INTERVIEW: REP. GLORIA JOHNSON On the anti-mask backlash closing schools

REP. GLORIA JOHNSON joins us to discuss the threats to block schools and the overall Anti-Mask backlash that got Knox Schools closed today.

PODCAST

ED REPORT: THE PRIVATIZATION PUSH (Disruption Agenda Exposed)

Subscribe to “The Education Report” by Andy Spears HERE

Jennifer Berkshire writes in The New Republic about the unraveling of the charter school coalition. She notes that while progressives have previously expressed support for charters, that support is waning. Meanwhile, those on the right are moving rapidly toward their actual goal: full privatization of public schools.

Yet today the charter school movement itself is perhaps more vulnerable than it has ever been. Unlikely allies in the best of times, its coalition of suppo

rters—which has included progressives, free-market Republicans, and civil rights advocates, and which has been handsomely funded by deep-pocketed donors and Silicon Valley moguls—is unraveling.

David Menefee-Libey, a professor of politics at Pomona College, likened the original political coalition that came together to back charter schools to a treaty. “You see this bipartisan embrace of a market-based approach to schooling, but both sides also had to give something up,” he said. For Democrats, that meant weakening the party’s support for teachers’ unions—a key constituency—and retreating on demands for school integration. Republicans, meanwhile, accepted charter schools as a watered-down alternative to private school vouchers.

Berkshire references West Virginia as a clear example of the rapid movement from charters to private school vouchers:

Starting in 2022, West Virginia parents who withdraw their children from public schools will receive their child’s state share of public education funding—approximately $4,600 in 2021—to spend on virtually any educational cost: private school tuition, online education programs, homeschooling, tutors, even out-of-state boarding schools.

Take Me Home, Mountain Vouchers
Lawmakers in West Virginia and Kentucky last week passed legislation that would create school voucher programs in those states. Both states saw teacher strikes in recent years over school funding and teacher pension issues. Now, policymakers there are planning to divert public dollars to fund unaccountable private schools…

The bottom line: Privatizers want privatization. Period. No half-measures here. A recent story out of Tennessee further bears this out. It seems the ed reform groups who have been driving “disruption” in public education in the state for years are now lamenting the outcomes of all that disruption.

Groups like Tennesseans for Student Success are joined by other privatization apologists such as Bill Frist’s ed reform group known as SCORE in an ongoing and seemingly never-ending push for BOLD! REFORM! NOW! It’s odd because one might think that with all the bold reform of the last decade, we’d finally have achieved some element of “success.” Instead, we must keep reforming because our students are still “behind” and there’s all this “learning loss.”

Meanwhile, a shortage of educators and education support professionals is creating all sorts of interesting situations in schools. Here’s one example out of Baltimore:

Baltimore City Public Schools is offering to pay several hundred parents to transport their own children to school this month.

The payment for September would be a $250 stipend, according to a reimbursement form obtained by WBFF News in Baltimore.

And, the school funding fight rages on in Tennessee:

The State of Tennessee now has a court date to face allegations of inadequate school funding. The lawsuit, originally filed by school systems in Nashville and Memphis, has been joined by Tennessee School Systems for Equity, a group representing smaller systems around the state. The suit alleges that as it currently stands, the state’s school funding formula (BEP) does not provide sufficient funding for the operation of schools.

INTERVIEW: ANTI-CRT VICTIM COACH HAWN & KYLA JENEE LACEY

We spoke with fired teacher Matthew Hawn & Poet Kyla Jenee Lacey. Hawn is popular with students, a victim of anti-CRT furor. It’s under review, and would be Sullivan County’s loss.

PODCAST

REP. GLORIA JOHNSON ON “UNHINGED” SPEAKER SEXTON’S THREATS

Watch the FULL INTERVIEW with Rep. Gloria Johnson about Speaker Sexton’s “unhinged” presser threatening to call a special session to punish school districts that take measures to keep their students safe.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

UPDATE: Sullivan Co. Teacher Got Termination Letter Hours After TN House Passed School Censorship Bill

Coach Hawn

Coach Hawn

We recently posted a link from March about Sullivan County Central High School social studies teacher Matthew Hawn, who was reprimanded officially for having his social studies class read “The First White President” – an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic.

The Board of Education voted 6-0 to uphold the written reprimand of the 16-year tenured teacher & assistant baseball coach.

The article also says Hawn was verbally warned last fall about a video he made about white privilege, the existence of which conservatives generally hate to acknowledge, especially in a school that’s almost entirely white.

We’ve now spoken with a source who tells us the story does not end there, and that in fact Hawn has been hit with a letter recommending his termination in the wake of another incident brought to the attention of school brass by the same student and their parent, who took exception to a lesson taught by Hawn involving a female poet Kyla Janae Lacey who used language the source says was almost entirely censored.

The source says Hawn received the letter within hours of Tennessee Republicans passing their bill to censor what Tennessee teachers can teach about race and systemic racism – because if anyone should be deciding what can and can’t be said about those topics, it’s the group of almost entirely white legislators who refuse to remove the KKK GRAND WIZARD bust from our capitol, and the Governor who was found to have dressed up in a Confederate solider outfit in college.

Republicans love to complain about “Censorship!” and “Overreach!”, yet here they are over-reaching into our classrooms to censor our teachers, paying lip service to banning Critical Race Theory when very few of them can even describe what exactly it is. (Definitely don’t ask Justin Lafferty of Knoxville, who made national news painting the 3/5ths compromise as some sort of heroism during discussion of this very bill)

The letter Hawn received was a recommendation for termination, which means the final decision once again lands with the Sullivan County School Board, which meets June 8th. They should expect company, as Coach Hawn clearly has supporters.

If you believe this sort of censorship and overreach in our classrooms has gone too far, show up at the school board meeting to support him, and HOLLER AT the board HERE. 

Schwinn’s Conflict of Interest

Why Did TN Education Commish Schwinn’s Husband’s Company Land A Huge State Contract? Senator Heidi Campbell grilled her about exactly that.

This isn’t the first time Schwinn has been embroiled in conflict of interest scandals. It’s kind of her thing.

Lee Gives Non-Answer on LGBTQ Curriculum Opt-Out Bill

HOLLER to Governor Bill Lee: “You said you’ll support the LGBT curriculum opt-out bill…would you support a bill that requires teachers to warn parents if they plan to mention black people? Jews? Do you see the moral issue there?”

 

OPINION: The Death of Anthony Thompson Jr. Was Avoidable

Opinion by Ali Pensky of Knoxville, TN

I am not a detective or a lawyer, but as a human being, I watched the video of seventeen-year-old Anthony Thompson Junior being shot and killed in his high school’s bathroom, and I have questions. As the officers approached Anthony, he begged, “WAIT” six times. By the time he could muster up another “WAIT” the officer had already shot him to the ground, and then, proceeded to handcuff him.  

As I watched the comment section of WBIR’s Facebook Live, many people wrote something like, “What did you expect? He brought a gun to school.” And then I thought of sixteen-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant who was killed by the police, and how people claim the shooting was justified because she had a knife and was in a fight.  

Too many police have proven to America that they will not do anything to deescalate a tough situation besides shooting their guns at children, so why are we still funding them at the rate we do? 

 It seems obvious that more money should be given to social services that will help with issues such as addiction, homelessness, and mental health. It seems obvious that police across the country need sufficient bias training. So why is the idea of defunding the police so threatening to so many white people? It is because this country only actually polices some people, and those who are not controlled, and in fact benefit from the current system of policing, want the system to stay the way it is. I am a white girl from an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Knoxville who went to a private high school. If a kid I knew was accused of hitting his girlfriend, he would probably get his friends’ dad who is a lawyer to make it go away. He would not get shot in the bathroom of his school, like Anthony Thompson junior. That is white privilege. That is why the killing of Anthony Thompson junior is absolutely not justifiable. 

The question of why the DA spent an hour going over tapes of Anthony’s girlfriend accusing him of abuse, is part of a larger issue. While an accusation of domestic abuse is serious, it has nothing to do with Anthony being shot to death by a police officer in his own school’s bathroom. The question of why Anthony was portrayed as a school shooter and portrayed as having shot the officer when both accusations are false is part of a larger issueThe picture that was painted of Anthony before the bodycam footage of the shooting was even released is disturbing and manipulative. It puts systemic racism on display. 

I have no doubt that the officers in that bathroom felt they were in danger, but in what universe does the officer deserve more sympathy than the dead seventeen-year-old? We need to dismantle that universe because it appears to have become our reality.  

I will never fully understand what it means to be a part of the Austin East community. But I stand with them and I believe the death of Anthony Thompson Junior was avoidable. I do not have answers on how to dismantle this broken system or make Knoxville safe for everyone, but if you are privileged enough to do so like myself, donate to the Austin East Foundation, which aims to help AE receive the same educational opportunities as other Knox County students. Purchase something on the AE’s staff wish list on Amazon. Support one of the local restaurants that are donating their proceeds to AE, such as Hard Knox Pizza or Likewise Coffee. Go to a protest led by Constance Every. Take a stance.

House Votes to Confirm Local Islamophobe to Textbook Commission

The House just voted to confirm Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the Tennessee Textbook Commission per Speaker Sexton’s nomination.

 

Reminder that Cardoza-Moore:

– Said 30% of Muslims are terrorists

– Is a 9/11 truther

– Helped incite the insurrection

 

As Rep Gloria Johnson said, this is frightening.