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Social(ism) Justice Lessons

Teacher union progressives seek to socialize our country, but the Koch brothers have other plans.

The recent teacher union conventions were full of self-pity, angst and anger over the Vergara and Harris legal decisions. Unfortunately that’s not all they concerned themselves with. The union avatars explored various progressive schemes with the intention of dragging us all into their brave new world.

The ugliest moment for liberty came during the “Social Movement Unionism vs. Corporate Reform: Winning Strategies to Turn the Tide” panel at the American Federation of Teachers’ convention. As reported by class warrior Lauren Steiner in the LA Progressive, “It featured six union officials from LA, New York, Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Paul sharing their efforts to bring the wider community into their organizing and the various successes they’ve had.”

What’s scary about this bunch is that not only do they work hard to keep many children from getting a solid education by demanding that 50s-era, industrial-style union work rules remain in place, they also envision a socialist America. Alex Caputo-Pearl, recently elected president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, is perhaps the most radical of all. A proud community organizer, he has been active in various local issues and leftist politics. Within the union, he co-founded Progressive Educators for Action. His other “accomplishments” include working to kill a charter effort to reform wretched Crenshaw High School where he was a teacher, playing a role in building the national “Resisting Teach for America” network (TFA is a dangerous part of the privatization movement, doncha know) and as leader of the “Bus Riders Union” (and no, I did not make that up). Caputo-Pearl so believes in his mission and his own self-importance that he illegally ditched some of his teaching responsibilities while campaigning to become UTLA boss.

Randi Weingarten was not scheduled to be on the panel but showed up nonetheless. Excited by the collectivist bombast, she proclaimed that if the union can advance its progressive programs, it will make every child and parent say, “I need those unions and teachers to be what they are for us.”

The union boss then echoed her own socialist leanings, claiming that her goal is to “create an economy that works for all” and proceeded to outline essential policy proposals that the AFT would advocate for, which included,

… growing the labor movement and reviving collective bargaining; increasing retirement security; easing the burden of student debt; funding a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, universal early childhood education, and full, equitable funding for all schools ….

She also highlighted the AFT’s work “to invest union member pension funds in infrastructure and create 150,000 good jobs.”

Creating good jobs?! How ya gonna do that, Randi? Socialists aren’t very good at that sort of thing. They are good at redistributing money – taking it from Peter and giving it to Paul (and Robert and Joan and Bill and…), but not creating meaningful work for anybody. But I have just the solution, so please sit down or you may fall over. The answer is – are you ready, Randi? – the Koch brothers!

Unknown to many, the Kansas-based industrialists founded Youth Entrepreneurs in 1991. Its mission is to “provide students with business and entrepreneurial education and experiences to help them prosper and become contributing members of society.” Joy Resmovits and Christina Wilkie wrote “Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students,” an extended piece about the project for Huffington Post, Despite the snarky title and several snide comments in the body of the piece, the article is actually quite informative.

In the spring of 2012, Spenser Johnson, a junior at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas, was unpacking his acoustic bass before orchestra practice when a sign caught his eye. ‘Do you want to make money?’ it asked.

The poster encouraged the predominantly poor students at Highland Park to enroll in a new, yearlong course that would provide lessons in basic economic principles and practical instruction on starting a business. Students would receive generous financial incentives including startup capital and scholarships after graduation. The course would begin that fall. Johnson eagerly signed up.

In some ways, the class looked like a typical high school business course, taught in a Highland Park classroom by a Highland Park teacher. But it was actually run by Youth Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit group created and funded primarily by Charles G. Koch, the billionaire chairman of Koch Industries.

The official mission of Youth Entrepreneurs is to provide kids with ‘business and entrepreneurial education and experiences that help them prosper and become contributing members of society.’ The underlying goal of the program, however, is to impart Koch’s radical free-market ideology to teenagers….

Lesson plans and class materials obtained by The Huffington Post make the course’s message clear: The minimum wage hurts workers and slows economic growth. Low taxes and less regulation allow people to prosper. Public assistance harms the poor. Government, in short, is the enemy of liberty.

… During the 2012-2013 school year, YE’s credit-bearing class reached more than 1,000 students in 29 schools in Kansas and Missouri, according to the group’s annual report. Vernon Birmingham, YE’s director of curriculum and teacher support, told HuffPost that the course will be in 42 schools in the coming school year. An offshoot in Atlanta, YE Georgia, reported being in 10 schools in the 2011-2012 school year. Since 2012, YE has also launched three major new initiatives: an online version of its course, an affiliate program to help rural schools access the class, and an after-school program, YE Academy, which served more than 500 students in its first year.

While the Kochs’ program advances the notion that anyone can become prosperous, the left promotes victimhood and resentment as it blathers ad nauseum about the haves and have-nots, “two Americas” and the evil and greedy one percenters. What the left refuses to acknowledge is that we are still an upwardly mobile and fluid nation. As pointed out in an excellent piece in the New York Times,

It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect. The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. (This is just as true at the bottom of the income distribution scale, where 54 percent of Americans will experience poverty or near poverty at least once between the ages of 25 and 60).

… Rather than talking about the 1 percent and the 99 percent as if they were forever fixed, it would make much more sense to talk about the fact that Americans are likely to be exposed to both prosperity and poverty during their lives, and to shape our policies accordingly. As such, we have much more in common with one another than we dare to realize. (Emphasis added.)

Hence, we have the Koch brothers trying to instill in its students a sense of independence, a can-do spirit, a solid work ethic and the importance of good business acumen. And our teacher union leaders are striving to enslave us by raising taxes, killing anything that smells of privatization and waging class warfare.

Now seriously, which lessons do you want your kids to learn?

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Red – and I Do Mean Red – Herrings of the Left

June – Father’s Day, Flag Day, weddings … and loopy ideas on poverty.

Last September I wrote about those who believe that poverty causes ignorance and how we must “fix” poverty before we can fix education. I suggested that maybe, just maybe, a good education is the best antidote to poverty and that school choice is the best way to ensure a good education.

In the ensuing months, having heard little from the “povertists” – who are frequently of the socialist persuasion – I hoped that the lame poverty excuse had disappeared, but silly me. Like a disease that goes into remission but never actually disappears, it’s baaack. With a vengeance.

The pedantic, lifelong socialist Deborah Meier drearily proclaims in Education Week that poverty is the root of all our education woes.

Then there is David Sirota, who at one time was an aide to socialist congressman from Vermont (now socialist senator) Bernie Sanders. Sirota declares that school reformers “are full of it.” Then playing the poverty card, he asserts, “Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces….” Sirota really outdoes himself in the last paragraph of his Salon.com screed, where he lectures us:

Reality, though, is finally catching up with the “reform” movement’s propaganda. With poverty and inequality intensifying, a conversation about the real problem is finally starting to happen. And the more education “reformers” try to distract from it, the more they will expose the fact that they aren’t driven by concern for kids but by the ugliest kind of greed the kind that feigns concerns for kids in order to pad the corporate bottom line.

David Berliner, a longtime povertist, education professor and, not surprisingly, winner of the National Education Association’s Friend of Education award, announces on the California Federation of Teachers website that there is no education crisis, but rather an “unequal economy.”

But just when the socialists’ monotonous rants are beginning to have a narcotizing effect, Karen Lewis comes to the rescue. Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, never misses an opportunity to be offensive. She was in fine form speaking at the City Club of Chicago last week, blaming the Windy City’s education woes on “rich white people.” Perhaps she had to stress “white people” because as an African-American union boss, Lewis has a yearly income of $157,594, which most Americans consider above the “rich” threshold. (Interestingly her second-in-command at CTU, Jesse Sharkey, a leading member of the revolutionary International Socialist Organization, makes “only” $111,762. In the socialist world, how can this disparity exist? And these two really need to have a talk with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, whose total income for 2011 was $560,549. Perhaps this is what Berliner meant when he referred to the “unequal economy.” But I digress….)

Despite the socialists’ tedious mantra, there are facts that disprove every claim they make. For example, charter schools are publicly funded but are much more independent than traditional public schools, and far more often than not, they do a better job of educating the poor. In Chicago’s charters (not unionized), where almost all the students are minority and below the poverty line, they easily outperform traditional public schools. The Illinois Policy Institute informs us that,

Charter school students, like other students in CPS, primarily come from low-income backgrounds (91 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch), represent mostly racial minorities (60 percent African-American, 35 percent Hispanic), and must overcome a range of challenges (9 percent English Language Learners, 12 percent special needs). They are not untouched by the violence plaguing many of the city’s neighborhoods. And, yet, despite all of these obstacles, they are succeeding.

In 2012, charter schools held the top nine spots for open-enrollment, non-selective public high schools in Chicago. Another charter school ended up in a three-way tie for tenth. The Noble Network of Charter Schools led the pack, with a total of nine schools in the top 10, one of which was included in the tie. The average ACT score for charter schools in the top 10 was 20.6, with Noble Network’s UIC College Prep campus scoring 21.9 – the highest-ever average at an open-enrollment, non-selective CPS high school.

Not only are charter schools outperforming their peers on the ACT, a comparison of Chicago’s top 10 charter high schools to the top 10 open-enrollment, non-selective, traditional public high schools shows that charter schools’ pace of improvement is significantly greater. Since 2007, top charter school scores have increased by 17 percent, while the top traditional schools have gained nearly 5 percent.

Where does Ms. Lewis stand on charters? She doesn’t consider them to be “real schools.” As Investor’s Business Daily reports,

Lewis is … no fan of charter schools, despite the fact Chicago’s charters regularly outperform their public school cousins. In 2012, nine of the top 10 performers were charter schools based on the ACT scores of their students.

Of course when you mention things like charter schools, liberals like Lewis say they get to cherry-pick their students. Yet some 60% of Chicago charter-school students are minorities and 35% are Hispanic.

Ninety-one percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Doesn’t sound like cherry-picking to us.

Also, as I wrote last month, more and more parents are favoring vouchers, whereby parents can choose to send their kid to a private school and the funding follows the child.

… the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released the results of a national survey in which mothers (and others) were asked how they viewed vouchers and other forms of school choice. The findings show that moms make up the demographic most likely to favor school vouchers:

… 66 percent of moms with school-age children support vouchers for all students to obtain the best education possible. Mothers with school-age children also have more confidence in private school settings than in traditional public schools.

How have vouchers fared where they have been instituted?

In April, Greg Forster, also of the Friedman Foundation, released the third in a series of reports on school choice which includes vouchers and, to a lesser extent, educational savings accounts and tax credit scholarships: “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.” Just a few of the key findings:

  • Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact.
  • Eight empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of these, seven find that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools. One finds no net effect on segregation from school choice. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation.
  • Seven empirical studies have examined school choice’s impact on civic values and practices such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of these, five find that school choice improves civic values and practices. Two find no visible impact from school choice. No empirical study has found that school choice has a negative impact on civic values and practices. (Emphasis added.)

What is the takeaway here?

Despite what the self-righteous socialists, teachers union leaders and their fellow travelers claim, competition works. When schools compete for students, education gets better. And getting a good education is paramount to getting out of poverty. Those who deny public education’s failings and use poverty as an excuse – no matter what their intentions might be – are working to keep the poor in their place and destroy children’s lives. Shame on them.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

SEIU Intimidates Media, Glorifies Socialist Dictators

Once again the mainstream media and our elected officials have given the SEIU and its ally in the White House (see Puppeteer) a free pass with regards to their socialistic/communist leanings. The recent passing of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez made international news, but very little was heard in the mainstream media from the President or the SEIU.

Despite the fact it was reported that the SEIU celebrated Chavez’s passing as a comrade, very few in the mainstream media stepped forward to expose the SEIU’s Insidious Tentacles  that infiltrate the White House (see SEIU Celebrates Comrade Hugo Chavez and Chavez Celebrated at SEIU Offices in New York).  Why was an organization that has openly demonstrated its communists beliefs by marching with communists in California once again given a free pass (see Communism at the Highest Levels?). Why wasn’t the close relationship between the SEIU and most powerful man on earth, and their close tie to and support of, Hugo Chavez exposed by the media (see SEIU Exposed)?  The only answers can be either, (1) a philosophical agreement, or (2) a fear of retaliation in the form of attacks upon donors or revenue sources such as advertisers in the case of the media.

While the uninformed might find it hard to believe that the media could be bullied by an organization such as the SEIU, we have seen evidence of it recently. As related in The Devil at Our Doorstep, Fox News succumbed to the SEIU’s call for people to boycott Fox’s advertisers unless Fox called off Glenn Beck’s attacks on the SEIU. Glenn Beck, who had arguably the most popular T.V. show in America at the time, was throttled and eventually asked to leave Fox because of these attacks on Fox’s advertisers (reference the SEIU’s site Glenn Beck and Republican Violence).

The fact that the SEIU’s celebration of comrade Chavez’s passing was not even given a mere mention by the mainstream media, and its indiscriminate attack upon Fox News, are perfect examples of the SEIU’s Persuasion of Power. A power condoned by many state and federal politicians, including the present administration, in exchange for political support. The SEIU, representing both private and public employees, is at the forefront of the battle to save the  Gasping Dinosaurs’ from extinction. The SEIU who realizes that Public Unions are the last Hope for Big Labor at America’s Expense has the power and connections in bankrupt states such as California and at the highest level of the federal government to affect policy and ultimately the direction of the American system of government.

While it is understandable that Democratic politicians, whose coffers are funded by SEIU dollars, have remained silent, it is unfathomable that Republican have done the same.  These individuals, who don’t seem to understand it is time to go on the offensive, stood by quietly and let a unique opportunity pass. The Republican party fails to understand that it is time to connect the dots for the American people by presenting a clear picture of organizations like the SEIU, which was instrumental in the President’s re-election, and what it truly represents. Thus, they are failing as a political party and losing their grip on political control in America.

Americans need to wake up to the fact that many politicians including our president buy into the SEIU’s belief of “Social Justice” and ultimately socialism/communism as the future for the United States of America as witnessed in the video Obama and the SEIU Sittin’ in a Tree . This video should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind in what this president believes in and who he supports. Unfortunately, The Problem with Socialism is Socialism. At some point “you run out of other people’s money,” as was so eloquently expressed by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher. It is time for all Americans to connect the dots and realize we have politicians at all levels, especially the current administration, who believe a Chavez-type of government is the most fair and only means of achieving “social justice.” In truth, they could care less about the poor and downtrodden.  Just like Chavez’s regime, all they care about is power and money.

David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.