“Tying teacher pay to student test scores is a New Jim Crow policy in the making.”
(Transcript of speech below.)
On September 12, 2012, before the Berkeley Board of Education meeting, Yvette Felarca — head of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers’ Equal Opportunity Now (EON) caucus, BAMN national organizer, and teacher at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Middle School — spoke out against the proposed appointment of Edmond Heatley as Berkeley’s next superintendent of schools.
Edmond Heatley is a graduate of the Broad Foundation, which trains individuals to privatize public education by enacting charter schools and another free-market schemes, and use heavy-handed policies that disrupt public schools and blame teachers and students for the effects of segregation and underfunding of education. One of his first acts as superintendent of Clayton County Public Schools was to suspend 1,500 students for wearing jeans in protest of a school-uniform policy.
Yvette Felarca was the first individual to speak out condemning the appointment of Mr. Heatley, and through BAMN mobilized students and community to stop his appointment. As a result, at the September 12 meeting the Berkeley Board of Education announced they would “slow down” search the process and demur from appointing Mr. Heatley that night.
We must still mobilize in Berkeley to assure Mr. Heatley is NOT appointed and to make sure that the new superintendent reflects Berkeley’s commitment to integrated, quality public education. Contact Yvette Felarca at [email protected] to join the movement.
My name is Yvette Felarca. I am a teacher at Martin Luther King Middle School. I am also the head of the union caucus in the BFT [Berkeley Federation of Teachers] and AFT [American Federation of Teachers] called Equal Opportunity Now / BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) caucus, and I am a National Organizer with BAMN.
We are here because we want to make clear that Berkeley says “No” to the school district hiring Edmond Heatley, who is a superintendent associated with the Eli Broad Foundation, which is a pro-privatization, anti-public-education think tank in the nation that specializes in busting public education, resegregating schools, through pushing charter schools, and also attacking the rights of teachers and students with not just disrespect but also trying to push policies that end up hurting the quality of public education for all students.
Edmond Heatley in his last school district suspended 1,500 students for expressing their right to not wear uniforms because they wore blue jeans in a coordinated protest. He suspended all of the students. We think this is completely unacceptable.
How you treat young people and how you treat students sets a standard for how you treat everyone. And young people in Berkeley have a proud history—that a lot of old people here are also proud of because they did it as young people—of expressing their right to think critically, to act independently, and to free speech. And we know that someone with this kind of policy and heavy hand is not going to be welcome and will not treat Berkeley students the way that they deserve.
The Eli Broad Foundation and Heatley are known for having a dictatorial and heavy-handed style in the way that they manage schools, the way that they treat teachers, principals and students. In his last school district, Heatley was called “one of the worst superintendents in Clayton County’s history.” Even reporters from the Clayton news who have covered Heatley characterize his tenure as a tenure that was mired in controversy and mired in policies that drove out some of the best educators from the school district.
The Eli Broad Foundation is a foundation that does not just find people: those who agree with Broad find Broad. So the fact that Edmond Heatley applied and got into the Eli Broad Academy says a lot about the kind of philosophy that he already holds and was trained in. That means that they believe in the free-market, corporate-style policies for public education. That means privatizing schools.
So what does that look like concretely? It means pushing student test scores, so-called “data-driven” policies, looking at the numbers as a way to evaluate and judge not just students, but also teachers, principals, and the schools as a whole. The Broad Foundation not only pushes charter schools that lead to more segregation, more inequality in the schools—and in Berkeley, we have fought long and proudly and successfully to defend our historic voluntary school integration plan; we will not accept more charter schools in Berkeley—but it also means doing things like tying teacher evaluations to student test scores and tying teacher pay to student test scores.
That is a new Jim Crow policy in the making. Standardized tests are not a model and they are not a measure of a student or a teacher. Standardized tests are inherently racially-biased and inaccurate, and all they do is justify further segregation and clamping down on some of the best and brightest students and teachers alike.
We saw what happened in Los Angeles when they started publicizing the test scores of the teachers’ students, by teacher, stigmatizing not just the students but the teachers also. And that was under an Eli Broad Foundation superintendent, Superintendent Deasy, who also tried to cut art programs in the elementary schools in Los Angeles just last spring and tried to lay off 200 art teachers in the elementary schools in L.A.
Well, that is also what Edmond Heatley tried to do in Clayton County. He cut art programs. He cut busing and transportation programs. We will not let that happen here, especially when art, music, electives and the performing arts are so crucial to developing leadership in students. And all students—black and Latino and also rich white students—have a right to develop their full potential and not have those programs cut.
And our transportation program in Berkeley is the heart of our desegregation plan, and so we will fight like hell to make sure that we keep our transportation plans intact, and if anything expand and fight for further integration in the Berkeley schools.
The Eli Broad Foundation, and I would imagine some members of the School Board, try to justify their education policies from the cynical standpoint of closing what they call “the achievement gap.” But that “achievement gap” is really an opportunity gap. And so what that really means is, when they implement these policies, cutting the opportunities for black and Latino students, more racism, and more separate and unequal education.
We say no to this completely. Our organization is committed to building the new civil rights movement and defending public education by any means necessary. And so what that means is: we are here to make clear to the Board, “We say no to Edmond Heatley. We know Berkeley says no to Edmond Heatley.”
Their entire process of even “vetting” him has been closed. They dropped a bombshell on the community last week when they announced he was their sole finalist. Our own union members did not even know about the fact that this person was the sole candidate or his background until we started hearing about it from teachers in Oakland.
And now we are getting the word out. It is starting to catch fire. More and more teachers, parents, community members and students are getting behind making sure that we stop this impending disaster.
We intend to be here tonight and also every night until we are assured that the Board is not going to hire him, that they are going to reopen the process and make it more democratic, and that we have a superintendent in Berkeley who represents the students, the teachers, and this community—not someone who is for privatization, more segregation, and more inequality.