Detroit Students ‘Do’ Washington D.C., ‘Wal-Mart, Gates and friends’ throw in $65 million for merit pay contract proposal

I hadn’t had a chance to look at my computer earlier today, but when I got home I got the following message from Jamal:

“Yes that was me! and thanks so much and we are doing a conference call April 8th (today at 7:00 you can call now actually number is 712-775-7400 and there is a code which is 141550 please call its very exciting and its national wide (the conference call) and you know just tell them what you are here for. also Donna (Stern) is on the conference call and I will be also. and thanks so much!” (personal e-mail, April 8th, 2010).

You might remember ‘Jamal’ from my article on Detroit Public schools, “Corporate Barbarians at the Gate: Wal-Mart internships at Detroit Schools” (http://dailycensored.com/2010/03/06/corporate-barbarians-at-the-gate-wal-mart-internships-at-detroit-schools/).  Jamal is the high school student who fought against and continues to fight against the Wal-martization of schools, both in Detroit and now nationally.  I gave him the anonymous name, Jamal in my article, so as not to put him in a position of probable reprisals from smarmy administrators, private Pinkertons and politicians looking to punish kids for standing up for their human rights.

The message Jamal sent me was to announce a conference call by the group  ‘By Any Means Necessary’ (www.bamn.com) that was taking place April 8th regarding the rally that will happen in front of Arne Duncan’s office this Saturday, April 10th.

Just a brief rehash for readers new to this issue:

Jamal is a high school student in Detroit and is also a member of “By Any Means Necessary” (www.bamn.com).  Jamal got whiff of Wal-Mart’s nauseous plan to offer unpaid ‘internships’ at his high school two months ago and he spoke out against the program vocally, organizing and writing flyers to denounce the retail giants move to put kids on a fast-track conveyor belt to low-paid, unsustainable wage-labor in the name of education. 

It was all engineered by Wal-Mart, with the help of Motor City Robert Bob and the merry band of billionaires — Bill Gates, Eli Broad, The Walton Family, Reed Hastings (NetFlix) and the Skillman Foundation — to name just a few of the pirates that parade as philanthropists and who have attempted to take over four high schools in Detroit with their insidious plan to “prepare students’ for corporate low-wage work.  You can read this story as said, at (http://dailycensored.com/2010/03/06/corporate-barbarians-at-the-gate-wal-mart-internships-at-detroit-schools/).

As the many announcements on www.dailycensored.com have barked loudly, Detroit is sending over two thousand teachers, students, parents and community members to rally on Saturday April 10th in opposition to the horror and carceral like ‘school’ policies’ Duncan and his pals have cooked up for kids nationally.  And they are not all going to be from Detroit.  They are streaming into the city from all over the nation and their message is clear: no privatization of our nation’s schools and billionaires beware – hands off our public education!

Detroit teachers, students, community members, organizers and parents are saddling up and mounting busses tomorrow, Friday, to head to Washington D.C. to manifest their opposition to the hideous de-form plan for education conjured by the sweat shop billionaires and their political courtesans whose interest in kids is not only dis-ingenuine, but if put into practice promises to lead them on the road to serfdom. 

Please see all my posts on Detroit if you are not familiar with the hand to hand combat that has ensued in the city of the unemployed between Robert Bobb, the Eli Broad scrooge and Detroit teachers, parents, unions and kids.  The effort against this insipid plan is being organized not just by BAMN, but by Detroit teachers and many other organizations.  However, students are at the forefront of the effort and it is this remarkable story I wish to tell you.

Jamal and his crew ‘do’ D.C.: Young people educating young people, organizing young people, to fight for young people!

I missed the conference call today; I’m on the west coast.  But once I had read the e-mail I hurriedly called Jamal in Washington D.C. on his cell phone and although it was 11:30 PM Washington time, Jamal was eager to speak and the excitement in his voice palpable.  So was I.  I had questions, many questions.

To begin with, Jamal has been in Washington D.C. all week and is now staying at a hotel in the D.C. area with six other student organizers from BAMN.  The total number of student organizers sent to Detroit early to organize for the rally and against the privatization of education: seven.  Jamal told me that four female high school students were staying on one floor of the hotel and he was speaking to me from the lower floor where he was staying with 2 other males. 

Their mission: to enter into the D.C. high schools this week and organize students to attend the rally on Saturday, but even more than that, it is to educate and organize and inform D.C. students as to the pernicious plans being hatched for their future by the “concerned politicians who care about our kids”.  Sure, they care.  They want to make sure urban students are put on a fast track to despair by replacing public education with Race to the Top; and they want to make money doing it.  They have about as much interest in our kids as Jerry Lewis does and they make no bones as to the low-expectations and contempt they harbor for students of color and the putrid Petri dish they are manufacturing for education, both in D.C. and within the moving bowels of urban America.

How to organize students!

According to Jamal, this week the seven students, going out in threes or in pairs have entered four public high schools and countless classes with the purpose of informing, organizing and recruiting students for the long march against the billionaires’ and politicians’ privatization plans for the public education.  The schools they targeted were Ballou High School, School Without Walls, McKinley Tech School and the Cardozo high school.  They use oral presentations, flyers and leaflets and take the names of interested students who wish to attend the rally and become active nationally and locally to save public schools from the clenched fist of capital.  They are activists on the ground and in the thick. 

Here is how he told me they did and do their recruiting.

To begin with, they arrive at the high schools in the morning or at periods, as stated in teams of two or three, and then they enter the school building.  Once inside they find a social studies teacher or a teacher whose name might have been given to them by someone and they go to their classrooms and they ask, “Hey, can we do a presentation for your students?”  When I asked Jamal if the student organizers just arrived at any class without knowing the teacher he told me yes, this was certainly the case.    Some teachers in the schools, he notified me. had been identified as open to the student presentations ahead of time, but this was only the case in one school.  In the other three high schools the students entered they had no teacher or administrative contacts.  They entered without permission but with a mission.

Getting into public schools at this juncture in history is not like going to the public library; it’s more like going to the public courthouse or getting through airport security.  So I asked Jamal how he and his organizing teams got into the schools, as there is security surrounding the schools and as we know, the schools are packed with overpaid, languishing administrators.  He told me that it would differ, depending on the school or the time.  Sometimes, he said, “We would tell them that we had to go to the office and then we would go to a classroom and ask permission to speak.  Other times we would tell them we were here to see Mr. or Mrs. Whoever, and we’d get in” (phone call with ‘Jamal’, April 8th, 2010, 11:30 PM EST). 

They were and are clever organizers and due to the fact they were students, just like the high school students they wished to meet, they evidently did not arouse suspicion or run into any security or administrative problems.

Once they got into the schools, the teams would then begin to hand out leaflets and flyers in the hall ways and enter classrooms for oral presentations.  The presentations were to entire classes of students and Jamal told me that in all the classes in the four schools the message to students and their teachers was clear:  stop the privatization of education by Race to the Top and Arne Duncan and come to the rally on Saturday April 10th to show Arne Duncan and the Obama administration that students will not be labeled as low achievers by the forces of “low-expectations”; nor will they capitulate to their music, art and literature classes being thrown under the buss for no-wage Wal-Mart internships.

For Jamal, he told me his own message to D.C. students centered on the plans Wal-Mart had to start internships in four Detroit Public Schools and he used this to speak about the creeping privatization and commodification of education.  He told me the students were angry and shocked when they heard about Wal-Mart and the Detroit ‘Kickoff’, the fiasco that put me in touch with this young remarkable young man.  The students in the classes asked feverish questions and Jamal and his teammate engaged in dialogue while the teachers in the classes also asked questions and participated in the presentation. 

Remember, the majority of teachers and students had no notice of the student organizing teams and no idea high school students from Detroit were entering high schools throughout the city.  “How did the teacher’s react”, I asked him?  “They were cool with it.  They asked questions.  One teacher at one of the schools was a substitute and when at the end of my presentation to the class I said, ‘We got to kick out Arne Duncan’ the substitute teacher became a bit nervous and told the team ‘they had to wrap it up.”  In terms of other teachers?  “No problem”, he explained to me.  They engaged too!”  There was little opposition.

But Jamal and his fellow travelers did not just speak about Arne Duncan and the Walton Family’s servitude internships; they spoke also about politics and history in general.  For example, Jamal told me he asked one class of high school students, “Who won the civil war and why did the US fight it?”  When students began to discuss slavery and freedom Jamal was quick to point out, as he expressed to me, “We also won the right to go to school!  We won the right to go to public school!” 

He said he spoke to students in classroom settings about the Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education and what it had meant for black people and how it was being eroded by charter schools, privatization, social stratification, union busting and poverty.  He spoke of the ghettoization of America and the distance we have we have traveled or in many ways been led, away from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of equality and the end of war and poverty.  He told the D.C. students about the need to attend political rallies, conscious raising groups, and classes and organizations at Brown University or at other sites so that they could educate themselves as to the sordid policies being manufactured for their future on so many levels.

Jamal eagerly conveyed to me that he discussed with students ‘in classrooms’ in Washington D.C. high schools issues regarding their future and who was actually crafting it and why.  “Own your own vision”, he told them forcefully and the students were both excited and eager to hear more.  “Why can’t Wall Street come to your school instead of Wal-Mart?” he asked them.  “Why can’t we get doctors, and scientists and medical institutions to come to our high schools, why do we have to put up with Wal-Mart?”

The young man made excellent points and he relayed to me that the student leaders from Detroit would pass around a sheet of paper after the presentations in the classes at the high schools and if students wanted to help with the rally or become a member of BAMN or simply learn more, they would put their name on paper and a ‘star’ by it and in this way the recruiting was mobilized.  Those students interested in what is happening in public schools and the retched policies of Duncan and the privatizers signed up in droves and rightly so.  For Jamal and his teams had all the ammunition on Arne Duncan and his Race to the slop.  They fielded questions from both teachers and students — be it on charter schools, Detroit, Wal-Mart or whatever issues arose.  Then they would calmly move on to another classroom or meet with students in the halls or both.

Jamal told me that he was looking for student leaders in the classes, but he was quick to note that there are “outgoing leaders and “ingoing leaders.”  The “outgoing leaders, Jamal conveyed to me, are those students who might be on the student council or perhaps running for student president or vice president of their schools; basically students involved in the civic life of their institutions.  But, he said, one must be careful for as he noted, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”. 

Take Tamika, for example, a young high school student Jamal said he met in one of the D.C. high school classes he entered.  “She looked like a girl that just has fun”, he told me.  “Not like someone who might get involved in organizing for the right to a free and public education.”  But she put a star by her name and so when Jamal later called her he told me, “She’s into it!  She is going to bring organizers to the rally and also the media”, he stammered excitedly.  “She copied our flyers and put them all around the school walls and posted the literature as well in the school.”

Jamal related to me that another young high school student, a male student who had tattoos all over him, was buffed and certainly didn’t look like anyone who would be overly enthused by fighting Arne Duncan and the pitiful privatization policies of the Obama administration.  But he too put a star by his name and when Jamal asked the teacher a bit about him, she let Jamal know that this student was smart and into politics.  Don’t let the ‘tats’ put you off!

As it got later and later, knowing Jamal needed sleep, I asked him how he felt.  With enthusiasm and a bit of wisdom he expressed to me that he was “feeling great”, “happy”, “comfortable”.  He said, “I always knew I was a leader but I had to dig deeper and BAMN helped me do this.  I want to help other students see the struggle we have to wage.”  Jamal was enthused about learning, something Arne Duncan and his rich sampling of friends wouldn’t understand nor condone.  Their hideous policies turn learning into rote memorization and regurgitation under the panoptical eye of the regimenters, testing companies and Wall Street stock market.

CNN evidently eventually made their way over to the hotel where the students were staying and today interviewed Jamal’s partner and team member, Kane, another high school student.  Tomorrow, according to Jamal, CNN will be interviewing him and getting the story of this extraordinary surge in student organizing and the breathtaking courage and empathy of these students in entering the gates of public high schools in an attempt to mobilize young people just like them.

Did Bill Gates give $25,000,000 to D.C. schools to end the lengthy teacher contract dispute?  No, but Wal-Mart did, Bill only gave

One thing Jamal did say is that he did not expect the schools to be, as he said, “like crap”, meaning the conditions of the schools and the segregation and poverty of the student body.  He had assumed that D.C. schools would be in better condition than in his city of Detroit where schools often look like fixed up warehouses.  Little did he know that the schools in D.C., like Detroit and elsewhere, are victims of unmitigated neglect and under-funding.  They are the killing fields for Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of Education and a teacher hater and herself an Eli Broad graduate.

Yet it was when Jamal indicated to me that Wal-Mart, the trophy billionaire club has pledged $25,000,000 to fund merit pay to end the contract dispute between the District and its teachers that my head dropped into my hands.  Could it be true?

According to the Washington Times of today, April 8th:

“After more than two years of talks, officials with D.C. Public Schools and the Washington Teachers Union announced Wednesday a tentative contract deal that includes a merit-pay component - an issue long pushed by conservatives and supported by the Obama administration, but considered a no-no by teachers unions.

The deal, which also breaks ground by funding its merit-pay program with private money, marks the end of the on-again, off-again negotiations between schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who was brought on in June 2007 by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty to turn around the troubled school system, and the D.C. teachers union, whose members have been working without a contract since fall 2007” (D.C. teacher contract includes merit pay, April 8th, Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/08/merit-pay-deal-included-in-dc-teacher-contract/)

New York Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who is in the midst of his own contract talks with teachers, told the Wall Street Journal that the merit-pay plan is a “game-changer” and he said he hopes it will become a national model.  Sure he does, he is part of the organized crime, along with Sharpton and his other lackeys.

The Times noted:

“The plan still awaits ratification by the union’s rank and file, as well as approval from the D.C. Council. It also could be rejected or amended by Congress, though this is not considered likely” (ibid).

The merit program will be financed with an estimated $65 million in private funding from four institutions that will be gathered by the D.C. Public Education Fund. The four organizations include the Laura and John Arnold Foundation ($10 million) and the Robertson Foundation ($19.5 million).

The Walton Family Foundation, which was established by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton in 1987, made the largest pledge - $25 million. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has promised $10 million. In March of last year, Mrs. Rhee was named a board of director of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, which is funded by the Broad Foundation.

Gates and his private assassins have bought their first school system, lock stock and barrel if teachers ratify this horrid scheme.  Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers has been working with these “game changers” and ‘turnover artists’ for years.  She must go; she is selling out union members!

It is clear to see the pre-paid privatization plan is working: Washington D.C. teachers are being extorted by the billionaire boyz club and Arne Duncan.  If they don’t take the cash, the disaster politics kicks in; they will lose their funding, health care, benefits, pensions, jobs and lives.  Duncan knows this; he is in on the scam along with Weingarten and the boyz.

The shame of it all. 

What will Jamal and his fellow organizers do tomorrow?

The privatization plans will not succeed if Jamal and the students and teachers of D.C. and Detroit and LA and Chicago and throughout the nation have anything to say about it.  They are supervising and carrying out massive organizations and mobilizations and they are learning more than they will ever learn in the feathered dungeons of doom Obama and Duncan are building for them and the billionaires are subsidizing: they are learning how to engage in political organizing and mobilization to protect public education, which as Jamal noted in our discussion, is a right we as Americans have fought for and won with blood and furry. 

With Wal-Mart leading the charge now with its fingers in the till, you can bet the internships will come to Washington D.C. too, looking to cannibalize students for profit and a life of serfdom.  Thanks to BAMN and Jamal and his teams of student organizers and resisters, they can expect the same treatment they got in Detroit.

I asked Jamal what he would do tomorrow, Friday the 9th of April, the day before the rally.  He told me that he and his friends and organizers would be back in D.C. schools presenting, organizing, leafleting, and handing out literature and dialoguing with students.  When I asked him what schools, he said maybe the same maybe some different.  Either way, after Jamal and his team members get some rest they will be out in force to mobile and organize for a better future.

April 10th is the day to show Arne Duncan and Randi Weingarten and the billionaire’s boyz club that we not only do not want their stolen largess, we will fight them tooth and nail, school by school, city by city, state by state. 

Won’t you join Jamal and all of us April 10th?  We need every one of you and we need you right now!  Our children are at stake!

April 9, 2010

MARCH AND RALLY TO DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION

PRE-K THROUGH COLLEGE

 

Saturday, April 10th at Noon

Gather at the U.S. Dept of Education (400 Maryland Ave. SW)

March to the Capitol

Meet at the American Federation of Teachers (555 New Jersey Ave. NW) afterwards at 3pm

 to build a national alliance and plan future actions

On Saturday April 10th at noon parents, students and educators from across the country will gather at the U.S. Department of Education to protest Arne Duncan’s “Reach to the Top” scheme that seeks to privatize public schools, dismantle teachers’ unions and force all educators to “teach to the test.” Students, parents and teachers from Washington DC public schools, area universities such as Howard, Gallaudet and the University of Maryland,  as well as contingents from California, Michigan, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut will participate.

 

Attorney Joyce Schon, representing the Detroit Board of Education in their lawsuit against DPS Financial Manager Robb Bobb for usurping academic control said, “Detroiters are marching in Washington because Robb Bobb’s plan to dismantle public education in Detroit is also Arne Duncan’s plan for public education nationally.  We will not allow Duncan to privatize public education, which is our most precious egalitarian gain from the last civil rights movement. We demand an end to “Race to the Top” and an immediate release of all federal education funds to the states based on need.”

Jonathan Kozol, renowned education writer and author of The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America encouraged activists organizing for the April 10th event by saying, “The increasing privatization of our public schools is a danger that needs to be confronted boldly.  I hope you can impress this strongly on the leaders of our government before the public schools are stripped bare of their dignity and funding.”

Nathan Saunders, General Vice President of the Washington Teachers Union added, “it is very significant that not only teachers – but also parents and students -  from all around the nation are expressing concern over the issues of privatization, testing abuse, pay-for-performance and other skewed criteria for teacher evaluations. This is a march over fundamental principles of education. We are very excited to welcome defenders of public education to Washington DC. When we come together as a national movement, it will become monumentally clear that Duncan’s theories are not only wrongheaded and undocumented – they are also immensely unpopular.”

For more information, call Joyce Schon at 313-434-7075.

Below is the press release for Tuesday’s press conference in DC.

                                                                      April 5, 2010

Press Conference on Mobilization Against “Race to the Top”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 11:00am

U.S. Dept of Education

400 Maryland Ave. SW

On Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 11:00 am there will be a press conference in front of the U.S. Department of Education announcing the mobilization of parents, students and educators from across the country to oppose Arne Duncan’s “Race to the Top” scheme. It will be attended by spokespersons for several of the contingents who plan to attend the April 10th March on Washington to Defend Public Education from California, Michigan, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as by local educators and activists.

 

Attorney Joyce Schon, representing the Detroit Board of Education in their lawsuit against DPS Financial Manager Robb Bobb for usurping academic control said, “Detroiters are marching in Washington because Robb Bobb’s plan to dismantle public education in Detroit is also Arne Duncan’s plan for public education nationally.  We will not allow Duncan to privatize public education, which is our most precious egalitarian gain from the last civil rights movement. We demand an end to “Race to the Top” and an immediate release of all federal education funds to the states based on need.”

Jonathan Kozol, renowned education writer and author of The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America encouraged activists organizing for the April 10th event by saying, “The increasing privatization of our public schools is a danger that needs to be confronted boldly.  I hope you can impress this strongly on the leaders of our government before the public schools are stripped bare of their dignity and funding.”

Nathan Saunders, General Vice President of the Washington Teachers Union added, “it is very significant that not only teachers – but also parents and students -  from all around the nation are expressing concern over the issues of privatization, testing abuse, pay-for-performance and other skewed criteria for teacher evaluations. This is a march over fundamental principles of education. We are very excited to welcome defenders of public education to Washington DC. When we come together as a national movement, it will become monumentally clear that Duncan’s theories are not only wrongheaded and undocumented – they are also immensely unpopular.”

For more information, call Joyce Schon at 313-434-7075.