Friday, February 20, 2009

NCLB leaves kids, schools, and democracy BEHIND

How does NCLB leave kids behind? Let's be honest. We've always known intuitively that the goals of NCLB, while admirable, were impossible. Public schools simply cannot overcome the inequalities (from nature and/or nurture) that kids bring with them to school everyday, no matter how hard they teach or test. We've always known that every kid cannot become an Einstein and all the kids cannot go to school in Lake Woebegon (where all the kids are above average!) But the NCLB tests and standards mandates mean that every kid with a nature/nurture handicap will be labeled a failure (behind) every year. Wonder how that regular slap-in-the-face affects the drop-out rate?

Why does NCLB leave schools behind?
Because that was the hidden agenda all along! Don't take my work for it, read what a former Bush official said. Claudia Wallis quoted Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Susan Neuman in the June 8, 2008, Time magazine. Folks in the Bush Department of Education, "saw NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda - a way to expose the failure of public education and 'blow it up a bit.' There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."

In a February 2009 survey of the principals of Minnesota's 1,920 public schools, 97% said that NCLB requirements were unattainable by 2014. FYI, the NCLB requirement is the by 2014, 100% of students must pass the test. That 97% of principals surveyed is not your average or typical NCLB opponent. That's a resounding rejection by the hands on, front-line professionals charged with implementing the unrealistic and unfunded mandates of NCLB. These principals are charged with directing more and more increasingly limited resources to the test, knowing all along that some students will never be able to pass the test and sooner or later, their school will also be labeled a failure.

How does NCLB leave democracy behind?
A democracy depends on educated citizens and educated citizens depend on public schools (all citizens with equal access to a free and equitable public education). NCLB is the "Trojan horse" sent in to deliberately undermine confidence in our public schools and open the door to further deregulation and privatization of schools. That scenario puts our democracy at risk!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fair Discrimination Timelines - Hurrah for Lilly Ledbetter!

Only when she prepared to retire in 1998, after 19 years as a supervisor for Goodyear Tire Company, did Lilly Ledbetter learn she had been paid much less than her male counterparts all those years. Even though a lower court found Goodyear guilty of pay discrimination, the Supreme Court threw out that decision by a 5 to 4 vote, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the first offense - 19 years before she discovered what was going on. She couldn't know what she didn't know before she knew it!

On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. The law overturns the Supreme Court's illogical ruling and provides for the 180 day timeline to begin with the last offense, not the first. It's 11 years since Ledbetter retired and challenged the pay discrimination - and she won't receive a penny of backpay!

However, one more person stood up and one more legal loophole is plugged in the ongoing struggle for equal rights for all. Plaintiff Blues, published in 2007, is my story of 17 years of similar struggles with job discrimination and retaliation in NE Minnesota. In April 1991, a local newspaper reported that a man I had lost a Superintendent of Schools position to had gotten the job with mail-order PH. D.'s and forged letters of recommendation. At that time, the EEOC said I would have had to file the complaint within 180 days of the hiring decision in 1989. It was 18 months later that I first learned about his bogus credentials. You can't know what you don't know until you know it!

That's not logical and it's not fair. But thanks to Lilly - just one person, unwilling to accept discrimination - we have all moved one step closer to equal opportunity. Yes, it took an election that resulted in stronger majorities in the Congress and a President anxious to sign, not veto. But Lilly had to take the first step.

Civil rights is more than 'one person can make a difference.' One person must make the difference, because that's the only way the system works. Each person that challenges discrimination or retaliation has the potential to block one more avenue of oppression for everyone.