Bernie Sanders: Good for K-12 Education

On February 23rd, I wrote an open letter to the Presidential candidates and asked them their positions on K-12 education. I also asked readers to begin the conversation on this blog about who would be the best choice for our kids and for our country.  I received the following statement in support of Bernie Sanders. It informs us about Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sander’s positions on charter schools and the financing of public education. Note the specific details in the WSJ link. 

What are your thoughts about who would be best for K-12 education? Send your statement to or comment below. 

Read on:   

Teachers and Parents Should Endorse Bernie Sanders Over Hillary Clinton. 

One has to wonder whether the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) made a mistake in their early endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the presidency.Thus far, according to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has given reassurances to her wealthy campaign financiers that she will not deviate from the education policies of Barack Obama in the support of charter schools and high-stakes standardized testing as a means of measuring schools and teacher effectiveness.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders in a speech in New Hampshire on January 3, 2016 stated that, “I am not in favor of privately run charter schools…..I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than to give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education.” Needless to say, this statement by Bernie Sanders is “earth-shaking” and is in opposition to what the Clinton campaign is advocating which is the continuation of the billionaires’ and corporate America’s influence on K-12 public education.

Also highly innovative and unique among main-stream politicians are Bernie Sanders’ recent comments on school districts’ dependency on property taxes. He believes this dependency on local property taxes is the cause of inequality among the affluent school districts and school districts which are largely impoverished. He cites the fact that schools in the more affluent suburbs have “great schools” whereas schools in the poorer, inner-cities of the nation are substandard. Moreover, he advocates that the federal government needs to play an active role in order to  “make sure that those schools who need it the most get the funds that they deserve.” Needless to say, this type of forward thinking is unheard of in modern-day politics.

One of the concerns of teachers and parents regarding Hillary Clinton’s K-12 positions is her close affiliation with the “millionaire” donors who are helping to fund her presidential campaign. If elected president, will Clinton continue the education policies of her predecessor, Barack Obama, by espousing the use of standardized tests as a measurement of school and teacher effectiveness? Thus far, Hillary Clinton has said very little on the campaign trail to indicate that she plans to change what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has supported during his nearly eight years in this cabinet position. Will Hillary follow in the footsteps of Duncan in his support of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along with its flawed standardized tests created by non-educators which have proven to be developmentally inappropriate for young children?

 If Hillary Clinton should be elected in 2016, it will not take very long for the NEA and UFT to know whether they had made a wise decision in their early endorsement. The appointment of the new Secretary of Education will determine whether it will be “business as usual “ and someone who will adhere to the “testocracy” agenda along with the continued privatization movement. Or will it be someone who will move education in a new direction, an Education Secretary who will restore the dignity of the teaching profession and someone who is a true advocate of public education? Shouldn’t Hillary Clinton be indicating her views concerning K-12 education on the campaign trail in order that teachers and parents can make an informed decision whether to vote for her or Bernie Sanders in the upcoming primaries?

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D.

Should the Legislature Vote for Expansion of Charter Schools In the State Budget?

There IS truth in humor. Read and enjoy Colin McEnroe’s wonderful op-ed piece, which was in The Hartford Courant on May 17, 2015. Then please participate in the poll that follows the article.

Stop Spending Money on Charter Schools 

by Colin McEnroe

Every time you refuse to support charter school funding, God kills 1,000 kittens.

This point has been driven home repeatedly in Connecticut at rallies — one of which is taking place on your front lawn right this minute — and in advertising and by lobbying.
Once you’ve washed the kitten blood off your hands, I would urge you to join this movement. The first thing you must do is start a semi-mysterious advocacy group. By statute, the name of your group must contain the words “excellence,” “achievement” and “families.” Excellent Families for Achieving Excellence would be a good choice, but I believe it’s already taken.

Then you will need one or more jillionaire capitalist underwriters, such as Tony Stark, C. Montgomery Burns or Lex Luthor, although several of those are already taken too.

All set? Great. Time to work on your message. What are you going to say?

YOU: “Ummm, it’s time to stop flushing money down a non-functioning public school system. Why should they get all the money while we charter schools get the short end of the stick?”

Well done. It bears no resemblance to reality, but that may not be important. In fact, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposes new funding for charter schools while keeping public school funding essentially flat. So the charters, which currently educate only 1.5 percent of the school population, would get the prize while everybody else eats the Cracker Jacks.

Democrats in the legislature have pushed back against this plan, and the charter school advocacy community has responded by going nuts with advertisements, surface mail, rallies and email blitzes to legislators of such a staggering volume as to call into question whether they teach McMahon’s Law in the charter schools. McMahon’s Law, named after spending pioneer Linda McMahon, posits a definable tipping point at which money spent on your behalf will abruptly begin causing people to hate you.

How much money? Here I can rely on the excellent reporting of the Courant’s Kathleen Megan and Matt Kauffman and the Connecticut Mirror’s Jacqueline Rabe Thomas. All three are currently being held by Charter Moms for Family Excellence in Education Kidnapping Achievement, but I am confident of their future release, possibly in time for the Festival of the Beheading of Jonathan Pelto, the most sacred day on the charter school calendar.

Simple number: the charter advocacy groups have spent roughly $1 million during the current legislation session. It has been the kind of push legislators usually experience when private industry wants to store spent nuclear fuel rods in Gillette Castle or something. Weird number: they spent $14,000 at Subway recently to feed the people they bused to the state Capitol. What did we say about ordering those steak and bacon melts, people? You can scream just as loud on something from the $5 menu.

Disclaimer time! Many charter schools are full of hard-working people who get good results for their somewhat niche student bodies. Second disclaimer: anti-charter school paranoiacs can be as weird and obnoxious as their opponents.

But still, $1 million in influence peddling money does not come from people in mom jeans listening to Los Lonely Boys on their earbuds. It comes from Lord Business. What do the wealthy charter backers want? It seems like an odd stew of altruism and the never-ending goal of making education align more perfectly with the human resources department. Plus, it’s always fun to break one more union.

Here’s what I don’t get: why should the state spend any money — $32 million over two years as proposed by Malloy — to start new charter schools and expand old ones? Shouldn’t we be concentrating on our truly public schools, the ones that currently educate 98.5 percent of our students? You like charter schools? Fine. You start them.

Everybody knows Connecticut is facing an “education crisis” and that many of our schools are “broken” and “failing.” But the primary source for this kind of rhetoric is ConnCAN, one of the major charter advocacy groups.

There are probably a lot of nuances about the topic that have eluded me. Fortunately, some of the people for Achievement For Every Child Through Family Excellence are ringing my doorbell right now.

Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at He can be reached at

Copyright © 2015, Hartford Courant

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Put The Public Back Into Public Schools

Russ Walsh, an experienced curriculum director in school districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, regularly contributes considerable wisdom to the conversation about education through his blog called Russ on Reading ( In this May 17th post, he points to the disaster that awaits us as a nation if support for public schools continues to erode. His post is below.

We in Connecticut right now are faced with a choice regarding state funding:  Do we support the public schools which serve all students or give public money to charter schools which will serve only a few students and, at the same time, provide private citizens with personal financial gain?

Derailing the Public Schools

                                       by Russ Walsh

As yet we don’t know what caused the horrific crash of the Amtrak train in Philadelphia this week. Human error? Mechanical malfunction? Delayed technology? The crash happened less than 20 miles from my home on a stretch of track that I travel regularly into Philly or Washington. As a frequent traveler, I can assure one and all of something certain: our train infrastructure has been allowed to fall into ignominious disrepair. A trip on the train these days is like traveling through the pages of a history book detailing the once glorious system of public works in this country, which has then been allowed to fall into a mess of barely functional tracks, dilapidated train stations, rusting bridges and routine lengthy delays. Why has this happened? Why in the age of European and Japanese bullet trains, does it take longer to take the train from Philadelphia to Washington today than it did 50 years ago?

Adam Gopnick, writing in The New Yorker, has the answer I believe. In a piece called “The Plot Against Trains”, he says:

“What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you’ll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow.”

That train that derailed travelled right past the crumbling hulk of the junior high school my mother attended. In fact in travelling through Philadelphia the train passed dozens of crumbling dilapidated schools that were once pointed to with pride by the citizens and civic leaders of my home town. At one time we were justly proud of the fine edifices we constructed for our children to go to school and at one time those buildings housed the very best that public education had to offer in this country.

What happened? Many things happened, of course. There was the systematic creation of the ghetto brought on by federal, state and local housing policies after World War II (please see the work of Richard Rothstein on this phenomenon), there was “white flight” to the suburbs, but mostly this was the rise of the political philosophy, as Gopnick has pointed out in relation to trains and airports, that the government can ultimately do no good. In the large cities of America, we have exactly the schools we deserve because we have refused to invest in them.

This pathological, deeply ingrained distrust of government is perhaps best demonstrated by the House voting to cut Amtrak funding the day after the tragic accident, but it is also symbolized by the decision to privatize education. The charter school movement, the voucher movement, the entire narrative of “failing schools” and “bad teachers” is all a part of this refusal to provide adequate monies to provide for what we used to call “public works.” If, as Gopnick said, the dominant ideology is that no ultimate good can be provided by the state, why should we spend state monies on schools? Let the privatizers run the schools; the job is big, expensive and messy anyway.

Philadelphia, where the train accident occurred, is an object lesson in how to destroy a public school system. The system had been starved of funds for decades before any politician noticed. Then suddenly after systematically denying funds to the school system, politicians determined that the solution to the problem ridden public school system they created was charter schools. These schools then proliferated in the city, with very, very mixed results. Some did well, if test scores are your measure of improvement, some did poorly, some closed in the middle of the school year leaving students stranded, and some charter leaders defrauded the public out of their money. But good, bad, indifferent or criminal, all charters drained money from an already cash strapped school district and led to the further deterioration of this once great public institution.

All of this was intentional. All of this could have been avoided. All of this is the result of our refusal to appropriately meet our public responsibility.

The truth is that there are things that government can do better than private industry. Public transportation is one. Protecting the environment is another. Public schooling is the most important. Our refusal to provide the money needed to support public programs can be seen by anyone who rides a train, listens to climate change deniers or walks into an urban public school.

We need to wake up. We need to recognize that public monies well spent make life better for us all. We need to realize that the decay of urban school systems is a problem for all of us and it will take money from all of us to begin to fix it. I wish instead of using their great wealth to pursue their own flawed vision of schooling that plutocrats like Bill Gates and the Waltons would just pay their taxes and let us use the money on our public schools. It is time to take the private out of our schools and put the public, the whole of us, back into our public schools, because whether we choose to believe it or not, we all have skin in this game.