Monday, February 08, 2016


Bertis Downs IV is the manager of alternative rockers and my favorites R.E.M.  He is also on the board of the Network for Public Education.  He has some advice for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on public education.  He wrote a speech that either one of them could give to show they are not for business as usual on education.  It is at Salon. Please read it.

Bertis says this speech could seal the nomination for either one of the candidates.  I am not holding my breath waiting for either Bernie or Hillary to give it. Hillary is the embodiment of the status quo and Bernie voted for the Murphy amendment last summer supporting the continuation of test and punish education.

However, we can hope one of them comes to their senses on moving public education ahead by working with real teachers,parents and students, not just top-down union leaders.

Bertis, in his proposed speech, sees of one of the candidates talking about the sorry state of public education today including the mentality that blames teachers for problems such as poverty that are way beyond our control.  He points out that this is leading to an impending teacher shortage.  Then, he makes the case that K-12 education has not been a major campaign issue yet.  His would-be candidate says:

Thus far, there's been very little campaign time devoted to public education policy.  I guess that's not surprising given the amount of money and power at stake.  Someone recently joked that on the Democratic campaign trail it's as if children go straight from pre-K to debt-free college and there's no such thing as K - 12 education in between.  Well, I want to change that mistaken perception.

Bertis goes on:

Well, in recent months, I have been quietly talking with teachers, principals, parents and students. These are the true stakeholders in this debate, after all.  Many of these true stakeholders are affiliated with groups like the Network for Public Education, the Badass Teachers Association, Parents Across America, Class Size Matters, Education Opportunity Network, National Education Policy Center, Journey for Justice, FAIRTEST, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out and the growing movement of student activist groups in many of our major cities,  These are grassroots groups with smart, dedicated and hardworking people who believe in the value of public education and work hard every day to strengthen and improve the system.  Groups like these will have at seat at the table in my administration.

He continues a little later:

I am listening to educators and parents - the true stakeholders - and I will put some educators with actual real-world, real-school experience in positions of power in my administration.  For a long time now, we have pursued so many of the corporatized policies: test and punish, drill and kill, stack, rank and close. These practices are not helping our children learn.  And from my lifelong travels around the country and the globe, I know that no other country uses standardized testing the same way we do.  There's a better way.

He then describes community based schools and discusses how integrated public schools can succeed.

Are Bernie and Hillary listening? Or as many of us fear, Hillary will be a third term of the Obama administration's corporate driven education disaster and Bernie will be a national version of progressive Bill de Blasio, who has not exactly transformed public education in New York City.

Most of my friends are leaning toward Sanders as the best hope but didn't we hear about hope and change with Obama and were burned and didn't we listen to de Blasio promise real change on education in NYC and when elected he retained most of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's people in education and continued many of Bloomberg's anti-teacher policies?

By the way I write all of this as an educator who has two friends on Facebook who are relatively recent Jamaica High School graduates who are working for Bernie and regularly posting on Facebook about their experiences on the campaign trail.


Anonymous said...

Just imagine if we had as our UFT leader someone as bright and as articulate as Bertis Downs I'd double my union dues for that. Instead we are stuck with a very dim bulb. A no talent, stale thinker named Michael Mulgrew. And when I say stuck, I mean stuck. Heaven help us.

James Eterno said...

Can't argue with the comment.