I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, December 17, 2012

What Has StudentsFirst Ever Done To Improve School Safety?

South Bronx School is a blogger who never minces his words. We could use that right now:
So I decided to check out MichelleRheeFirst Facebook page and came across this little ditty; 

Following today's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the entire StudentsFirst family is mourning with the victims, their families, and the entire community of Newtown, Connecticut. We have offered our colleagues in the state any assistance they may need.

There are no adequate words to express the horror and senseless nature of violence in our schools. It happens far too often in our country.  As a mother myself, I understand the hesitation every parent will feel in the coming days when they kiss their children and send them off to school -- to a place of learning and growth that ought to be a safe haven from violence.
Our children are our most valuable assets, and we lost too many of them today. Today's event forces us to ask ourselves: how are we expected to foster an environment in which students can learn, grow, thrive, and set off on positive life-paths when we cannot guarantee basic needs such as their safety?
 But events like these also strengthen our resolve to do exactly that -- improve schools for children and thereby improve entire communities. The entire StudentsFirst organization -- including the members of our team in Connecticut -- recommit ourselves to that mission today, as we pause to send our thoughts and prayers to those affected in Newtown.
For Rhee and her sycophants to call these teachers in Newtown colleagues is not only laughable, but it is worse. It is vulgar. One of the worst vulgarities I have ever seen. These teachers are career teachers, went into teaching to have a career, a lifetime of education children. Rhee and her ilk stand for everything that is opposite of these two teachers belief systems.
Read the entire thing, and get as angry about this as I am. SBS is right: Rhee and her crew have no right to call educators "colleagues." Rhee was an educational tourist, and she couldn't even tell the truth about her very short career (that never stopped the press from canonizing her, though). And does a "colleague" spend her time taking away the workplace protections - like tenure - of fellow "colleagues"?

But beyond that, here's what really frosts me about Rhee's opportunism: what has StudentsFirst ever done to improve school safety?

Despite her protestations, it's clear that Rhee has taken a sharp right turn in her politics. StudentsFirst overwhelmingly supported Republicans in the last election, including many budget-slashing Tea Partiers. Did the candidates she supported advocate for putting more resources into school safety? And were these same candidates beholden to the NRA, as so many on the right are?

I've never seen SF take up school safety as an issue; that stands in stark contrast to teachers unions, which fight to make schools safe places for teachers to work and, consequently, safe places for students to learn. Take Chicago, where the CTU has highlighted both the problems of poor school safety and the inequitable distribution of safety resources:


Englewood and West Englewood have seen their share of violence -- altogether the neighborhoods had 28 homicides since the start of 2012. Five of the dead were teenagers.
The Chicago Public Schools Progress Report Card shows students deal with violence inside the school as well. Each school receives a safety score that is developed from the responses of at least 50 percent of the school's students. The scores range from a low of 1, held by Edmond Burke Elementary School on the South Side, to a high of 99, held primarily by several schools on the North Side. Fifty-five percent of schools with a quantified safety score had a score below 50.
The rate of misconduct per 100 students shows 9 percent of schools had a rate of misconduct between 50 and 251.6, meaning at least half the students had a 'misconduct' on their record. To tackle this, CPS officials said they recently pioneered a "holistic approach to creating safer and more positive learning environments" which includes retraining security staff, expanding the number of schools that receive security cameras, bringing more CTA Bus Trackers into schools to keep students safe when leaving school, and creating a district-wide safety team.
Advocates have argued many CPS schools in low-income neighborhoods have disproportionately harsh disciplinary policies and have critiqued the district for suspending or expelling students for non-violent infractions like being late or violating dress code. In 2011, CPS spent 15 times more on security guards in schools than on college and career counselors. The numbers, respectively, were $51.4 million compared to $3.5 million.


The strike reflected the impact that segregation has in the city in that it brought people's attention to issues they didn't know about, said Wendy Katten, a CPS parent and member of the Raise Your Hands Coalition, an education advocacy group.
"Parents I've spoken to on the North Side said they learned a lot about issues they didn't know existed," said Katten. "It's easy to be disconnected from things in a city where some people never travel past certain line."
For Katten, there is one change that will start CPS on the path toward tackling issues of safety and displacement.
"The biggest issue is who is deciding the policy," she said. "Not enough people are doing that right now, so we have a lot of top-down policies that don't work. It would be better if you had a group of educators, parents, professors and, yes, business people figuring out what the priorities are."
I looked for a similar discussion on the StudentsFirst website; I couldn't find it. In fact, it appears SF's response to school safety issues is not to fight to make schools more secure, but to, instead, give some parents the "choice" to move some children out of unsafe schools.

Maybe SF should have saved the massive amounts of money they poured into defeating public school teachers running for public office, like Maureen Reedy and Marie Corfield. These two educators know first hand the problems with and dangers of inadequate school safety; if StudentsFirst wanted strong advocates for keeping students protected while in schools, they couldn't have found better voices than these two.

But school safety has never been part of SF's agenda. Test-based teacher evaluation, charter schools, gutting teacher workplace protections, eliminating local control of schools - that's what Rhee is all about. Now she wants to get out in front of the inevitable push to make our schools safe.

Well, better late than never, Michelle. But this time, why don't you shut up and listen to teachers for a change. You might learn something.

Listen to teachers?! You can't be serious!


be careful said...

Go away Michelle...slither into your hole. You are a despicable human being. You will NEVER EVER be a colleague of one single teacher in CT. You refer to our children as assets.....were you thinking of your bank balance? You don't even have the decency to mention the dead teachers. You are a self promoting, egotistical, pompous bloviator.

Unknown said...

answer: Not one damned thing.

Galton said...

As a teacher she used duct tape to keep her second graders quiet. As a mother. She gave up custody of her daughters. As a superintendent she fired someone in front of a audience. And then she married someone who by today's standards would be deemed a child predator.

And people listen to her because ?

Unknown said...

Always sure for children safety major issue. This is necessary things of children future. Protective Services