Like many other rational public school educators and parents, I thought every time a new Education Secretary was going to be picked since the early 2000's that our situation in the schools could not deteriorate further. I didn't get those predictions right or maybe I'm just an eternal optimist too.
Rod Paige of the Houston miracle followed George W Bush to DC to give us the impossible requirements of No Child Left Behind (admittedly with Democratic support). Paige was replaced by Margaret Spellings who was succeeded after Barrack Obama was elected by Arne (Race to the Top) Duncan, followed by Clueless John King. Obama and Bush were complete bipartisan disasters when it comes to public schools.
Now let's face reality this time around: Donald Trump is ready to take office and privatizing education is now a top administration priority.
The next Education Secretary will almost certainly be be a pro-private school voucher, pro-charter school, anti-public education zealot. Mercedes Schneider and Diane Ravitch are speculating on who will be named and the choices look like they are bad, worse and worst for public education.
Our kids are scared and our future as public educators looks quite bleak so how is the mighty United Federation of Teachers reacting?
Of course our union is trying not to ruffle any feathers. The evidence is that the leadership wants to take out the words Donald Trump from a resolution calling us to action.
The time is right for us to be bold when our very existence is being threatened but instead it's looking like business as usual down at UFT Headquarters.
Here is how NYC Educator puts it:
What you see below the post is a resolution that targets "the presidential election" where it used to target "President-elect Donald J. Trump." The obvious implication is that leadership, after wholeheartedly endorsing Hillary Clinton, is fraidy-scared to directly criticize the new American Bigot-in-Chief. And from where I stand, that means we are pandering to bigots, racists and anti-Semites.
We are fighting for our schools and our profession. It will not be easy to save our schools or our livelihoods. You would think the UFT would be able to write that Donald Trump, and not the presidential election, is a problem for us.
UPDATE: I just opened my email and AFT President Randi Weingarten has sent a message that is more powerful. It is copied below the UFT resolution.
Read the resolution as well as Randi's email and tell us what you think.
Resolution Calling for Respect for All People
(Changes are in bold; original language is crossed out)
President-elect Donald Trump the presidential election targeted communities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion, and displayed abusive behavior toward women, has threatened the nation's promise that all people are worthy of respect; and
President elect Donald Trump the presidential election has outlined an education agenda overtly hostile to public schools and teachers, promising to prioritize vouchers and charter schools at the expense of public schools; and
WHEREAS, the recently-concluded presidential election has returned open racism homophobia and misogyny to the forefront of national politics and featured incendiary rhetoric with little precedent in modern history; and
WHEREAS, in the aftermath of the election, our communities have suffered hate-motivated violence and vandalism at a pace exceeding the wave of Islamophobic incidents in the wake of the September 11 attacks; and
WHEREAS, this divisive political atmosphere has given rise to fear and anxiety among students and inflamed racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom; and
WHEREAS, people are upset and feel that government has failed them, there's no reason to give into a climate of fear; and
WHEREAS, the UFT remains committed to creating a safe and supportive environment as well as stamping out bias-based bullying and harassment in all its forms by providing training for compliance with the Dignity for All Students Act and by operating the Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education campaign, which includes an anti-bullying hotline, fairs and presentations in schools; and
WHEREAS, the New York City Department of Education Respect for All campaign considers harassment and discriminatory behavior, physical injury or threat of injury, harassment, teasing, taunting, peer rejection or exclusion to humiliate or isolate a person to be a violation of Chancellor's Regulations A-831 and A-443, and the Student Code of conduct; and
WHEREAS, the Dignity for All Students Act approved in September, 2010, by the New York State Legislature contains the following provisions:
- A policy that specifically prohibits discrimination and harassment in public schools based on actual or perceived race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, sexual or physical or mental disability, with procedures to ensure that the policy will be implemented and enforced;
- Training of administrators, teachers, and other school related professionals and students on how to deal with diversity in schools and address incidents of harassment and discrimination when they arise;
- Documentation and data collection to determine just how prevalent the problem of harassment is in New York's public schools and where the needs are most profound;
- Funding to implement the principles above in a way that avoids unfunded mandates for school districts; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the UFT calls upon every school to launch a series of actions to defend our communities and our schools and affirm our values, beginning on Monday November 21, with a Day of Action; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT calls upon every school to form an action committee to plan and execute these actions; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT will partner with and encourage the DOE to support the expansion of the Respect for All initiative, so that school communities serve as sites where all students and staff are safe from acts of discrimination because of ongoing positive and developmentally appropriate behavior and speech in and out of the classroom; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT urges the DOE to require time during the school day for educators to engage in conversations and activities that will support learning communities that celebrate diversity while ensuring tolerance, respect and positive conflict resolution, and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT will urge the DOE to present professional learning to develop our abilities to design and implement learning activities during which differences are respected and celebrated.
After a bitter campaign, and an election in which Donald Trump won the electoral vote but Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, our nation remains deeply divided. And the division seems to be worsening: In the 10 days since the election, the hateful rhetoric of the campaign has spread and even turned violent.
In his victory speech and during his “60 Minutes” interview, Trump urged Americans to come together as one united people to take on the challenges before us. But his actions tell a different story. By appointing Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn—three men with long and disturbing records of bigotry and racism—Trump is only adding to the climate of fear.
It is our moral imperative to fight the normalization of hate, and while we will take actions in our schools, work sites and communities to protect our kids and fight bigotry and bullying, as so many of our members already have, Trump has a unique and moral responsibility to denounce these hateful and intimidating actions.
This morning, we sent Donald Trump a letter signed by the AFT and the Southern Poverty Law Center calling on him to speak clearly and loudly against the hate. More than 100 groups representing millions of people have also signed. Add your voice and name to our letter.
In the months leading up to the election, Trump’s campaign rhetoric found an audience with those who would use our differences to divide us. And in the days following the election, we have seen people—seemingly emboldened by his victory—committing harassment, vandalism, property destruction and even assault based on those differences.
We know that millions of his supporters would never participate in these actions, but the campaign rhetoric has created an environment that enables and encourages those who wish to harm others.
Personally, I am especially troubled by incidents taking place in schools and on college campuses—places where we do everything we can to ensure our children are safe and nurtured, and have the opportunity to grow and learn free of intimidation and hatred. But now we are hearing reports of disturbing behavior: children chanting “build the wall” at their Latino classmates, Muslim students and educators harassed for their clothing, male students intimidating their female classmates, LGBTQ kids threatened and harassed, and swastikas being painted on classroom doors.
There is no room for this in America. Donald Trump must step up and lead by denouncing the hateful rhetoric and violence following his election.
Many of these hateful acts have been carried out in his name. And while Trump may not condone this behavior, his silence gives tacit permission to those who carry out these acts.
As Americans, we are better than this. You can stand up against these attacks by adding your name to this petition.
Trump has said he will be the president for all Americans. We ask that he keeps that promise by loudly, forcefully, unequivocally and consistently denouncing these acts and the ideology that drives them.
We must all send a clear message that hate has no place in our public discourse, in our public policy or in our society, starting with our next president. Sign the petition now.
P.S. The Southern Poverty Law Center is collecting data on the effects of this divisive climate, especially in schools. Complete its survey here.