How education reform drives gentrification
March 8, 2014
Public school teachers in Portland, Ore., and their students are doing a victory lap. Nearly a year after unveiling a contract proposal that would have put the squeeze on the 2,900-member Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), the Portland School Board on March 3 approved a contract that acceded to virtually every demand from the teachers’ union.
The board was acting as a stalking horse for corporate attacks on unions and public education nationwide. It initially wanted to saddle teachers with higher health care costs, fewer retirement benefits, more students and a greater workload in a city where 40 percent of teachers already work more than 50 hours a week (PDF). The board also demanded expansive management rights (PDF) and allegedly wished to link teacher evaluation more closely to standardized testing. The PAT opposed the board, arguing that low-income and minority students would pay the heaviest price as their classes grew larger, more time was devoted to testing and resources for curriculum preparation and teacher development got slashed.
Only after 98 percent of the PAT voted to strike starting Feb. 20 — and students vowed to join the picket line — did the board blink. Alexia Garcia, an organizer with the Portland Student Union who graduated last year, says students held walkouts and rallies at many of the city’s high schools in support of teachers’ demands because “teachers’ working conditions are our learning conditions.”
The deal is a big victory for the teachers’ union in a state where business interests, led by the Portland Business Alliance, call the shots on education policy. The school board had brought out the big guns, authorizing payments of up to $360,000 to a consultant for contract negotiations and$800,000 to a law firm, despite already having a full-time lawyer on its payroll. But, emulating Chicago teachers who prevailed in an eight-day strike in 2012, the PAT went beyond contract numbers, winning community support by focusing on student needs and rallying to stop school closures in underserved communities.
Most significant, the teachers helped expose the role of education reform in gentrifying the city, making it nearly impossible for every neighborhood to have a strong school. This is a process playing out nationwide, from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Milwaukee to Washington, D.C. But it is particularly striking in Portland, so noted for quirkiness and tolerance it has spawned a hit television show, “Portlandia,” During a public forum on the contract negotiations, one teacher observed that the show was a reflection of how “we march to our own beat in Portland.” This has held true for the teachers’ approach to education.
Test scores by ZIP code
The current fight over public schools began in January 2013 when teachers, parents and students successfully blocked the board from closing or merging half a dozen schools, mainly in the historically African-American neighborhood of Northeast Portland, which had already seen two schools shut down the previous year. This helped to mobilize community support behind a vision of public education that contrasted starkly with the Portland School Board’s ideas.
The tussle over teacher contracts has underscored how cozy the board is with corporate interests that promote school ratings, standardized testing and school choice, which allows students to freely transfer to other public schools. Touted as a way to use market forces to improve schools, school choice instead creates a two-tier system.
The racial effect of school choice is stark in Northeast Portland, where more than 40 percent of the black population has been pushed out since 2000, and which is 70 percent white today. City documents reveal that more white children in the area opt for charter, magnet and public schools in other parts of the city than attend their assigned neighborhood school. For African-American children, barely one-fourth access those choices.
Sekai Edwards is a sophomore at Jefferson High School in Northeast Portland, the only African-American-majority school in the city. It’s ranked in the bottom 15 percent of the state’s schools. Edwards says Jefferson is “portrayed as failing, as having a lot of violence and gang activity, so fewer kids want to come here.” Jefferson has about 500 students, a third of the size of some other high schools in the city. Since funding is tied to enrollment, Edwards says the only foreign language offered is Spanish, and her anatomy and physiology class has 43 students in it. She says, “I just want to focus on schooling,” but with constant fears of her school being shut down, she adds, “I don’t think I’ll get that at Jefferson.”
Go Forth and Educate Yourselves!
I’d also highly recommend watching the Jane Elliot Brown-eye/Blue-eye experiments, which can be found here:
Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine took to the streets to demonstrate against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to abandon an EU integration pact, as he works to strengthen economic ties to Russia, rather than Europe. Protesters blockaded government buildings and occupied Independence Square in Kiev today, seeking to force Yanukovich from office. After harsh crackdowns last night, demonstrations continued this morning, with leaders calling for a nationwide strike.
San Francisco protests evictions, gentrification & block Apple, Google buses in Bay Area
December 21, 2013
Protesters blocked buses said to be operated by Google and Apple in San Francisco and Oakland on Friday, the latest sign of a growing backlash against the booming tech industry’s impact on access to affordable housing in the region.
About 40 protesters surrounded a corporate bus in the Mission district as it was picking up employees for the morning commute, preventing it from leaving for about 30 minutes.
The company for which the bus was headed was not immediately clear. A small sign in the front window said only “Main Campus, Ridgeview.” Apple does have offices on Ridgeview Court, not far from its headquarters in Cupertino, California, 40 miles south of San Francisco.
Two Google buses in Oakland were also targeted by protesters on Friday morning, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
"We want the ruling class, which is becoming the tech class, to listen to our voices and listen to the voices of folks that are being displaced," said a protester in San Francisco who addressed the crowd by loudspeaker from the back of a pickup truck parked in front of the bus.
Protesters unfurled a banner that read “Eviction Free San Francisco,” which is the name of local advocacy organization, and distributed flyers titled “San Francisco: A tale of two cities.”
Google told Reuters in a statement that the company does not want to cause any inconvenience to Bay Area residents.
"We and others in our industry are working with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to agree on a policy on shuttles in the city."
Apple, meanwhile, did not comment.
The buses have become among the most visible symbols of what some complain is the technology-driven gentrification of San Francisco, with young, well-paid tech workers forcing out less affluent residents, and city policies that some critics have said are too generous to the tech industry.
Twitter, which won an exemption on the city’s 1.5 percent payroll tax after it threatened to leave San Francisco in 2011, has been a frequent target of critics.
Bus advocates have said they ease traffic on already clogged highways as workers give up driving their cars to ride the buses, which usually have plush seats and Wi-Fi.
Opponents have said the buses crowd municipal bus stops and remove potential customers from cash-strapped public transportation systems, including regional rail services.
Earlier this month, protesters in San Francisco blocked a Google bus in the same neighborhood.
While Friday’s protest in San Francisco seemed aimed at the tech industry in general, the protests in Oakland seemed to be more specifically targeted at Google. A photo posted on Twitter by a Google employee inside the bus showed two people outside holding a banner that read “F*** Off Google.”
Another photo he posted showed what appeared to be a smashed window on the Google bus.
Students from Eastside Catholic School in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish protested outside the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle Friday following news that their vice principal was forced to resign for marrying his same-sex partner.
The demonstration followed a sit-in and subsequent walk-out at the school, which has middle school and high school students, on Thursday after students learned that Mark Zmuda, 38, would have to leave his position.
Photo: REUTERS/David Ryder
A STAND FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Petition by Writers Against Mass Surveillance
On International Human Rights Day, 562 authors, including 5 Nobel Prize laureates, from over 80 countries have joined together to launch an appeal in defense of civil liberties against surveillance by corporations and governments. 5 Nobel Prize Winners have signed: Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Elfriede Jelinek, Günter Grass and Tomas Tranströmer. Also among the signatories are Umberto Eco, Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Daniel Kehlmann, Nawal El Saadawi, Arundhati Roy, Henning Mankell, Richard Ford, Javier Marias, Björk, David Grossman, Arnon Grünberg, Angeles Mastretta, Juan Goytisolo, Nuruddin Farah, João Ribeiro, Victor Erofeyev, Liao Yiwu and David Malouf.
This global pledge was organized by an independent international group of authors - Juli Zeh, Ilija Trojanow, Eva Menasse, Janne Teller, Priya Basil, Isabel Cole, and Josef Haslinger. On Dec 10 it is published in 30 news papers all around the world:
In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your e-mail, your social networking and Internet searches.
It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with Internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.
The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.
This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.
A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy.
To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.
* Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.
* Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical triumphs, the presumption of innocence.
* Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.
* Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.
WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.
WE CALL ON ALL STATES AND CORPORATIONS to respect these rights.
WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.
WE CALL ON THE UNITED NATIONS to acknowledge the central importance of protecting civil rights in the digital age, and to create an International Bill of Digital Rights.
WE CALL ON GOVERNMENTS to sign and adhere to such a convention.
Juli Zeh Germany
Ilija Trojanow Germany
Eva Menasse Germany
Janne Teller Denmark
Priya Basil UK
Isabel Fargo Cole USA
Josef Haslinger Austria
The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears [or Miley Cyrus], enthralls the country … despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class. (via American Psychosis | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters)