The Julia Keleher Mysteries
In this article I’d like to continue my quest for understanding that I began with my previous article, “Understanding Miss Keleher”.
Our protagonist, Miss Keleher has grace, elegance, wit, a sunny disposition and a warm smile that could charm you into jumping off a building. She seems to really enjoy displaying a curious combination of beauty, charm, ingenuity and helplessness, like a damsel in distress who reads Machiavelli. There is a reason why her critics have compared her to the Japanese super hero, Sailor Moon, which – as a Sailor Moon fan who has watched all 200 episodes of the Japanese series with my daughter – I find unbelievably funny. I would have chosen Dr. Pamela Isley.
The first thing that we must understand is that Julia Keleher – who has a BA in Political Science, a MS Ed in Psychological Services, an Ed.D in Educational Administration, Policy and Leadership, an MBA, a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, is a Certified Project Management Professional from the Project Management Institute and is a graduate of Stanford University’s Strategic Decision Making and Risk Management Program – is NOT Penelope Pitstop .
She can smile and wave at the crowds like a Disney Princess, she can talk like a victim, act like a victim and cry her eyes out on YouTube until she’s blue in the face… Julia Keleher is not a Betsy DeVos clone and she is not Penelope Pitstop.
Miss Keleher first came to Puerto Rico in 2007 as an Educational Program Specialist with the US Department of Education. She specialized in risk mitigation, business intelligence products and enterprise-wide training and capacity-building activities. She managed multiple contracts and developed annual acquisition plans. She developed new grant oversight practices and designed process improvements; she developed rubrics and other organizational assets to support consistent monitoring of States’ Title I programs; she provided support and guidance to State-level officials in designing and documenting practices, monitoring program implementation and evaluating the use of funds.
This part is really important: she centralized collection of operational data, facilitated data driven decision making, improved program management and identified process improvement needs. The title of her 2007 dissertation for the University of Delaware is “Use of Data Management Systems and Data-driven Decision Making among School Level Administrators and Educators”.
After leaving the USDE, she continued to work with PRDE through her private consulting firm, Keleher & Associates. K&A works with performance assessment and management. Their work is designed to help organizations realize short-term improvements while simultaneously preparing them to implement larger, systems change in the future. This is probably the Think Tank that came up with the idea of implementing ideas like Site-Based Management” (SBM), “Critical Path Method” (CPM), “Program Evaluation Review Technique” (PERT) and finally Assessment based on Benchmarks. They would have tried to bring the Valued Added Measurement (VAM) system of teacher evaluations to Puerto Rico but alas, that was destroyed by the Lederman v. King case up in New York.
These productivity based systems are pretty much useless when applied to a public school system. The proponents of these ideas simply cannot accept the reality that a public school system cannot be run like a business because students are not measurable products and teachers are not factory workers whose productivity can be measured like car assembly workers.
On January 2, 2017, PR Governor Ricardo Rosselló appointed Miss Keleher Secretary of Education. In Puerto Rico’s traditionally male dominated political landscape, Miss Keleher – as an educated, intelligent and independent (and very attractive!) Caucasian American female – has caused quite a stir. Her presence has caused a slew of closet racists and closet chauvinists to rise from their graves to call down the fury of the gods of Facebook upon “la gringa”. They simply don’t understand that their racist/chauvinist comments and attitudes only serve to reinfornce Miss Keleher’s role as a damsel in distress.
This first thing that one must remember is that Miss Keleher is not an educator, rather she is an expert administrator who specializes in analysis, deconstruction and reconstitution. This process is based upon the gathering of information from multiple sources. Miss Keleher would discover later much to her dismay that data-based decision making is only is good as the data that is recollected. Remember all those chauvinists and racists we mentioned earlier? Well, they discovered that all you have to do to throw a wrench into the works is very simply to feed Miss Keleher erroneous or incomplete data. And this is how the idea of cramming everyone into eight buildings came forth.
Miss Keleher has also sought to decentralize the system where all the decision-making was held in the Office of the Secretary. In what amounts to a glorified shell game, instead of reorganizing or restructuring, Miss Keleher has simply fused all the city districts with the Regional Area offices, thereby creating seven Local Education Agency Regions (LEA Regions) located in San Juan, Bayamón, Caguas, Humacao, Ponce, Arecibo and Mayagüez.
On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, the most devastating hurricane in 100 years. The hurricane left all 3.4 million residents without electricity, 95% of the Island without communications, food or water.
The school system was shut down. A total of 164 schools were used as shelters because homes were totally destroyed. Many of the schools that were not shelters were severely damaged.
33 days after the storm, the PRDE opened the first 152 schools in the regions of San Juan and Mayagüez. Since then, more schools were opened, first on a weekly basis and then on a daily-basis. Also, the PRDE adjusted the school calendar so that students would not lose the academic year by adding another month to the calendar.
Miss Keleher – not being one to miss an opportunity – began to argue that the hurricane had given Puerto Rico an “opportunity” to reform the system, citing the changes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. On October 26, 2017 she tweeted: “Sharing info on Katrina as a point of reference; we should not underestimate the damage or the opportunity to create new, better schools”. I think I’ve heard that song before somewhere, let’s see.
In January 2010 on the “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” program, then US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that 2005’s Hurricane Katrina had been the best thing that could have happened to New Orleans’ educational system.
So, while Joe sees a house partly torn down by the hurricane and thinks about fixing it, Miss Keleher sees that same house and decides that a better idea is to tear what’s left of the house down and have someone else build it again from scratch with their own money. But after that happens, will the house still belong to Joe?
Let’s read the following carefully. If you look carefully, you will see Puerto Rico’s future.
Before Katrina, the New Orleans public school system had suffered from neglect, mismanagement and corruption, which left the schools in a state of disrepair. The hurricane almost literally wiped all the schools of the map: Only 16 of 128 buildings were more or less unscathed. After the storm, some 7,500 unionized teachers and other school employees were put on unpaid leave, and eventually dismissed.
Two years before Katrina, the State of Louisiana had set up a so-called Recovery School District to take over individual failing schools. After Katrina, the RSD eventually took over about 60 local schools; about 20 well-performing schools remained in the Orleans Parish School Board, creating, in essence, a two-tier system. Nearly all the schools in both parts of the system have since been converted to charters.
On the one hand you could say that in 2014, 63% of children in local elementary and middle schools were proficient on state tests, up from 37% in 2005. You could also say that these gains were largely because of the charter-school reforms and that graduation and college entry rates also increased over pre-Katrina levels.
On the other hand you would also have to say that Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation and that the average composite ACT score for the Recovery School District was just 16.4 in 2014, well below the minimum score required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana. In the end if you look closely you will see that New Orleans’ education reforms came at the expense of the New Orleans’s most disadvantaged children, who often mysteriously disappeared from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data.
Of course, Miss Keleher won’t talk about the Machiavellian things that were done in New Orleans to further the pursuit of academic gains such as suspensions, push outs, skimming, counseling out, and not handling special needs students well. She won’t talk about how principals engaged in widespread “creaming” (shaving the cream off the top) – selecting, or counseling out, students based on their expected performance on standardized tests.
Miss Keleher won’t talk about how the Charter Schools fired all the unionized, mostly black teachers after Katrina, clearing the way for Teach for America to replace all those experienced teachers with brand-new young, disposable, idealistic and mostly white employees who are willing to work 12 to 14 hour days. Employees who have had only five weeks of training during the summer and are brought in at beginners’ salary levels. In other words, TFA brings in temporary amateurs to fill positions traditionally offered to certified professionals.
Teach for America (TFA) is a nonprofit organization founded by Wendy Kopp. TFA has become a “prestigious” alternative entry into the teaching profession in the United States. Its reach has also become global as it expands to 25 countries outside of the United States through its spin-off organization known as Teach for All.
The domestic and international versions of TFA operate under the ideology that what is lacking in education are smart and motivated young college graduates. As TFA has grown as an organization, its focus has shifted to align itself with the movement to privatize teacher education and public schools. Furthermore, this alignment with the ideology of privatization is consistent with the organizations that provide TFA with its funding; namely, the Walton, Gates, and Broad Foundations. Nowadays TFA claims that their “corps members” are superior to traditionally trained teachers and the organization has effectively changed its mission to “enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.”
Over it’s history, TFA has been taken to task for their inadequate training, the demographics of corps members, their connection to charter schools and corporate philanthropists, their attempts to undermine teacher’s unions, and their general arrogance and hubris in ignoring those critiques.
Deborah Appleman, a professor of Educational Studies at Carleton College, wrote in a 2009 editorial for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that “(i)mplicit in Teach for America’s approach is the insidious assumption that anyone who knows a subject and is willing to be with kids can teach – with little training.” She also challenged TFA’s “elitist” structure. “The story of TFA becomes a kind of master narrative, a story of heroic and altruistic young people that focuses much more squarely on them than it does on the lives of the children they are committed to serve. There is an elitist overtone to the structure of TFA, a belief that the best and the brightest can make a difference in the lives of children who are less fortunate, even when they are not professionally prepared to do so.”
If you think that I’ve gone off topic here, please allow me to direct your attention to a February 20, 2018 article from El Nuevo Dia; “Educational reform changes the requirements to be a teacher on the island”.
The article states that under the new reforms, the Department of Education will establish new requirements for the hiring of personnel who will teach students, who do not necessarily have to have training or experience as teachers.
The Associate Undersecretary of the Department of Education, Eligio Hernández, said that the changes will allow the needs of students in public schools to be addressed first.
“The teacher that we aspire to have in our classrooms is the one who can meet the needs of our students, who has the ability to innovate, to have a different curricular offer, who can stay updated on their subject, their area,” Hernandez said.
Ah, but now everyone is looking to New Orleans, the first virtually all-charter urban district, as a model. How unbelievably quaint.
But let’s return to our story
US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos flew to Puerto Rico on November 8, 2017 and visited the Loiza Cordero School (for the blind) in Santurce with Governor Rosselló and Secretary Keleher at. Secretary DeVos also announced a $2 million award of federal funds from USDE to assist in the recovery of the schools.
And this is how the Charter School battle began…
Author and social activist Naomi Klein has written about the emergence of a predatory method of privatization of public schools that uses fear to starve, dismantle and then privatize public schools. This conservative movement threatens the development of public schools as necessary places that foster the development of a thinking and critical citizenship. It also undermines the public and democratic purpose of public education in order to accumulate wealth for a few.
NEWS FLASH. PRIVATE SCHOOLS WORK TO ADVANCE PRIVATE INTERESTS.
Back in 2015, PR Senate President Eduardo Bhatia had created and presented a bill called Project 1456 in order to create a law that would allow “alliances” between public schools and the private sector which in turn would produce “Alliance Schools”. We all thought that Project 1456 died a slow painful death on the Senate floor, but we were wrong. After Hurricane Maria Project 1456 just mutated like a virus and became the Educational Reform Project 1441/825.
And in the meantime, Miss Keleher decided she wanted to be Penelope Pitstop.
On November 7, 2017, a group of teachers from the PR Federation of Teachers began a protest in front of the building where Miss Keleher’s office is located. This was not a good idea. There was some shouting and some pushing and shoving with the security guards and 20 people wound up getting arrested. The arrests became the highlight of a protest organized to demand the opening of public schools that remained closed after Hurricane Maria. The protesters played right into Miss Keleher’s hands, which should have become obvious when she stated:
“Today our children have become witnesses to how some adults behave, today’s assaults, as well as the violent way in which they burst into the work area of their own colleagues, is unacceptable and undermines the very system that they represent. We will neither oppose dialogue nor free expression, but we strenuously oppose the use of violence, wherever it comes from, and especially if it comes from those who should serve as an example for our children…Every action has consequences and it will be the authorities that will take care of this unfortunate situation, we live in difficult times that require will and dedication, violence and aggression only lead us to failure”
Well, smart people are sometimes driven to do desperate and emotional things when they are desperate and emotional. We must remember that it’s the agency that has all the power. All teachers have is a voice. Miss Keleher is correct in stating that we live in difficult times that require will and dedication to move through. The trouble begins when people start to question in what direction Miss Keleher is directing her will and dedication. This takes us back to Miss Keleher’s infatuation with “school choice”, in other words, Charter Schools and school vouchers.
You could say that the School Choice Movement seeks to expand alternatives to traditional public schools for children who have poor educational options in their neighborhoods and to give parents a choice in their children’s education. But you could also say that using public funds to support individual choice of schools subverts the traditional public system, which educates the majority of school-age children, and that its ultimate goal is to privatize the most important civic institution in the country and the corner of democracy itself.
Miss Keleher’s infatuation with “school choice” in completely in sync with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ education policy. Coincidence? I think not.
Secretary DeVos has been an important advocate for school choice for decades, spending her time and a great deal of money to promote choice options in her home state of Michigan, where she successfully helped expand charter schools but failed to get a voucher program passed. She has created and run organizations that have lobbied for school choice around the country.
Secretary DeVos is also a religious zealot who told an interviewer in 2001 that she wanted to “help advance God’s kingdom” through the school system. She was speaking at The Gathering, an annual evangelical event. Both DeVos and her husband have spent significant sums over the years funding Christian schools, evangelical missions and conservative think-tanks.
Secretary DeVos’s Education Department is planning to spend an unprecedented amount of public money — well over $1 billion — to expand school choice in the 2018 proposed budget, and it is said to be considering other ways to promote choice. DeVos has not been shy about publicly expressing disdain for the traditional public school system by calling it a “dead end” and a “monopoly.” That’s what Miss Keleher means when she states in an interview with El Nuevo Dia that Charter Schools make the island eligible for more education funding.
Miss Keleher just can’t understand why these teachers and their unions can’t understand the validity of what she is trying to do. The answer is simple and has been in front of her the whole time: because she is wrong.
Finally, Miss Keleher’s blood finally reached a boiling point when on February 6, 2018 she said the following to the El Nuevo Dia newspaper in an article called “Education would begin with 14 Charter Schools”:
“… It is important that the country and the local communities listen to me. This is not about the rights of teachers, it’s about options made available for families, for students, and in the last decade we have not had any. It has not been a fair and equitable situation for the people. ”
That same afternoon at around 4:00pm on a local news story on Channel 4 Miss Keleher very clearly asked the following question:
“When are we going to stop talking about the rights of teachers, and start talking about options for students?”
Let us answer that question with a quote from an article by teacher Mitchell Robinson:
“If we want schools to be healthy, sustainable public institutions, every person who works in them must be treated with dignity and respect. Schools and teachers can be “student centered” and teachers can still be treated as professionals; paid a decent salary; receive good benefits; and be guaranteed excellent working conditions. Because teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”
“The narrative that “it’s all about the kids” erases the role of teachers and other adults in the education profession and makes it easier to advance policies that deprofessionalize the teaching profession (see: Teach for America, charter schools, canned curriculum, scripted lesson plans.) It also makes it easier to pay teachers less money, since “they are not in it for the income; they are in it for the outcomes.””
And something from another article by Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D
“The hypocrisy of so-called reformers…and other non-educators in the so-called education reform movement is evident when they claim that they respect the work of teachers so long as teachers don’t have control of their work environment and, in essence, are powerless to fight back due to the stripping away of their collective bargaining rights.”
“These reformers, all of whom are non-educators, have been back peddling and broadcasting a wide assortment of low-level propaganda while blaming teachers for everything that is wrong with education. However, as Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told her audience at their recent annual meeting, these so-called reformers “wouldn’t last 10 minutes in a classroom.”
“The so-called education reform movement in the country is based on two principles — testing and the dismantling of teaching empowerment. It is a movement lead primarily by non-educators…and politicians… According to the plethora of reports and analyses of the reform movement in the media, it has become quite evident that “reformers”…are simply discredited hucksters for the corporate push to take over and profitize schools in this country. Their real motive and hidden agenda is to first destroy the teachers unions and then to take over public education with for-profit charter schools as their primary vehicle of reform.”
“The movement by the non-educators to use test scores as the be-all and end-all of education reform has been a disaster for both students and teachers. It is also demeaning of teachers. Certainly, common sense would dictate that you cannot ignore, for example, the role poverty plays in academic achievement. As long as poverty exists it will be an important factor, and in order to move forward as a nation, we must improve the schools as well as reduce poverty. ”
We can also add that teachers who are treated with dignity, respect, fairness and compassion, who don’t have to hold down a second job to make ends meet, who don’t live in fear of retiring into poverty…These teachers will produce more and more consistently than teachers who are overworked, underpaid, overwhelmed by paperwork, brutalized by administrative procedures designed to kick them to the curb and intimidated by the kaleidoscope of Common Core Standards, Value Added Measurement, Standardized Testing and “Teaching to the Test”.
Teachers in Puerto Rico face get a lot of public hostility, such as radio and TV personality Jay Fonseca, who just can’t shut up about teachers, their unions, their vacations and their tenure.
Today, the AMPR and other teacher unions in Puerto Rico continue to play important roles in protecting the rights of teachers, especially in the current climate of hostility against teachers and the teaching profession.
There’s a common view among corporate-style reformers and certain radio and TV personalities today that the way to fix low-performing schools is to install a Principal who rules with an iron fist. Many principals have little classroom experience, and lack the judgment, knowledge, common sense and/or intelligence to make proper decisions about curriculum and instruction or to evaluate seasoned teachers. We also see principals use techniques like “Mobbing” and “Gas-Lighting” and the French revolution style application of “Institutional Abuse” laws and administrative procedures.
When experienced teachers are forced to work under the control of an inexperienced, vindictive or stupid principal, they need the protection of their union against arbitrary and unwise decisions.
On Friday, February 16, 2018, Miss Keleher walked off the Q&A session of the assembly held by the Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR) on education reform. The forum was called “THE TRUTH BEHIND CHARTER SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL VOUCHERS AFTER 28 YEARS IN THE UNITED STATES” where special guests from the United States including AFT President Randi Weingarten were also present.
Dr. Keleher had conditioned her authorization of the AMPR Delegates to attend, if they allowed her a chance to speak at the assembly. I suppose that with a name like “The Truth Behind Charter Schools and School Vouchers After 28 Years In The United States” Miss Kelleher was honestly expecting to charm this crowd of scared and pissed off teachers by waving and smiling like a Disney Princess. What a big surprise it must have been when she is confronted by – you guessed it – a crowd of pissed off teachers.
“I submit a motion for you to come back another day that is more prepared to answer our real questions,” you hear a teacher say in a video published on YouTube, followed by lots of screaming and booing. Miss Keleher replied, “good afternoon,” before hurrying off the stage.
Foro Noticioso interviewed teacher Verónica Rivera, from the Brígida Álvarez School in Vega Baja, who explained the reasons that led her to present that motion in the assembly, so that Miss Keleher would return when she was ready to answer the questions that the teacher had about the educational reform bill.
“We as teachers would be judged and treated as unprofessional or unprepared people if we come to present ourselves to our place of work, without having prepared ourselves for classes, with our work to do. Here, in front of all these teachers, her answer to most of our questions was “podemos diferir” (we can disagree on this point). None of the questions that we asked had been properly answered.”
On one hand, this was ridiculously disrespectful and a completely unnecessary glove in the face. A teacher would not have DARED to even consider pulling that stunt on Jesus Rivera Sanchez, or Rafael Roman. If Mrs. Rivera would have pulled that stunt on Jose Arsenio Torres he would have surely brought to roof down on her head. Rude, disrespectful, adolescent, racist and unprofessional behavior and comments directed at the Secretary should NOT be condoned or tolerated, especially not by teachers. Especially disappointing were the ignorant racist comments that were later thrown around on Facebook. Most of us English teachers have had the term “gringo(a)” thrown into our faces at some point, so for us the term really stings.
On the other hand, someone should have told Miss Keleher that this is a contact sport, and for a $250,000.00 a year salary we should expect her skin to be a little thicker. We certainly don’t expect someone of her stature to turn tail and run at the slightest provocation. After all, it was her idea to be there in the first place.
Dr. Keleher explained to the El Nuevo Día newspaper her abrupt exit from the Teachers Association assembly. Either she was trying to be Penelope Pitsop or she’s planning to write a book titled, “Dances with Teachers”
“I asked for the space, as a leader, so that they would listen to me about what it was about (the education reform project). (Teacher’s Association President) Aida Diaz told me that I could go, but that I did so at my own risk. After talking for a couple of minutes, a line was formed and people started asking questions and I answered them. A teacher from the Brígida Álvarez School raised her hand and she adopted a somewhat defensive attitude. I was trying to answer, but the time to ask the question was over. It became a provocation, with shouting and sounds from the crowd, and that was not the idea. Although I had answered the question, she told me that I should return when I had more details. If you tell me that you do not want me in your space and you will not treat me with respect, then I’ll leave. At that time, I understood that it was better not to engage.”
“It saddens me greatly because it reflects the abuse that teachers have had to endure for more than a decade. They have lived through so many bad things that there is no trust. They have been fighters, they see this as someone is trying to take more, but I am not basing myself on that premise and there is a common ground here. We did not start with a spirit of dialogue, they are on the defensive and there is nothing that I can answer that will reassure them, because it comes from such deep pain.”
Miss Keleher mentioned being available to meet again with the teachers, but without any “disrespect”. Once again the crowd plays right into her hands.
On March 21, 2018, Miss Keleher told El Vocero’s Yaritza Rivera Clemente that she had absolutely no intention of resigning. “I am committed to the purpose of ensuring that Puerto Rico’s young people have a public education system that really allows them to develop and develop their dreams. That’s what I came to do and I understood from the beginning that it would be a challenge, that it was not going to be easy, but I am committed to see this through to the end because it is about the future of a generation and one cannot step away from that.”
The trouble is that Charter Schools are not part of any public education system and school vouchers seek precisely to lure students away from the public education system.
“I hope that when we finally begin to implement all these changes, teachers and school directors will see how, through these reforms, that we are seeking to improve not only the working conditions they have, but their treatment as professionals, in a way that makes the system work better so that they do not have to fight so hard to protect their acquired rights. We look for a more friendly and comfortable environment for them.”
“As far as I’m concerned there is no animosity or rancor, I’m not offended. I have no hard feelings against the teachers and the Association (of Teachers). The doors are still open with a spirit of collaboration. I have always understood their point of view. I have not had anything against them and I understand that there are philosophical and union positions that they have to defend. But disagreeing on some issues does not make us enemies. “
Obviously it’s very easy for the agency that has all the power and control not to take things personally when it exercises its power and control. It’s the people who are intimidated and threatened who become emotional and take things personal.
On March 6, 2018, union leader Eva Ayala wrote on her Facebook page:
“I do not mind saying what I think … I want to slap Julia Keleher.”
Man, that wasn’t very smart.
Miss Keleher filled complaint number 2018-1-382-002727 which reads in part: “The complainant informs about a threat that was circulated in the Facebook social network, feeling intimidated and fearing for her safety”.
Miss Keleher wrote to Primera Hora:
“Said comment published on social networks was sent to the relevant authorities for investigation. Violence, whether physical or verbal, has never solved anything in the world. We are all called to set the example of working our differences through respectful dialogue, peacefully, honestly and transparently, showing the true values that distinguish our people… In this way, with our actions, we provide a correct and true example to our children. This is the most valuable weapon that we have inside and outside the classroom: our good example. At the same time, we remain focused on working tirelessly toward the transformation of the public education system of Puerto Rico through the new law #85 that will guarantee all students and the school community a bright future; which, without a doubt, they deserve.”
And still some people do not understand how this game is being played.
On March 28, 2018, on the eve of the signing of the new Education Reform Law. Miss Keleher wrote her first blog post on WordPress:
“Since I first assumed the direction of the Department of Education (DE), I knew that my task would not be easy, that the road would be steep and full of obstacles. But every time I look at our students, I cannot stop thinking that I am on this blessed Island with a purpose: to improve the quality of teaching to our students and correct the deficiencies and inequities of a system that can and should be modernized if we want that our children have a better future.”
So Charter Schools = modernization?
The next day, The Education Reform Act was signed into law.
Miss Keleher said that the reform law “is focused on providing better opportunities for students and making the DE work better” and emphasized that there is not yet a list of schools that could be converted into charters and that “there is no profile,” but that priority will be given to those with low academic achievement.
Yeah, right. Just like New Orleans.
The Secretary of Education, Julia Keleher, responded in early April to the proposal of the Broad Front in Defense of Public Education (FADEP) to boycott the META-PR tests.
According to a press release, the official urged to take seriously the award of the META-PR tests, scheduled to be administered from May 7 to 11, because, if the process is not completed or the same finish in less than 95 % participation, the allocation of over $ 400 million per year of Title I funds (used for the budget of schools and other projects) would be at stake.
Today, the Broad Front in Defense of Public Education (Fadep) determined to order a strike on April 20 and May 1. Also, after an assembly, they indicated that, if the demands of the teachers are not heard, they will boycott the standardized tests.
The Secretary of Education added that: “To receive Title I funds it is mandatory to offer state tests; they are a federal requirement; It is part of the accountability system that all jurisdictions have to meet to receive federal funds. Failure to comply with the META-PR tests may result in the withholding of funds due to non-compliance. This has very serious implications, including the fact that schools are left without services. ”
“I ask all members of the school community, especially teachers, not to jeopardize the Title I funds on which we depend for most of the services in our schools. They could also put at risk any initiative or academic program that we could create and execute for transient teachers, “added Secretary Keleher.
As for the announced strike on May 1, the Secretary of Education said: “As always, we respect the right of everyone to express themselves, always remembering that the rights of some end where those of others begin; I mean the one that all children have to have the school time dictated by the school calendar, as well as the one that all teachers have to fulfill their duty as teachers and be able to earn their living by attending their classrooms “, concluded Keleher.
If you as a reader cannot see the veiled threats here, then you need to read the last five paragraphs again… slowly.
In response to the Puerto Rico government’s idea to close nearly 283 public schools due to a shrinking enrollment accelerated by a post-Hurricane María world, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement:
“No one who cares about the future of the people of Puerto Rico would take a scythe to 300 community-based public schools while simultaneously telling Wall Street the island will pay back its debt at a more accelerated rate. Closing schools is devastating on its face. But when you do this to an island already on its knees and without consulting parents and educators, it just adds insult to injury. Schools are the beating heart of Puerto Rico communities; tearing them down means tearing that heart out.”
“Even more galling is the fact the governor is shutting schools at the same moment he’s promising to pay Wall Street hedge funds even more on its debt, against the advice of economists and at the expense of billions in public investment that Puerto Rico needs to recover. The research shows closing schools has a disastrous impact on kids’ learning. It means more kids will have to travel longer distances and spend more time traveling, and schools will pay more for transportation instead of books. In cities on the mainland, public schools have dealt with under-enrollment by launching wraparound social services to support students, but these solutions were never considered as an alternative, despite the advocacy of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico and the AFT.”
“By backing closures, charter schools and so-called school choice, the governor and his education secretary are imposing chaos and sowing more instability for the families and communities vital to Puerto Rico’s recovery. In their eyes, teaching, learning and economic recovery isn’t as important as feeding Wall Street vultures. We will fight this perversion of priorities.”
On April 3, 2018, Miss Keleher burst into tears talking to El Niuevo Dia:
“Trying to convince people that the changes implemented by he administtation are not intended to hurt anyone… There is so much pain and so much resentment at how the system has failed so many people. All of us want us want a better future for our children… But there is a lot of resistance… there are things that are being considered that (for some people) are more important than what we are trying to accomplish (for our children).
This is beginning to sound like a white savior complex: “WHY CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU?”
This goes back to her question back in February: “When are we going to stop talking about the rights of teachers, and start talking about options for students?”
The idea is to very subtly convince the general public that what is good for teachers is bad for students, painting this picture that teachers – who contrary to Miss Keleher – chose to study to be educators – are the enemy. This is not an original idea. In the upper 50 states “education reformers” have been publicly scapegoating teachers for years.
It doesn’t occur to Miss Keleher that schools can be “student centered” and teachers can still be treated as professionals; paid a decent salary; receive good benefits; and be guaranteed excellent working conditions. It doesn’t occur to Miss Keleher that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.
Miss Keleher’s soap opera narrative that “it’s all about the kids” seeks to actively erase the role of teachers and their unions and makes it a lot easier to advance policies that deprofessionalize the teaching profession.
On the 16th of April 2018, we got a new idea from Miss Keleher… Just stop this conversation turn the page and move on to something else.
April 19, 2018
The teachers who work in the 283 schools that the Department of Education (DE) announced will close for the next school year 2018-2019, will know at the end of May to which school they must report. This was stated by Miss Keleher, to Metro PR’s questions.
“That has not yet been decided,” she said, referring to how the teachers of the consolidated schools will be distributed.
Although the DE carried out a reorganization of schools and determined the amount needed per municipality to receive the previously estimated student enrollment, Miss Keleher indicated tht the parents or guardians of the students must confirm or officially enroll the student in the school to which they are enrolled.
“When the parents confirm the registration, we will assign the Faculty, ensuring a full faculty. […] As soon as I know where the students are going, I will know where the resources go,” said Keleher.
In this regard, the DE launched a technological initiative designed for parents or guardians to complete a form in which they confirm enrollment or apply for new income through an electronic page that will be available in an online portal, during the period of April 20 to May 4, 2018.
The registration confirmation process involves two main steps: first, register on the platform; and second, confirm enrollment or make new enrollment.
On the 283 school campuses that will no longer open their doors next year, Miss Keleher reiterated that “the number will remain fixed.” Likewise, she stated that “we understand that it would not be reasonable to increase the number of closures”.
She also announced that the PRDE will make public the application process that must be followed by any eligible entity – including the municipal governments- to operate an Alliance School (Charter). She clarified that the process of renting disused schools at $1.00 a month is not in the hands of the PRDE, because once said agency vacates the physical plant, it passes into the hands of the Department of Transportation and Public Works.
(Well played, Miss Keleher)
Miss Keleher ruled out the possibility that a mayor could establish some type of municipal agreement with the PRDE to operate any school that is included in the list of closures.
“The Law (Education Reform) gives the option to mayors through the municipality to propose having an Alliance School,” said the secretary. “You would have to square all the numbers, ensure that with the number of students, with the allocation per student -which is not the same as cost per student-, can operate, “he said, referring to the procedure and requirements that mayors would have to complete.
“It’s not the case that there is a school on the list and the mayor says, ‘Well, give me that, I’ll convert it’, it does not work that way, the system will place those students where we understand what they should be for us handle the allocation of resources, the mayor can by way of another process -which has another timeline- submit an application, which would be evaluated according to the process to know what can happen during the next year.
But it is not the same to say: ‘that school You cannot close it, I’ll take care of it, give me the school.’ It’s not a one-for-one, there has to be a consultation process,” she said.
“They can consult with the community and submit an application to become an Alliance School.” That process of consultation with the community, Miss Keleher assured Metro PR, will have to complete all eligible entities -according to the Educational Reform- to request and operate an Alliance School, the process provides, for example, for an active school to be converted to an Alliance School or for a new Alliance School to be established in a community, after having completed the consultation process and complying with the requirements if any of these communities, for example, the physical plant of one of the consolidated sites is located, that could be an option to establish an Alliance School, but there is no guarantee”
I’m done. Let’s read something else…
THE CORPORATE PLAN TO GROOM U.S. KIDS FOR SERVITUDE BY WIPING OUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
ARE FIRST-WORLD CHILDREN BEING TRAINED FOR A THIRD-WORLD LIFE?
By Lynn Stuart Parramore / Institute for New Economic Thinking
April 16, 2018,
It was the strike heard ‘round the country.
West Virginia’s public school teachers had endured years of low pay, inadequate insurance, giant class sizes, and increasingly unlivable conditions—including attempts to force them to record private details of their health daily on a wellness app. Their governor, billionaire coal baron Jim Justice, pledged to allow them no more than an annual 1% raise—effectively a pay cut considering inflation—in a state where teacher salaries ranked 48th lowest out of 50 states. In February 2018, they finally revolted: In a tense, four-day work stoppage, they managed to wrest a 5% pay increase from the state. Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky have now revolted in similar protests.
It’s the latest battle in a contest between two countervailing forces: one bent on reengineering America for the benefit of the wealthy, the other struggling to preserve dignity and security for ordinary people.
If the story turns out the way the Jim Justices desire, the children of a first-world country will henceforth be groomed for a third-world life.
Gordon Lafer, Associate Professor at the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon, and Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, help illuminate why this is happening, who is behind it, and what’s at stake as the educational system that once united Americans and prepared them for a life of social and economic mobility is wiped out of existence.
The Plan: Lower People’s Expectations
When Lafer began to study the tsunami of corporate-backed legislation that swept the country in early 2011 in the wake of Citizens United—the 2010 Supreme Court decision that gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence the political system—he wasn’t yet clear what was happening. In state after state, a pattern was emerging of highly coordinated campaigns to smash unions, shrink taxes for the wealthy, and cut public services. Headlines blamed globalization and technology for the squeeze on the majority of the population, but Lafer began to see something far more deliberate working behind the scenes: a hidden force that was well-funded, laser-focused, and astonishingly effective.
Lafer pored over the activities of business lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – funded by giant corporations including Walmart, Amazon.com, and Bank of America—that produces “model legislation” in areas its conservative members use to promote privatization. He studied the Koch network, a constellation of groups affiliated with billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. (Koch Industries is the country’s second-largest private company with business including crude oil supply and refining and chemical production). Again and again, he found that corporate-backed lobbyists were able to subvert the clear preferences of the public and their elected representatives in both parties. Of all the areas these lobbyists were able to influence, the policy campaign that netted the most laws passed, featured the most big players, and boasted the most effective organizations was public education. For these U.S. corporations, undermining the public school system was the Holy Grail.
After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.
The grand plan was even more ambitious. These titans of business wished to completely change the way Americans and their children viewed their life potential. Transforming education was the key.
The lobbyists and associations perfected cover stories to keep the public from knowing their real objectives. Step one was to raise fears about an American educational crisis that did not, in fact, exist. Lafer notes, for example, that the reading and math scores of American students have remained largely unchanged for forty years. Nonetheless, the corporate-backed alarmists worked to convince the public that the school system was in dire condition.
Step two was to claim that unproven reforms to fix the fictional crisis, like online learning, were sure to improve outcomes, despite the fact that such schemes go directly against hard evidence for what works in education and deny students the socialization that is crucial to a child’s progress. Sometimes the reformers said the changes were needed because of budget deficits; other times, they claimed altruistic aims to improve the quality schools.
In Lafer’s view, their strategy had little to do with either.
The Motivation: Keep the Masses Down as Inequality Rises
It’s one thing for big businesses to be anti-worker and anti-union, but also anti-student? Why would business lobbies deliberately strive to create what amounts to widespread education failure?
It’s not hard to see how certain sectors in the corporate world, like the producers of online learning platforms and content, could cash in. But it’s harder to fathom why corporate leaders who don’t stand to make money directly would devote so much time and attention to making sure, for example, that no public high school student in the state of Florida could take home a diploma without taking an online course. (Yes, that’s now law in the Sunshine State).
It’s about more than short-term cash. While Lafer acknowledges that there are legitimate debates among people with different ideological positions or pedagogical views, he thinks big corporations are actually more worried about something far more pragmatic: how to protect themselves from the masses as they engineer rising economic inequality.
“One of the ways I think that they try to avoid a populist backlash is by lowering everybody’s expectations of what we have a right to demand as citizens,” says Lafer. “When you think about what Americans think we have a right to, just by living here, it’s really pretty little. Most people don’t think you have a right to healthcare or a house. You don’t necessarily have a right to food and water. But people think you have a right to have your kids get a decent education.”
Not for long, if Big Business has its way. In President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, they have dedicated partners in redirecting public resources to unregulated, privately owned and operated schools. Such privatization plans, many critics say, will reinforce and amplify America’s economic inequality.
U.S. public schools, which became widespread in the 1800s, were promoted with the idea that putting students from families of different income levels together—though not black Americans and other racial minorities until the 1950s—would instill a common sense of citizenship and national identity. But today, large corporations are scoring huge successes in replacing this system with a two-tiered model and a whole new notion of identity.
Lafer explains that in the new system, the children of the wealthy will be taught a broad, rich curriculum in small classes led by experienced teachers. The kind of thing everybody wants for kids. But the majority of America’s children will be consigned to a narrow curriculum delivered in large classes by inexperienced staff —or through digital platforms with no teachers at all.
Most kids will be trained for a life that is more circumscribed, less vibrant, and, quite literally, shorter, than what past generations have known. (Research shows that the lifespan gap between haves and have-nots is large and rapidly growing). They will be groomed for insecure service jobs that dull their minds and depress their spirits. In the words of Noam Chomsky, who recently spoke about education to the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), “students will be controlled and disciplined.” Most will go to school without developing their creativity or experiencing doing things on their own.
The New Reality: Two Americas, Not One
Economist Peter Temin, former head of MIT’s economics department and INET grantee, has written a book, The Vanishing Middle Class, which explains how conditions in America are becoming more like a third-world country for the bulk of its people. He agrees with Lafer that the corporate-driven war on public schools is not just about money, but also about a vision of society.
People like Betsy DeVos, he says, are following the thinking of earlier ideologues like James Buchanan, the Tennessee-born, Nobel Prize–winning economist who promoted current antigovernment politics in the 1970s. The “shut-the-government-down” obsession is really an extreme form of libertarianism, he says, if not anarchism.
Temin also agrees that shrinking the horizons of America’s kids makes sense to people who follow this philosophy. “They want to exploit the lower members of the economy, and reducing their expectations makes them easier to manipulate,” says Temin. “When they aren’t able to go to college and get decent jobs, they become more susceptible to things like racist ideology.”
In other words, dismantling the public schools is all about control.
Buchanan was an early proponent of school privatization, and while he echoed the fears and frustration many Americans felt concerning desegregation, he typically made a non-race-based case for preserving Jim Crow in a new form. He argued that the federal government should not be telling people what to do about schooling and suggested that citizens were being stripped of their freedom. But as Sam Tanenhaus points out in TheAtlantic, issues of race always lurked in the background of calls for educational freedom and “choice.” In a paper he co-authored, Buchanan stated, “every individual should be free to associate with persons of his own choosing.” Segregationists knew what that meant.
Policies that end up reducing educational opportunities for those who lack resources creates inequality, and economic inequality reduces support for public schools among the wealthy. It’s vicious feedback loop.
In his book, Temin describes a process that happens in countries that divide into “dual economies,” a concept first outlined by West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. Lewis studied developing countries where the rural population tends to serve as a reservoir of cheap labor for people in cities — a situation the top tier works very hard to maintain. Temin noticed that the Lewis model now fits the pattern emerging in the richest country in the world.
America, according to Temin, is clearly breaking down into two sectors: Roughly 20% of the population are members of what he calls the “FTE sector” (i.e., the finance, technology, and electronics sectors). These lucky people get college educations, land good jobs, enjoy social networks that enhance their success, and generally have access to enough money to meet most of life’s challenges. The remaining 80% live in a world nothing like this; they live in different geographies and have different legal statuses, healthcare systems, and schools. This is the low-wage sector, where life is getting harder.
People in the low-wage sector carry debt. They worry about insecure jobs and unemployment. They get sick more often and die younger than previous generations had. If they are able go to college, they end up in debt. “While members of the first sector act,” Temin has said, “these people are acted upon.”
Temin traces the emergence of the U.S. dual economy to the 1970s and 80s, when civil rights advances were making a lot of Americans uneasy. People who had long been opposed to the New Deal began to find new ways to advance their agenda. The Nixon administration gave momentum to anti-government, free-market fundamentalist ideologies, which gained even more support under Reagan. Gradually, as free-market programs became policy, the rich began to get richer and economic inequality began to rise. Economist Paul Krugman has called this phenomenon the “Great Divergence.”
But it was still possible to move from the lower sector to the affluent sector. The path was tough, and much harder for women and people of color. Yet it existed. Through education and a bit of luck, you could develop the skills and acquire the social capital that could propel you out of the circumstances you were born into.
The dismantling of public education, as Temin sees it, will shut off that route for vastly more people. Like the privatization of prisons, which has increased incarceration rates and cut the mobility path off for more Americans, putting schools into private hands will land even more on the road to nowhere. Even those who were born into the middle class will increasingly get pushed back.
The Future: Mobilization or Bloodshed?
Temin relates that in human history, unitary economies are more the exception than the rule.
In the U.S., there was the Jim Crow era, the Gilded Age, and before that, slavery, which was an extreme form of dual economy. But from the end of WWII through the 1960s, the country began to develop a unitary economy. The idea that everybody should have opportunities became more and more widespread. But there was a backlash, and America still dealing with it.
In the Lewis model of the dual economy, there is still path to the upper sector, but Temin warns that America may be on the way to going one step further. “If you really prevent people from moving up, you get something that looks like Russia or Argentina,” he says. In these two-tiered societies, life is difficult for most people. Life expectancies for all but the affluent go down.
Unfortunately, once you’ve developed a dual economy, getting out of it isn’t pretty. Temin notes that it often happens through devastating wars. “Sometimes the kings who are all cousins turn on each other,” he says. “Other times, the leaders sleepwalk into the war as Trump could possibly do with North Korea.”
Such upheavals create instability that sometimes opens up the possibility of restructuring society for the benefit of more people. But it’s a painful, bloody process. Political mobilization can work, but it’s very hard to get various groups who are dissatisfied to join forces.
Lafer points out that we don’t yet know how this story is going to turn out. “Politics remains forever contingent, never settled,” he says. “The struggle between public interest and private power will continue to play out in cities and states across the country; even with the heightened influence of money in the era of Citizens United, the power of popular conviction should not be underestimated.”
The teachers in West Virginia and now other states across the country have turned the anger fueled by the corporate vision of the future in a positive direction. They are fighting back, peacefully, and winning something—not just money, but a sense of dignity suited to the job of preparing the country’s kids for life. It remains to be seen if the rights of the many can triumph over the selfishness of the few, and whether economic servitude will be the fate of the children of the wealthiest nation the world has ever seen.
Lynn Parramore is an author and cultural theorist. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.
 Penelope Pitstop is a fictional character who appeared in the Hanna-Barbera animated series “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.” The series is set in the 1920s. Penelope is a traditional “damsel in distress” character as in the silent movie era melodrama cliffhanger movie serial The Perils of Pauline. Her catchphrase is “Help, help!” (Spoken in an upper-class U.S. Southern accent, and pronounced “HAY-ULP”). Penelope displays a curious combination of ingenuity and helplessness. She often figures out clever ways to get out of perils and is very athletic; if any sport happens to be mentioned, it is revealed that she was the women’s champion in said sport in college. Nonetheless, when her nemesis the Hooded Claw grabs her, she is somehow incapable of doing anything other than yelling for help. She will occasionally flee from his clutches, running in an unusual goose-stepping stride. While Penelope was curiously helpless whenever The Hooded Claw grabbed her, once he left her tied up for his fiendish plans to take effect, she usually became resourceful and ingenious, sometimes coming up with spontaneous and creative methodologies to escape her peril.