The Meaning of Teachers’ Walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky

tip·ping point
the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.


One indication of the power of recent walkouts by schoolteachers is that people who have traditionally delighted in criticizing teachers and their unions have been investing energy and messaging expertise to try to downplay what has been happening this month in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington points to a messaging guide created by the State Policy Network (SPN), a formal organization connecting far-right-think thanks across the states and coordinating their work and messaging with the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): “The ‘messaging guide’ is the brainchild of the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 rightwing ‘ideas factories’ that span every state in the nation. SPN uses its $80m war chest—funded by billionaire super-donors such as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation… to coordinate conservative strategy across the country. Another financial backer of SPN is the billionaire DeVos family……

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Red States: Waking Up to Public Responsibility for Educating Children?

“Public education does not serve a public. It creates a public. And in creating the right kind of public, the schools contribute toward strengthening the spiritual basis of the American Creed. That is how Jefferson understood it, how Horace Mann understood it, how John Dewey understood it, and in fact, there is no other way to understand it. The question is not, Does or doesn’t public schooling create a public? The question is, What kind of public does it create? A conglomerate of self-indulgent consumers? Angry, soulless, directionless masses? Indifferent, confused citizens? Or a public imbued with confidence, a sense of purpose, a respect for learning, and tolerance? The answer to this question has nothing whatever to do with computers, with testing, with teacher accountability, with class size, and with the other details of managing schools. The right answer depends on two things, and two things alone: the existence of shared narratives and the capacity of such narratives to provide an inspired reason for schooling.”

― Neil Postman, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School


This is the first of two updates on this spring’s wave of walkouts by schoolteachers.  Today’s post will examine the fiscal implications.  Tomorrow’s will explore what the walkouts may mean about shifting attitudes across some of the Heartland’s Red-states.

In a fine piece for NPR’s All Things Considered, Cory Turner provides some context for the fiscal crisis beneath walkouts across a number of states: “How did we get here? When you put that question to people who study teacher pay, you’ll often hear something like this: ‘I have been saying, Why aren’t (teachers) in the streets?  What took them so long?‘ says Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley.  She’s compared teachers’ weekly wages to workers with similar levels of experience and education and says teachers consistently earn less.”

In a brief for the Economic Policy Institute, Allegretto’s bar graph displays the nationwide…

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NAEP Results: Scores Mostly Flat, Gaps Widen

Diane Ravitch's blog

Education Week reports that NAEP results are flat, with few exceptions. The billions squandered on annual testing and Common Core Gabe produced meager change, especially for those already at the bottom. Achievement gaps widened.

With so little change, it is time—past time—to give serious attention to rethinking the federal testing juggernaut that began with No Child Left Behind, intensified with Race to the Top, and continues with the so-called Every Student Succeeds Act. The latest national results show that many children have been left behind, we are nowhere near “the top,” and every student is not succeeding.

In short, the federal policy of standards, testing, and accountability is a train wreck.

It is past time to stop blaming students, teachers, and schools, and place the blame for stagnation where it belongs: On nearly 20 years of failed federal policy based on failed assumptions.

Education Werk reports:

“Across the board, struggling…

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NAEP Scores Flatline, Achievement Gaps Persist. Millions of Children Are Still Left Behind

“In short, the federal policy of standards, testing, and accountability is a train wreck. It is past time to stop blaming students, teachers, and schools, and place the blame for stagnation where it belongs: On nearly 20 years of failed federal policy based on failed assumptions.” – Dr Diane Ravitch


For almost two decades since the passage of No Child Left Behind, our society has been operating according to an educational policy scheme by which we say we’ve been holding educators accountable. The two year National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores were released this week, however, and while experts are parsing the meaning of the difference of a couple of points of gain or loss at fourth or eighth grade on the new  scores, what is clear is that No Child Left Behind has neither significantly raised student achievement nor closed racial and economic achievement gaps.

For the Washington Post, Moriah Balingit reports: “The gap between high- and low-achieving students widened on a national math and science exam, a disparity that educators say is another sign that schools need to do more to lift the performance of their most challenged students.  Averages for fourth-and eighth-graders on the…

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Arizona Supreme Court Denies In-State Tuition for Dreamers

Maybe the day is coming when being a non-US-citizen but a lawful resident of certain individual states is a reality. A new norm. The Constitutional crisis, or soap opera if you will, has been States Rights since 1791. Balance and reassurances and national government overreach in the form of the Bill of Rights is what the Antifederalists were trying to ensure. We’re seeing that in gun rights and regulations recently and perhaps state citizenship rights and regulations is next. After all, in 1791, there was no such thing as being a US citizen.


This morning I am thinking about higher education for Dreamers, students who were brought here as young children by their undocumented parents, students who have grown up in our communities but who have been relegated to the shadows without protection of significant rights by law.  The term “Dreamer” comes from the name of the law to protect their rights—a law whose passage these young people have been seeking now for almost two decades, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

I first learned about the academic challenges these students face nearly twenty years ago from a high school counselor in Arizona who explained to me that the valedictorian at her school could not qualify for in-state tuition or a college scholarship to a public community college or university in her state.  Neither could such a student qualify for a Pell Grant or a federally guaranteed college loan. …

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Cops out of uniform can’t stop being cops

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Last night I was invited to speak at a church about the issue of immigration. A small group within the church meets weekly to discuss and hear from people working on a variety of social justice issues.

I spoke briefly about the history of US immigration policy from the founding of the US through the current Trump administration. In addition, I spoke briefly about what Cosecha GR is doing and how they are the real leaders of this issue in West Michigan, since Cosecha GR is immigrant led.

Lastly, I addressed the work of GR Rapid Response to ICE and the realities of state repression in West Michigan that targets immigrants.

The conversation was lively and people seemed to be very interested in the information shared as well as participating in the Rapid Response to ICE work and looking into what it would mean to be a sanctuary church.


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Nestle’s Theft of Water: When Boycotts are Not Enough Part II

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Monday, we posted an article discussing why boycotting Nestle, in light of their most recent theft of Michigan’s water, would not be enough if we really want to stop what the corporation is doing. 

The responses I received from that post were rather instructive and worth discussing here in Part II on the matter of Nestle’s theft of water in Michigan.

One response stated:

I’m not sure what the point is in boycotting Nestle? It’s up to us, the voters, to get rid of lawmakers who made it possible for this to happen. Let’s work to turn Michigan blue again!

In fact, there were several calls to get Governor Synder out and to vote for Democrats. First, Snyder will be out at the end of the year because of term limits. Second, people to seem to have a short memory when it comes to partisan politics, since the…

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The Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s sinister scheme in historical context

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

You have all seen it by now. The viral video that shows how numerous TV stations across the US and owned by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, were all reading from the same script, in Orwellian fashion.

The irony of this viral video is that the script used by the dozens of Sinclair-owned TV stations is suggesting that Fake News is growing and that social media propaganda is at the root of the problem.

While there is certainly a great deal of propaganda circulating in a variety of media platforms, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group does not have any credibility when it comes to criticizing biased news.

The Sinclair Broadcasting Group has made it very clear that they endorse the platform and the policies of the Trump Administration. Last year, it was announced that the company was expanding their media empire by buying out the Tribune Company’s TV stations. We reported on…

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While Teachers’ Walkouts Highlight Inadequate Funding of Schools, Inequity Remains Unaddressed

tip·ping point
the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.


This blog has recently been tracking the walkouts of teachers in states where legislators have been chronically underfunding public education, states where teachers’ pay ranks among the lowest in the nation.  (See here, hereherehere and here.) These are states in the heartland, many where the children and the teachers are mostly white.  The walkouts by teachers have been happening in all Red states that lack political checks and balances because their governors and both houses of their legislatures are dominated by far-right Republicans.  Schoolteachers are walking out to call their legislators’ attention to the fact that rampant tax cutting is cheating the children. These teachers are calling everybody’s attention to the plain fact that in these states funding for the public schools has been dropping.  The recent walkouts by teachers have put a face on the problem of inadequate school funding.

But there is…

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Nestle’s Theft of Water: When Boycotts are Not Enough

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

I’m sure there are plenty of people in Michigan who now know that the state has granted the Nestle Corporation the right to extract 200 million gallons of water a year and will only have to pay $200 in exchange

You read that correctly, Nestle was granted the right to extract 200 million gallons of water a year in Michigan, water that should be left alone, so that the corporate giant can put it in bottles and sell it back to us. For this, Nestle only has to pay the state $200 a year.

This is what corporate power looks like. On top of this, this decision by those in power in Lansing, came on the same day that this same power structure decided that residents in Flint no longer needed to be provided with bottled water.

Many people have no doubt seen various memes calling for a Boycott…

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