February 28, 2020

Taking their fight to the streets — kinda

It’s good to see there’s some other ways to get your message out. You don’t always have to get out the bullhorn and pound the pavement at City Hall.  Innovation is good, going national with it is even better.

In these two video clips we hear about two teachers from the Midwest, one speaking through a comedian’s playbook, the other in a public resignation up close and personal in front of a Des Moines school board.

Black reading the teacher’s letter in his rant
Lewis Black is known for his rants, but also for sharing the letters he gets that bring attention to the absurdities of the country we’re living in.

In this clip, he reads an email he got from a middle school science teacher in Des Moines who wants people to stop taking elections for granted.
Citing specifics, the teacher (I think it’s a guy, but can’t make out his name from the video) says he arrives an hour or two before school starts, only to see 50–60 students dropped off as early as 7 a.m.  Why? It’s childcare by default.
Some haven’t eaten, so the school feeds them. Why? Wages too damn low for so many people.

When he leaves school at 5 or 6, kids stop to ask him for food. They should have gone home at 3:25.

No pencils. The school organizes pencil drives to replenish the no.2s the kids can’t write with because there aren’t any.

There’s no funding for up-to-date technology or the arts.
Next to zero health services.
Quality after-school programs slashed and cut.
Quality textbooks, not either.
Field trips?  Hah. Can’t afford them unless a teacher applies for a grant to hire a bus. A grant!
TEACHER: "We have to take responsibility to elect people who actually care about the young people in our schools, and will fund our schools.  Yes, F-U-N-D them.  Stop trying to apply Walmart economics to our school system.”

Opposing a new contract offer, this teacher throws in her resignation at a school board meeting.
Amanda Coffmann resigning from
a Kansas MS, courtesy NowThisNews
[to the Board:] “You aren’t listening ... The kids and I deserve better ... I could accept this contract, smile, and stay silent about the lies the district perpetuates about its teachers, but that doesn’t mean I should ... Disrespect in an uneven power dynamic is bullying. When we see bullying, we must stand up and call it out.”

[to her kids:] “Please don’t see my empty doorway as a sign that I’ve abandoned you or that I don’t care ... I will always be your biggest advocate.”

[to the Board:] “There will be no clarifying questions. I don’t answer to you anymore.”
I count my blessings I don’t have to answer to the Bloomberg/Klein regime of ed deform anymore. What destruction their corporate ideologies brought to us in classrooms, school buildings, local neighborhoods. Much, of course, needed to be fixed, that’s always the case with public funding, but I blame those particular men for such bad, bad use of what monies were available, so grossly and unevenly applied citywide.

February 26, 2020

Bloomberg in last night's debate:
"I treated teachers right."


This is really too much.  Let’s take a look at what this guy really think about teachers.

Revised ......

Ednotes posts Leonie Haimson’s recent piece in the Indypendent, “Michael Bloomberg’s disastrous public education policy
Bloomberg embodied an aggressive free-market ideology with policies that were contrary to research and hugely disruptive — in the worst sense of the word. Far from the benevolent, pragmatic centrist his campaign likes to portray,  Bloomberg and his chancellors reigned over NYC public schools for 12 years with an iron fist, autocratically imposing destructive reforms with little concern for how they upended the lives of communities, students and teachers.
[Leonie refers to an “explosive video” of Bloomberg here.]
And I don’t know how I missed this one the other day, but more critique in the Indypendent from NYC teacher Julie Cavanagh:A Teacher’s Story: How Bloomberg wreaked havoc on my ‘A-rated’ public school” (Feb 2020)
Yet all that offered no immunity when our school became one of the first targets for a “co-location,” installing a charter school in the same building as a public school. This wasn’t just any charter school. It was an education corporation run by Spencer Robertson, the son of hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson. The elder Robertson had donated generously to Bloomberg’s education initiatives and was, like the mayor, a national player in promoting the corporate school “reform” agenda — pushing high-stakes testing, closing public schools, co-locating charters with well-performing schools and attacking teachers’ unions, while cutting funding to our public schools.
Bloomberg: “If I had my way, I’d dump half of NYC’s Teachers”, subtitle:  “Mayor stuns many at MIT speech, says he’d greatly enlarge class size, too“ (CBS reporting, Dec 2011)
“Education is very much, I’ve always thought, just like the real estate business. Real estate business, there are three things that matter: location, location, location is the old joke,” Bloomberg said. “Well in education, it is: quality of teacher, quality of teacher, quality of teacher. And I would, if I had the ability – which nobody does really – to just design a system and say, ‘ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do,’ you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”
Leonie Haimson and Diane Ravitch: “The education of Michael Bloomberg“ (May 2013)
Unfortunately, his claims of closing the achievement gap proved misleading. On the reliable national assessment known as the NAEP, there had been no significant increase in scores or narrowing of the gap since 2003, when the mayor’s policies were first imposed. In 2010, the state Education Department finally admitted what observers had long suspected: that the state exams had become overly predictable and that scoring well had grown easier over time. After New York State acknowledged that test score inflation had occurred, scores across the state were recalibrated and declined dramatically. The achievement gap was revealed to be as wide as it had been before Bloomberg implemented his policies. The black-white test proficiency gap in eighth-grade reading actually increased.
Dr. Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc:  “Mike Bloomberg’s education ‘reforms’ would be a disaster for public schools”  (Feb 2020)
Like Trump and his inept secretary of education, Betsy Devos, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country. Education, in their view, should be run like a business.
     While other establishment Democrats have begun changing their tune in response to the “Red for Ed” movement, Bloomberg’s campaign spokesman has made it clear that privatization will be a core message of his 2020 presidential run.
Barbie Latza Nadeau: “Michael Bloomberg once compared Teachers Union to the National Rifle Association“ (Feb 2020)
Former New York mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg has long been a vocal critic of the National Rifle Association, which he has called both “shameful” and “dangerous.” ... In a video of remarks Bloomberg made while still mayor of New York, obtained by Politico, he can be heard likening the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York City teachers union to the NRA.
Jake Jacobs: “How Bloomberg trashed public education in New York” (Feb 2020)
New York City teachers are vocal critics of Bloomberg, who not only used public money for school privatization but usurped the power of elected community school boards as the state granted Bloomberg “mayoral control” of New York City schools in 2002.
     Bloomberg proceeded to appoint corporate attorney Joel Klein as head of New York City’s education department. Klein began a “test-and-punish” regime, which led to the closure of 150 schools and earned him an 80 percent disapproval rating with teachers.
And of course read ANYTHING in these blogs — including mine — during the Bloomberg years:
NYC Educator
Pissed Off     
South Bronx School
Class Size Matters
NYC Public School Parents

February 23, 2020

Bernie gets it, our union leaders just ... won’t

Here’s the reasons many union workers want to see Medicare for All happen:
1.  They have coverage through their job, but their friends and relatives don’t.

2.  They worry what happens if they lose their jobs.
See Buzzfeed a few days ago:  Members of Nevada’s Largest Union Defied Their Leadership
3.  With healthcare discussions off the table, union leaders can negotiate for other things. As Bernie said this week (as per Common Dreams a week ago):
“Many, many unions throughout this country ... absolutely understand that we’ve got to move to Medicare for All ... and the reason is ...  they spend half of their time arguing against cutbacks for the healthcare that they have.

“When everybody in America has comprehensive healthcare ... unions can then negotiate for higher wages, better working conditions, better pensions.” 
4.  Some ed activists speculate that union admin jobs could be eliminated if healthcare administration were to migrate to a government platform.
Regarding this last point, the UFT Welfare Fund handles some of our health coverage, the parts that are supplemental to the city’s plans. It says on its website that it’s a “unilaterally operated trust fund” administered by a 5-person board of union trustees. An executive director and an unspecified number of staffers take care of its day-to-day operations. (I’ve been reminded more than once that these are patronage jobs.)

Here’s a paragraph on the board’s powers that probably very few in the rank-and-file ever knew about, including myself:

So, not only are our jobs, working conditions, and pensions intertwined with our coverage, but some of that coverage — bartered away for lower wages and quite a few regressive working conditions — could easily be modified or taken away altogether. That’s rather unsettling.

This tying of healthcare to jobs has got to stop.

Back in October I posted a list of unions backing Medicare for All, and Sanders lists a bunch of union endorsements on his website, claiming in the last debate he’s got more of them than any other candidate. Several of the unions listed are teachers: American Federation of Teachers, United Teachers LA, United Teachers Richmond, and Washington Teachers.  The UFT is not one of them.

Some reporters suggest that the Medicare for All debate is “fracturing organized labor, sometimes pitting unions against Democratic candidates that vie for their support” (here).
It’s a discussion at every single bargaining table, in every single union shop, every single time it’s open enrollment and people see their costs going up,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a vocal single-payer advocate and one of a number of union officials who spoke to the divide.
But what they seem to be missing is absolutely addressed in the proposed legislation:
When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.  Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.
                                    — from Bernie’s website on “Workplace Democracy
I’m glad the culinary workers and others local union members are speaking out against their leadership’s resistance.

I don’t see much of a shift yet, but two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if Bernie had the wind at his back to take three states in a row.

February 17, 2020

American healthcare —
our own brand of Sophie's choices

Revised somewhat below, but see also Ednotes, where Norm talks about healthcare and the unions. We all have to keep digging into that issue.


I was wondering when John Oliver would get around to explaining Medicare for All, and here he is a couple of days ago.

I appreciate his joking around, don't get me wrong. But, he makes some serious points about the simply fabulous choices we'd have to give up if we go for single-payer.

The current "choices" in our system are actually quite dire if you happen to live in the wrong state, or have a pre-existing condition, or just don't make enough money to cover the bills.

Oliver's examples (starting around 14:00) are grotesque and should never be allowed:

1.  Should you call an ambulance in a serious emergency or get a friend to drive you?

2.  Which hospital are you going to head for, the one in your plan or the closer one?  And what will you do if the doctor on duty is not in your plan?

That's where he says: "You can get fucked by taking an ambulance, you can get fucked by going to the wrong hospital, or you can get fucked by going to the right hospital but getting the wrong surgeon...." 

3.  How about which medication will you choose, the one that'll keep your faulty heart from totally giving out or the diabetes that'll take longer to kill you?

That's where he says:  "A humane health system should not require people to pick their favorite organ." 

I've heard of other choices people are making every day: 
Which bills to pay, food or prescription drugs?
Which job to take, the one with healthcare, or the one I really want? 
Which state should I live in to get the best coverage?
How about this for Sophie's choice: Should I help pay the meds for one of my adult children over another?

All in all, that's where I agree with Oliver when he says the American system is truly "the Kama Sutra of healthcare."

So many choices, but all the wrong kinds.