A former schoolteacher who made a huge difference


Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texas schoolteacher-turned-policymaker who gave countless American children a chance, is honored with a state holiday today on the 107th anniversary of his birth. The San Antonio Express-News, in an editorial linked below, notes that LBJ’s experience as a young teacher of low-income Hispanic kids in South Texas was the spark for his later success in passing landmark federal laws expanding educational opportunities, health care and voting and civil rights.

The editorial also notes the “irony” that Johnson’s home state “has for many years been distancing itself from the logic inherent in the 36th president’s signature accomplishments.” I prefer the word “outrage.”

For sometime now, the current political leadership in Texas has been in the middle of efforts to dismantle the Great Society, an LBJ legacy that – although far from perfect – has nevertheless boosted opportunities for countless American families.

The dismantling campaign has hurt.

Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act has been reduced to a bureaucratic testing nightmare – for students and educators alike – and the Voting Rights Act has been undermined by the U.S. Supreme Court and significantly weakened in Texas by a voter identification law designed to intimidate low-income Hispanics and African Americans from voting.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country, and the current political climate is determined to leave it that way by refusing to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would pick up most of the cost.

LBJ certainly had a lot of faults – the Vietnam debacle remaining high on the list – but he recognized, as the Express-News points out, that government had a legitimate role to play for people “genuinely in need.” And, inspired by those poor school kids in Cotulla, TX, that is what he tried to do.

I suspect LBJ would be outraged by much of today’s political crop in Texas — career politicans who perpetuate their careers by bashing government — and he would mistake the current presidential race as an audition for a circus clown show.


A hangover from education “reform”


In addition to the normal excitement and anticipation the new school year brings, Dallas ISD has the added benefit of beginning the year without Mike Miles as superintendent. You may recall that Miles abruptly ended his dictatorial reign over DISD during the summer and moved back to Colorado, where he has founded a company called Third Future, an education consulting firm.

Miles is still calling himself a “reformer,” despite the fact, as The Dallas Morning News pointed out, he “didn’t produce significant academic gains during his time in Dallas.”

In a posting on his new company’s blog, Miles says the “reform community is suffering from a low-grade depression.”

Maybe it’s not a depression but a hangover from binging on testing, privatization and bureaucrat bells and whistles that have hindered, rather than advanced, the education cause.

Education “reformers” who bash teachers


Six Republican presidential candidates addressed an education forum hosted by a self-styled “reformer” in New Hampshire yesterday, and if you think they showed any respect to educators or promoted any proposal to actually help students in the classroom, you would be wrong.

Republicans were the only candidates who attended, and I am not sure any Democratic candidates were even invited. The result, anyway, was a day of bashing teacher unions, promoting privatization and releasing political hot air.

Some examples, as reported by the Washington Post:

# “I have no problem with saying that teachers’ unions deserve a political punch in the face, which they do.” – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

# “One of the things that I’d like to see is universal choice…even for parents that can afford it on their own.” – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, promoting tax-paid vouchers to help even rich parents send their kids to private school.

# Let’s “abolish all teachers’ lounges, where they sit together and worry about ‘Woe is us.’” – Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The candidates – who also included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former corporate executive Carly Fiorina – also wrung their hands over Common Core and took shots at the U.S. Department of Education.

The event, at which the candidates appeared separately, was hosted by former CNN reporter Campbell Brown, who has filed a lawsuit challenging teacher unions.

Incidentally, the last time I checked, not one of the Republican presidential candidates has responded to the National Education Association’s candidate vetting process. Three Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley – are participating.



Putting hedge fund owners ahead of educators


Several of the candidates who want to be our next president have no intention of improving our public schools or rewarding the hard work of educators. I mean, education is barely an afterthought among most Republican White House hopefuls.

Ted Cruz doesn’t want to govern. He wants to campaign and entertain tea partiers who think we already are spending too much money on education, health care and other programs they don’t care anything about. Donald Trump wants to boost his ego by insulting everyone on the planet who has less money than he has, and that includes every educator I can think of.

Jeb Bush will talk about education, but as governor of Florida, he promoted school privatization and a preposterous, counter-productive evaluation system for teachers, and he shows no signs of changing his mind about those failures now. Meanwhile in Wisconsin, as I have written a few times before, Gov. Scott Walker is trying to drive education and public employment into a ditch.

Now, Walker has added insult to injury. Last week, just one month after slashing $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System, Walker and the Legislature approved a deal committing at least $250 million in tax dollars (and maybe twice that much) to help two super-wealthy hedge fund owners from New York build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.

Walker does have his priorities, and they certainly aren’t education and educators. A few years ago, you probably recall, he pushed legislation to weaken teacher and other public employee unions and, in so doing, shrunk Wisconsin’s middle class.

According to The New York Times, the two hedge fund owners who are the new majority owners of the Milwaukee Bucks are major Democratic donors. But, otherwise, they are Walker’s type of pay-for-play people. They are rich – and about to get richer, courtesy of Walker and Wisconsin taxpayers.

One of the new minority owners in the Bucks is, perhaps not coincidentally, Walker’s national finance co-chairman.




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