Local police accountability activists have begun a campaign to place a measure on the November ballot to create a Public Safety Oversight Commission, which would have the authority to monitor, audit and determine the policies and practices of the Oakland Police Department.
“With federal oversight set to expire within the next year or two, we need some way to continue the oversight and monitoring the court has been doing for 11 years,” said Rashidah Grinage, Executive Director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).
“All of these gains are in jeopardy of being lost,” she said.
The ballot measure would transfer the authority over the police department to the commission from the city administrator, who at present has that responsibility under the City Charter.
“History has shown that city administration, because they are responsible for all departments, cannot devote sufficient times and energy to the police department,” Grinage said. “None of them were able to get the job done.”
The need for change is inescapable, she said. During the last 10 years, Oakland has paid out tens of millions of dollars in settlements of police misconduct lawsuit – more than San Francisco and San Jose combined, Grinage said.
According to a report by Oakland Local, the total cost of these lawsuits to the city was least $74 million.
The immediate goal is to create sufficient public support for the measure so the City Council will the put amendment to the City Charter on the ballot, since activists do not feel there is sufficient time to gather signatures for a voter-sponsored initiative.
To develop the measure, Grinage and others have have held conversations with City Council members and consulted experts in civilian oversight. The model they are using is based on the police commission that already exists in San Francisco.
The Oakland measure would create a nine-member panel, appointed by the mayor and council members, and composed of attorneys and a diverse cross section of the community.
Policy issues, such as Ceasefire, gang injunctions and youth curfews, would be discussed at public meetings, with sufficient opportunity for community members to weigh in. The commission would make recommendations to the council’s Public Safety Committee and the City Council.
In addition, the measure would give commission subpoena power, which Grinage says it needs in order to examine how OPD expends public funds. Up to now, she said, commissions and even city staff have been unable to gain access to what should be public records, she said.
Supporters have begun a petition to support placing a Public Safety Oversight Commission on the November ballot. The petition is online at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/oakland-needs-a-police-commission.
CTU launches Let Us Teach! campaign against standardized testing
BY CTU COMMUNICATIONS | 11/07/2013
Full remarks from Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis at a Nov. 7, 2013, press conference announcing the start of the Union’s “Let Us Teach!” campaign against standardized testing:
Today we want to share with you some insights into what happens every day in schools across the City of Chicago.
Specifically, I’m talking about the nearly 30,000 Chicago Teachers Union members who work to prepare, support, and deliver the best possible educational program they can to the 400,000-plus students who attend the Chicago Public Schools.
Our members are state-certified educators, trained in their profession. They come to school ready to teach, to encourage, and to help children of all ages to be prepared for a life of intellectual inquiry, for pursuit of further knowledge, for citizenship . . . and even to be ready for employment.
A very critical set of activities in our work is to determine, to evaluate, and to assess what our students have learned in the classroom from the curricula we teach each day. Every student assessment tells us where we have been successful in teaching, what students have learned, and also where we need to focus extra attention in future instruction.
Historically, and in schools, colleges, and universities around the world, student assessments – or tests of knowledge – are designed by teachers AND based on what has been taught. As a Chemistry teacher, I created such assessments, and I understood this to be a major tenet of professionalism in teaching.
In contrast to that, today we will share with you what we know about a destructive national trend called STANDARDIZED TESTING.
In general, standardized tests are devised from afar, not locally. It has been documented again and again that these multi-million dollar, rigidly prescribed, standardized testing programs often aim to judge students against measures that have little or nothing to do with what the classroom teacher has taught or is expected to teach.
In Chicago, we’ve seen the roll-out of dozens of these standardized tests – – in a budget challenged school system which is not even prepared to even administer them properly. The tests:
- Are rushed into classrooms with inadequate preparation for both students and teachers
- Used for inappropriate age groups or grade levels
- Do not inform future student instruction
- Consume huge amounts of instructional time and financial cost, and are a heavy paperwork burden
- And most outrageous of all, some standardized tests even require 5-year-old kindergarten children to use computer technology they have never seen or touched!
The revelations that classroom teachers and parents share with us about the anxiety, frustration, and depression that these standardized tests cause for children are horrendous.
Therefore, we are announcing the Chicago Teachers Union’s LET US TEACH campaign and joining in today’s National Day of Action on Testing along with teachers and parents across the country who are alarmed by what is a clear and present danger to children and a threat to their education.
Right now, parents and teachers are mobilizing against standardized tests in:
- New York, New York
- Cleveland Heights, Ohio
- Seattle, Washington
- Denver, Colorado
- Los Angeles, Oakland, and Bay Area schools in California
WHY are we doing this?
We object to the growing trend to mandate unproven standardized tests which are a major drain on classroom time, undermine education, and stand in stark contrast to the proven student assessment tools of classroom teacher-developed quizzes, exams, checklists, and homework given daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. These are student assessment tools that relate directly to the actual curricula students learn. They are not the result of some corporate think-tank exercise or focus group!
Beyond the failure of standardized tests to help evaluate or provide guidance on anything relevant to teaching in Chicago, we also see evidence of them being used politically – here and elsewhere. Performance on these invalid tests is used punitively:
- To justify decisions about student and school rankings
- To target so-called “failing or underperforming” schools, and ultimately
- To make decisions about school closings
Just as shocking, we are appalled that student performance on these unproven standardized tests is used to evaluate performance and determine the fate of the very teachers charged with administering these tests!
We are outraged that the Illinois State Legislature, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Chicago Public Schools now mandate that Chicago students take an array of nearly 30 standardized tests – aimed at preschool children through students in the 12th grade.
The questions we must ask – and I hope you will ask also – are these:
- Why must our public school children be subjected to this battery of pointless standardized testing throughout the year, every year?
- How much is CPS paying for these standardized testing programs and to whom?
Children don’t take these standardized tests at the University of Chicago Lab School. Children who attend our city’s other elite private schools don’t take these tests either. Why not?
We urge you to consider these factors in understanding why we all must act to stop Chicago’s massive standardized testing program:
- Consider the fact that children are harmed
- Consider the loss of classroom instructional time
- Consider the damage to teacher professionalism
- Consider that these tests are not used to inform instruction, but to rank and sort students, close schools, and stigmatize school communities.
These concerns are at the heart of the Chicago Teachers Union’s new campaign to fight standardized testing. We are urging parents to:
- Opt-out of standardized testing.
- Demand that the Chicago Public Schools immediately stop the clearly harmful and pointless standardized testing of children in Pre-school and Kindergarten through 2nd grade.
- Call or email CPS officials to protest standardized testing:
We are encouraging CTU members to:
- Talk to students’ parents about standardized testing and urge them to call CPS officials.
- File a “Limitations on Paperwork” contract grievance.
- Distribute leaflets outside of school to students and parents.
- Take a stand! Meet with school colleagues. Tell principals and Local School Council members that these standardized tests are harming children. Schools should drastically reduce administer the number of tests.
- Ask the school’s LSC to sign a letter to CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett that they want excessive testing stopped.