Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Teachers brought down by RICO amidst a public education system in crisis

Recently, one of the worst performing high schools in Rhode Island fired its entire staff of teachers in a last ditch effort to improve its rankings. The teachers will appeal their dismissals to school authorities, according to the head of the teachers union Thursday. (1)

The board of trustees monitoring the school system in Central Falls, among the poorest communities in the state, voted Tuesday to fire 88 high school teachers, as well as other support staff, by year’s end. Other administrators were fired as well.

Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and, according to Wikipedia, the average annual income is $22,000.

An e-mailer named Jason, posting on Mish’s Global Economic Analysis, commented about the city: (2)

“It looks like the pictures everyone's seen of Detroit or Flint. There are lots of boarded up windows, abandoned buildings, decrepit factories with broken windows, etc. It's an absolutely depressed community…”
Only 7 percent of 11th graders tested proficient in math in the fall, while 33 percent were proficient in writing, and 55 percent proficient in reading. In 2009, only 48 percent of students graduated in the normal four years.

A state survey found that 96 percent of students at Central Falls are eligible for free or reduce lunch and that 65 percent of the student body is of Hispanic origin. 13 percent is white and 14 percent black. 25 percent of the students take part in English as a Second Language programs. (3)

In the U.S., approximately one-sixth of black students and one-ninth of Latino students attend “apartheid schools,” where at least 99 percent of the student-body is considered minorities. In large cities, black and Latino students are almost 50 percent more likely to attend these schools. Two-thirds of black and Latino students in big cities are students at schools with a population of white students under 10 percent. The South, also, has started down a process of resegregation.

"It's getting to the point of almost absolute segregation in the worst of the segregated cities – within one or two percentage points of what the Old South used to be like," says Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project and one of the study's authors. "The biggest metro areas are the epicenters of segregation. It's getting worse for both blacks and Latinos, and nothing is being done about it." (4)

Are the teachers solely to blame?

The teachers are determined to appeal their dismissals, said Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers’ Union. She will meet with union lawyers and other labor representatives in the coming days, thereafter deciding whether to take further legal action.

Sessums hopes negotiations will resume. Her union, however, has failed to file requests to school officials to continue talks.

“We need to get together, we need to talk about this, we need to reach a resolution,” Sessums said. The firings came after Centrals Falls High School was ranked among the six worst in the state. The state ordered the school to make improvements by selecting one out of four reform plans dictated by federal law.

Superintendent Frances Gallo intended for teachers to agree to a package of changes, such as lengthening of the school day, requiring teachers to offer more tutoring, additional training, and eating lunch with students once a week.

Teachers earned at the high school an average of $72-78k. Secondary school teachers in Rhode Island, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn upwards of $60,000, higher than the country’s average salary of approximately $50,000.

Gallo made the decision to fire the teaching staff when union officials said they were not getting sufficient pay for overtime. The district offered the teachers extra pay for a summer training program, and for professional development time during the school year, Gallo said. She did not have the funds to raise salaries to compensate for the extended school day or for making teachers eat lunch with students once during the week.

“They absolutely refused to work without pay,” Gallo said. “Eating with students, they considered it a duty, not as I had hoped a relationship-building opportunity.”

Gallo said she does not plan on resuming negotiations over the mass firings; she does, however, hope to rehire some of the dismissed teachers.

The layoffs at Central Falls High School might be the first in a long wave of layoffs nationwide. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan fears imminent layoffs of teachers, as budget deficits begin taking their toll.
“I am very, very concerned about layoffs going into the next school year starting in September. Good superintendents are going to start sending out pink slips in March and April, as they start to plan for their budgets,” said Duncan. (5)

Many analysts anticipate layoffs as plummeting tax revenues lead states and cities to cut costs, despite last year’s economic stimulus package supported by the Obama administration. Duncan said the plan saved at least an Orwellian 320,000 education jobs last year. Orwellian because there is no true economic measurement of how many jobs a program “saved.”

The stimulus created a stabilization fund of $48 billion allocating directly to states, mostly for schools. These funds, however, will likely run dry before year’s end.

Furthermore, Obama warned last week of possible job cuts in state governments when stimulus funds run out.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 8.03 million works in local government education. A drop from the 8.09 million the year before and 8.05 million in January 2008. (6)

In the 2008 “Tough Choices or Tough Times” report, the National Commission on Skills in the Work Place, financed largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and championed by a bipartisan assortment of politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents, outlined a series of recommended measures in dealing with the destitute public school system: (7)

(a) replacing public schools with what the report called "contract schools", which would be charter schools writ large;
(b) eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards - their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the "contract schools;
(c) eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and
(d) forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn 16).

Collectively, these measures pose a threat of deconstructing public control of public education. Through these measures, the power of teacher unions would be weakened, creating a cycle whereby outside interests would increasingly control the public education sector. Education policy would be dictated by a network of entrepreneurial think tanks, corporate entrepreneurs, and lobbyists whose priorities seek to increase their sponsor’s share of markets. Public funding would be cut back for schools and, therefore, students.

This process would spell privatization of education, putting an end to the right of public education, as it is understood. Many powerful forces in the US plan on putting an end to public education. Over the last fifty years, public education has been one of only two public mandates guaranteed by the government, no matter a person’s income. The other is Social Security. Both systems are currently being challenged by a dearth in public funding and privatization schemes.

Unfortunately, the same process is being played out across most of the services governments have provided for free or at little cost, including electricity, national parks, health care and water. The methodology used by those pushing the privatization agenda is uniform across the board: under fund public services, create an uproar and declare a crisis, thereafter revealing a plausible solution, often that privatization can do a better job, deregulate or break public control, divert public money to corporations and then raise the price of the good or service.

Some say it is diseased children who are to blame for poor education results; that there exists a quickly growing percentage of youngsters who threaten the fabric of a sane nation. Science is running out of time to correct these malfunctioning oddballs. The solution is, all too often, in the form of a pill.

“We’ve got a lot of sick children,” according to author Emily Cox, senior director of research with Express Scripts, which administers drug benefit programs for private insurance plans. “What we’ve been seeing in adults, we’re also now seeing in kids.”

Sick by whose standards?

The Official Unemployment Rate stands, so we are told, at a relieving 9.7 percent, while the true number, to be certain—based on prior official definitions of unemployment—is estimated at around 22 percent. Just as this rate is subject to obfuscation, so too is the establishment definition of disease subject to change and manipulation.

The Seattle Times reported, in 2005, of a new process of disease identification, whereby pharmaceutical firms define diseases themselves. Policy makers at the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and many of America’s most prominent medical societies take money regularly from drug companies, while promoting the industry’s agenda.(7)

Throughout this process, a number of diseases have been completely redefined without strong medical evidence needed to justify the re-branding. Simultaneously, the drug industry expedited the speed with which its viewpoint gets heard by marketing directly to the consumer, and now younger and healthier people consider themselves at risk and in need of medications.

Modifications include the hypertension threshold being lowered by 10 blood-pressure points, and the definition of obesity lowered by 5 pounds, thereby expanding the market for drugs by millions and consumers and billions of dollars.

Sales of prescription drugs skyrocketed, and health-care costs rose dramatically.

In 2007, Medco’s data showed that 51 percent of American children and adults were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition, up from 50 percent the previous four years and 47 percent in 2001. Doctors said back then that the proportion of Americans on chronic medications can only grow.

According to, “The safety and effectiveness of medication such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) is well-documented, and typically, it is well tolerated by children. It has minimal side effects and is not addictive when taken according to a physician’s instruction.”

Contrarily, the Drug Enforcement Administration files Ritalin as a Schedule II Drug, and a controlled substaince. Other drugs in this category include methadone, methamphetamine and cocaine.

“Schedule II includes only those drugs with the very highest potential for addiction and abuse,” Dr. Breggin at states.

Moreover, according to Kevin Hall, “Per the Journal of the American Medical Association, Ritalin acts like cocaine, only it is a little stronger. Per street snorters of the drug, its withdrawal effects, or speed-crash, is higher.”

Ritalin, then, is of the same class of drug as cocaine, stronger in terms effects on the body, and prescribed for children as young as two and three years old. Also, the U.S. consumes five times more Ritalin than any other place in the world.

With the High School market flooded with Ritalin, demand for the pill has gone up. Ben Granville, of the Keystone Treatment Center, noted that prescription drug abuse is growing among teens, and that prescription drug use is one of the biggest issues affecting teens at their center.

“You might have a kid on Ritalin selling that for 30-40 bucks a pill.” (8)

The dependence on prescription drugs is becoming Huxleyan, as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has apparently uncovered a new sort of disease: Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Known by parents and children everywhere as temper tantrum and growing up and maturing. Symptons include: (9)

• Frequent temper tantrums
• Excessive arguing with adults
• Often questioning rules
• Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
• Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
• Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
• Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
• Frequent anger and resentment
• Mean and hateful talking when upset
• Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking

The academy cites medication as a possible solution for this new and vexing problem. “Because I told you so,” might become that much more satisfying an answer to drugged children across the country.

Ok—so maybe it is a nation of diseased children. But, what came first: the chicken or the egg? Is this culture of drugging our young exacerbating developmental torture we all experience in a pressure-ridden, contaminated society or is it itself part of the problem? Many of us have been written off as paranoid “conspiracy theorists”; but who is more paranoid? We who see a problem in three year olds popping pills or those who are so paranoid as to suggest we start drugging children before they even start babbling.

Who is saner: the four-year-old or advocates of the drug-everyone-BigPharma-culture?

When I was about four or five, a nurse, worried about the Oppositional Defiance Disorder I was demonstrating over having a needle poked into my arm, made the hospital custodian come into the room to hold me down; she was confident I was going to bite her as soon as she stuck that needle in my arm. It didn’t matter to me that Mom was going to take me to see Fern Gully afterwards. Although, afterwards it did help; regardless, I was terrified at the thought of the shot. I can tell you, the reader, however, that I wasn’t going to bite her. I can also tell you, I probably would bite her today, were she giving me such a shot without my consent. Especially after the panoply of information released regarding the pseudo-scientific nature of BigPharma regarding vaccines and other forms of medications.

So, while the teachers at the needy high school get brought down by RICO, poor school-aged children are being reintroduced to segregation, the education and infrastructure at their schools are being allowed to deteriorate, and they are being drugged, sometimes into submission, for chronic diseases that may or may not exist.

One way to look at it, I suppose, is that it is—at the very least—relieving that of the possible solutions for the Rhode Island high school’s poor performance, 24-hour surveillance of the students is not among them. We wouldn’t want children sacrificing homework time experimenting with one-eyed Charlie.

1. Ray Henry. Teachers to appeal mass firings at RI high school. Associated Press, 2/26/2010.
Available at:
2. e-mail sent to Mish found here:

3. Nannette Richford. RI Teachers Fired at Central Falls High School. Associated Content, 2/25/2010.
Available at:

4. Steven Miller and Jack Gerson. Exterminating Public Schools in America. Global Research, 3-10-2008.

Available at:

5. Teachers Likely to Receive Pink Slips in March and April. Education Portal, 2-22-2010.

Available at:

6. Amanda Paulson. Resegregation of U.S. Schools Depening. Christian Science Monitor, 1/25/2008.

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7. Susan Kelleher and Duff Wilson. Suddenly Sick. Diet Advisor.

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8. The Truth About Ritalin: A Dangerous Drug For ADHD

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9. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, June 2009.

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