Tom. He has been a fixture in my brother and sister-in-law’s lives for over a decade. Tom stood up with my brother as a groomsman at his wedding. Tom flamed my brother’s growing love of golf. Tom always made us laugh with his good-natured ribbing  and practical jokes. But last night, Tom taught us how to die with dignity while fighting till the end.

Surrounded by his family, Tom succumbed to melanoma. Melanoma is an insidious form of cancer that capriciously selects who will survive a stage 4 diagnosis and who won’t. In Tom’s case, we will forever play “what if’s” because he could have been diagnosed earlier if he hadn’t feared going to the doctor because he didn’t have health insurance.What if he had never had to worry about how he would have to pay for an office visit? What if he wouldn’t have had to worry much less any care or medications he would have received on said visit cost? What if he would have not had to worry about bankruptcy to receive medical care? But he did have to worry about all those things. As did my mother. Tom’s circumstance strongly mirrored that of my late mother, whose COPD diagnosis came too late for the very same reason–no insurance.

I have always believed that America was the land of opportunity for all. Watching my mom and Tom succumb to diseases when they could’ve had many more years of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has shaken my long-held belief in opportunity “for all.” It has also bolstered my belief that access to quality healthcare is a human right, not a commodity. Access to quality healthcare shouldn’t just be for the wealthy. Access to quality healthcare is a key to the opportunity that the Founders spoke of over two centuries ago.

Tonight, Tom, I think of you


Move Beyond the Tenure Debate

California’s ultimate goal should be supporting better educators, not eliminating teacher protections.

By  of US New & World Report Feb. 25, 2016, at 1:30 p.m.

The California Court of Appeals, Second District, hears oral arguments Thursday in Vergara v. California. Decided in the summer of 2014, the judge overseeing the case in the California Superior Court found that California’s tenure and last-in-first-out policy for determining teacher layoffs was unconstitutional. The state has appealed, arguing that these protections for teachers are essential for ensuring that experienced teachers stay in the classroom.

While the appellate decision has yet to be handed down, in an important sense, ‎the conversation hasalready moved on. Today teachers are getting more feedback than at any point in history. Teacher evaluations that use multiple measures of effectiveness are standard in almost every state. Teachers largely view their performance based in part on the impact they have on student learning.

Since 2009, over two-thirds of states have made significant changes to their teacher evaluation systems. Twenty-three states now require that tenure decisions be informed by teacher performance. Nine states– Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee – use teacher performance as the most significant criterion for granting teacher tenure.

Policymakers are still refining how to evaluate teachers, but few argue that we shouldn’t attempt to measure teacher effectiveness or that it doesn’t matter. And while states are no longer required to evaluate teachers as a matter of federal policy, there’s little evidence that teachers want to go back to the old way of doing business of “close your door, and good luck to ya.”

‎But let’s be clear: Our collective policy goal shouldn’t be to eliminate teacher protections like last-in-first-out and tenure based on seniority, but rather to render them unnecessary. We should aim to build schools with such high-performing cultures that eliminating incompetence isn’t the most pressing issue, spreading excellence is.

‎As states like New York, Rhode Island and Delaware raise entry standards for teachers, improve teacher supports and increase teacher salaries, they raise the quality of their educator workforce. These places aren’t focused on how to fire their lowest performers, but on how to provide the tools, guidance and motivation to support all of their educators to teach to high standards.

[READ: Education Secretary Arne Duncan Put Students First]

Compensating teachers at professional levels is a critical component of better supporting educators. Teacher salaries in the United States are only 60 percent of those of other U.S. workers with college degrees. Many teachers must supplement their incomes with additional work. Instead, like doctors and engineers, teachers should be paid at levels that reflect the important work they complete.

Through a purposeful strategy over more than a decade, the state of New York raised the average SAT score and college GPA of new teachers and dramatically shrunk the gap between the academic ability of teachers hired by high- and low-poverty schools. New York accomplished these objectives while simultaneously growing the share of minority teachers by 8 percent.

[ALSO: TeachStrong: Education Groups Band Together to Overhaul Teaching Profession]

States like Washington, Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Mexico and others are seeking to raise teacher compensation, too. And while higher compensation isn’t a silver bullet for elevating the teaching profession, combined with other reforms, it can be an effective recruitment and retention strategy.

Soon, the California Court of Appeals will decide Vergara. ‎The decision will determine what factors California schools can use in layoff and tenure decisions. No matter what the court decides, it won’t – and can’t – set up California’s schools to attract and retain exceptionally talented people. ‎Only proactive, purposeful policy can do that.

There is a national movement afoot to promote the policy parameters that will elevate the teaching profession. Called the TeachStrong campaign, this movement is a partnership between unions, reformers, civil rights advocates and thought leaders to change the systems in which teachers are recruited, trained, supported and paid. It aims to enable teachers to meet the dramatically higher expectations of today’s classrooms.

Let’s move beyond the Vergara debate, and start reimagining the systems in which teachers operate in order to allow them to be successful.

‘We Won’t Be Erased’ – Joan Walsh Has Written the Most Important Article On Hillary of 2016

An excellent read…addressing why I’m moving ever closer to Hillary and away from Bernie.



In 2005, my nascent Daou Report was picked up by Joan Walsh at Salon. My appreciation for Joan has grown ever since – she has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most insightful political observers in America.

Joan’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton is almost jarring in its scope and frankness. It says everything I’ve spent an entire cycle trying to convey, about gender bias, smears, Rovian dirty tricks, media tropes and the unrelenting verbal assault against one of the most dignified and accomplished women in U.S. history.

Here’s Joan:

One moment [during the CNN town hall] got me particularly excited, and not in a good way. It came when a young white man—entitled, pleased with himself, barely shaving yet—broke the news to Clinton that his generation is with Bernie Sanders. “I just don’t see the same enthusiasm from younger people for you. In fact, I’ve heard from quite a few people my age that they think you’re dishonest. But I’d like to hear from you on why you feel the enthusiasm isn’t there.”


“I’d like to hear from you on why you feel the enthusiasm isn’t there.” I’m not sure I can unpack all the condescension in that question. I heard a disturbing echo of the infamous 2008 New Hampshire debate moment when a moderator asked Clinton: “What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight, who see a resume and like it, but are hesitating on the likability issue?” Yes, the “likability” issue. I found myself thinking: Not again. Why the hell does she have to put up with this again?

Joan goes on:

My problem wasn’t merely with the insulting personal tone of the question. It was also the way the young man anointed himself the voice of his generation, and declared it the Sanders generation. Now I know Bernie is leading among millennials by a lot right now in the polls. Nonetheless, millions of millennials, including millions of young women, are supporting Hillary Clinton. And my daughter, as Nationreaders know, is one of them. I find it increasingly galling to see her and her friends erased in this debate.

“Erased.” Exactly. Asha Dahya, herself a millennial, writes an article for BNR entitled No Enthusiasm for Hillary? Tell These Millennial Women

If there’s no enthusiasm for Hillary, someone please explain 75,000 shares on this post, or 2 million people reached on Facebook in a week since BNR endorsed Hillary.

Back to Joan:

When I’ve disclosed that my daughter works for Clinton—inThe Nation, on MSNBC, and on social media—we’ve both come in for trolling so vile it’s made me not merely defensive of her. It’s forced me to recognize how little society respects the passion of the many young women—and men—who are putting their souls into electing the first female president. It’s one thing to note that Sanders is winning among millennials; that’s true. It’s another to impugn the competence and dignity of the literally millions of millennials who support Clinton.

Speaking of vile trolling, Janelle Ross at the Washington Post writes about the heinous commentary generated by a Twitter hashtag traced to a rightwing radio host connected to Glenn Beck (and funded by who knows which Republican billionaire):

Something happened Tuesday in the limited corner of the media universe where the pervasive nature of sexism in American political life has made Lena Dunham seem very much right. The takeaway from the contents of the #WordsThatDontDescribeHillary collection is this. After more than 30 years of  serving as both a U.S. senator and secretary of state, among many other resume points, Clinton’s appearance and whether or not she meets a certain set of cultural standards of appropriate or ideal behavior for women remains top of mind for some American voters.

My colleague and friend Susie Madrak reminds me that Hillary Clinton is, as Rebecca Traister once wrote, “The screen upon which all of America’s very long-standing, very complicated, fairly unattractive feelings about women will be projected for the next 13 months. Or, if things go well, the next 10 years.”

Susie and I were discussing the Twitter hashtag and the disgusting flood of gender-based attacks it generated. I agree with Susie when she says, “this kind of nasty, online pack behavior? It’s sexism. I know it when I see it.”

When I spoke up on Twitter about the misogyny of some of the tweets, I was attacked with wild fury by men on the left and right who can’t fathom that tens of thousands of raging males hounding a female candidate is the literal embodiment of the gender barrier. It didn’t matter to my right wing attackers that in 2009, I stepped up and defended Sarah Palin against the same kind of frenzied attacks.

Like Joan and millions of other Hillary supporters, I’m unapologetic and unabashed in my support of Hillary’s groundbreaking campaign to smash a glass ceiling that has been in place for nearly a quarter millennium.

Joan speaks to the radical nature of Hillary’s campaign:

I think there are few issues as radical as advancing the reproductive autonomy of women. And I think it’s hard to be truly establishment when dangerous men are shooting up your clinics, and the Republican Congress is persistently voting to strip you of your funding. Yes, Planned Parenthood and NARAL have worked hard to become respected political players in the last 30 years, because the women they represent need political clout, not just services. But I’m old enough to remember when feminists were told that our issues—“cultural” issues like abortion and contraception—were costing Democrats elections, so couldn’t we pipe down for a little while? Now we’re the establishment?

I’ll conclude with Joan’s compelling words:

I’ve come to feel passion for Clinton herself, and for what I see as a movement that supports her, even though only Sanders is judged a “movement” candidate. I’m tired of seeing her confronted by entitled men weighing in on her personal honesty and likability, treating the most admired woman in the world like a woman who’s applying to be his secretary. I’m stunned anew by the misogyny behind the attacks on her, and her female supporters, including my daughter. I’m sick of the way so many Sanders supporters, most of them men, feel absolutely no compunction to see things through female Clinton supporters’ eyes, or to worry they might have to court us down the road, take special care not to alienate us lest we sit the race out in November, if our candidate loses. …  I stand with a lot of women who feel the same way, including my daughter, and we won’t be erased.

Teachers STAND STEADY with Terry & Don for Board of Education

At our September Torrance Teachers Association Representative Council meeting, upon the recommendation of the TTA Board of Directors and the TTA -PAC, Reps voted to endorse incumbents Terry Ragins and Don Lee for the Torrance Unified Board of Education.

How does the endorsement process work? 

The TTA-PAC (Political Action Committee) met this summer on multiple occasions to write a new questionnaire for 2015 School Board candidates focused on our local issues.  Each candidate was sent the questionnaire and invited to participate in our interview panel to meet the TTA-PAC and discuss their answers. Each of the four candidates (Don Lee, Terry Ragins, Clint Paulson, and G. Rick Marshall) completed their questionnaire and participated in the interview process. Each was there to share their platform and seek TTA’s name, TTA and CTA PAC financial support, and access to TTA members.

Each candidate spoke 30-45 with the panel and multiple hours with TTA leadership and staff even before the interviews. At the end of the interviews, the PAC discussed the candidate’s platforms and answers, then ranked each candidate based on a rubric. Incumbents Terry Ragins and Don Lee were by far in the top tier, while challengers Clint Paulson and G. Rick Marshall formed the bottom tier. The committee then made their recommendations to the TTA Board of Directors and Representative Council–both of whom approved the TTA-PAC’s recommendation. The candidates were notified of their standings and Terry Ragins and Don Lee were officially given TTA/CTA’s support.

Why Don Lee and Terry Ragins?

During the interview process and in outside dialog with the challengers, it was clear that Mr. Marshall and Mr. Paulson were accusing TTA that if we didn’t endorse them, that TTA would be settling for the status quo rather than “sending a message” for change. However TTA Leaders based their decision on substance and criterion, rather than change for change’s sake. Matter of fact we chose to recommend that TTA STAND STEADY with Terry Ragins and Don Lee because they are known supporters of public education with experience, institutional knowledge, and a proven steady hand in times of great crisis and/or change.

Terry Ragins and Don Lee deeply understand the TUSD culture and are committed to forging change, building, and rebuilding from within. Terry Ragins and Don Lee share TTA’s core values and mission to improve students’ learning environments and teachers’ work environments. As this campaign has played out over candidate forums, internet blogging, and meeting with the public, Terry Ragins’ and Don Lee’s voices have been the ones of reason in a field grown noisy with ugly innuendo, name calling, and fear mongering. Rising above the fray, Don Lee and Terry Ragins are fighting for kids and promoting their positive vision of TUSD’s future.

Don Lee has pointed out on the campaign trail that he and Terry Ragins both have deep roots and historical knowledge in Torrance and TUSD. He is a product of Torrance schools. His wife and his four children are West area schooled. Terry has volunteered in North area schools (and later in all Torrance schools) since 1992, when her two sons started elementary school at Yukon Elementary. They understand the California educational landscape with educators in the family and service on site councils, Torrance Education Foundation, and PTA boards. TTA leadership believes that continuing with and building upon our tested relationships and the candidates’ experience are important factors in our recommendation.

Terry Ragins and Don Lee continue to commit taxpayer dollars to the classroom rather than lining the pockets of lawyers with redundant, unnecessary lawsuits. They focus on accountability and solving problems rather than name calling and misleading blame games. They are knowledgeable and invested in helping teachers and students implement mandated state standards. They work with the citizenry to ensure that educating our children is a community-wide endeavor. They seek input from stakeholder groups rather than rain innuendo and insults at them to score cheap political points. We STAND STEADY with the only two candidates in this race who are building up our district rather than tearing it down for political gain. Both Don Lee and Terry Ragins have stepped in to defend Torrance Teachers and our students on the campaign trail. They acknowledge that our teachers and our union work hard for the children in Torrance, and that children ARE our special interest.

In an election that traditionally has a small turnout, it is essential that we teachers spread the word that we STAND STEADY with TERRY RAGINS and DON LEE. It is vital that we talk to parents, our friends, our family, our neighbors about why we are supporting Terry Ragins and Don Lee. It is imperative that we show up at the polls and vote to ensure that we have a board of education willing to work with us. Our endorsement and support is a recognition that these two candidates have committed to run a campaign dedicated to serve our children. So STAND STEADY by “sending a message” to the challengers that vision and ideas matter more than demagoguery and partisan guilt by association tactics–Vote for TERRY RAGINS and DON LEE on NOVEMBER 3rd!!

Julie Shankle
President Torrance Teachers Association

My New Rules: Netiquette Matters!

As political season ramps back up for a long run into the 2016 Presidential Election Cycle, the vitriol is already bouncing around my social media pages–particularly Facebook. Living through the evolution of “netiquette”, I feel that I have reached the point where I can and should expect more of people with whom I engage online–expect more than name calling and insults just because I may believe in a different pathway to solve the same set of problems our communities, states, and nation faces. And I’m setting a high bar this election cycle. Those that fall into attacking the person rather than exploring and explaining a message will be restricted or potentially unfollowed–not because I can’t handle disagreement, but because I expect respect from those with whom I engage in dialogue.

Being a veteran teacher, I take my responsibility to model even-tempered inquiry seriously. Questioning in order to learn and grow and build a deeper understanding is what I want from every student–and what I expect from every adult. As a proponent of academic freedom (the freedom to ask questions, regardless of how unpopular, without fear of reprisal), I likewise welcome many viewpoints on my regular stream of “Provocative Posts of the Day” and “Meme Funfests.” Many times I will post items not because I agree with them, but because I want to hear from people that may know more on the subject than I do. And in most instances, my online friends are respectful and search for common ground and stretch each other’s lines of questioning. But occasionally, I do find that one friend that posts horrifically negative remarks that stereotype and paint with broad brushes in order to demonize entire groups of people. I often confirm/accept friends that I know are of different political philosophies in order to learn more about their views. I want to learn and understand. Unfortunately, I find that a few of them do not exemplify even the most basic pillars of good character–like fairness, caring, and responsibility– when posting on politics.

For instance, a local political blogger (I’ll call him TPB) whom I often see at school board meetings asked me be a source for his blog posts. I respectfully declined for a plethora of reasons. First, he is devoutly anti-union, and I am a local union president. Second, his blog posts are often long on generalizations and short on specifics. Third, his offer to use me as an anonymous source rubbed against my journalistic ethics to identify sources whenever feasible. Fourth, I feared that my views would become fodder for his base rather than be used to enlighten and educate.

Personally, TPB is a pretty nice guy. I don’t have a problem with him. So when he sent me a friend request, I accepted. At first I looked forward to reading his blogs as they gave me a clearer view of ideas with which I typically disagree. But as I delved into these pieces, I have to admit it grew harder to read his work. His treating genuine issues as spectator sport deeply troubles me. The first line of a recent blog in which he endorsed a political candidate says, “As far as I’m concerned, Big Labor can go straight to hell, and S***** ******* is helping them go there!” He was bragging about his candidate winning and the other side losing as if this complex issue that affects quality of life for many millions of hard working people is nothing more than a football game. TPB frequently maligns entire groups with negative connotations and name calling like when he uses terms like “Big Labor thugs,” “Big Academia,” and “Public Sector Unions” as if they are curse words.

Knowing this about TPB means that I rarely comment on his posts unless I can offer some expertise. One recent response from me included how a local initiative he supported wasted taxpayer dollars and I listed specifics as to how and why I was making that claim. Today I made a mistake though. I grew tired of seeing TPB attack my profession. It’s not as if teachers aren’t vilified enough in the media, but when he made sweeping hateful statements toward people with whom I am personally acquainted I decided to ask a clarification question. I knew that the question might be provoking in nature because I was going to defend a person that is linked to something he obviously believes is bad. So I started by asking if he really meant to call teachers thugs. I followed up with a defense of Lily Eskelson Garcia. I was right that the question and defense provoked, but I was surprised when it unleashed a barrage of name calling against me–I was suddenly a “pro-union element,” “corrupt,” “a Marxist,” and “unworthy to have kids in [my] class.” My ill-envisioned attempt to have him clarify and use specifics rather than paint my national union affiliate, the NEA, as a corrupt entity that harms children with his broad, baseless claims backfired. I had the gall to ask him if he even knew who Lily Eskelson Garcia is (she is the president of the NEA–and I have met her and worked at conferences with her on many occasions. She’s a rock star educator who deserves respect). I followed up with basic information like the fact she is a former Utah Teacher of the Year who is a strong advocate for at-risk students. The only replies I got (from three different men) was that I was a typical pro-union type who was an impediment to students who worked only for myself.

Let me reiterate. I’m not offended at the names this local blogger and his friends called me. I am pro union and I do not apologize for it. I have strong beliefs that being an engaged, empowered union member helps me to fight for a noble profession in which 76% of teachers and 52% of administrators are well-educated women (I see unions as a great equalizer among the sexes in the workplace). I’m not offended at being called a Marxist (even though I’m not–I’m openly a progressive who works to keep my politics out of my literature classroom). I’m not offended at being called corrupt (again inaccurate and unsupported–sorry, I’m a firm believer in supporting my accusations).

But I am offended. I am offended that the act of asking a clarifying question prompted retaliation–the absolute opposite of the principle of academic freedom for which I so strongly advocate. I am offended that TPB and his merry band of men chose to attack me personally rather than parlay on his use of the word “thugs.” I am offended that someone who lives in my community chose to allow a group of men who didn’t know me utilize ad hominem logical fallacies at my expense while using his friend status to backdoor stalk my page and make disparaging comments toward me personally. There is no room for this type of cyber bully behavior. So I had to take immediate action. I already have privacy settings set pretty tight on my social media pages, but I chose to block all the men on this thread. Their mantra of destroying anyone who happens to believe differently than they do is not respectful, responsible, caring, trustworthy, fair, nor good citizenship. They will now get to play in their malicious echo chamber by themselves.

And I will continue to play by my “New Rules” of demanding civil discourse, even on the most troubling of issues. As lifelong learners, I feel we all have plenty of experiences to share and help each other see the world with more clarity. We may not always agree on how to solve problems, but we can still help each other understand the various avenues our solutions may pave.

Let’s Just Call it “Marriage” Now

The Boeskool

You’ve undoubtedly heard the the Supreme Court ruled today to make marriage equality the law of the land. Anyone anywhere near a computer today probably felt a little like this:
1907492_1292974370732013_9189754401205793039_nI worked late last night and my wife let me sleep in. This morning, she woke me up and said, “I’m going to need you to look at Facebook.” I did, and most of the people in my virtual world were pretty jubilant. They were filled with hope. And they were celebrating with their friends who have been treated like second-class citizens for far too long. If you know anything about me, it probably comes as no surprise to you that this came as really good news to me. I don’t want to get all “hipstery” here, but I’ve been on board with this for a while now. This feeling of hope is such a stark contrast to last week

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The Most Powerful Education Lobby in Washington, D.C.

Diane Ravitch's blog

The industry that has been the most effective in buying protection in D.C, for its predatory practices is the for-profit college industry. It has hired the top lobbyist in both parties. It makes generous campaign contributions. It collects billions from taxpayers to underwrite its behavior. All of this money is used to enrich the industry leaders. Need I add that these institutions are known for predatory practices and for supplying a lousy education.

This article, written by David Halperin and published in The Nation, lays bare the power of this industry and how well it has used its resources to avoid scrutiny of it. The article appeared nearly one year ago.

Now Halperin has published a new article, predicting the end of the predatory colleges. He cites the bankruptcy of mega-chain Corinthian Colleges as a hopeful sign. He thinks that Washington is ready to take them on. Count me…

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