an unusual post about resistance to high-stakes standardized testing in one school, co-written by the entire faculty of P.S. 167 – The Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School. By The Faculty of P.S. 167 Imagine your first day at a new school. You are surrounded by new faces and new teachers and are navigating a new building. What are you concerned about? Making new friends? Liking your new teachers? When they enter our school each fall, our sixth-graders write about their hopes and fears for middle school. This year, 35 percent said their greatest fear was failing the state tests. At one of the most socially difficult times of their lives, over a third of our children have more anxiety about standardized tests than any other issue.
A lot of Internet ink has been spilled over how lazy and entitled Millennials are, but when it comes to paying for a college education, work ethic isn’t the limiting factor. The economic cards are stacked such that today’s average college student, without support from financial aid and family resources, would need to complete 48 hours of minimum-wage work a week to pay for his courses—a feat that would require superhuman endurance, or maybe a time machine. To take a close look at the tuition history of almost any institution of higher education in America is to confront an unfair reality: Each year’s crop of college seniors paid a little bit more than the class that graduated before. The tuition crunch never fails to provide new fodder for ongoing analysis of the myths and realities of The American Dream.
About 1,000 Newark, New Jersey public school students walked out of school for today in response to a number of issues, including what many say is insufficient funding and proposed plans to place charter schools in district buildings. #NPSWalkOut2014 coincided with a state senate budget hearing on education. Besides demanding changes to funding, students are hoping legislators give control of Newark’s schools back to the city (managed by the state for 18 years). The walkout began at various Newark schools and ended at the steps of Newark City Hall. As the demonstration grew, administrators reportedly tried to stop more students from joining. However, many students still found their way to the rally. The picture below marked a point close to their final destination.