I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

14 February 2010

The problem with private funding and public schools

I am a repeat offender at Donors Choose - over the years, friends, strangers and foundations have chipped in (conservatively) $12,000 toward my classroom. I like Donors Choose because I pick what I want: sensory integration equipment, novel math manipulatives, art supplies, stuff for my students to take home over the summer, and so on. It's all stuff my school cannot purchase itself and mostly stuff I couldn't supply either. (Well, I could in theory blow the two thousand bucks or so I spend every year on, say, twenty backpacks, a rug and some PeaPods, but I'd rather buy ingredients for cooking and sequins and stuff like that.)

Still, the idea that teachers should rely on the good will and pocketbooks of strangers through personal initiative (mine to write a grant, funders to support it) is problematic on all kinds of levels. Aren't we supposed to be a public system, funded through the pocketbooks of strangers in the form of taxes? Is the system equitable? Are the most critical projects being funded? Do teachers have equal access to the process? Of course, these are all concerns that are ameliorated by the promise of cold, hard cash for the stuff I need. And the vast majority of donors - foundations and individuals - are doing what I consider good in the world.

I imagine that the Koret Foundation believes it is doing good by supporting the Hoover Institution's education wing and its recommendations: charter schools, vouchers, Teach for America, boot camp for Black children (quite literally: they support the OMI and figuratively in the form of KIPP), and so on. I believe that they are funding the destruction of public education and supporting racist ideology, but certainly they'd say the same of me (...do teachers count as "poverty pimps"?).

The California Teachers Empowerment Network, though...well, I'm sure that they believe they are doing great good by supporting opting out of unions. Or at least they are "empowering" teachers. Their biggest stated reason for this need to empower teachers is that the CTA put bucks behind the No on 8 Campaign. Evidently teachers were disempowered by this action. Also, they note darkly, state Superintendent Jack O'Connell helped make No on 8 commercials. So clearly, opting out of a union will tell Superintendent O'Connell and the CTA...what, exactly? That they need to get out of the business of educating voters about ballot initiatives? That de facto discrimination isn't empowering enough and we need some de jure too?

So when these guys get into putting up cash on Donors Choose, it certainly shines a rather nasty spotlight. I am still choosing the things I want for my students, but the people paying for them will use their support to shine up their credentials, then use those credentials to destroy public education.

I wish they'd stick to funding their little charter initiatives and whatnot.


larry said...

In your post you have completely mischaracterized CTEN. If you look carefully, you will see that we take no position on Prop. 8 or anything else. We just think that spending forced dues on issues that have nothing to do with the classroom is wrong. If you want to give your money to either side of that issue, that is your business. But please don't force me to spend money on such things. If you want propaganda, go to the CTA website. If you want information, go to www.ctenhome.org

Larry Sand
CTEN President

She Who Runs with Scissors said...

Actually, I took quite a close look at the CTEN site prior to writing anything about it, and I came to the conclusions above. The major political issue that comes up again and again is Proposition 8. While CTEN took no position on 8, it does believe that any spending on 8 by the CTA is out of line.

I strongly disagree. Proposition 8 has everything to do with the CTA's members, whatever their sexual orientation. I want my union to take stands that increase access to civil society.

I don't think it's a wild leap to say that most people upset with the CTA's funding of anti-8 materials, commercials, lawsuits, etc. has a strong positive opinion on Proposition 8.

There's also the question of teacher-blaming (and union-blaming). I think it's interesting, at the least, to question whether an organization like CTEN protects the classroom - or attacks it by giving succor to those who blame teachers first.

larry said...

I'm not sure why you are stuck on Prop. 8. We don't think the union should take forced dues and spend it on any political and social issues. Period. Maybe you wanted a part of your dues to fight Prop 8, but many teachers didn't. In fact, more teachers donated privately to Yes on 8 than to No on 8.

Regarding blame teachers first - we are an organization trying to get information to teachers and support them. I have no idea what your last paragraph means.

Darren said...

Are there *any* issues relating to "society" that you believe are not appropriate for a union to spend money on?

Remember, in a "fair share" state like California, the union is entitled by law to my money as a condition of my employment. They should only be allowed to spend that money on issues related to my pay, benefits, and working conditions, and nothing else. Telling me whom to vote for should be OUT. Spending money on political causes of any time, including Prop 8, is OUT.

CTEN focused on Prop 8 because it was such a clear-cut example of something CTA should not be spending money on.

If you as a citizen want to spend your own money fighting Prop 8, or on global warming cap and trade schemes, or on the Pick-A-Race Legislative Caucus, or on any other organization or fight, then do so. However, I shouldn't have my money legally taken by the government and given to a non-governmental agency (the union) for it to spend however it wants. I can't see how anyone thinks that can be right.

Full disclosure: I'm a teacher and a CTEN member.

She Who Runs with Scissors said...

Larry, there is a well-documented campaign that proposes the solution to all the "problems" in education is teachers' unions. The supporters of this campaign are dismissive of any other issues impacting public education: it's all the teachers. And their unions and rubber rooms and and and...

Any organization purporting to support teachers by feeding the above - which CTEN does - should have at the least a canned response justifying their stance.

Darren, as an American taxpayer my money is taken by a public government and handed to private sources every day. Do you also propose repealing the 16th Amendment? However, I'm glad that even a CTEN member notes the importance of Proposition 8 to the organization.

larry said...

As one who taught for over 28 years in NY and CA, I have a bit of experience in this area. The unions are not the only problem - they are but one of many. Others would include those politically correct fad factories aka schools of education, the nationalizing of education, unbridled illegal immigration, the dumbing down of curriculum and textbooks because we must make sure every student feels smart even if they are illiterate, just to name a few.

Darren said...

Scissors, when the feds spend your tax money and mine on things you and I don't like, in theory it's being spent on "the public"--even when it goes to private organizations (like contractors). You're being disingenuous if you try to compare that to giving my money to a union. And the union is an *additional* tax I pay, above and beyond the taxes other Americans pay.

I'm not sure what kind of statement you want from Larry. CTEN, unlike the unions, isn't an advocacy organization. It isn't a PAC, it won't tell you how to vote, and it won't take your money. When unions are like that, please let me know.

She Who Runs with Scissors said...

I don't want a statement from Larry. I am observing that when organizations purporting to support teachers provide cover for organizations that emphatically don't, there's a problem. Either CTEN does not believe that they provide cover or they do not care that they do. It doesn't matter to me. However, this is my blog. Hence, comments that are dismissive, misleading or contrary to my beliefs are likely to inspire response.

You'll need to read my earlier comments on this thread, but in essence, since I believe that supporting Proposition 8 benefits the public and public education, I am not being at all disingenuous.

larry said...

If by being factual, CTEN is "giving cover" to anyone, then we are guilty as charged. Re Prop. 8 - if you want to give money to defeat it, fine. But please don't ask me to do so.

She Who Runs with Scissors said...

Great! Ultimately, this thread does illustrate the primacy of Prop 8 to CTEN's current mission.

larry said...

My God! I was just using that as an example because you seem to be obsessed with the same sex marriage issue. How about this - if you want to give money to ACORN, fine. But please don't ask me to do so.

Darren said...

Clearly we're talking past each other, then. Is there any field that you think does *not* affect public education, and hence unions should stay out of?

She Who Runs with Scissors said...

Darren: I already noted that it is extremely likely we would have any common ground. So let's assume that to be the case.

Larry: In the end, there is no way for you to justify the notion that supporting Prop. 8 is not important to CTEN (or, to be fair, important to the teachers CTEN is marketing itself as an organization) given its prominence on the CTEN website. If it weren't important, it wouldn't be such an enormous part of the site.

And honestly, it's pretty clear that my underlying philosophies on unionism, education, and education reform are irreconcilable with yours. I have not deleted your comments: your defense of CTEN is available to all four or so readers of this blog. Please, let's give it a rest.

And seriously, ACORN accusations are really ill-timed, given the ever-increasing problems with Breibart's and O'Keefe's disturbing racism and inability to release unedited tapes. (Not to mention, of course, independent reports critical of ACORN but not of its staff's actions during the illicit taping.)

She Who Runs with Scissors said...

Sorry, please edit to "extremely UNlikely".