The American Bear



Outraged against austerity, students & teachers in Philadelphia resist the machine of capitalism
May 17, 2013

Dozens to hundreds of Philadelphia students, teachers and school staff protested outside one of the city’s premiere high schools in an effort to fight proposed budget cuts to the district.

Wearing signs and handing out pamphlets to drivers, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers lined the sidewalk outside the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts along South Broad Street Friday morning. The teachers are fighting a series of severe budget cuts proposed by the district to close a more than $300 million funding gap. The proposed cuts include ending arts and music programs, sports and cutting auxiliary staff like secretaries, librarians and counselors.

“With the austere budgets schools have received, schools will not be able to provide a high-quality education for Philadelphia’s children,” said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Jordan says the teacher’s union has been discussing labor concessions with the district. However, he says a concession that results teachers taking a pay cut is a non-starter.

“The school district is asking for salary cuts for all PFT members of anywhere between 5, 10 and 13-percent,” he said. “I don’t think that you’ll find employee in the school district and the PFT…who are going to tell you that they can afford to take that kind of pay cut.”

The teacher protest is just the first of many demonstrations planned Friday over the funding flap.

Students from Philadelphia public schools around the city have also walked out of class and are marching on the School District of Philadelphia and Philadelphia City Hall. Similar walkouts were organized last week by students, who also marched on the same spots.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard says staff will not stop students from walking out, but says officials have asked principals remind students that leaving early will results in being marked as cutting. “Schools will follow the district’s attendance policy and will take the appropriate action which triggers at least a phone call to parents to notify them of the student’s absence, a request for a parent conference at the school, or after school detention,” he said.

Students are using Twitter to organize and document their protests. The group Philly Student Union is promoting the hashtag #walkout215 as a digital rally point during the event.


(Source: thepeoplesrecord, via sinidentidades)

Chicago Teachers Build a Movement | Glen Ford

… [T]his is not about costs; that’s just a cover story. It’s about further privatizing the public schools, destroying the union, and destabilizing neighborhoods full of people that the mayor and his big business cronies would, ultimately, like to expel from the city, entirely. The teachers know it, and so does a growing portion of the community, who have joined in common cause.

The teachers have filed two class action suits against the closings, and the mayor’s school board appointees were set to take a pro-forma vote on the matter, on Wednesday. However, the teachers union fully understands that they are engaged in a political battle royalwith forces that are bigger than the mayor’s office. Philadelphia and cities across the country face near-identical assaults on their public schools, part of a full-fledged austerity offensive by corporate America. The Lords of Capital are privatizing, financializing, monetizing and de-unionizing everything.

American racism makes inner city public schools an easier target, and the privatizers have a great ally in President Barack Obama. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is best known as Obama’s former chief of staff, but he also made millions as an investment banker. Wall Street hedge funders and other speculators are betting heavily on school privatization as the next great investment frontier. Chicago’s teachers are attempting to build a community fight-back coalition that can break the stranglehold of corporate rule, and serve as an example to teachers unions and Black and brown communities across the nation. In the fight against austerity, and for community control of schools, the Chicago Teachers Union is on front line.

Today is a day of mourning for the children of Chicago. Their education has been hijacked by an unrepresentative, unelected corporate school board, acting at the behest of a mayor who has no vision for improving the education of our children. Closing schools is not an education plan. It is a scorched earth policy. Evidence shows that the underutilization crisis has been manufactured. Their own evidence also shows the school district will not garner any significant savings from closing these schools.

This is bad governance. CPS has consistently undermined school communities and sabotaged teachers and parents. Their actions have had a horrible domino effect. More than 40,000 students will lose at least three to six months of learning because of the Board’s actions. Because many of them will now have to travel into new neighborhoods to continue their schooling, some will be victims of bullying, physical assault and other forms of violence. Board members are wishing for a world that does not exist and have ignored the reality of the world we live in today. Who on the Board will be held responsible? Who at City Hall will be held responsible?

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis commenting on today’s news that the Board of Education has voted to close 50 Chicago public schools.

While only around 40 percent of children in Chicago are black are Latino, 90 percent of children whose schools will be shuttered are black or Latino.

(via thepeoplesrecord)

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a “budgetary crisis” has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena. This is part of a mammoth redevelopment project on South Lakeshore Drive consisting of a convention center anchored by an arena for a non-descript basketball team that has gone 47-111 over the last five years. It’s also miles away from DePaul’s campus. Rahm Emanuel’s Zombie Pigs vs. Chicago’s Angry Birds | The Nation (via dendroica)

(via randomactsofchaos)

Chicago police arrest two dozen at school closing protest | Reuters

Chicago police arrested about two dozen people on Monday who were protesting against the planned closure of 54 schools in the country’s third-largest school district, ahead of a planned Wednesday vote on the matter.

The protests at City Hall were the culmination of three days of marches and protests against the closures, which if approved by the Chicago Board of Education could be the largest mass closing in the nation.


If the Board approves, the district plans to close 53 elementary schools and one high school, primarily in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods. Chicago Teachers Union leaders and parents at affected schools have said the closings will disrupt communities and put children in danger with longer walks through troubled areas.

"Despite the testimony of thousands of parents, teachers and people who work and live in the school communities impacted, Rahm Emanuel is dedicated to entering the history books as having destroyed the most public schools in one year than anyone," union president Karen Lewis said in a statement, referring to the city’s mayor.

The Chicago public school district is under mayoral control. The mayor picks the school district’s chief executive officer and the school board.

The teachers’ union, which has clashed with Emanuel over school issues and held a seven-day strike last fall for better pay and conditions, filed federal lawsuits last week to stop the closings. [++]

Chicago is ground zero for disastrous 'free market' reforms of education | Micah Uetricht

If you want a glimpse of what slash-and-burn free market education reform does in cities throughout the US, look no further than Chicago. Last week, Chicago Public Schools announced its plan to close 54 public elementary schools in the city by next year – about 8% of all public schools in the city. Almost all are located on the city’s south and west sides in predominantly black neighborhoods.

In a city where the majority of black children live in poverty, in communities long plagued by hyper-segregation,unemployment, youth violence, and disinvestment, these neighborhoods will likely be thrown into further chaos, as students (91% of whom are students of color) are forced to cross into rival gang territories. Public schools, which served as one of the few remaining community anchors, will be shuttered.

Chicago Public Schools claims the move will save $43m annually, and is necessary to close a budget deficit of $1bn over the next three years. The district has a history of using questionable math, issuing loud proclamations of deficits to justify austerity measures like closures, then quietly discovering budget surpluses months later. Even if CPS is telling the truth about the size of its deficit, the numbers on closures don’t quite add up. They would only shrink the district’s deficit by a small percentage and only in the long term, at least according to thedistrict’s statements. Independent analyses also show that past closures have produced minimal or nonexistent savings for the district.

So if budget shortfalls aren’t the real issue, why, in neighborhoods desperately in need of strong public institutions like neighborhood schools, would a district shutter 54 schools and “turn around” or consolidate 17 others? And if the deficit is the issue but savings wouldn’t be seen for several years, why would CPS propose the largest number of school closures in American history, in one fell swoop, rather than proceed cautiously with a few each year for several years?

Perhaps because some within the district are looking to dismantle education as a public good by handing schooling over to free market forces, and they know the only way to accomplish this is through “shock doctrine“-style policies, ramming the closures down the throats of a citizenry that would never freely choose them. [continue]


Chicago’s School Closure Is The Largest In American History, Mainly Effects Black & Low Income Neighborhoods

Chicago school officials said Thursday that they plan to close dozens of schools in a bid to improve education and tackle a $1 billion deficit.

The move would shutter 61 school buildings, including 53 underused schools and one program. The cut represents roughly 10% of all elementary school facilities in Chicago Public Schools, the country’s third-largest school district.

CPS currently has 403,000 students, with seats for more than 511,000, and close to 140 of its 681 schools are more than half empty, according to the district. About 30,000 students will be affected by the plan, with about half that number moving into new schools.

According to WBEZ, 87 percent of schools that are being closed or having their buildings vacated are majority African-American. In total, 80 percent of kids affected by closures and other shakeups are black. About 42 percent of CPS students are African-American.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposes the closures, which it says would disproportionately affect African-American students. The union also warns the move would expose students to gang violence and turf wars, an apparent reference to neighborhood loyalties.

This city cannot destroy that many schools at one time, and we contend that no school should be closed in the city of Chicago. These actions will not only put our students’ safety and academic careers at risk but also further destabilize our neighborhoods,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

Our country has already had more than enough experience with separate and unequal school systems. The counterfeit claim that charter privatization is part of a new “civil rights movement” addressing the deep and historic inequality that surrounds our schools is belied by the real impact of rapid charter growth in cities across the country. At the level of state and federal education policy, charters are providing a reform cover for eroding the public school system and an investment opportunity for those who see education as a business rather than a fundamental institution of democratic civic life. Charter Schools and the Future of Public Education (via azspot)

(via azspot)


Nigeria’s Cost & Energy-Efficient Floating Schools (by NLÉ)

The Makoko Floating School is an ambitious project that is currently under construction in the water community of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria by NLÉ, a collaborative agency whose mission is to provide architectural change for developing cities. The project seeks to create floating buildings that are designed to serve as educational classrooms for neighborhood children.

The three-story architectural structure, built as a triangular prism, is intended to float on water with a base made of 256 plastic drums. The floating construct is built with locally sourced wood, electrically powered with solar panels, and designed to house about 100 students.

While this first generation of floating buildings is being designated solely as educational center, the project is opening a new chapter in architectural design that can be applied to a variety of facilities for poor communities like Makoko to urbanize efficiently. Because of the project’s green initiatives, each building is more affordable and cost-effective. Additionally, they accommodate for the climate changes that are resulting in the rise of sea levels.

(via randomactsofchaos)

You know how it goes: the pervasive media mythology tells us that the fight over the schoolhouse is supposedly a battle between greedy self-interested teachers who don’t care about children and benevolent billionaire ‘reformers’ whose political activism is solely focused on the welfare of kids. Epitomizing the media narrative, the Wall Street Journal casts the latter in sanitized terms, re-imagining the billionaires as philanthropic altruists ‘pushing for big changes they say will improve public schools.’ The first reason to scoff at this mythology should be obvious: it simply strains credulity to insist that pedagogues who get paid middling wages but nonetheless devote their lives to educating kids care less about those kids than do the Wall Street hedge funders and billionaire CEOs who finance the so-called ‘reform’ movement. Getting rich off of schoolchildren | (via rachelfershleiser)

(via randomactsofchaos)

Class Struggle - How charter schools get students they want

Getting in can be grueling.

Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews. Exams. And pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter?

These aren’t college applications. They’re applications for seats at charter schools.

Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.

Thousands of charter schools don’t provide subsidized lunches, putting them out of reach for families in poverty. Hundreds mandate that parents spend hours doing “volunteer” work for the school or risk losing their child’s seat. In one extreme example the Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove, Illinois, mandates that each student’s family invest in the company that built the school - a practice the state said it would investigate after inquiries from Reuters.

And from New Hampshire to California, charter schools large and small, honored and obscure, have developed complex application processes that can make it tough for students who struggle with disability, limited English skills, academic deficits or chaotic family lives to even get into the lottery.

(Source: abbyjean, via afrometaphysics)

In education today, Johnny isn’t able to think critically - and that’s precisely the point of a corporate-business model that is sucking the life out of education as a horizon-expanding experience. And many legislators (and more than a few educators) have embraced the new model, often in the name of money, expediency, profitability and ‘relevance.’ Small wonder our nation continues to sanction unending war and the assassination of American citizens without due process. We no longer see war and murder as moral issues. We no longer see it because we’re not educated to see it. We’re only given the numbers. It’s high time we infused education with ethical purpose and moral virtue. Today more than ever, we need students who can see past the cant, the obfuscation, and the outright lies that pass for ‘common sense’ in this nation. We need students who are willing to look behind the curtain, rather than being content just to dance in Oz and believe in the Wizard.

William Astore, Why Johnny Can’t Read or Win Wars

Must read.


10,000 Quebec students clash with police after rejecting tuition increase
February 28, 2013

A tuition-fee compromise by Quebec’s premier couldn’t prevent a violent protest that rekindled memories of last year’s Quebec Spring.

The window-smashing rally of 10,000 people took place despite Pauline Marois’s efforts to appease student hardliners with a bilateral meeting.

The hardliners instead boycotted Marois’s summit and organized a massive demonstration after the premier refused to abolish tuition fees.

As the meeting drew to a close south of downtown, Montreal riot police charged crowds of mask-wearing protesters north of the summit site.

Suspects pelted officers and their horses with rocks, eggs and red paint. Windows were smashed and vehicles were damaged along the rally route and police tackled at least one masked man and led him away in handcuffs.

It was the second straight day of vandalism related to the student movement. Suspects splattered red paint at the offices of several provincial politicians hours before the meeting got underway on Monday morning.

The premier concluded her two-day summit by holding firm on a $70 annual tuition increase and $250 million in cuts to university budgets over two years.

Marois marched with the students when she was opposition leader but has since drawn their ire despite cancelling the previous Liberal government’s seven-year, $1,800 tuition hike.

Before the violent outbreak Tuesday, she suggested the summit that brought together unions, university rectors and moderate students was a success.

“We have done a tremendous job,” she told reporters. “We managed to put the fighting behind us and return to dialogue.”

Even moderate student groups opposed to Tuesday’s protest gave Marois the thumbs down.

They said they were “extremely disappointed” Marois didn’t maintain a tuition freeze first implemented in 1993.

University principals and rectors are also upset at the budget cuts, warning that student services will suffer.

Quebec students have been willing to create social unrest to make their point.

The previous Liberal government’s decision to hike tuition led to months of protests last year that taxed police services, disrupted Quebec’s economy and made international headlines.


We desperately need this kind of organization in the US. My alma mater is raising tuition & living costs yet again this year & barely any students even know about it.

(Source: thepeoplesrecord, via randomactsofchaos)