Dr. King Would Lead Fight in Michigan

My statement given during open mic at Dr. King commemoration in Milwaukee:

During Dr. King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam,” he made this poignant statement:
When machines & computers, profit motives & property rights
are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of
racism, materialism & militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Dr. King spoke the truth, but we must stand together & fight like never before as racism & materialism & putting profits & property before people are being played out & confronted all across the globe.
But, one place where these atrocities are most evident is in the State of Michigan where, first, Detroit was devastated by the loss of jobs & the entrance of an appointed Emergency Manager, who is basically a dictator, & Detroit is still fighting hard to save its schools, to end the poverty & to bring prosperity back to Detroit residents where the African American population has been specifically targeted.
Now, the city of Flint, MI is in the news with calls to arrest Gov. Snyder for appointing & allowing EM Darnell Early to provide toxic, polluted water from the Flint River & delivered through corrosive, lead-laden pipes to residents in order to save money! A city of 100,000 are suffering from lead poisoning that will affect so many, especially the children, for their entire lives!
And there are other MI cities being gentrified & economically distressed due to the actions of corrupted MI officials from judges & law officers to prosecutors & business owners under the rule of huge corporations & a government that serves the almighty dollar, not the people!
Even in the small town of Benton Harbor, MI, a dear man of faith, Rev. Edward Pinkney, was railroaded through a Jim Crow trial & convicted on false chargers & then sentenced 2.5-10 years – a life sentence for a 67-year-old man! Rev. Pinkney has been a political prisoner incarcerated now for 13 months & he has been stashed away at Marquette Prison in the Upper Peninsula, almost 500 miles from his wife & friends. His move to Marquette was done to silence & isolate him from family & friends, but was also an attempt to reduce his access to legal counsel & news media. Rev. Pinkney, an international activist, minister, husband, father, friend & advocate to so many is enduring abuse, harassment & intimidation at Marquette.
There’s so much more to the Reverend’s story & I know if Dr. King were alive today, he would be on the front lines to save Michigan from dictatorship of the Emergency Manager law, to bring to justice those responsible for poisoning thousands in Flint and to free Reverend Edward Pinkney.

Please write to the Reverend to show your support:
Marquette Branch Prison
Rev. Edward Pinkney N-E-93 #294671
1960 US Hwy 41 South
Marquette, MI 49855

Please donate at http://bhbanco.org or send check to BANCO:
c/o Dorothy Pinkney
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

More information is at justice4pinkney.com & follow @FreeRevPinkney Twitter account for updates.

Please join activists around the nation in making calls:

Sample script:
“My name is _______ and I’m calling from __________. I’m calling about Rev. Edward Pinkney, ID #294671. I am concerned about the Reverend’s health and safety.” (See below for specific requests).
Call Governor Rick Snyder at 517-373-3400. Tell him you are concerned about Rev. Pinkney’s safety in an environment of harassment, threats, intimidation, and hostility. Tell him to restore Rev. Pinkney’s phone access, to transfer Rev. Pinkney back to Lakeland Prison, and to remove Robert Napel as warden at Marquette Prison.
Call Legislative Corrections Ombudsman Keith Barber to demand an investigation into Rev. Pinkney’s treatment: 517-373-8573.
Call MDOC Director Heidi Washington at 517-241-7238 (leave a message with Sandy Simon, Director Washington’s assistant).
Call Marquette Branch Prison at 906-226-6531 and demand assurance that Rev. Pinkney is safe and not being mistreated or threatened by any staff members.MLK and Pinkney

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Hundreds Pledge Ongoing Support for Political Prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 14, 2015

At 8:30 a.m., April 14, 2015, political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney came into the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan in handcuffs, but with a smile on his face. For the next three hours, he, along with almost 200 supporters, witnessed another egregious travesty of justice in Judge Sterling Schrock’s courtroom.

As you may know, Rev. Pinkney has spent more than a decade fighting the Whirlpool Corporation takeover and Emergency Manager System in place in several Michigan communities, led by Michigan governors and the powerful Upton family. The takeover includes Whirlpool’s devouring of thousands of acres public land to build corporate offices, a 5-star PGA golf resort, and million dollar condos. He also has been wielding courage and angst against a corrupt justice system, the gentrification of Benton Harbor, and the genocide that has resulted from jobs outsourcing and deeds of Mayor Hightower who borrowed $3.2 million on the backs of Benton Harbor taxpayers. This all led to Pinkney’s exercise of a democratic right to recall the mayor of Benton Harbor. But, in an attempt to silence Rev. Pinkney, Benton Harbor hunted him down, arrested him, and held a kangaroo court. Since December, he has been incarcerated in horrendous conditions in the Michigan prison system.

Approximately two hundred supporters attended the April 14 his evidentiary hearing on two motions. Eyewitnesses describe a scene of pre-planned theatrics as Pinkney’s attorney Tat Parish rolled out evidence that juror Gail Freehling, who served on the all-White jury that convicted Pinkney with no evidence, lied about her personal and professional relationship with County Clerk Sharon Tyler.

The prosecution called both Ms. Freehling and Ms. Tyler to the stand along with other community members who should/could have attested to the validity of this relationship. Instead, the majority of questions posed were answered with, “I don’t recall” or “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know.”

In the final outcome, Judge Schrock denied a retrial ruling against the defense. The judge even pulled out notes that were clearly pre-written with wording he intended to put forth even before the court proceedings took place. One eyewitness stated, “In looking at the guiding principles in a normal system of justice, we might have prevailed as the defense put forth a strong case. But, the Berrien County justice system is not the norm.”

In addition to the denial for retrial, Judge Schrock also ruled Rev. Pinkney pay restitution in excess of $1,700 to Mayor James Hightower for his mental anguish and loss of time from his duties caused by the recall election and Pinkney’s trial. This is another travesty as any government official should be prepared to face a recall election–a democratic right of American citizens.

Jill Stein, Green Party President, was present at the hearing and held a press conference immediately following the hearing. Several Michigan leaders spoke at the conference. A rally was also held across from the courthouse.

Once again, this judge refused to allow Rev. Pinkney’s release on bond pending his appeal. An appeal will be filed within the next 42 days.

Pinkney 041415Please support Rev. Edward Pinkney by donating to his legal defense fund at www.bhbanco.org or by mailing a check/money order to 1940 Union Ave.; Benton Harbor, MI 49022.

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No Justice for Political Prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 13, 2015

No Justice for Political Prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney

After the Berrien County Clerk verified signatures and set a recall election date for the appointed mayor of Benton Harbor, MI, Rev. Edward Pinkney, a 21st Century civil rights leader who conducts himself in the manner of Dr. Martin Luther King, was falsely charged with five felonies of changing dates on petitions. Even though there was no evidence to prove Rev. Pinkney was guilty of these charges, he was found guilty and convicted by an all-white jury in Berrien County Courthouse located in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Pinkney was sentenced by Judge Sterling Schrock on December 15, 2014 to 2.5 to 10 years. Pinkney currently is in Lakeland Correctional Facility where he is counseling many fellow inmates, eating rotten food, paying $5 co-pays to see a nurse, and spending upwards of $400/month just to make phone calls from prison.

At the sentencing, this man-of-the-cloth was immediately handcuffed and moved to the Marquette, MI prison 500 miles from his home. He was not even given a chance to say goodbye to his wife who sat just 20 feet from the Reverend in the courtroom. He was held in 23-hour lockdown for 30 days and then was transferred to Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, about 100 miles from his home, following a February 27 hearing in which five motions were heard. Despite logical arguments from Pinkney’s attorney and an ACLU-MI attorney, all motions were denied or delayed. Pinkney should have been released pending appeal, at the very least at the February hearing.

On April 14, 2015, Pinkney will be in court for an evidentiary hearing at 811 Port Street, St. Joseph, MI to provide evidence that one juror perjured herself in answering questions regarding her ties with Berrien County government employees. Will justice finally be served? As with the trial and hearings for Rev. Pinkney, it is estimated that several hundred supporters will gather inside and outside the courtroom. Jill Stein, Green Party President, will be present at this hearing and will hold a press conference in St. Joseph.

Reverend Pinkney’s voice has resonated for years fighting against the takeover of Benton Harbor, Michigan by Harbor Shores and Whirlpool Corporation. Whirlpool is a 16 billion dollar company; its heir apparent is Rep. Fred Upton, who has served for 28 years in the Michigan House. Benton Harbor, whose population is 95% Black and is one of the poorest per capita towns in America, has been outsourced (Whirlpool sent hundreds of jobs overseas) and gentrified (Whirlpool bought public land on the cheap to build a 5-star PGA golf resort and million dollar condos). Whirlpool pays no State or Federal taxes, but the appointed mayor borrowed 3.2 million on the back of the poor taxpayers of Benton Harbor!

Please support Rev. Edward Pinkney by attending the April 14 hearing at 8:30 am at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan and by donating to his #FreePinkneyCampaign legal defense fund at www.bhbanco.org or by mailing a check/money order to 1940 Union Ave.; Benton Harbor, MI 49022.

Follow news about Rev. Pinkney’s case on Twitter @FreeRevPinkney.

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WAITING FOR BERRIEN COUNTY, MI TO DELIVER JUSTICE!

This is an eye-witness report on the Rev. Edward Pinkney Motions Hearing held February 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm in St. Joseph, MI at the Berrien County Courthouse.

Once again, on a cold, crisp, sunny day activists from around the country packed the courtroom in anticipation of the hearing on motions in the case of Reverend Edward Pinkney. Approximately 80 individuals sat in Courtroom 194 while another 80 listened to the proceedings from the overflow Courtroom 193. Others present and presiding were Judge Sterling Schrock, Prosecutor Michael Sepic, Attorney for the Defense Tat Parrish, ACLU Attorney Mark Fancher, and Attorney John Smietanka.

Conspicuously missing was local media. No newspapers or radio/news stations were present to cover the hearing. However, Editor Sandy Reid and Photo Editor/Photographer Daymon Hartley from the Peoples’ Tribune, an independent publication based in Chicago, were present.

At 1:25 pm, Attorney Tat Parrish and Edward Pinkney entered the courtroom. Rev. Pinkney’s hands were shackled. Once seated, the spectators gave the Rev. a standing ovation and some clapped. Immediately, a deputy warned that the judge will clear the courtroom at any further disruption. The judge then entered the courtroom.

Rev. Pinkney appeared to be in good spirits as he surveyed the room, nodding to his supporters and smiling his spunky smile indicating his positivity and appreciation for those in attendance and his loving expression directed toward his wife Dorothy, who sat in the front row only about 12 feet from her husband.

Judge Sterling Schrock entered the courtroom and advised that there were five motions before him and he would address them in this order:

  1. Directed Verdict
  2. Invalid Sentencing
  3. New Trial – Decided at an Evidentiary Hearing (judge indicated he will discuss this later)
  4. Restitution
  5. Bond Pending Appeal

The judge informed attorneys that he would only hear arguments other than those that were presented in the briefs.

Directed Verdict Motion

Attorney Parrish argued that there were several misstatements in several motions presented by the prosecutor (one involving domestic violence, which was false). The judge acknowledged the misstatements.

Parrish argued that there was more than sufficient evidence (stating that there was actually no evidence) established beyond a reasonable doubt that Pinkney changed dates on petitions. He argued that the prosecutor’s claim of circumstantial evidence does not hold up and the dates could have been changed by any number of people.

Attorney Parrish then clearly defined and summarized his argument:

  • No satisfactory evidence
  • Handwriting expert testimony could not establish who changed dates
  • No witnesses
  • No confession
  • Over 3-4 days before Pinkney was charged, the petitions were in several individuals’ hands
  • Sufficient evidence that someone else could have made changes per several witnesses called by the defense
  • Burden of proof is on the prosecution
  • No clear motive established
  • Pinkney’s First Amendment right was violated (here the judge interrupted Parish and declared that this was not an issue)
  • No legitimate claim that Pinkney was an aider and abettor
  • Prosecutor submitted no circumstantial evidence that was reliable and specific that could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Cited the unpublished decision of People vs Hall (Hall was charged with misdemeanors of forging signatures while Pinkney was charged with felonies of changing dates) and Parish argued that per the doctrine in law, the court must avoid absurd results such as charging Pinkney’s alleged offenses as felonies

During Attorney Parrish’s argument, Judge Schrock interrupted him several times reiterating that he did not want to hear arguments that were already submitted in the brief. However, Parrish fought back by asking the judge to allow him to summarize.

Prosecutor Mike Sepic took the podium and remarked that he was not going to “rehash the circumstantial evidence” and that, when the motive was aligned with the evidence, it was clear the Pinkney committed the crime of changing the dates. Sepic also argued that he and the jury felt that the defense witnesses’ testimonies were completely fabricated by Edward Pinkney!

Sepic also argued that the legislature gives the right to change misdemeanors to felonies.

The judge then ruled that there had to be sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and the jury made its decision. Judge was not disposed to interfere with the jury’s conclusion; therefore, on totality of evidence, Judge Schrock dismissed the first motion of Directed Verdict. Motion denied.

Invalid Sentencing Motion

Attorney Parrish argued that the scoring of points in regard to the psychological injury to Mayor Hightower had no sensible basis for the conclusion and that the multiple offender stance was invalid citing that Mr. Cornelius was also involved in the recall petitioning, but Cornelius was charged with duplicate signatures (accusations of which Pinkney was not charged).

Parrish and Schrock debated the claim that sufficient signatures were handed in even after any signatures were deleted and dates were changed.

Judge Schrock stated that both signatures and dates would have to be eliminated in order for sentencing to change. However, if the Court of Appeals rules otherwise, then he would reconsider.

Motion was denied.

New Trial Motion

Judge Schrock confirmed that the “way Prosecutor Sepic answered the plea filed by Attorney Parrish determines that we have to have an evidentiary hearing.”

Parish gave no argument.

Sepic stated that there was no challenge for cause in his opinion.

The judge then allowed juror Gail Freehling’s Attorney Smietanka to address the court.

Attorney Smietanka took an angry stance before the judge and stated that this was an unusual situation and one in which Ms. Freehling had never before been in. He advised the court that Pinkney’s supporters were attacking Freehling on social media calling her names such as “lying racist.”

Smietanka cited three issues that need to be addressed:

  1. Fair trial by jury
  2. Public and defendant fair protection of due process
  3. Right of any citizen called to jury duty not to be slandered or libeled

Smietanka advised the court that Freehling offered to allow anyone to speak with her through Attorney Smietanka, she did not lie, she did not shirk her jury duty, and she is not a racist. Smietanka argued that Freehling is at the mercy of the court.

Judge Schrock ruled that he could not make determination of statements made without evidence and that he was surprised that no briefs had been filed. Schrock, therefore, felt he could not avoid settling this motion without an evidentiary hearing which must take place before Schrock could rule on a new trial motion.

An evidentiary hearing was set for April 14, 2015 at 8:30 am in Berrien County.

Restitution Motion

This motion involves whether Mayor Hightower deserves restitution for psychological injury as a result of the recall election events and whether he should be reimbursed for lost wages (as Hightower claims he had to use paid time off [PTO] to attend the trial that could otherwise have been used for vacation or other personal reasons).

Prosecutor Sepic argued that there was enough evidence to rule. However, Attorney Parrish argued that Hightower is on salary; therefore, there were no lost wages. Also, Hightower claimed five days of PTO rather than the 1.5 hours Hightower actually spent in the courtroom. He also questioned the $1,061 Hightower claimed as his recall expenses.

Judge Schrock ruled that he needed more evidence that what is claimed in the motion and the problem is mostly with the dollar amount and whether Hightower can claim restitution for PTO used.

Judge ruled an extension of restitution hearing will take place at the Evidentiary Hearing on April 14.

Bond Pending Appeal Motion

Attorney Parrish argued that decision should still be made on the following legitimate issues:

  • Extent of circumstantial evidence
  • Misdemeanors vs. felonies argument
  • Statute is remedy/substantive defense
  • Juror perjury claim

Parrish told the court that Pinkney is not a probation problem and he is not a flight risk (here, Parrish cited letters Schrock recently received from two mayors from nearby Michigan communities stating support for Pinkney’s release on bond), and if the Court of Appeals ruled in defendant’s favor, then Pinkney would have unjustly spent time in prison. Therefore, Pinkney should be released on bond pending appeal.

Judge Schrock disagreed and stated that Pinkney was duly convicted by a jury and that opinions of the individuals (mayors) who wrote the two letters were not relevant.

Parrish also argued:

  • Pinkney threatens no harm to community
  • Prison is 500 miles from Benton Harbor putting undue hardship on the family and Pinkney’s counsel in contacting and working with their client
  • Unfair to blame Pinkney for actions and words of his supporters
  • Court should give an appearance of justice

At this point, Judge Schrock allowed ACLU-MI Attorney Mark Fancher to present arguments based on the amicus brief filed by the ACLU. Fancher’s arguments were extensive and succinct as he asked the court to consider some realistic possibilities:

  • Court of Appeals has previously ruled controversially on the issue of definition of a felony offense
  • Current statutes are written in vague language
  • Legislature defines statute, not common law
  • It is unconstitutional to rule on motions that are not defined clearly
  • Need to ask the question: Was it intent of legislature to penalize? Warning language in both statutes cited was identical.
  • Realistic possibility exists that there is no statutory basis for Pinkney’s conviction per Court of Appeals; therefore, time spent in prison will be unjust
  • If Court of Appeals rules in favor of prosecution, then defendant serves the necessary time
  • Motion involving the juror Gail Freehling lends enough questionability to case to release on bond pending appeal

Sepic interrupted and argued by citing a Supreme Court case regarding “challenge of cause.” It is a predisposition that Parrish takes in claiming a connection between juror and county clerk that Sepic argued is simply not there.

Judge stated here that releasing on bond awaiting appeal is highly unusual when conviction has been made by a jury. He also stated the following as reasoning for not ruling to issue bond:

  • Pinkney has significant ties to the community
  • Harm to the community is, however, minimal
  • Regarding administration of justice, Pinkney has nine convictions of interfering with an election (five in 2014 and four in 2007)
  • Pinkney was not rehabilitated in 2007 while serving his sentence
  • Voter ID laws come into play
  • Minimal risk to communities, but still may be some risk present
  • ACLU makes interesting points; however, those issues are for Court of Appeals to address
  • Schrock has to follow trial rules
  • Trial courts may not speculate about statutes, statements of law given by prior court of appeals (such as People vs. Hall) or language of statutes

Motion for Bond denied.

Attorney Parrish requested Judge Schrock to order the prison system to hold Pinkney in a prison closer to home.

Judge Schrock said he would make his preference be known to house defendant in nearby prison; however, it was not in his jurisdiction to make such a demand. Ultimate decision would be not the judge’s, but the prison system’s.

Court was adjourned.

During the proceedings, a Department of Corrections guard surveyed the spectators constantly as he stood behind Rev. Pinkney. This guard would motion occasionally (at least three times during the proceedings) to the deputy standing across the courtroom. Upon a nod, the deputy would approach a spectator and warn that he/she could be removed from courtroom for whatever reason. About halfway through the proceedings, the deputy approached a Michigan University professor and warned him not to make eye contact with the defendant again or he would be removed from the court. Later, in speaking with Professor Dr. James Anderson (who has been present at most of the court proceedings from the trial through this hearing), he commented, as many of us nodded in agreement, “The ACLU lawyer’s presentation was the legal highlight of this hearing.”

At least 80 individuals attempted to hold a peaceful demonstration outside the courthouse immediately following the hearing. However, the demonstrators were told to disperse as they were on private property and were not allowed to even demonstrate on the sidewalk (as we were after the December 2014 sentencing). People wore t-shirts bearing “Free Pinkney” and carried signs with various statements such as Black Lives Matter, Stop Whirlpool, and No Justice-No Peace.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Rev. Edward Pinkney was taken to Coldwater Prison, which is approximately 100 miles east and south of Benton Harbor. As of March 1, it is uncertain whether Pinkney will remain in Coldwater or be returned to Marquette Prison.

Rev. Pinkney called his wife from Coldwater the evening of his February 27th hearing. He is still in good spirits and asked her to express his gratitude for the support he is receiving, and he urges everyone to keep fighting, keep boycotting, and keep spreading the word about criminal injustice, rampant corruption and crimes against humanity committed by this justice system, especially by Judge Sterling Schrock, Prosecutor Mike Sepic, and Sheriff Paul Bailey.

The next court date of April 14 at 8:30 am must be attended by not hundreds, but thousands of supporters from around the country, even from around the world if at all possible. The evidence to be heard against the tainted juror has the potential to implode this case and expose the corruption of Berrien County, Michigan, the Michigan justice system and the undue influence and intimidation tactics used by the Whirlpool Corporation and officials of Berrien County for personal gain and profit at the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised.

A #FreePinkneyCampaign has been established to raise $14,000 by 4/14 to cover legal and prison expenses for Rev. Edward Pinkney. If just 1000 individuals donate $14, we can raise $14,000. Will you give up a few lattes or a lunch out this week and give $14 to the Pinkney Legal Defense Fund instead? It would be a great thing to do, and you would be contributing to a man whom I liken to Dr. Martin Luther King. Both King and Pinkney display the fire and spunk and “never give up” attitude that is needed for great leadership today.

Please go to bhbanco.org to donate via PayPal or mail a check or money order to: Rev. Edward Pinkney; 1940 Union Avenue; Benton Harbor, MI 49022.

You can also support Rev. Pinkney by writing to him at:

Lakeland Correctional Facility; Rev. Edward Pinkney #294671; 141 First Street; Coldwater, MI 49036.

If you are on Twitter, please follow @FreeRevPinkney for updates, to hear Rev. Pinkney on radio shows and more.

 

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“If You’re Not Scared, You’re Not Paying Attention”

Mark Naison of the Badass Teachers Association, of which I am proud to be a member, posted this on Facebook on September 20, 2014:

Fascism American style begins in the schools. With a systematic program to take the pride and agency from teachers so they can become willing instruments to beat down and demoralize the next generation of students. It is taking place in every state, supported by both parties. Because it is the nation’s largest Corporations driving the agenda, as they did in the fascist states of the past. It you’re not scared, you are not paying attention. http://goo.gl/ZzzT1a

While the Middle East becomes more explosive daily, and as President Obama hopefully fends off the bastions of war, we are battling a different kind of war right here in the USA. We are waging a battle against the rebels here in our country. Those rebels are the heavily-armed foundations of the Gates, the Waltons, and the Broads to name three of the most powerful.  These foundations are waging a war-like corporate takeover of our public schools, our teachers, our students, and our parents of those children.

Mark Naison is correct; we are fighting a fascist war against the oligarchs. These powerful foundations are buying up media, buying favors of politicians, even buying the support from the NEA and AFT. A site called DonorsChoose.org is funded by Bill Gates, perniciously aiding teachers with projects (from technology to basic supplies like markers and paper) in order to gain teachers’ admiration. Gates is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. Some are waking up to this horrible nightmare, but some are still in denial.

Teachers, parents, activists, and students are fighting back, but it is a fight that is extremely unbalanced.  Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, determined to destroy teachers by undermining their moral code and their right to due process with statements such as “tenure is permanent, lifetime employment,” http://goo.gl/a2cSrw or Michelle Rhee, who made millions off StudentsFirst (her brainchild) but has recently stepped down as its CEO http://goo.gl/Mw5LcR or Arnie Duncan, Secretary of Education since 2009, who clearly has no empathy for special education children with this statement, “We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” http://goo.gl/lrVLvy along with the billions poured into “reform” by the “reformers,” the battle lines have been drawn.

You may think calling this reform fascist is harsh, but consider this: the corporations and billionaire benefactors that hitch conditions onto their funding are ruining the lives of schoolchildren across America, especially the poor and the minorities. They are destroying the reputations of good teachers and forcing experienced, often minority, teachers out of the profession (as witnessed by the Vergara case in California)and the harm Campbell Brown has brought to the already overloaded court system The Vergara case is just one example that is indicative of the vitriolic rhetoric slung at teachers and our public schools. And these cases, along with every other aspect of this “reform,” are connected to and heavily funded by the wealthiest, non-educators in America such as as Bill Gates and Eli Broad. http://goo.gl/PtnFhT

Teach for America (TFA) sends novices with Bachelor degrees into school districts the reformers have labeled as “failing.” TFA recruits are looking at a “commitment” of spending 2-5 years in urban schools as a type of Peace Corps, a way to build their resumes, a goody-two-shoes stepping stone to entrepreneurship that will eventually bring them solid futures of fortune and happiness. It is more than unfortunate that TFA is replacing many experienced teachers with graduates who receive only five weeks of training to prepare them for teaching in urban schools. In fact, it is a travesty. http://goo.gl/0mlQOt

The Common Core standards, written by Governors, legislators, and others mostly whom never worked in the field of education in any capacity, have been the cornerstone to removing logic from the instruction of mathematics and critical thinking, analysis from the study of literature. http://goo.gl/cg0KhJ

The well-publicized line of Common Core’s co-founder David Coleman, another non-educator, “No one gives a s**t what you think or feel” is analyzed by edublog here: http://goo.gl/O8Le3x

The most recent fight includes the activism of teachers, students, and parents across the nation in opting out of standardized testing. Not only are students, from Kindergarten through high school, being tested, tested, and tested again, but up to 50% of teacher effectiveness is evaluated based on students’ test scores. Scores of problems have arisen from this flawed practice. Teachers fear not teaching to the tests and frequently teachers are judged by scores of students they have not even taught. According to depending on the school district, students can spend as many as 17 hours per school year on standardized testing alone. http://goo.gl/bch839

Finally, charter schools, unlike public schools, have little or no accountability measures in place, so everything goes unchecked from the salaries of the charter CEOs (many are six figure salaries) to certification of their teachers to textbooks and lessons (few charters follow Common Core standards). Many Charters also notoriously take in special education and ESL children, but take a “no excuses” stance and often have no special education staffing to ensure these children’s needs are met. Public funds are funneled to the charters, the children charters cannot accommodate are returned to public schools, and charters retain the allotted funding. Public schools, already lacking in needed resources and funding, are forced even deeper into the quagmire of teaching all children with limited resources. Charters are not more successful; statistics are skewed so that the rhetoric sounds great until you dig deeper. Charter schools are a colossal all-around failure. http://goo.gl/JRhYYt and we must not ignore the fraud and corruption: http://goo.gl/Hs6xMR

Even though FDR told us “You have nothing to fear but fear itself,” we do need to have fear of this fascist privatization. Fear will spur us to critical thinking that will lead us to activism against the faux education reform. Go on Facebook where you will find several organizations you can join and learn from, attend rallies and protests in your city, write regularly to your legislators in opposition of whatever aspect of reform is taking hold in your state. Get active. Join the fight.

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Education Reform 101

           charter school cubicles

There are some basics behind the “education reform” that touts more choices, better scores, brighter futures for our children.  Here’s a guide to education reform 101 that every American should know:

1)  BIG money is behind this movement to privatize our public institutions, especially our public schools in urban settings.  Money has been poured into this operation and big money will be had by an elite few, and this for profit scheme can only be had on the backs of our children, our teachers, our taxpayers.  Funding started with then Gov. Jeb Bush who organized bi-partisan governors to begin this process with the financial assistance of many, but the biggest players have been Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Eli Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation.  Bill Gates, alone, has sunk at least $150 MILLION into this project.  The Common Core National Standards (CCNS) were written in the early ’90s by mostly legislators, CEOs, and foundation leaders with little input from educators, public school administrators, students, or parents.  The failure of President George Bush’s utopian No Child Left Behind and the inclusion of President Obama’s Race to the Top grants (for States) that are tied to mandatory adoption of Common Core have taken us down a slippery slope of for-profit charter schools, voucher programs that re-create segregation in our schools, novice teachers sent into urban settings with too little training or desire to make teaching their career, and a monopoly of profits for select education and testing companies and all put profits before children.

2)  Private charter schools have long been touted as better able to prepare our students for the future, to be better in math and science, and to be college-ready.  However, all roads leading to the majority of charters come to a dead end.  Charters do not perform better and when they do appear to out-perform public schools, it is because charters test only the brightest, most studious students who may be great test-takers while public schools test ALL students including the disabled, English language learners, at-risk, poor, and minority students.  And, still, public school test-takers out-perform charters.  Why?  Because public schools and teachers are NOT failing and testing results can be skewed to match the desired results of the “reformers.”

3)   There is a problem with both U.S. national and international assessments given to all students in America , BUT many of the “top-performing” students are hand-picked in other countries.  These practices skew the results.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was established in the 1970s and set up to “assess any goal area for which schools devote . . .’15-20% of their time…, [the] less tangible areas, as well as the customary areas, in a fashion the public can grasp and understand.’” Richard Rothstein, February 2014: http://www.epi.org/blog/strong-precedent-accountability-system/  According to Mr. Rothstein, students were tested not only on core subjects of math, science, reading, but also on cooperation, commitment to free speech in addition to ” . . .concern for the welfare and dignity of others, supported rights and freedoms of all . . understood problems of international relations, took responsibility for their own personal development, and helped and respect their own families.”  However, in 1974 Congress cut the budget for NAEP in half and the tests gradually were reduced to assessing only in math and reading by 1987.

This leads me to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) that we hear so much about from the education reformers, especially US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  In 2015, 71 countries will give PISA (in reading, math, and science) to 15 and 16-year-old students.  In America, this means PISA is given to all students in this group from “A” students to those with special education needs to students who have behavioral issues to those who struggle learning the English language.  However, other countries choose which students will take these international tests.  Shanghai, for example, where the most affluent live, choose only the best “test-takers” and countries are selective (because PISA is expensive) in which schools and who takes the tests.  Asian countries typically score higher, according to the PISA reports.  However, as Diane Ravitch states:  “The more we focus on tests, the more we kill creativity, ingenuity, and the ability to think differently. Students who think differently get lower scores. The more we focus on tests, the more we reward conformity and compliance, getting the right answer.”  December 2013 http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/03/my-view-of-the-pisa-scores/

4)  So what about all this standardized testing?  We test internationally, nationally, state-wide, regionally, and district-wide in most American schools. According to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), students spend anywhere from 20-50 hours per school year taking state-mandated tests.  Test preparation can take up to 110 additional hours and the cost ranges from $700-$1000 per student.  It is estimated that schools could add anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes of instructional time to each day. Howard Nelson, page 6:  http://www.aft.org/pdfs/teachers/testingmore2013.pdf   So, where does all this testing get us? Does it help students learn? Does testing assist teachers in assessing students’ knowledge?  Or is there something more sinister at work here?

5)  Standardized testing, as dictated by the Common Core National Standards, has been used to declare our experienced public school teachers as incompetent, our students lacking in skills to compete in the global world, and our schools failing.  One principal of a suburban public school of describes how his 3rd-5th grade students are suffering through an English Language Arts (ELA) mandated test by Common Core standards:  “Each day of the ELA testing, I sat down to read the assessments my students were taking. I was appalled at what they were asked to answer and exhausted from reading and rereading passages over and over again. If I as an adult struggled with the task, I can only imagine how my students suffered . . .as I watched my young students, with anguished looks upon their faces, struggling to answer poorly worded and ambiguous questions based on text too difficult for them to comprehend.”

6)  In cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, and Philadelphia fascist governors, mayors and their billionaire pals have succeeded in closing schools and firing teachers. When Arne Duncan was Superintendent of the Chicago Public School System, he closed 44 schools between 2001-2009 and fired many of the staff at those schools.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel shut down some 50 schools in 2013; these school closings affected over 46,000 students.  According to Emmanuel, these 46,000 students would be routed to better schools.  However, according to the Consortium on Chicago School Research, “. . .between 2001 and 2006, most students whose schools were closed by the district re-enrolled in schools that were academically weak. Consortium researchers found that most students lost academic ground in the year their school was slated for closure. And once they were in their new school, they continued on an academic trajectory that was just like the trajectory of the closed school.”  More fact-checking can be found at http://www.wbez.org/news/fact-check-chicago-school-closings-107216

And then, Mr. Duncan announced in an interview in 2010, ” I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.  That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better.’ And the progress that they’ve made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable.”  However, the facts do not support Arne’s premise.  A New Orleans reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog commented, “The New Orleans reformed school district ranked 69 out of 70 of all the school districts in the state taking mandated standardized tests last spring. Equally as disturbing, the high poverty schools in the reformed school district in New Orleans scored lower than the high poverty schools in several cities across Louisiana in 11 of 12 areas tested.  The bottom line is that despite the billions of dollars from the federal government and foundations, firing of all those old bad teachers, no teacher union and no local elected school board the New Orleans reforms failed miserably.”  July 2012  http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/26/how-new-orleans-did-not-get-turned-around/

7)  While all this closing of public schools has been occurring, a company called Teach for America (TFA) emerged.  TFA has been waiting and willing to take on the task of sending novice college graduates into urban school settings and out-teach the experienced teachers.  In fact, the likes of Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp (founder of TFA), and many others have been busily recruiting young college graduates (with degrees in any field) to become urban schoolteachers.  But, you may ask how can that be?  College graduates who have not received a teaching certificate, taken no special classes for future teachers, have spent no time in a classroom as a student teacher paired with an experienced mentor are sent into urban schools?  How can that possibly be?  Well, TFA recruits young people who a) do not know what they want to do now that they’ve graduated with that art history, mass media, or business administration degree  b)  want to be entrepreneurs, start new businesses, but are not quite ready to jump into the business world feet first or c) think maybe they could spend a couple years in a classroom; it would look great on their resume to launch them into a future career in the business world.  TFA gives each recruit five, yes 5, weeks of training to be “prepared” to be successful in reaching the minority children, the poor, the special education needs children, the disabled in schools that are under-funded, crumbling physically, have too few computers and textbooks, and have class sizes ranging from 25-40!  Sounds like a winner, doesn’t it?  But, don’t take my word for it.  Here are excerpts from TFA alumni:

“TFA teachers may have been sold tall tales of being able to correct educational injustice in the two-year commitment, but Wendy Kopp has acknowledged “I know we are not going to change the education system with people teaching for two years. That’s not what we are trying to do.” Then what, educator, are you trying to do? What is your purpose? Urban schools and classrooms don’t need hyped-up heroes who burn out before their fire really gets going. . . the impacts the organization claims to have are likely gross exaggerations. (I’m not buying claims of 2.6 extra months of math growth.) And I do not support some of the directions and choices the organization makes. But that’s why I’ve also chosen to be a critical friend to the organization. Somebody has to tell TFA, in a way they can hear it, when their stuff stinks. Might as well be me.” Camika Royal November 2013  http://magazine.good.is/articles/i-won-t-say-don-t-join-teach-for-america-yet

“I entered the program with an open mind, but grew concerned as I learned TFA’s framework. At TFA’s summer Institute, corps members are told that TFA has studied the characteristics and practices of good teachers for the last twenty years and that they now have the recipe for reproducing quality teachers. However, TFA is unknowingly working within a false sense of reality and thereby creates a recipe that fosters disillusionment and burnout. Corps members come to TFA with no pedagogical or methods training, no specific content training and are told that if they simply follow the TFA system and work really hard that success will be had. The naivety of believing that standardized formulaic teaching will always result in success in every classroom across the country is indicative of individuals who have no experience with pedagogy and it sets the stage for disillusionment. . . TFA’s Academic Impact Model (AIM) holds that at the root of every student’s success or failure is solely a teacher. . . .that the foundational building block of student outcomes are a teacher’s skills, mindsets and beliefs (that) are then manifested as “teacher actions.” TFA then argues that all student actions in and outside of the classroom are informed by their teacher’s actions. It is then student actions that cause academic success or failure. It is by the AIM that corps members are told to evaluate their worth. . .(AIM) is in violation with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in claiming that teachers can cause effective learning despite the physiological, safety, belonging, and self esteem issues students face.”  February 2012  Jameson Brewer (via Anthony Cody blog) http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/02/hyper-accountability_burnout_a.html

From my research into TFA, I can only conclude that recruiting college graduates in any field, without any pedagogical training, offering them a mere (and I might add, ineffective) five weeks of training, then expecting these TFA recruits to perform miracles in urban settings (where we find the poorest, most neediest students) is a great disservice both to the TFA recruits and the public school students.  To add to that, the vast majority of TFA graduates spend only one to two years in those urban school settings before moving on to other careers (often in law or politics).  This is harmful to our children and to teachers.

8)  Experienced, dedicated public school teachers are a target of Teach for America.  These temporary TFA teachers have been replacing experienced teachers across America in our urban schools.  Teacher unions have been hit hard, teacher tenure is under fire, and experienced teachers have been fired only to be replaced by novices from TFA.  My conclusion is that school districts, strapped for cash as public funding is drained from public schools to fund private charter schools and to purchase  computers and programs mandated by Common Core, have fallen into this trap of replacing valued teachers with temporary, revolving door TFA recruits who are ill-equipped to meet or understand the needs of our most at-risk students.  The outcome for this generation of children and for the USA will not be pretty.

College students have become activists against the proliferation of TFA.  Two such groups are Students Resisting TFA (http://studentsresistingtfa.k12newsnetwork.com/resources/) and Students United for Public Education (https://www.facebook.com/StudentsUnitedForPublicEducation).

Some school districts are well aware of the harm TFA can reek on their children and teachers.  Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5 School Board voted in December 2013 to rescind its TFA contract and to reverse the decision of the previous school board to close the school. “A vote halting the process to close Woolslair passed 8-1, with Mr. Isler opposed. The old board had voted 6-3 to begin the process.”  http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2013/12/18/Pittsburgh-board-reverses-on-Teach-for-America-contract/stories/201312180142#ixzz2y8MAllYZ

9)  In addition to the false reasoning of Bill Gates, the Waltons, the Broads, Rupert Murdoch, President Obama, Jeb Bush, Arne Duncan, etal that damages the bedrock of the institution of public schools, the charter schools are bring in tremendous profits.  Profits for whom?  Microsoft, Pearson Education (the company that writes all the new tests to align with Common Core standards), InBloom (that is currently in the process of becoming approved to collect all personal data of each child from pre-k through 12th grade-information that will be available to the government and future employers as well as presumably to sell all that data to companies desiring to learn consumer habits).  Other profiteers are the many leaders of franchise charter schools (such as Success Academy, KIPP, Rocketship, and Harlem Village Academy to name a few).  Most private charter leaders earn at least half a million annually!

arne-duncan-and-obama-love-school-testing

Our children are not for sale and we must urge every parent, grandparent, teacher, citizen to become vocal about the for-profit corporate takeover of public schools.  Poverty is the number one reason children fail in school.  No child can think clearly or focus on learning with a hungry stomach or who has experienced abuse at home or bullying at school.  No child can focus on learning if he/she is cold or hungry or frightened.  Happy children who feel safe, wanted, cared for, who are warm with full tummies can learn to the best of their potential and become future citizens who have the education required to find/create opportunities for generations to come.  Let’s be sure America guarantees that for every child!

Where/how should our public resources be spent?  Public resources must be used to:

*strengthen communities

*teach parents how to help their children

*offer on-going training for the dedicated teachers

*provide after-school programs to keep children safe

*purchase enough textbooks and computers for every child to end the practice of having only a few books per classroom or one computer for an impoverished urban school

*keep class sizes low to precipitate better learning

*hire enough specialists to handle the at-risk and special needs of students

*provide basic health services to students who do not have easy access to healthcare

*give each child (regardless of race, religion or social status) an equal opportunity for a top-rated American education

I welcome your comments.  Please follow me on Twitter @pollyhughes10 and @fictionslayer and read more articles at againstausterity.org/articles-media.

Additional Sources:
Joanne Barkan 2011 http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/got-dough-how-billionaires-rule-our-schools

Teach for America falls short in special education December 2013
http://www.idahoednews.org/voices/teach-for-america-falls-short-in-special-education/

Professor: Change name of charter schools to ‘corporate’ or ‘franchise’ schools http://www.mlive.com/education/index.ssf/2011/09/professor_change_name_of_chart.html

Larry Miller’s Blog: Educate All Students! https://millermps.wordpress.com/category/rocketship/

Children in Classroom Raising Hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Join UFAA in Fight Against TPA (Fast Track) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Before It’s Too Late

There is much debate over the Trans-Pacific Authority (or Fast Track) that President Obama is pushing for bi-partisan support in Congress.  This would allow the president to negotiate trade agreements and then bring them to Congress for a quick up or down vote (within 90 days of receipt of the agreement) with only the allowance of 20 hours of debate plus no amendments or filibustering allowed.  This hands over too much authority to any president, but especially in light of the fact that negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been taking place for the past few years without Congress; however, the TPP working document is viewable and negotiated by about 600 “trade advisors” (corporations).

Recently, a Congressional committee was allowed to read the TPP, but members were not allowed to make copies, take notes, or even discuss what they had read.  In fact, they could not discuss it at all with their colleagues.

What’s in the TPP?  Well, read on if you are NOT willing to:

*pay even more for prescription medicines

* abandon “Buy American” programs

* put up with more restrictions/censors on internet usage

* pay more for gasoline

* allow foreign companies to sue U.S. companies and government

* give up all food safety

* to allow even more protections for “too big to fail” banks

* work for lower wages

* watch more American jobs be sent overseas

* buy clothing made from children in Vietnam at .28/hour wages

* allow foreign companies to be exempt from environmental regulations

WikiLeaks has been able to release some chapters of the TPP, but citizens, along with the majority in Congress, do not have full access to this free trade agreement.

The TPP is being negotiated with those corporate “trade advisors” and governmental leaders of the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan.  Protests have occurred all across America as well as other countries, especially Japan.

TPP appears to be a corporate takeover of a global proportion.  Please join the many individuals and organizations committed to stopping both fast track and TPP, along with other free trade agreements that are being negotiated in secrecy.

Please learn more about the common sense solution offered by United Front Against Austerity.  A 15% protective tariff on imports would save American jobs and wages as well as ensure that we have a fair trade market.  President McKinley said, “Under free trade, the trader is the master and the producer the slave.”  Let’s bring manufacturing back to America, along with myriad of other jobs we’ve lost due to NAFTA over the past two decades, with a protective tariff.  Read more at againstausterity.org/tariff

It is crucial to act immediately as we do not know when this will be up for a vote, but it could happen very soon  as three senators (Max Baucus, Orrin Hatch, and Dave Camp) have already introduced legislation to pass TPA fast track.  We need to stop TPA first and then rally loudly against upcoming trade agreements.

Please write letters to your editors, call/email/tweet/visit your Representatives and Senators, and join or organize protests.  There are many tools available.  Please see the sources below for further information.

Sources & More Information:

https://wikileaks.org/tpp/#start

http://www.stopfasttrack.com/#pda

http://action.cwa-union.org/c/1372/letter/?letter_KEY=244

http://www.flushthetpp.org/

https://www.citizen.org/TPP

nder free trade the trader is the master and the producer the slave. – See more at: http://againstausterity.org/tariff#sthash.2AVruGPr.dpuf
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