Will You Fight to Save Special Education From Corporations In Louisiana?

7 Oct
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Corbb O'Connor
Corbb, a blind entrepreneur, coordinates the outreach and marketing efforts for the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University as an independent consultant.
At our recent Teacher Training Conference on Blindness and Low Vision (held September 20-22, 2013 in Ruston), Laureen Mayfield delivered these remarks. She is the Director of Special Education for the Bienville Parish School Board and President of the Louisiana Association of Special Education Administrators (LASEA).

It is an honor to be able to address you today, as I have the highest admiration and respect for the work you do with our students with visual impairments. For the past two years, as special education Director in Bienville Parish, I had the privilege of watching one of our students who was progressively losing his vision, learn Braille, increase his independence, and pass the 8th grade LEAP test. You all do incredible work, and I personally want to thank you for everything you do for our students.

Before I begin, my legal disclaimer: All views I will express today are mine, and not those of my school district.

When Dr. Bell asked me to speak to you today, he requested that I talk about the “future of special education.” The first thought that entered my mind was, “Don’t shoot the messenger,” because I do not have a very pretty picture to paint for you today.

I am, however, grateful that I am not speaking during your lunch. Last spring, I attended the School Climate Institute in Shreveport with other administrators and staff. We were all looking forward to a great lunch (rather than the frozen Lean Cuisines we usually eat at our desks) and the chance to visit with colleagues. Unfortunately, the Institute planned a speaker during the meal, a nationally-known expert on school violence, who described—in detail—responding to horrific school shootings around the country. Needless to say, we all lost our appetites. So thank you, Dr. Bell, for at least allowing everyone to enjoy a great meal before hearing about the state of public education right now.

How many of you ever watch college football?

If you’ve ever watched a Notre Dame football game, you may have seen their series of brief videos showing work that Notre Dame grads are doing around the world in areas of social justice. Notre Dame just happens to be where I attended college. The clips always say, “We are the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame — What would you fight for?” Hold on to that thought during our time together, because I am going to ask you that again at the end of my comments.

To explain the future of special education in Louisiana, we need to go back about 30 years…a true “Back to the Future” moment.

Back to the Future

Journalist Bill Moyers opened his 2012 report on the “United States of ALEC” (the American Legislative Exchange Council) with these words:

“Welcome to a story that’s been unfolding for more than 30 years but has gone largely untold. That’s the way the central characters wanted it. They were smart and understood something very important: that they might more easily get what they wanted from state capitals than from Washington, DC. So they started putting their money in places like Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix, Arizona; and Madison, Wisconsin. That’s because what happens in our state legislatures directly affects our taxes, schools, roads, the quality of our air and water…even our right to vote.

Politicians and lobbyist at the core of this clever enterprise figured out how to pull it off in an organized, camouflaged way—covering their tracks while they put one over on an unsuspecting public.”

I hope, after today, you will no longer be part of the “unsuspecting public,” but will leave here with more knowledge of a movement to basically destroy public education as we know it.

Moyers goes on to describe ALEC as an organization hiding in plain sight, yet one of the most influential and powerful in American politics.

What you need to realize is that politicians and corporate representatives have actually been voting behind closed doors on changes to state law before they were ever introduced in statehouses across the country.

ALEC is a nationwide consortium of elected state legislators—from both parties—working side-by-side with some of America’s richest and most powerful corporations. Their mission is to remake America, changing the country by changing its laws, one state at a time.

ALEC creates what it calls “model legislation,” pro-corporate laws its members push in statehouses across the nation. ALEC says that close to a thousand bills based at least in part on its models, are introduced each year, with an average of 200 passing. And this has been going on for decades.

If you take away nothing else from our time together today, at least realize that what is going on in education in this state, in this country, in terms of “reform” and privatization, is all based on ALEC model legislation.

It’s all about ALEC model legislation

You need to know that the House and Senate routinely pay per-diem, travel, and lodging for lawmakers to attend ALEC conferences. According to Tom Aswell, writer of Louisiana Voice, between 2008 and 2011, the House and Senate paid 34 current and former members of our Louisiana Legislature more than $70,000 for attending ALEC functions in New Orleans; San Diego; Washington, D.C.; Phoenix; Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; and Austin. That means YOU, and ME, as tax payers, paid that $70,000 to promote ALEC legislation.

In 2011, a former Justice Department attorney was able to get her hands on a virtual library of ALEC model bills—850 of them. Eight hundred and fifty boilerplate laws that ALEC legislators can introduce as their own in any state in the union.

  • Bills to dramatically change the rights of Americans who were killed or injured by corporations—those were ALEC bills.
  • Bills to make it harder for unions to do their work—those were ALEC bills.
  • And in Louisiana, bills to create vouchers, privatize education, and change the state funding for students with disabilities—those were ALEC bills.

So who are these corporations that form ALEC? Corporations like Coca-Cola and Koch Industries, companies like Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, Wal-Mart, State Farm, AT&T—and let’s not forget—Rupert Murdoch and his media empire—as well as dozens of foundations, law firms and lobbying firms, along with at least a thousand state legislators.

Who are the winners when ALEC is involved? Corporations benefiting from special interest legislation and politicians who get massive campaign contributions as a reward for introducing and supporting these bills. Who are the losers? Us—the public—and most significantly, our children—and most tragically, our children with disabilities.

Governor Jindal recently wrote an editorial responding to the Department of Justice lawsuit against Louisiana for its voucher system. In it, he said race is the most soulless way to think about people.

I disagree. To see children—children of all races– as an economic opportunity is, to me, the most soulless way to view them.

Follow the money

The second takeaway I hope you will have from today: follow the money. In all political issues, just follow the money and you will see that, when ALEC is involved, profit-driven legislation is the goal. How do you profit from consumers? You open up markets by privatizing EVERYTHING.

Bill Moyer’s report on ALEC and its follow-upwhich I hope you will Google and watch—talks about a Wisconsin Representative who went “undercover” by joining ALEC. He describes coming to one of their conventions in New Orleans in 2011. One of the bills they talked about was a proposal to provide special needs scholarships. By the time he returned to Wisconsin, that bill was already introduced in their legislature and sponsored by 26 ALEC members.

Guess what? That same bill was introduced and passed in Louisiana…as it has in Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Case study: Schoarships for special needs students

So what is bad about scholarships for special needs students? Judge for yourself. That bill was originally crafted by ALEC task force members Connections Academy and K12, which specialize in online education. When special education students are given “scholarships” to attend private schools, do you think those private schools have certified special education teachers? No! They purchase ,” programs to meet those needs.

What happens when special education students leave our public schools and attend private schools and charter schools on vouchers? Do you think those schools have certified special ed teachers? No. They are going to “meet those needs” by “purchasing,” programs. I will let you form your own opinion on exactly how effective those programs are for students with special needs.

Don’t forget that private schools that receive public tax dollars in the form of vouchers have basically no accountability. They can teach whatever they want and their students are not held to any accountability standards. The state has adopted the Common Core State Standards and is mandating that our public school students take the new PARCC assessments beginning in 2014-2015, but there is no such requirement for private schools.

Remember that when parents of students with disabilities are given this “choice” to go to a private or charter school, they must leave their rights under the IDEA—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act– at the door! These private and charter schools have no responsibility to provide FAPE—a Free, Appropriate Public Education—to these children. That is the choice given to our parents—that is, if the private schools and charters will even accept our students.

Unlike public schools, where we accept—and hopefully welcome—all students, admission at private and charter schools can be as selective and restrictive as they wish.

Even if our students with disabilities are allowed to register at these schools, there is nothing to stop the school from kicking the student out for behavior, lack of academic progress or any other reason. Remember, students with disabilities give up their rights under the IDEA when they step through those privatized doors—even though our public tax dollars are paying to send them there.

Common Core State Standards

So, let’s return to our take-away for today: follow the money.

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch, Chairman & CEO of the global media holding company News Corporation, and 21st Century Fox, as well as new data warehouse inBloom, and the company Amplify—which won the $12.5 million contract to design the CCSS assessments—made this statement in 2010:

“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

Let me read that again:

“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

He’s not talking about education as the great equalizer in our society. He’s not referring to the fact that historically, any child, from any socio-economic situation, could apply himself in any public school and become anything he wants to be in life.

No, he’s talking about what is driving education, including special education, in our state right now: how private corporations can become richer on the backs of our children.

Course Choice is a prime example of this. Private companies have advertised on Craig’s List for salespeople to drive through communities, offering free iPads to children…if they sign up for Course Choice courses. There are numerous reports of things as egregious as kindergartners signed up for calculus courses and special education students signed up for Latin.

Does anyone monitor the effectiveness of these courses? No.

Could they be of poor quality, could the children enrolled learn nothing, and the course creators still profit? Yes!

Will the profiteers be grateful for this windfall and donate to political campaigns to keep this private gravy-train rolling? I would think so.

Who has heard about the Common Core State Standards?

How many of you are currently teaching students who are being held accountable to learn them?

There’s no research

Who has read about, heard of, even heard a rumor of any scientific research that proves their effectiveness, much less their superiority over our previous curriculum standards? No one?

No, me neither. That’s because there aren’t any. What? No pilot studies that have had a control group that followed the state’s existing curriculum, and an experimental group that followed the new Common Core Standards over several years, followed by rigorous testing to see which group had achieved more? Nope.

Wait a minute! Doesn’t No Child Left Behind require schools to use reading programs that are “based on scientifically based reading research”? Yep.

So, shouldn’t the Standards we are implementing also be research-based? Apparently not.

Because, as you will see, it’s not about research or education or children—it’s all about money. Let’s follow it for a minute.

Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana educator with a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods, has recently posted a 3-part series on Bill Gates, his money, and why many of us are now calling the standards the “Common Core Gates Standards.”

Schneider points out that it is important to those promoting the CCSS that the public believes the idea that the CCSS is “state-led.” They have put out countless articles saying the standards were created by the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers.

The truth is, of the 29 individuals associated with developing the standards, only two of the 29 are not affiliated with an education company.

You need to know that the four principal organizations associated with CCSS—the National Governors Association, the Council for Chief State School Officers, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners—have accepted millions of dollars from Bill Gates. In fact, those 4 organizations have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.

Make no mistake, these are the Common Core Gates Standards. They are not “state led”. They are “Gates led.”

These standards were never researched, or piloted for effectiveness. But don’t worry—the Fordham Institute has been charged with “tracking state progress towards implementation” of the standards. Their payment from Gates to do so: $1,002,000.

I’m sure that will be an objective, data-based study, don’t you agree?

One man—who is not an educator—is purchasing his view of what American education should be. In the words of Mercedes Schneider:

“Can Bill Gates buy a foundational democratic institution [our education system]? Will America allow it? The fate of CCSS will provide crucial answers to those looming questions.”

In the second part of her series, Schneider looks at the many organizations influencing state education departments and local districts that have accepted Gates money for promoting and implementing CCSS. Organizations like the National Association of State Boards of Education (which took $2.3 million).

Finally, Schneider’s third installment looks at the state departments that have directly received Gates money for CCSS indoctrination.

Guess which state department is featured prominently in that article?

Our own Louisiana Department of Education, which received a Gates grant for $7,351,708. That almost $8 million dollar sum is the third largest payoff to state departments in the country.

So, despite the Common Core State Standards being untested and un-researched, do you see why Gov. Jindal and Superintendent John White have at least 8 million reasons to love it?

It is all about the money.

Corporate profits from student records

But let’s look a little further to see how corporations will profit by adoption of the Common Core State Standards. We now know the State Department of Education is almost $8 million richer just for promoting it, but who else is profiting?

Remember good old Rupert Murdoch, who controls most of the news media in the world? His company, Amplify, is being paid $12.5 million for designing the new CCSS assessments, because—with new standards—comes the need for new assessment.

But $12.5 million is small potatoes to Murdoch. Remember his famous quote: “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US”? So where’s the other $499.9 billion coming from?

Well, there’s also his corporation, inBloom, the “non-profit” started with a $100 million investment from—wait for it—the Gates Foundation! InBloom is designed to create a digital record, a permanent digital record, of every K-12 student—a record of information in several hundred categories, which include academic records, attendance records, test results, disciplinary incidents, disability labels, special education accommodations, and much, much more.

And guess where all this confidential information will be stored? On a data cloud. InBloom itself states on its security policy that:

“inBloom cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

And how is that possible? Because the federal Department of Education revised FERPA in 2011 to allow:

“release to third parties of student information for non-academic purposes.” The rules also broaden the exceptions under which schools can release student records to “non-governmental organizations without first obtaining written consent from parents.”

And John White signed a contract with inBloom for the release of student information in Louisiana. It was only because of the work of a few true investigative reporters that this word got out, and—thankfully—White was forced (at least for now) to back out of his deal with inBloom.

So how does inBloom, a supposed non-profit, profit from all this data? Those of you who are teaching the Common Core Standards know that districts are no longer buying textbooks, and the state is no longer writing curriculum. Each teacher must now re-create the wheel, and write his or her own curriculum, and find his or her own materials to teach the standards.

And, do this in a way that meets all students’ needs. This is an overwhelming task. So what if inBloom shares all that data with companies that can then create “individualized learning plans,” curricula, and materials for all these students that they know everything about, all aligned with the CCSS, and all for a price?

“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

Yep, I think old Rupert about nailed it.

You see, I just read that Rupert Murdoch’s company, Amplify, is planning to sell school districts a custom Android tablet for each teacher and student, with curriculum, games, and other tools.

And don’t forget about all the technology that districts must somehow buy and pay for to accommodate the PARCC assessments that every public school student must take. Millions will have to be spent to upgrade servers, wireless networks, computers, software, on and on. Gosh, I wonder where we could possibly find a large personal computer software company to provide what we’ll need? Oh yea, maybe Microsoft?

Are you getting the picture here? Public education is becoming nothing more than an investment opportunity for the already wealthy and powerful.

Perhaps one of the saddest things about the new standards is that according to many curriculum experts, including professors in leading colleges and universities, the CCSS will note prepare students for college. Many believe that the true intent is to create a functional curriculum for the working class. The emphasis is on reading technical manuals, non-fiction, not the great literature of our country and the world.

I have wondered, if the new standards are truly great, and truly designed to create high level, college-bound, independent thinkers, why is it not being adopted by any private schools?

And, not to leave any profit stone unturned, don’t forget that these new standards necessitate new assessments. And guess whose company, Amplify, got the contract for $12.5 million to design CCSS assessments? As I stated before, our old friend, Rupert Murdoch.

Now that I’ve tried to present an overview of what is going on in education in our state, let’s focus in specifically on special education.

Focusing on special education in Louisiana

There’s no Special Education Department in Louisiana

First, know that there is no longer a Special Education Department within the State Department of Education. Once Superintendent White arrived, everything was reorganized and special ed was basically done away with. Most of the long-time employees, who had devoted their lives to special education, were either let go or encouraged to retire. The few remaining people have been reassigned to the new divisions, working on STEM or other initiatives.

Most of the new employees in the LDE are extremely young, from out of state—and in the case of special education—knows nothing to very little about it. The few remaining former special education staff members are not allowed to send out e-mails to groups of more than 10 people. So, any information that they can anonymously send to me must be re-distributed by me, as president of the Special Ed Directors’ Association, to the other directors and supervisors in the state.

Prior to Superintendent White, there was a collaborative relationship between the LDE and the special education directors. We certainly did not always agree, but we were brought to the table on all important issues and worked toward consensus. Before any major regulatory bulletins were revised, our input, along with that of parents and other advocates, was sought. Before policies and procedures were changed, again, we were all brought to the table. The special ed directors were brought together for quarterly update meetings with the Education Department to hear about changes and new trends and strategies. An ad hoc committee of special ed directors met with education department staff on a monthly basis to give input and share concerns.

All of that has been stopped.

Now, our input is largely not sought. If it is, it is after the change has been made, to allow the department to check off a box that they sought stakeholder input.

So, you need to know that young people in their 20s, with backgrounds in business and other areas—most of whom came from New York, Chicago, or California—are now making six-figure salaries and deciding the policies that affect our students with disabilities.

After the LDE makes changes, they go to the newly-constituted BESE—the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education—which is now controlled by the Governor and his ALEC agenda. If you follow the money once again, you will find that campaigns for BESE members to replace those who were true advocates for public education were paid for by ALEC members, most from the east coast.

Changing the Minimum Foundation Program

Last year, the State Department of Education introduced a proposal to change the Minimum Foundation Program, which funds public education in this state. Currently, all special education students receive a funding factor of 2.5 (that is, two and one-half times the amount for a student without a disability). Currently, that money comes into a district and the district spends the money according to student need.

The department’s proposal was to weight the formula for students with disabilities based on 3 things:

  1. the individual needs of the child
  2. the costs associated with the educational placement, and
  3. academic outcomes achieved with the students.

That might not sound so bad until you really study their proposal. The LDE wanted funding in part to be based on the student’s exceptionality—that’s how they are “measuring” the “individual needs of the child.”

I am certain I do not have to tell you, as teachers, that two students may have the exact same disability label, and have vastly different support needs. We can have a student with learning disabilities, for example, who can be successful in the regular classroom with support from a paraprofessional. LD is considered a “low need” disability for the state’s purposes, but this child could have high financial need to be successful.

Think about students with blindness. How different the support needs for a young student, maybe in kindergarten or first grade, who is just learning braille and how to read at all, versus a student with the exact same exceptionality in a higher grade who has mastered braille and is basically independent. But under the state’s plan, the weighted funding for those two students would be identical.

Their second factor, the costs associated with educational placement, is also extremely problematic, and potentially dangerous. The IDEA contains specific language that seems to indicate that such a weighted formula would be in direct conflict with federal law. The IDEA clearly states that:

“A State funding mechanism shall not result in placements that violate the requirements of subparagraph (A) [which describes the Least Restrictive Environment], and a State shall not use a funding mechanism by which the State distributes funds on the basis of the type of setting in which a child is served that will result in the failure to provide a child with a disability a free appropriate public education according to the unique needs of the child as described in the child’s IEP.”

The state of Georgia currently has a weighted formula for special education funding. While the state department is maintaining that its proposal does not violate the IDEA, it is important to note that the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division against the Georgia Department of Education alleging that this weighted formula promotes the segregation of students with disabilities in violation of Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Disability classification and placement do not drive services or costs. Costs to provide needed services are determined by the unique needs of each student and each student’s IEP and cannot be captured in a weighted funding formula.

The third factor the state department wants to base funding on is “positive academic outcome.” Many of us believe that this part of the proposal to base funding on the performance of only students with disabilities is discriminatory. Beyond that, they have been unable to produce any research which shows that reduced funding because of poor student performance causes improved student performance.

Invalid use of the “value-added model”

We also question the validity of using the “value added model” to determine individual student performance. Value added models are based on statistical properties of variance in measurement from a normal distribution of students. Our understanding is that it is an overgeneralization violation to apply statistical parameters to populations at the tail ends of the normal distribution (students with disabilities and those who are gifted).

Former Louisiana state psychometrician Stephen Caldas has written that “value-added models were never intended to be used to accurately predict or rate an individual’s performance and can’t do so reliably.”

The American Educational Research Association has clearly stated that value-added models are:

  1. Highly unstable;
  2. That teachers with high numbers of SWDs and ELL students show lower gains than other teachers (that’s you all, folks); and
  3. that value-added ratings cannot disentangle the many influences on student progress

As you know, many IEPs are written for social and behavioral skill development, yet the performance weight funding will be based solely on students’ performance on state academic tests.

The other absurd thing about the department’s proposal was that they were calling it a “pilot” because they were holding the fiscal impact at 10 percent for the first year.

As any of you who have taken the most basic educational research class know, in a legitimate pilot, a few districts would participate for two or three years. Then, data would be examined and conclusions reached. Did the pilot districts improve outcomes compared to the districts who did not make the changes?

But they wouldn’t hear of that. Instead, they would have been able to come back to BESE after the first year of implementation and ask for full 100 percent implementation either way the data turned out. If the districts had improved their special ed performance, they would have said, “See how much improvement we saw with just 10 percent implementation? Let’s implement at 100 percent and get much more improvement.”

If, on the other hand, performance had not improved, they would have said to BESE, “Well, only 10 percent implementation was not enough to get their attention. We need to go to 100 percent implementation!”

That was not going to be a pilot!

Luckily, enough of us spent days testifying first before BESE, and more importantly, before the Senate Finance Committee, speaking out against this travesty. It was stopped for the moment, but we will have a more difficult fight this year.

Never be naïve enough to think that we don’t have extremely smart people running the state. To silence our arguments that they sought no input from stakeholders, they have now formed an “MFP Task Force” to meet between now and Christmas to develop a plan. Unfortunately, there is not one special education director on that task force, and the appointed members who support the ALEC initiatives far outweigh the few token members who believe in public education.

The truth about graduation rates for special ed students

Another piece of propaganda that you will hear from the department is the horrible graduation rate of students with disabilities in Louisiana. Superintendent White has gone all over the state saying that it is a dismal 29 percent.

What he doesn’t tell you is that the states with high graduation rates for students with disabilities allow students to graduate with regular diplomas if they fulfill IEP requirements!

  1. Arkansas, with a 75 percent special ed graduation rate, allows this.
  2. Texas, with a 77 percent rate allows this.
  3. South Dakota, with 84 percent allows this.
  4. Pennsylvania, with 71 percent allows this.
  5. Kansas, with 73 percent, also allows special ed students to graduate with a regular high school diploma for completing IEP requirements.

If Louisiana’s graduation rate were calculated in the same manner, our rate would be well above the average in the nation.

If students didn’t give up when they realize they will never be able to pass all the state-required exams, and drop out, not only would our graduation rate be one of the highest in the country, but our dropout rate for student with disabilities would plummet.

Eliminating the LAA 2 category of Alternate Assessments

Another change that will significantly affect our students is the state’s doing away with the LAA 2 category of Alternate Assessments. Currently, students with disabilities who are functioning at least three grade levels below their actual grade level can qualify for a LAA 2 alternate assessment that contains fewer items, no mastery/advanced level questions, larger spacing and formatting. The State “gave away” this option for our students when they applied for the NCLB Waiver.

We are currently fighting to at least allow LAA 2 students to escape the mandatory retention in grades 4 and 8 that Louisiana demands. Many of us are also recommending an end to mandatory retention, as overwhelming research and practical evidence show that grade retention does not lead to improved student outcomes. In fact, it almost dooms the child to never graduating. The state department’s own data show that regular ed students who are retained twice only graduate 25 percent of the time, and those who are retained more than twice only graduate 6% of the time.

And Superintendent White is saying our 29 percent special education graduation rate is horrific!

Combine having a disability, with being retained in 4th and 8th grade, and it’s a wonder that we graduate as many students as we do.

The COMPASS evaluation instrument doesn’t have an exception for students with disabilities

The last thing I wanted to mention today is COMPASS. How many of you have seen the COMPASS evaluation instrument?

How many of you have been evaluated using it?

How many of you think it is even close to being an appropriate evaluation of what you do as a teacher?

As you probably know, there are no exceptions for special education teachers. All teachers are to be evaluated using it…no matter how inappropriate. Even the person who developed the instrument, Charlotte Danielson—an economist by the way, not educator—said Louisiana is using it all wrong. Her original rubric uses 22 indicators that should be observed in a teacher’s classroom. The Louisiana version uses five.

Danielson has said:

“Taking my framework and using only a small subset of it can be problematic.” “Districts and the state should be concerned because it is inevitably going to lead to inaccuracies that could lead to challenges.”

And the challenges are beginning. The lawsuits are being filed. Meanwhile, good teachers are being driven out of the classroom based on non-researched, non-proven, one-size-fits-all observation instruments. Others are on course to lose their jobs based on invalid VAM scores—remember what we said: the statistical model used in value-added models—were never intended to be used to accurately predict or rate an individual’s performance, or one class’ performance and they cannot do so reliably.

So, what can you do?

I wouldn’t bring you all this bad news without some suggested action steps:

One of my favorite quotes is this one by John F. Kennedy:

“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

If you are ready to take action, these are my suggestions:

  1. Be informed. Sign up to get emails from some really intelligent bloggers who are acting as true investigative reporters.

    I highly recommend these, all of which you can Google and sign up for:

    Louisiana Voice

    Louisiana Educator

    Public School Shakedown, which has recruited some of the best pro-public education writers across the nation to produce articles for their Attack on Public Schools coverage.

    Finally, well-known and respected Author Dr. Diane Ravitch (Ph.D. in history of American Education) has just released a new book entitled, Reign of Error: the Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.

    This book documents the false narrative that has been used to attack American public education, and names names. It also contains specific and evidence-based recommendations about how we can improve our schools and our society.

  2. if you haven’t already, join a Teacher’s Union, such as the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. If you find yourself in a situation where you could lose your job because of the state’s COMPASS evaluation system, you will be very thankful that you have free legal representation as part of your union membership.
  3. Become politically active. Make phone calls and send letters and emails to your Senators and Representatives. Demand that they stop the privatization of our schools, restore a strong public education system, and protect the rights of our students with disabilities.

    Send those e-mails and letters and make those phone calls not only to the Senators and Representatives of your district of residence, but to all of them on the Senate and House Education Committees. Volume counts! Call, then call again; write, then write again. They care about the number of contacts they have from constituents. Remind them that you will remember how they voted on education when the next election comes around.

    Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, and professional colleagues and ask them to do the same. Remember, these politicians want to be re-elected, so the NUMBER of contacts count.

  4. Finally, find a candidate for Governor who truly believes in public education and support him or her.

At the beginning of our time together, I told you about the Notre Dame video clips proclaiming “We are the Fighting Irish”

I now want to leave you with a question:

What will you fight for?

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Corbb O'Connor
Corbb, a blind entrepreneur, coordinates the outreach and marketing efforts for the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University as an independent consultant.

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