Friday, August 12, 2005

Watts 40th Anniversary, March on Washington, & Teachers Speak Out - Books Not Bars!

Teachers Speak Out About CYA

On the 40th anniversary of the Watts Uprisings ['riots'] grassroots groups are converging on Washington to build a stronger movement for racial and economic justice. For more info check out Family Members and Friends of Incarcerated People of Alabama. Over 2 million imprisioned!.

TEACHING MOMENT: See also the great LA Weekly coverage of the anniverary -
Joe Hicks' commentary Great Perspective from the Watts Labor Action Committee on the need for 'self-determination' for our communities.

Education Not Incarceration, with the support of Critical Resistance and Books Not Bars, was successful in winning stronger teacher support for their various campaigns at the National Education Association representative assembly gathering in LA recently. Congrats to the groups working to build more unity among teachers, students and grassroots groups and a stronger movement for educational justice, and to reform the prison industrial complex.
For more info on these efforts contact Jonah Zern of Education Not Incarceration.
On another front - Books Not BarsBooks Not Bars (BNB) is fighting to redirect California's public resources away from punishment for young people and towards opportunity.Currently, their "Alternatives for Youth" Campaign is fighting to close the California Youth Authority (CYA) eight youth prisons. They also coordinate a statewide network for parents of incarcerated youth, called Families for Books Not Bars. And, they have a youth organizing and leadership development program called Let's Get Free.

From Books Not Bars:
Mass incarceration is a crisis in California.
For decades, the state has poured money into its abusive, costly, and ineffective prison system, claiming this will make neighborhoods safe from crime. So, what do we have to show for this? The largest, and most expensive, prison system in the nation. A prison system that warehouses and abuses people, the vast majority of whom are from low-income communities of color. And streets and neighborhoods that are no safer than they were twenty years ago. BNB has a different vision for how to make our communities safe and healthy. We know California’s current prison system was never meant to truly provide for the safety and well being of low income communities and communities of color. We also know what these communities need instead. The government should invest in opportunity -- not punishment. The safest communities are the ones with the best schools and the most jobs -- not the ones with the biggest police departments or the most jail cells. This is the future that California deserves. It is the future that Books Not Bars is fighting for.

The National Education Association (NEA) – an organization representing 2.7 million educational professionals – wrote a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger expressing deep concerns about the CYA

July 25, 2005
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:
On behalf of the 2.7 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), I am writing to advise you of our great concern for inmates of the California Youth Authority (CYA).As education professionals, we are dedicated to opening the doors of opportunity for all children. While we are committed to the goal of great public schools for every child, we recognize that every child is not law abiding. However, we do not believe that children who run afoul of the law should also forfeit their opportunity to receive a quality education which greatly improves their chances of becoming productive citizens.Currently, the state of California spends only $7,692 per student for education, while spending $80,000 to $100,000 to house a child as an inmate of the CYA. By contrast, the state of Missouri spends half that amount on juvenile offenders, while housing them in small, supportive centers. Missouri's 15 percent recidivism rate, compared to your state's rate of 91 percent is further proof that there are successful alternative approaches to rehabilitating youthful offenders.As you consider transformation of the CYA, we would encourage you to look toward replicating the efforts of states like Missouri. For the state of California to not follow the lead of other states in restructuring your program in a manner that would provide youthful offenders with an environment leading to rehabilitation and greater opportunity for success as adults would lead us to recommend closure of the CYA.As you know, NEA members work in every level of public education -- from pre-school to university graduate programs. We are committed to the education of all, especially our youth. We urge you to stand with us by improving the opportunities for inmates of the CYA, and sending an important message that emphasizes education over incarceration.
Reg Weaver
NEA President

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Why Open Prisons and Close Schools?

Critical Resistance and Education Not Incarceration are 2 groups that are doing excellent work linking the struggles for educational equity with the horrendous rise of the prison industry or the prison industrial complex, as some call it, in CA and throughout the country.
This op-ed from the San Francisco Chronicle was actually the work of Critical Resistance.

Why open prisons and close schools?
Eric Mar, Dawn Ligaya Williams
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Click Here for the Full Article

Without a ribbon-cutting ceremony, inspiring speeches or champagne toasts, today marks one of the most controversial opening days for any state project in the last 25 years. Today, the notorious Delano II prison, a $750 million gift from the state to the prison guards' union, will open.
As California unwraps its 33rd state prison -- what the Los Angeles Times called perhaps "the most controversial prison project in California history" -- we are simultaneously being forced to close schools, libraries and hospitals. Where are our priorities?
Several statewide polls of likely voters have all found the same thing: Californians consistently identify prison spending as the budget item they most want cut in this time of crisis.
Other states nationwide have decided to close prisons. But in California -- where we imprison more people than any other state except Texas, according to the federal Bureau of Justice statistics -- the Department of Corrections will spend an additional $100 million per year, every year, to operate a new prison that Californians don't need, can't afford and don't want.
Meanwhile, Education Week ranked California 44th in the nation in per- pupil spending -- more than $600 per student below the national average. Study after study shows that investing in education pays huge dividends over paying to imprison. So why do our schools suffer billions in underfunding, while prison spending swells to rival the percentage of our state budget spent on higher education?
Underfunding education means schools are closing, class sizes are increasing, teachers and support staff are being laid off, basic supplies and books are lacking, extracurricular activities are no longer affordable and after-school programs have been drastically reduced.

Click here for the full article

More info on Critical Resistance and Education Not Incarceration, etc.:
This is a great piece by Angela Davis on Racism and Prisons from Colorlines Magazine

Monday, August 08, 2005

Teachers 4 Social Justice - friday event!

1. Anti-racist school reform specialist Enid Lee will be in SF this Friday!
2. August 11th T4SJ conference planning meeting -
Conference Keynote announced
3. '05-'06 Study Groups - visit for more info
4. Youth Empowerment Summit

1. Anti-racist school reform specialist Enid Lee will be part of a summer series that KPFA (La Onda Bajita) and New College of California are hosting this Friday, August 5th from 8-8:30pm and she will take questions from people in the audience.

Please arrive at 7:30pm and have your questions ready! 780 Valencia in San Francisco. Or Listen live on KPFA 94.1 fm too.

2. Get involved in T4SJ's 5th annual educators conference, "Teaching for Social Justice: An Act of Revolution" at our next general meeting. Thursday, August 11th from 6-8pm at 523 Dolores St, SF. If you can make the meeting, email us at or see you there! Visit our website to learn more about the conference or to donate and help make the conference happen. The next planning meeting will take place Tuesday, Sept. 6th, 6-8pm, location tba.KEYNOTE SPEAKER ANNOUNCED: Linda Chrisitansen, Teacher, Author and Activist will speak at the 2005 conference. Linda is author of "Reading, Writing and Rising Up: Teaching about Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word" and frequent contributor to Rethinking Schools.

3. T4SJ presents it's 5th year of grassroots professional development with our '05-'06 Study Groups. T4SJ Study Groups provide teachers with focused, peer-based professional development opportunities that are tied to existing classroom practice, vs. one-shot "training" workshops that happen in isolation. Curriculum is built around investigation of a specific topic through research and personal experience. Study groups presented this year will be:- Teaching and Social Justice for New Teachers and Student Teachers- Justice and Access through Math and Science- Parent and Teacher Collaboration- Intersections of Discipline and Racism- High Stakes Testing Action GroupVisit for registration information or more info about study groups.

4. "RESIST THE SYSTEM"The 3rd Annual Youth Empowerment SummitAugust 9th, 2005 11am-8pm @ SF State UniversityOn August 9th, high school student organizers from Making Waves will bring together over 200 youth along with some of the leading Bay Area youth development agencies and artists to SF State. The Summit is FREE to youth and will provide workshops and panels in the areas of Social Justice and Youth Activism, followed by an Arts Festival featuring some of the hottest performers and artists celebrating culture and consciousness.FREE for participants who PRE-REGISTER. Download registration form at and send it back to Making is register now!

For more info on Teachers 4 Social Justice -

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Inspiration for this blog - CEJ - Los Angeles

The title of this blog and inspiration comes from the amazing organizing and movement building work of the hundreds of teachers, students and parents united under the mass organization in Los Angeles called the Coalition for Educational Justice or CEJ. Bravo to CEJ and the many other folks organizing to change our schools and society.

See links to other movement organizations in the links section.

For more background on CEJ:

Article on Brown v. Board of Education and building a movement to change LA schools

The LA Weekly featured the young leaders and organizers of CEJ last summer and in 2001 -

2004 piece
2001 piece

UCLA's Teaching to Change LA website featured one of their leaders Kirti Baranwal, Alex Caputo Pearl and others:

Interview with Kirti
Interview with Alex

Other info on CEJ:

CEJ's analysis on high stakes testing

CalCare on CEJ

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My father - Richard Mar - Rest in Peace

The 1st anniversary of my father’s death is approaching on August 13th. He would have turned 87 on Sept. 4th.

I have been spending time with my mother who has come out to SF from her home in Sacramento to visit with me and my twin brother. It is a relief to see her laughing again and able to cope with my father’s death.

One of my mentors, SF State organizer and rabble-rouser extraordinaire, Tim Sampson gave us all some useful advice on coping with the impending death of loved ones in 2001 before he quietly passed away on the morning of Christmas Eve 2001:

"To you who are about to die: Please take time to say goodbye... (I)t is so important and wonderfully useful to the person who is dying to initiate the goodbye saying. This opens up the space to recognize that death may be coming soon..."

Tim suggested what the visitor to a dying person might say, "I hope to be able to see you again soon. But just in case, I want to say goodbye and tell you how much you have meant to me even though..." He continued, "I am learning how to keep my emotional affairs in order, my bags packed, so to speak so when I die, I won’t regret not saying goodbye to the people I care for."

I unfortunately wasn’t able to say ‘goodbye’ to my father before he died on August 13th last year because he didn’t want me to know that he was dying. I wish my father had initiated the goodbye so that I could have hugged him one last time.

On the anniversary of his death and his life I just wanted to honor his memory. Goodbye dad. I miss your laugh, stupid jokes and the warmth and love you gave to all of us.

For more info on the life of organizer Tim Sampson - a founding staff member of the National Welfare Rights Organization and longtime professor of Social Work at SF State University
Our Union CFA's tribute to Tim

For more info on my dad - Richard Mar -
From the Sacramento Bee 2004

Monday, August 01, 2005

SFUSD resegregation & 10 'unresolved issues' from 2005 consent decree report

SFUSD's 10 Key Unresolved Issues under the Terms and Conditions of the Decree
From Consent Decree Monitor Stuart Biegel's 22nd Anual Monitoring Report
filed August 1, 2005

Biegel Report # 22 - August 1, 2005

1. Low academic achievement at certain chronically low performing schools.
2. The inability of certain other schools to sustain gains that were originally achieved under the Decree.
3. A pattern of continuing resegregation at close to half of the District schools since 1999, and an inability to identify and implement adjustments in the student assignment plan that could address this resegregation to the extent practicable.
4. A persistent gap between the academic performance of African American and Latino students overall and the performance of the District as a whole, and an inability to define a vision and reach goals that could address this gap to the extent practicable.
5. An inability to confront the crisis that is evident within the African American community in San Francisco, a crisis that is reflected in highly troubling numbers on a range of traditional objective indicators and shows little sign of dissipating.
6. An ongoing lack of compliance with the Paragraph 12 within-school desegregation mandate of the Decree, resulting in a persistently different, less challenging curriculum for students in certain racially identifiable and socioeconomic-status-identifiable programs and classrooms.
7. Continuing issues regarding inequitable distribution of Consent Decree funds, with many schools that evidence the greatest needs in this context still receiving significantly less money than other, higher performing schools. Also, continued evidence of inappropriate allocation of these funds by administrators at certain school sites.
8. An inability to develop and maintain District-wide professional development programs that address the basic requirements of Paragraph 36 and convey basic Consent Decree principles and Philosophical Tenets to teachers and school site administrators.
9. Substantially different approaches and ineffective efforts regarding school discipline from school site to school site, resulting in a continuing lack of compliance with the mandate of Paragraph 38.
10. Vestiges of segregation, present in the District prior to 1978, that are reflected in both the continuing existence of low expectations for low income students of color and in the segregative nature of many District programs, particularly in the area of special education.

August SF Board of Education Meetings

I am still working on the blog technology. This is definitely a blog in progress.
San Francisco Board of Education meetings for August are
Tuesday 8/9 @ 7pm at 555 Franklin Street @ McAllister Street, SF.
Tuesday 8/23 [same place same time].
There are also a bunch of committee meetings. I know there is a buildings and grounds cmtee meeting coming up this week.
For info on board of education meetings, including the agenda items, how to get childcare, parking etc. go to
and click on the board of education hyperlink.
I meet with the Superintendent and Vice-President Norman Yee Tues 8/2 to set the agenda for 8/9.

I am also working with the Parent Advisory Council [PAC] to set up a reception for the incoming PAC members.
Looking forward also to the upcoming Teachers 4 Social Justice conference:
"Teaching for Social Justice: An Act of Revolution"
When: Saturday, October 15, 2005, 9am-4pm
Where: Mission High School, 18th and Church Street, SF
Who: Teachers and educators from the Bay Area and beyond
Why: To explore empowering learning environments through curriculum and practice and to provide a forum for networking and community building.

Lastly, when I return from a short vacation in LA I will post more info on what to expect for the Fall of 05.
Upcoming big topics include Student Assignment and our district's desegregation plan [see the archive], more anticipated budget cuts for 06/07 which may mean more school closures and/or layoffs/cutbacks, whether the Superintendent will retire or not and possibly choosing her replacement, etc.