Category Archives: politics

Save the Public School: VOTE

There is a villain in the Oklahoma teacher walk out, and his name is Harold Hamm. Honestly. Mary Fallin is his partner in villainy.

For the last two decades the American public has watched while states led by radical conservatives cut taxes on corporations and destroyed public services while doing so. The experiment has led to massive cuts to education, healthcare, mental health facilities, special needs services and more while the income gap has gutted much of the middle class.

I knew this, and still I was shocked to read that Hamm, the 28th richest man in the US and one of the world’s top 100 richest men lobbied the OK lege against a tax hike.

Giant corporate tax cuts supposedly work like this: giant rich companies led by billionaires pay low, low taxes or no taxes, hire tons of people and pour money into local public services.

But it hasn’t worked like that. Instead companies like Hamm’s have grown bigger and richer while those giant corporate tax cuts have led to crisis after crisis. And current far right Republican leaders continue to cut and cut and cut.

It hasn’t always been this way, I don’t think. But it’s where we are now, and it’s our fault. We keep allowing culture wars to control our votes and we keep these people who are decimating our public schools in office.

People, there is only one way to fix this problem. Vote the current leadership out. Show up at the polls in November and tell the Harold Hamm’s and Mary Fallin’s we are done with their nonsense.

Texas: this is OK focused, but listen up. We are headed in the same direction courtesy of Abbott and awful DP. Our power rests in our vote. Don’t let this continue. Vote them out of office.

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The Pilfering of Public Education

Another reason to vote for pro-public education politicians:

The pilfering of public education continues. Next week starts testing, where we will do what the state makes us do even though we know these tests don’t measure what testing companies and politicians and charter schools focused on test scores and the bankers that make big bucks off those charters say they measure. These are endurance tests where focus and the ability to sit for long periods of time will be rewarded even though those two things don’t tell us much about the future success of a student. These endurance grades will be applied to districts and schools this year. Next fall we’ll see the new crop of A-F grades. Schools filled with children who can sit, read, bubble and write for FIVE straight hours will earn an A grade. Good for them.

I’m not anti-test, but I am anti this monster our politicians have created.

A few years ago a new student joined my class in mid-October. She was confused about the focus on tests, the practice tests, the streamlined lessons built to the test, the classes for those who’d failed the test. Where she lived, no one ever talked about the test until the week before and then you took a two-hour test on a computer and went on with your day. She thought Texas was crazy. She’s right.

But schools have to do what the state tells them they must. So we will do this. Our testing coordinators have planned and organized and worked to make the process as painless as possible. We’ve been trained to actively monitor, read directions and say “I can’t answer that. Just do the best you can.” Administers are ready to walk through buildings monitoring constantly. The hall assistants have their Fitbits ready to count the steps. I think some of ours did 10 miles last year.

We will do this and we will make sure our kids know they are more than a test score. The testing company will earn its $70-$90 million they’ve been paid for this test year. And we will lobby the lege to change this nonsense. And it will go on and on and on UNTIL we vote for politicians who listen to educators.

Taking a Break

When we finished the yearbook Thursday night, I posted a year in review of pictures showing the editor from summer camp to the very last layout submission on our Facebook page. It was beautiful and fun and reminded me of all that’s good about social media.

On Easter I liked a memory photo of President Obama and the former First Lady reading Where the Wild Things Are to children. It was beautiful and funny and reminded me of all that’s good about social media.

And then I read the comments.

I sat there at my mother-in-law’s house reading one racist awful thing after another, getting angrier by the minute.

Then I posted a news story and that same anger reverberated through me as I thought about OK teachers making such a small paycheck and retirees making a pittance after insurance. Then I started researching healthcare and medical costs in the US and posted and someone said “Thanks Obama” and my head nearly exploded because yeah, it really sucks that insurance has to cover pre-existing conditions and can’t cap our care and states that expanded Medicaid have decent healthcare for decent prices but big pharma and insurance are definitely going to bankrupt any of us who happen to fall ill…..and I realized…..

Social media is killing me.

I didn’t take my blood pressure, but I felt it skyrocket.

I like debate. I love the people I debate with. I have had lots of friends who have different political persuasions, and in the past it was fun to disagree.

But…

Not now.

Now I’m angry.

Or I’m bored and I start checking out what’s going on and an hour later I’m laughing at a video of some little kid I don’t know instead of talking to the people I do know.

Or I’m checking out twitter to see what the political pundits are saying.

Or I’m saying amen to Collier because awful Dan Patrick IS killing public education and people who vote for him are voting me out of a job and voting kids who aren’t independently wealthy out of quality education.

Or…

The list goes on and on and on and on.

Social media is infinite. It’s amazing because of its reach and the connections we make. It’s awful for the same reason.

So as I sat there realizing how worked up I was over something that had been debated to death, as I said “people are so stupid!” I looked in the mirror and saw me.

And I deleted the social media apps off my phone.

My goal is a week.

I should do more.

We’ll see what happens.

Teach the Vote: Save Our Public Schools

When I first started teaching one of the best teachers I’ve ever known told me something that has proven to be true in ways I never imagined.

When I said I didn’t like to “be political” she said teaching would always be political and that there were forces at work trying to destroy the public school system because they wanted to raid the funding.

I didn’t believe her in 1994, but by ‘99 I saw she was right. Back then it was Pearson and the high cost of testing and curriculum for the tests and retests. I still didn’t understand the full truth of what she saw.

I didn’t understand that banks were starting for-profit charters and moving into states while pulling funding from schools. I didn’t know hedge-fund operators were donating huge amounts to politicians to change the rules. I sure didn’t expect the state to give billions to private investors while cutting funding to our state teacher pension and insurance fund. I didn’t realize then that the push to make public education teaching a drive-through profession was because without a large,vocal group of seasoned public educators, politicians could raid funds all day long and few would know or care.

Flash forward to two decades later.

What that teacher underestimated was how apathy toward voting in the education profession made it easy for politicians to do the billionaires’ bidding, leaving school districts struggling while for-profit charters flourish with no or little oversight.

So here we are. On Feb. 20 early voting starts for the Texas primaries that will be held March 6.

Teachers must stand up and say no more.

We must vote for our students and our schools. We must vote for ourselves and our futures. We must vote for our retirees.

This election is a battle in the war on public education. It’s not about party. It’s bigger than that.

If you want to know how to fight back, a good place to start is the Texans for Public Education site. There’s a list on the site of the public education friendly candidates running for office.

Public education is a bedrock of our democracy. It levels the playing field for all students when it is allowed to.

And when career educators—not just teachers but our staffs, counselors and admin as well— work their full thirty years or more, public schools are stronger.

Both traditions are under attack.

Voting can change that.

The teacher who told me teaching is political was right. We can’t afford to ignore that truth. If we do, our students suffer and our profession will cease to exist.

Another New Year

Another new year means another year of this blog.

So much has changed since I started this. Even the address, since it started on LiveJournal. I’m not even sure WordPress was a thing yet when I started this. I know iPhones weren’t around yet. Social media was pretty much MySpace, Messenger apps and, if you were a kid, texting. If you wanted to communicate with someone, more often than not you picked up the phone and called or went to where they were.

Back when I started writing this I was in my 30s with a junior high aged daughter struggling with my weight and writing rejection. Back then Brian and I didn’t go to church regularly, we’d never been part of a small group, I was a Republican, Meredith and McDreamy weren’t even a thing.

Back then I felt like I should be able to juggle everything and still have time for me, and it made me so angry that that wasn’t a thing.

Time flies.

The world changes.

I know I don’t post often these days. I’m going to try to do more in the run up to the mid-terms.

/Rant

Especially to help get the word out that politicians are purposefully killing public schools, but we can stop them if we vote them out. They use “failing schools” rhetoric to rob from the public and put $$$ into the pockets of the for-profit charters springing up all over the place.

Rant end/

A lot has changed over the years, but a lot is still the same, too. And for that I am thankful.

I swore I wasn’t doing resolutions this year, but I have one. That one is this:

I resolve to remember that words are only good if they’re backed up by actions. That’s my focus this year. Action. Persistence, practice, passion.

Happy New Year!

Heart broken and so, so tired of writing this post

Another day, another mass shooting. I’m writing this more than a day after a gunman walked in with a Rugar AR-556 rifle and slaughtered almost 30 innocent people as they wrapped up service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.

And in hours since I’ve heard “there’s nothing we can do about this except arm ourselves” more times than I can count.

As if more guns is a real answer for anyone other than gun manufacturers making huge profits on the loss of innocent lives.

It’s time for us to talk about real gun regulation in this country. I’m sure we won’t. Instead we’ll talk about thoughts and prayers and armed guards at the doors of our churches and open carry in the coffee shop, and politicians will scream about the “politicization” of a gunman mowing down innocents–as if the politicization of everything from oatmeal to socks wasn’t their stock in trade. And we’ll see a surge in gun sales for these kinds of guns and the magazines that allow this kind of killing and the contraptions that turn these lethal weapons into machine guns all of which will continue to be legal because “the 2nd Amendment, man. The 2nd amendment.”

And I’ll still get messages about why we need to be armed in case our government tries to take over our government. And it’s all Obama’s fault. And guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

And there will still be the dead and dying in a tiny Texas town. Which will be in the news for maybe another day or two. Or maybe a week or two. Or maybe, if we’re really lucky, a month or two. Until the next mass shooting causes the same questions and non-answers and we do it all over again without ever really doing anything about it.

Heart broken and so, so tired of writing this post.

It’s a Choice

We’ve struggled finding a new church.

We thought we’d found one but then the preacher did a whole sermon on how if you’re a Christian you won’t have any problems parenting, and it became clear the man had never parented a day in his life. His wife parented. He golfed and hung out with the menfolk.

We thought we found others but their ministers equated republican with Jesus and that’s the opposite of biblical.

So we quit searching.

There’s the truth of it. It hasn’t been a struggle at all. It’s been a willingness to drop the church part of our lives.

It’s not a good thing. We don’t have our people. We don’t have the mentors and friends to do life with. We don’t have the fellowship and worship community. We don’t have the comfort and knowledge of a church home. And every time we’ve looked for it we’ve found politics and division and fake Jesus.

I don’t think we need a church to have a direct connection to Jesus. But a church gives us a family in Christ, and that we do need. At least I do. Especially in this season that is so hard.

This weekend I swore we were going to check out a new church. One in a denomination that has been outspoken to the fact that the church is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus not a political mouthpiece for either US political party.

We got up with plenty of time to go, but we paused. We thought. We talked about it and we watched Meet the Press and Face the Nation and then it was too late.

I looked at the church website and saw they had a live feed just like our old church back home. We decided to check it out.

It was different, a little slower than what we’re used to, but the message was exactly what I needed to hear.

I don’t know if this will be my church. There’s a contact form on the website. I kind of want to ask them questions about their thoughts on politics and the church before I go. Today I think I’ll go Sunday. Today it’s easy to think I’ll go Sunday.

We’ll see.

Year 24: A new year in a turbulent time

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The blank slate, fresh start, new beginning of a school year.
But the white supremacist march in Charlottesville and the death of a counter protestor and two law enforcement officers eclipsed all my normal joy.
Seeing those angry people holding Nazi flags, Confederate flags and other symbols of hate while they shouted hateful words including Nazi slogans hurt my heart. Seeing so many of those faces and thinking they're not that much older than the children in my classroom hurt even more.
All day I've felt this darkness, this pain, this awful pollution of the soul.
And then as I sat down to write this, something shifted.
I'm a teacher. A public school teacher. The public school is everything that stands against hate. The public school is a place where playing fields are leveled, where cultural differences are embraced, where kids of all races and religions and genders work together constantly. It wasn't always so, but the world changed, thank God.
The angry hate we saw in Virginia this weekend was loud. It was awful. But those people lost a long time ago, and the public school helped make that happen.
So here I am, sad but hopeful, sure beyond doubt that my job, my mission, is more important than ever.

I’m a democrat. Here’s why.

Someone said the democrats have lost their identity. Maybe that’s true. Maybe on a national level there is an identity crisis, but there’s not one for me. 

I’m a democrat because:

Strong public education is a bedrock of democracy.

Women’s rights are human rights.

Bathroom bills are attacks on all people not just the transgender community.

I should not be afraid to be sick because an illness would destroy me financially, even though I have insurance.

The income gap is growing and it will destroy us. Corporate executives are earning record salaries while more people employed full time are on food stamps and living in section 8 housing. This is not okay.

I’m a deeply religious person, but I firmly believe in the first amendment. Separation of church and state is essential to democracy.

The first amendment is not only about protecting Christianity.

Pro-life is not pro-life. It’s an oversimplification of a multifaceted issue. When abortion is outlawed it does not stop abortion. It moves abortion to back alley butchers. This has been seen throughout the ages.

The mortality rate of poor pregnant women in this nation is staggering. Cutting Planned Parenthood funding makes this problem worse. 

A free market system does not work for all areas of life. Profit cannot be the driving force for everything because profit does not care about the lives damaged for gain.

Super PACs are killing us.

It is our responsibility to address the vast issues of poverty, and government assistance is necessary to help with those issues. It’s all fine and good to say communities and individuals should fix these problems, but that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. It leaves assistance up to fate. Not cool if fate doesn’t smile on you. Not cool as in people die in our streets because we purposefully let them.

Politicians don’t belong in our bedrooms unless we invite them.

Politicians don’t belong in our uteruses unless we’ve given birth to them or unless they also happen to be our OB/GYN.

Immigration reform is absolutely necessary, but that doesn’t mean mass deportations and fear.

People matter.

No, all people are not equal, and we need to work on that.

The “good old days” were only good if you were white and male, rich helped.

Climate Change is real. And yes, some of it is natural, but mankind has contributed greatly.

Science is a thing and it matters.

Facts matter. The environment matters. Protecting our water matters. 

Peace matters.
Republicans can look at this list and say they agree with some of the points. That’s all fine and good, but the Republican Party is at war with all the points mentioned. They’ve let themselves be overtaken by belief in the almighty dollar above all else, disguising that belief with fake Jesus; not real Jesus, but the political Jesus who’s white, blonde and wears an R on his sleeve.
This list is not complete, but it’s a start.

How We Can Really Make America Great Again

I’m not a politician. I’m a teacher who thought I was a fiscally conservative socially liberal republican until nine years ago when I realized there’s a name for that: democrat. And then I learned I wasn’t really fiscally conservative at all. Keep that in mind while reading.

1. The Walton Factor matters. When I was a little kid I LOVED to watch The Waltons. When they would go to town and all the uppity city folks would look down their noses at Grandpa and Pa and Jim Bob and John Boy and Elizabeth, it always made me so mad. But it usually worked out all right for the Waltons, and those uppity city folks learned a lesson or two.

Democrats need to learn how to be more Walton and less city folk. People need to feel like they can sit down and have a coffee with them and believe they understand the problems with a healthcare law where a huge chunk of their paycheck is going to premiums. They need to hear real solutions and not just that the other side is crazy. They need to be able to tell the difference between a progressive and conservative and understand why that matters. It’s not enough to be upset that the Trump budget cuts Meals on Wheels and PBS. It’s not enough to complain that republican Steve King makes awful racist statements and is encouraged to speak his mind. It’s not enough to say abortion is a tough topic and you can be against it, but outlawing it will never end it. All of those are democratic answers I’ve heard this week.

None of those are enough.

People need to feel like democrats running for office could be their friends or members of their church small groups or their neighbors. An awful lot of the time democrats sound smart and say all the right things, but they feel out of touch with middle class reality. Their speeches are all perfect, their sound bites are spot on, but in real life, they seem apart from the regular people. That has to change.

2. More people need to actually go to the polls. Thank you for showing that, Samantha Bee. Actually I heard this time and again when I worked the phones for Wendy Davis. Since her gubernatorial campaign, that fact hasn’t changed. A lot of people are complaining about the status quo, but they aren’t going to the polls. Some who are protesting current policies aren’t going to the polls. We have a terrible percentage of people who actually go vote. That has to change.

There are certainly more keys to more Dems in office, but these two are essential.