Category Archives: Education – K12

[Video] Wendy Davis ~ Empleos De Hoy

In case you haven’t seen it, Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis released this Spanish-language ad on Texas Education.

“Today’s jobs require an education, but how many of our children aren’t going to achieve their dreams because of Greg Abbott?

He fought against our schools, defending budget cuts which resulted in the lost of 11,000 teachers.

Democrat Wendy Davis knows the importance of an education, she wants to move a step forward with pre-k, double the funding for professional education, and to put universities within the reach of all of our children.

With Wendy, we achieve more.”

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Leticia Van de Putte Launches Two Ads

Here is Twice, an ad on K-12 Education Cuts which were supported by Dan Patrick.

And here’s Respeto–in Spanish. Even if you don’t understand it, it still lights a fire under you.

Quick translation:  When I speak of the respect we deserve, I speak for my grandmothers who were born in Musquiz and Guadajara; for the service of my family–my mom as a teacher, my father a veteran. I speak as a mother, as a grandmother, as a pharmacist. I speak as a Senator who keeps fighting to protect the future of our children. And I speak as a Democratic candidate because our community never gives up.

 

Wendy Davis Launches Education Ad

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Abbott Lays Out Lackluster College Plan

The Republican running for Governor, Greg Abbott, released a lackluster college plan today. Instead of providing much needed resources for universities who must help students catch up and become “college-ready,” Abbott proposed to fund our institutions based on outcomes. On top of this, Abbott proposed a plan to expand high-enrollment online college courses for college students.

If one wants to attempt to read the plan, here it is.

Basically, Abbott’s plan holds much-needed resources hostage, while his online college plan only hurts the brick-and-mortar institutions that have put Texas on the higher education map.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott will call for students to receive college credit for taking massive open online courses — often referred to as “MOOCs” — as part of the higher education plan he unveils on Tuesday, sources with knowledge of his plans say.

[...]

MOOCs are online courses with unlimited enrollment that anyone — regardless of whether they are enrolled at a university — can sign up for and take for free. Right now, the courses rarely earn students college credit.

What Abbott’s plan does is negatively affect student-faculty relationships as these courses have unlimited enrollment. Perhaps they might work for some survey course in which students just regurgitate information, but the effect a faculty member has on a course in expanding critical thinking through course discussion will certainly be evident. For sure, these unlimited enrollment courses will not work for courses in ones major course of study. And since he is so supportive of outcomes-based funding, the fact is that these high-enrollment college courses have a high-flunk-out rate–students just leave the courses and never complete them.

Above all, and unlike Wendy Davis, Abbott has ignored the fact that 1/2 of community college and 1/3 of university students enter unprepared, thanks to funding cuts and lack of investment in K-12. Abbott should know a little about this as he has supported K-12 funding cuts and recently lost a lawsuit brought by hundreds of Texas school districts regarding school finance. But, I digress. If students are entering our institutions unprepared after learning in brick and mortar K-12 classrooms, how does he expect these students to be successful in online courses?

Greg Abbott isn’t offering anything regarding college affordability and tuition controls or student financial aid. In short, the Greg Abbott plan does nothing to improve graduation and retention rates. What it does do is bring Texas a step closer to privatizing public higher education.

I wouldn’t even credit Greg Abbott with supporting the status quo, as it seems he is more in tune with digging a deeper grave for state institutions of higher education.

Stick with Wendy Davis’ higher education plan. It works for all Texans.

Greg Abbott Loses Again, School Finance System Unconstitutional

After continually under-funding public education, and then cutting $5 billion from K-12 in 2011, the Republican-led Texas Government was sued by a lot of school districts. Today, the Republicans were handed a huge loss by a district judge in Austin. The judge ruled that the way the state of Texas finances education is unconstitutional. The Republicans will likely appeal, since they support cutting K-12 funding.

Specifically, as reported by the Trib:

In an almost 400-page opinion released Thursday, District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin said that the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional not only because of inadequate funding and flaws in the way it distributes money to districts, but also because it imposes a de facto state property tax. Certain to be appealed by the state, the lawsuit that arose after lawmakers cut roughly $5.4 billion from state public education funding in 2011 will now continue to the Texas Supreme Court.

Judge Dietz went on to explain the best reasons to support public education.

“We realize that others provided for us when we were children. We realize that children are without means to secure their education. Just as others provided for us when we were in school, now is the time when we provide for others,” he said, going on to describe the societal benefits of a well-educated population: lower crime rates, fewer people who need public assistance and a greater state income.”

The education commissioner Michael Williams, a Republican, spoke against the ruling, stating that judges shouldn’t be deciding school finance. Well, judges wouldn’t be needed if Republicans weren’t hell-bent on violating a child’s right to an education as specified in the Texas Constitution by cutting funding. So, whether it is Rick Perry appointees or other right-wing elected Republicans mouthing off against the ruling, the bottom line is that they voted to cut public education funding and have been starving K-12 (and higher education for that matter) for decades.

After Dan Patrick, a Houston state senator who is running for Lt. Governor, tried to cover up his vote against restoring some of the K-12 funding in the last legislative session by saying he chaired the committee that voted to restore the funding, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte called Patrick out in a “hypocrisy alert.”

In 2013, Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said, “Patrick was directly responsible for these same education programs not being funded…Such revisionism cannot go unchallenged.” [Texas Tribune, 06/21/13]

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, released the following statement:

“I echo Senator Williams’ sentiments. Dan Patrick was directly responsible for these education cuts, and his revisionism will not go unchallenged. Dan Patrick has shown time and time again that he does not value our neighborhood schools — he showed that when he voted twice against Texas students.

“It is time to accept responsibility and lead. We do not need another court to tell us how to do our jobs. Texans expect a quality education for their children — no excuses, no delays. It is time to put Texas first. As Lieutenant Governor, I will do exactly that.”

And there’s no doubt in my mind that Leticia Van de Putte will take the lead to protect public education and make it a top priority of the Texas legislature.

Elections matter, just like our public schools matter. If you don’t want public schools closing, or if you don’t want your kid in an overcrowded classroom, then you better make it your business to be registered to vote and show up on November 4.

Other Reaction:

Wendy Davis, Democrat for Governor:  “Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that’s at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven’t been working for our schools; they’ve been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”

State Senator Jose Rodriguez (D) El Paso:  Our state has not lived up to its constitutional obligation to offer equitable and adequate educational opportunities to all Texans. Today’s court ruling is yet another opportunity to do better, especially with the 84thLegislature right around the corner. The state’s attorneys should end their battle against the Texas constitution — and our students, parents, and teachers — and allow us to move forward on a legislative solution to this issue, which is of such vital importance for the future of Texas.

State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D) Houston:  “Today is a victory for the school children of Texas. Judge Dietz simply confirmed what we’ve all known for years; that the state refuses time and time again to do what’s right for our children and the future of our state.”

“Today’s ruling reaffirms that Republican leadership has created an unconstitutional system which values some children more than others, yet short-changes them all.”

 

HCDE Seeks Input on Superintendent Search

The Harris County Department of Education has launched a search for a new Superintendent and the Board of Trustees needs some community input. The survey is due by Monday, August 11, 2014, so get it done.

Also, if you’re interested in applying for the post, get it done. As Trustee Erica Lee stated, “We are seeking a diverse leader who is suited to meet the changing needs of students, educators and school districts in our community.”

HCDE Community Superintendent Survey
HCDE Superintendent Job Posting (Initial Application due September 8, 2014)

Van de Putte Releases PreK-12 Plan

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, candidate for Texas Lt. Governor, released her PK-12 plan in San Antonio today.

As Lieutenant Governor, Leticia will:

  • Restore a strong start towards student success.
  • Maximize quality learning by reducing class sizes in Pre-K classrooms.
  • Invest in our students potential.
  • End the over-reliance on and punitive nature of standardized testing in Texas.
  • Expand student access to broadband and ensure quality blended learning.

Pretty standard stuff; however, these are issues long-ignored by the Republicans and Van de Putte’s opponent, Dan Patrick, is more interested in de-funding public schools.

What I found exciting about the plan was a commitment to increasing preparedness. As it stands, 1/3 of university students are enrolled in remedial courses and 1/2 of community college students are enrolled in remedial courses.

That said, I’m looking forward to Van de Putte’s higher education policy that hopefully addresses curtailing tuition increases by investing more in our colleges and universities, and college issues, such as state financial aid, college retention and graduation, intrusive college advising, etc. At least those are the kind of things in which this blogger is interested.

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ Identity: Mexican or American First?

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

uglyWhat are you, a Mexican or an American? This was a question asked frequently when I was a growing – much more than it is today. This is perhaps because at that time we were clearly a minority and racism was more transparent and acceptable. It was a time when people believed that Jews killed Christ and Mexicans massacred Davey Crockett at the Alamo. The result was that this forced me to think in terms of “them and us.”

I was probably eight or so when my school mates first asked me and my cousin whether we would fight for Mexico or the United States. The question tore me up. I could not imagine shooting my father. The teachers did not help always referring to Mexico as a backward country.

A large map of North America donned the classroom wall. Canada, the U.S.’s friend, was on top, and Mexico was on the bottom. There were frequent jokes and put downs such as “If you don’t like it go back to Tijuana.”

The question of what are you first is not surprising, Americans are obsessed with policing loyalty. During the 1920s the American Firsters changed the pledge of allegiance from “I pledge allegiance to my flag” to “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” – they wanted to make sure that someone was not pledging allegiance to some foreign flag.

Early visitors to the U.S. noted American racial xenophobia that forged a national inferiority complex. America through the eyes of European visitors such as Alexis de Tocqueville gives us a window into the past. While many admired the opportunities for land in the new nation, they also made biting observations about American attitudes. Nothing in the United States was authentic, for example, not even American English, which was a wannabe version of British English.

De Tocqueville noted the obsession of Americans for material objects: “…I know of no other country where love of money has such a grip on men’s hearts or where stronger scorn is expressed for the theory of permanent equality of property.”

Although it was a love-hate relationship, the standard for Americans was Europe. Europe had a history, the United States did not. Europe had traditions, the United States did not. An abundance of western land kept alive myths of opportunity for some, but for the African slave whose labor built not only the south but the nation the inequality was rationalized.

To justify inequality whites formed opinions on the moral and intellectual inferiority of their former slaves. When immigrants entered Pleasantville, equality was based not only on on the hue of their skin but on property that increasingly took the form of capital.

So naturally the Mexicans’ equality was measured by the hue of their skin and the amount of wealth they possessed. In order to justify the inequality of Mexicans they manufactured myths that the United States did not invade Mexico, but re-annexed it. Social and biological explanations were also manufactured such as the Mexican’s moral and intellectual inferiority.

White Americans of my generation questioned, why would anyone want to be anything but American? Everyone wanted to come to America didn’t they? They believed that the U.S. was different from other nation states. It did not make war – the U.S. was forced to defend democracy.

Even in the 1950s when I was in the army a dichotomy existed. Even though you wore an American uniform, you weren’t really an American. At the time, there were the spics (Mexicans and Puerto Ricans), the Italians, the Polacks, the Jews and the Negros in the army. The Americans were white.

The army changed my worldview. I had some opportunities because my area scores were higher than others. But I was often asked how come I was a company clerk and then a supply sergeant. There weren’t too many of us in these positions. The army was the first place where I encountered a vicious form of racism. I remember that outside the base in Augsburg, Germany, the night clubs were segregated, and there were mini-race riots.

After my discharge I returned to school. I worked sixty hours a week and carried 18 units. Los Angeles State was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got my BA and then my MA in history there.

My first teaching job was at the West Coast Talmudical Seminary — taught grades K-12, I was its only goy teacher. Orthodox Jews at the time were shunned by the other Jewish sects.

In 1958 I began teaching at San Fernando Junior High. I was introduced by the principal as her “Mexican teacher.” At the time most of the Mexican American students were born in the USA yet they were referred to as Mexicans — the blacks as Negros and the whites as Americans. The contradiction was that they expected us to be grateful for being American.

Once the other teachers became comfortable with me, they began asking me questions like why a Mexican student got into a fight or why he didn’t do his homework? How the hell should I know? It was like me asking them why Charles Manson did what he did?

When a Mexican parent filed a rare complaint, the teachers in the smoking room asked me, “Are you a Mexican or a teacher first?” Frankly, at first I was taken aback. What was the contradiction? I was not as brazen as I later became and tried to reason with them. I was on probation and did not have tenure. The first time I applied for a teacher position with the LA City Schools I was rejected because, they said, I had gone to parochial schools.

Throughout my three years at the junior high school the question kept coming up, “Are you a Mexican or a teacher first?” It was not only me but also the lone Black teacher who everyone liked because he pandered to them. He advised me to play the game.

When I transferred to a high school things were different. I had tenure, and I had job offers from the private sector. About a year into the job, again in the smoking room, I was asked, “Are you a Mexican or a teacher first?” I responded that my birth certificate says “Mexican” so I guess I am a Mexican first. The question was also asked when I began my opposition to the Vietnam War and the invasion of Santo Domingo – Are you a Mexican or an American first?

I had entered the doctoral program in Latin American Studies at the University of Southern California and was studying about U.S.-Latin American relations. This led to my questioning, why would anyone want to be an American? When I traveled in Mexico and other countries I was ashamed of the “ugly Americans” who demanded service by waving dollars at the Volkswagen Service Manager.

To make a long story short, the question, “Are you a Mexican or an American or a teacher first? has today taken on a new meaning. I am a teacher and that means teaching all students. Being Mexican means advocating for the interests of Mexican, Latino and working class students.

Being a Mexican first makes me a member of an oppressed minority. In so many instances I have witnessed Albert Memmi’s prophesy in The Colonizer and the Colonized come true with the colonized becoming the colonizer. Being an American is nothing exceptional and should not negate other identities such as Mexican, Latino, African, Native American, Asian or human being. It should not delude us into believing that we equally benefit from our corporate state that has no nationality.

Meanwhile, it is somewhat pathetic that people still ask, am I your first love?

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ Is a Free Higher Education a Right or Privilege?

by Rudy F. Acuña

Elites of whatever race, nationality or historical generation have opposed education as a right. During the 19th century New Mexican hacendados justified their opposition to public education on religious grounds because it threatened their hegemony. A popular saying was “educar un muchacho es perder un buen pastor.” Further New Mexican landowners opposed statehood because it meant paying taxes to educate the poor.

The belief that people have a right to a free education whether primary or higher education is threatening to people who fear equality. This is true whether in the United States or Mexico.

In today’s world education is necessary to break out of the minimum wage cycle. This affects minorities most because they are concentrated in the lower half of the economic ladder, and it is becoming the only way out.

However, this phenomena is no longer a minority thing; white workers are flocking to the minimum wage class in great numbers.

In the 1850s Abraham Lincoln was shocked by George Fitzhugh’s thesis in Sociology for the South (1854) and Cannibals All! (1857) that theorized that all labor including white should be slave labor. The notion scared the hell out of Lincoln and white workers. Today a comparison can be drawn between Fitzhugh’s thesis and the growth of the minimum wage as the norm.

Most Americans believe that society will correct itself. They still believe that a person earning a minimum wage is as free as the Koch Brothers or even people like me who have sinecures.

Education has historically been the vehicle for social mobility. Because of this, white Americans after World War II saw education as a right, one of the limited ways out for the working class. Without an education they were condemned to being minimum wage workers.

Like Fitzhugh’s prophecy, the minimum wage worker has become the modern day wage slave. This status is no longer that of people of color. Even college graduates are today shackled by the minimum wage.

The apologists muddle the right to higher education with sayings such as “Education is a right but should be treated as a privilege” that puts the onus on the individual, and qualifies the right to mean that everyone should be able to have access to an education, but that access implies the duty of the student to better themselves. In other words, education is not an absolute right.

In our society the state controls education; it determines whether something is a right or a privilege. But who controls the state? The bottom-line is we are not all equal. We all have one vote, but the Supremes say the corporations are persons, and that it is unconstitutional to limit the amount they can donate to a political campaign because regulation infringes their free speech rights.

It is fallacious to think that I am as free as the Koch brothers who donate a $100 million to political campaigns. It is just as ridiculous to say that minimum wage workers have the same influence as the one top percent.

In the United States, all rights are derived from property. Rights imply a corresponding duty of the holder. In theory, the only limitation on the holder’s rights is the equal rights of others. According to the founding fathers, the ownership of property was the most important distinction between freedom and tyranny.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the founding. The notion of property has changed over the years, and today property is synonymous with capital. Even real property has become liquid and reduced to a commodity.

Thus education means the accumulation of capital, and emphasis is put on the rights of the holders, and not their duties. Regulations are efforts to regulate the abuse of the holders who look at regulation as suppression of their freedom rather than the enforcement of their duties. In their worldview capital has rights and the worker only has privileges that can only be exercised at the discretion of those with rights.

It becomes a worker’s duty to work and capital’s right to profit from his/her labor. In this brave new world it is becoming increasingly rare for the poor to own land. The only out is to move up through education.

Mexicans fought a bloody revolution that cost over a million lives for social rights. It was not fought for privileges; it was fought for access to land and liberty!

Rights are very dear, and as one  writer dramatically put it, “our rights come from our creator.” However, they are more fundamental, rights are based on being human. As such government does not have the power to violate a right. Neither does it not have the right to empower corporations to violate our rights.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 is the first world constitution to set out social rights. The Russian Constitution of 1918 is based the Mexican Constitution. Article 3 guarantees a free, mandatory, and lay education. Today, Mexican students and social reformers are fighting to keep Mexican higher education free and to protect that right.

Yet the Mexican government is surreptitiously undermining the right to free higher education. The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) is at the crossroads of Mexico’s university system. It is a Taj Mahal with the state universities and satellites badly neglected. Given this reality it is natural that every Mexican student dreams of attending it.

If the Mexican government respected the constitution, it would build facilities to accommodate the over 250,000 graduating seniors who are turned away annually. Instead it invents fictions to reject them.

President Enrique Peña Nieto is violating the constitution in the name of reform – a word that the Mexican and American press are giving a bad name. Like the case of corrupt American congressmen, the Mexican president deals with bought legislators who want to protect the rights of the ruling elites. Consequently, as in the United States, Mexican education is becoming a privilege instead of a right.

Similarly access has been restricted in this country. Because corporate leaders do not want to pay for the costs of social production Public universities have stopped building to accommodate the growing student population. Universities operate more and more on student monies.

Rather than fight for the rights of students, American and Mexican bureaucrats use the excuse there is no room. They use gimmicks to limit access and allow runaway tuition and the privatization of higher education.

In 2008, according to the Pew Center, graduating students borrowed 50 percent more (in inflated-adjusted dollars) than those graduating in 1996. Their debt went from $17,075 in 1996 to $23,287 in 2008. Seventy-five percent of the respondents to a poll said college was just too expensive. Almost fifty percent could not afford to go to college.

In a “Time Marches On” fashion, forty years ago education was relatively free. High school students had options such as working at GM Van Nuys, Lockheed, or one of the many factories that serviced these plants. My engineering students in the 1980s worked for the computer industry, earning enough to support themselves and contribute to their families. The majority of these jobs have been outsourced.

In the 1950s, workers were oblivious to deindustrialization and the assault on trade unions. They rationalized that they were different than blacks and Latinos who were at the time denied access to industrial jobs and public colleges. By the 1980s the children of white workers could not find union jobs and were relegated to minimum wage labor. Today our children are forced to live with us; when they can work it is a minimum wage job –it is becoming the standard for all workers.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Recap: Pre-K, Anchor Babies, and Polls

wendyletiselfTuesday was a significant day for Democrats. First, State Senator Wendy Davis continued her onslaught against Greg Abbott’s plan to test toddlers. Abbott’s mouthpiece then complained that Davis wants to invest more in education, while defending Abbot’s plan which provides pre-K to a few chosen kids, and not all Texas kids.

Of course, there’s that matter of Greg Abbott being consulted on education matters by a white nationalist. Why Abbott hasn’t distanced himself from Charles Murray says a lot more about him than his pre-k plan.

Tuesday evening provided the opportunity to call-out candidate for Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, who basically stated that he wants “anchor babies” to be born here, but not be citizens. And he stated this in the context of abortion, as if the mother who is crossing the border is even thinking of birthing and health care options that Patrick wouldn’t want available to her in the first place. And Patrick certainly doesn’t want to educate them or provide them with access to a college education because he’s saving the “last seat” for whomever he chooses, apparently.

At least that’s what I got out of it.

Mayor Julian Castro did more than just hold his own, defending the Texas DREAM Act (in-state tuition rates for undocumented students brought here as children and graduated from Texas schools). From the right-wing commentary on Twitter that I could stomach, it seems their main whine was that Castro came across as arrogant, so, it seems they would prefer a Mexican American kid who comes hat-in-hand to ask permission to speak? At least that’s how those comments came across.

The outcomes, ultimately, were a debate that has been avoided in Washington DC, where it should be occurring; some face-time for an up and coming Democrat; a free 1-hour ad for Dan Patrick that mostly confused his supporters (he was against anchor babies before he was for them); and an opposition video chock full of statements like, “I’m not tough” and Patrick’s favorite descriptor, “anchor babies,” for Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, Leticia Van de Putte. (Texpate has more.)

So, while the Democratic base got some continued energy from the webcast, it did also get dealt some reality with the latest Public Policy Polling results. Davis and Van de Putte and the Democrats have a lot of work to do statewide, but they knew that already. This past weekend, the Davis campaign hit over 55,000 doors statewide and continues a multi-faceted calling campaign to prospective voters. The campaigns a quite active at different fronts, and that’s a good thing. The uphill battle is not necessarily that Republicans outnumber Democrats, it’s that people don’t vote because they’ve become indifferent. And these prospective voters will not appear on a polling call list either. No doubt an uptick in energy is needed to excite voters, and that is achieved with a message that matches up to the voters that Democrats need showing up in November. I see it coming together.