BTS 8/31/09: Education Special; Fire Update

Listen: Play - Download

It’s our Back to School Special:  Education Reform, Charter Schools and the right to equal, public education, a civil rights issue of our time.

We begin our discussion of the staggering injustices and savage inequalities of our education system with long time education reformer, teacher and writer Jonathan Kozol, who insists that children are not commodities to be “herded into line and trained for the jobs that white people who live in segregated neighborhoods have available.”  Reform efforts continue to measure children by the standard of whether “they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs” instead of seeing them for “the blessings that they are.” Kozol writes “so long as these kinds of inequalities persist, all of us who are given expensive educations have to live with the knowledge that our victories are contaminated because the game has been rigged to our advantage.”  We’ll ask Jonathan about the state of schools and reform in the nation today.

We are then joined by Danny Weil, educator and advocate who says that reform proposals in Los Angeles amount to an assault on public education. His book Charter Schools comes out in September and he’s published a three part series on Charter Schools at We’ll talk about the move to Charter Schools, their record, and Mayor Villaraigosa’s plan to allow 250 LAUSD public schools to be operated as Charter Schools. Weil writes that the LA Unified School Board has voted to auction off kids, and “outside operators” are poised to start bidding in January 2010.

Continuing our discussion of education reform, Horace Small of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods joins us from Boston. The UMN has two education campaign coalitions: RISE (Rally in Support of Public Education) and BP4BPS (Black People for Better Public Schools) to take on the inequities of public education with committed community involvement in Massachusetts.  He sees education equity and quality as the Civil Rights issue of our time. Small notes that the movement to more Charter Schools is accompanied by increased underfunding for public schools, exacerbating the already appalling state of public education in Boston. The solution? Full civic engagement and forcing change with involved parents and communities. He joins our discussion

Also: an update on the fires raging in Southern California:  Jon Keeley, expert on the ecological impacts and history of wildfires in Southern California joins us for an overview. He teaches in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Read More for info on tonight's guests:

1. Jon Keeley, an adjunct professor in the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is an expert on the ecological impacts and history of wildfires in Southern California and other ecosystems with Mediterranean-type climates. A focus of Keeley's research involves the relationship between wildfires and the invasion of natural ecosystems by non-native plants, and how plants respond to environmental stresses such as fire. Keeley, who is also a based in Sequoia National Park-based research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, comments frequently when wildfires hit Southern California.

2. Jonathan Kozol is the National Book Award–winning author of Death at an Early Age, The Shame of the Nation, and Savage Inequalities. He has been working with children in their inner-city schools for more than 40 years. He is the author of dozens of books including, Illiterate America (1985), Rachel and Her Children  (1988), Savage Inequalities  (1991), Amazing Grace  (1995), Ordinary Resurrections (2000), The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (2005), and Letters to a Young Teacher (2007).

3. Danny Weil is a public attorney and an educational writer. He has published several books including School Vouchers and Privatization and Charter Schools, 1st edition, as well as the 2nd edition of Charter Schools, which comes out in September (Grey Publishers). He also has a three part series on dissecting neo-liberalism's plan for reforming education in America and the record of charter schools.

4. Horace Small, an African American and the Executive Director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, has been an organizer for 30 years and was the National President of the National Federation of Black Organizers and Activists for a two-year term and founder of the Philadelphia Community School, which trained hundreds of activists in the skills of organizing and citizens empowerment.