Tag Archives: teacher

We cannot rest until every child has access

...to quality free public education40b9b55f0670c8418c21bc05f68a28a0_XL

As teachers, we know that the realisation of high quality public education for every child remains a work in progress.

Our long-held commitment to achieving it is informed by the fact that a public school, in every community, is a precondition to fulfilling our responsibility as members of an international community to ensure that every child gains access to education. We also know that if we are serious about achieving excellence and equity for all, public schools must set the standard for high quality education as equity in the provision of education can only be realised if public schools, free and universally accessible, set that standard.

It is not only disappointing, but it is also disturbing that the ideal of quality public education for all is under greater threat today than it has ever been.

This threat has been on public display just recently in the form of articles, or in some cases advertorials by anonymous writers, in publications such as the Economist, which support and promote the emergence and expansion of low fee for-profit private schools in developing countries as the means of providing access to schooling for the children of the poorest of the poor referred to as “clients”. They may as well just refer to children as economic units.

So biased and unsubstantiated was the “journalism” that it provoked an immediate response from highly recognised and respected international agencies like OXFAM and Action Aid to name two, who along with others wrote letters to the editor. Similarly, leading academics also responded condemning the bias.

Dr. Prachi Srivastava, a tenured Associate Professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies specialising in the area of education and international development at the University of Ottawa, who was so “dismayed and surprised” by her name being used to legitimise and endorse low fee for-profit private schools, in addition to a letter to the editor, produced an opinion piece in The Guardian based on her detailed academic research demolishing the claims made in one of the articles.

Whilst not entirely surprised by these advertorials in the Economist – after all , at the time of its publication, the Economist was still 50 percent owned by the world’s largest education corporation, Pearson, which has interests in low fee for-profit private school chains such as Bridge international Academies and Omega in Kenya, Ghana and a number of other countries – as a teacher I was deeply offended by the unwarranted gratuitous attack on teachers and our unions in campaigning for the very best opportunities for every child in every classroom.

As teachers we take our responsibility to our students very seriously. All we ask for, indeed we demand, is that governments fulfil their obligation to their most vulnerable citizens, namely children.

Beyond a legislative guarantee to fulfil their primary obligation to adequately fund and resource public schools, governments must legislate against non-state actors operating schools for profit, particularly when they are in receipt, directly or indirectly, domestically or extraterritorially, of any tax payers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students.(Surely, taxpayers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students shouldn’t be siphoned away to line the pockets of billionaires and global corporations.)

Furthermore, governments must introduce, where non-existent, and enforce legislated regulatory frameworks to ensure high standards in teacher qualifications, curriculum and teaching environments.  A social contract, if you like, providing guarantees for students.

In attacking regulation of facilities and teacher qualifications, the Economist makes the outrageous statement, contrary to reams of research and evidence, that: “the quality of facilities, or teachers’ qualifications and pay, have been shown by research in several countries to have no bearing on a school’s effectiveness.”

This astonishing attack on teacher qualifications bells the cat for the prophets of profit. Employing unqualified “teachers” is driven by their business plan to maximise profit. It is no wonder that in a recent article in the Independent that Pearson-supported low fee for-profit chain, Bridge International academies, operating in Kenya and elsewhere, protested a possible government requirement that half, not all, “half of all teachers in any one school should have a recognised teaching qualification and be paid accordingly.”

In all of my professional life, I’ve yet to meet a parent who would prefer their child to be taught by an unqualified teacher. I very much doubt whether the anonymous author of the advertorial or senior figures at Pearson would volunteer their own children to be taught by unqualified ‘teachers’ reading from a script.

If standing up for the right of every child to have access to a rigorous, rich curriculum, taught by well supported qualified teachers in safe environments conducive to good teaching and learning is a crime, we are guilty as charged.

Written by Angelo Gavrielatos
Project Director, The Global Response to

Commercialisation and  Privatisation in and of Education

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‘Most famous’ teacher plans class action suit over LAUSD’s ‘teacher jail’.

Rafe-EquithRafe Esquith

If opponents of LA Unified’s controversial disciplinary process known as “teacher jail” were looking for an ideal case to fight it, both in a court of law and in the court of public opinion, they may get it.

High-profile attorney Mark Geragos, representing one of the most famous active teachers in the country, Rafe Esquith, told the Los Angeles Times he intends to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of “scores” of district teachers who say they have been denied due process rights. Geragos said he had filed a legal claim on Monday, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.

The lawsuit could have enormous implications for the district, given the public stature of Esquith, who is a best-selling author, and Geragos, who has represented numerous celebrities and high-profile clients, including Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder and convicted killer Scott Peterson.

Geragos did not state how many teachers may be a part of the possible suit and did not respond to a request for comment. LA Unified General Counsel David Holmquist said in an email to LA School Report that “you would have to talk to [Esquith’s] attorney about his plans for a class action suit to determine if he believes it is a precursor.”

The district has not publicly released any information on the case so far, other than Superintendent Ramon Cortines‘ saying the investigation had raised “serious issues.”

Esquith told the Times that he was put under investigation in April and removed from the classroom for making a joke that referenced a passage from the novel “Huckleberry Finn.” He said he told his class they may have to perform nude like a character in the story if he wasn’t able to raise enough funds, and that another teacher complained about it.

Esquith acknowledged making the joke, and Geragos said that was the extent of the original complaint against him but the district’s investigation expanded to focus on Esquith’s nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans, including its process of permission slips, chaperons and whether it makes clear it is not affiliated with the district, the Times reported.

Esquith is an author of several books on teaching and has worked at Hobart Avenue Elementary School for decades. He has received national recognition for his work with his nonprofit, which raises money for his students to put on Shakespeare plays. His work has been profiled by PBS, the CBS Evening News, Time, People and other national outlets. Washington Post education columnist Valerie Strauss described him as “the most famous teacher in the world.”

Esquith’s case is thrusting the issue of “teacher jail” into the spotlight once again, where it has been numerous times since the Miramonte Elementary sex abuse scandal broke in 2011 and former teacher Mark Berndt was ultimately convicted of multiple counts of committing lewd acts on his students. The Miramonte case also led to the district’s record-breaking $170 million in civil lawsuit payouts.

In the aftermath of the scandal, the LA teachers union, UTLA, complained that the district began investigating teachers at a much higher rate. Hundreds of teachers, sometimes more than 300, have been reported to be barred from the classroom at a time in recent years.

Teachers can fall under investigation for anything from serious accusation of sexual misconduct to a simple violation of district policies. The district used to house all teachers under investigation in administrative offices during working hours, and they were often often given nothing to do, which gave rise to the “teacher jail” term. In 2014, the district switched policy and began sending most of the teachers home, but the term has come to often apply to any teacher that is barred from the classroom with pay while the district investigates them.

The investigations can take months, and teachers are often not informed of the accusations against them. UTLA made the district’s disciplinary process an issue in its negations for a new contract agreement, reached in April, that calls for the district to give teachers under investigation more rights.

“The teacher jail issues, which ballooned under Deasy, was a huge part of our contract negotiations and we got first-time contract language, making sure due process is followed, and time limits are followed in investigations,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report. “So we want to make sure that the district is following those very common sense guidelines that are now contractual  language. We want to make sure that they’re following them in this case of Rafe Esquith.”

Caputo-Pearl did say that the speed of teacher investigations has improved under new Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

“Cortines, to his credit, has worked with us on a number of different cases where we were able to cut through some red tape,” Caputo-Pearl said.


Vanessa Romo contributed reporting to this story.

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FREE SPEECH RIGHTS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS.

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Speech Outside of School

Teachers do not forfeit the right to comment publicly on matters of public importance simply because they accept a public school teaching position. Teachers cannot be fired or disciplined for statements about matters of public importance unless it can be demonstrated that the teacher’s speech created a substantial adverse impact on school functioning. A teacher’s off-campus statements regarding the war or participation in an off-campus political demonstration are not acceptable bases for job discipline or termination.

Speech Inside the Classroom

A teacher appears to speak for the school district when he or she teaches, so the district administration has a strong interest in determining the content of the message its teachers will deliver. While courts sometimes protect the academic freedom of college and university professors to pursue novel teaching methods and curriculum, these principles do not apply with equal force to K-12 teachers. It does not violate a teacher’s free speech rights when the district insists, for example, that she teach physics and not political science, or that she not lead students in prayer – even though both have the result of limiting what the teacher says in the classroom.

Washington courts have upheld the authority of school districts to prescribe both course content and teaching methods. Courts in other jurisdictions have ruled that teachers have no free speech rights to include unapproved materials on reading lists.

Although the boundaries are not precise, there are limits to a school district’s ability to control teachers’ controversial speech in the classroom. Courts have sometimes ruled that schools may not punish teachers for uttering particular words or concepts in class that are otherwise consistent with the school curriculum, where the school has no legitimate pedagogical purpose for the restriction, or where the restriction harms students’ ability to receive important ideas that are relevant to the curriculum.

A school district might choose not to include discussion about a controversial issue in its curriculum and direct teachers to avoid the topic unless it arises through student contributions to classroom discussion. Depending on the circumstances, a court might well approve such a rule. This assumes that the school is neutral in its implementation of the rule. If a school permits anti-war lesson plans but forbids pro-war lesson plans, such action would raise questions about viewpoint discrimination.

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