Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Reviews (Allyson M. Deese, Allizabeth Collins and Lisa Benson)

Visit to learn more about Battlegrounds: America’s War in Education and Finance: A View from the Front Lines.

Posted by Allizabeth Collins

Review # 90: BATTLEGROUNDS America's War in Education and Finance: A View from the Front Lines by Todney Harris

Todney Harris' BATTLEGROUNDS America's War in Education and Finance: A View from the Front Lines is a wakeup call for America and its educational system. It discusses the capitalistic economy and its approach to running America's educational facilities, the negative factors that influence America's children, and how these problems can be solved if the parents, schools, and government start communicating with each other and taking social injustices seriously.
Even before I read this book, I was very interested in Todney Harris ‘opinions on education. I have noticed in the past couple years that the American educations system is indeed heading in a downward spiral.  More and more kids are falling behind, and many are dropping out because schools aren’t the safe, supportive and stimulating environments they should be.  I am glad to hear that someone is so passionate about this topic, especially about the economy’s role in it.  I enjoyed the detailed history of education in the U.S.A, as well as Todney Harris’s views on educational reform, technology and parental/media influences.  I agree that educators and school leaders are obligated to care, educate, nurture and protect the school community, but it should be everyone’s job (parents, state, government, etc ..), not just the teachers and educators.  I have great respect for educators and what they have to deal with these days, especially the budget cuts and the dwindling pay.  Educators are responsible for molding the minds of our future generations, so why should they be treated with so little respect?  Overall, I thought that American War and Education….was very well researched and written.  The small but powerful book put the educational system into perspective for me, and, after reading, I did feel inspired.  I believe that many people have similar opinions, but are afraid to voice them.  Hopefully, this book will change that.  America is a democracy after all; shouldn’t the people’s opinions matter?  Very interesting and thought provoking read, recommend to all parents and guardians of future generations.

 Rating on the run (4.5/5) I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 Visit to learn more about Battlegrounds: America’s War in Education and Finance: A View from the Front Lines.

Author Allyson M. Deese  author of “Discovering The Joy Within”

October 11, 2011Review of Battlegrounds:  America’s War in Education and Finance:  A View from the Front Lines

5 Stars – A must read for anyone who cares about our children’s future.

 Mr. Harris has brought the current state of our crumbling education system to the forefront and I whole heartedly applaud his efforts. Battle Grounds is a gripping piece that tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about our education system and government. What I love about this book is that author and educator Todney Harris also offers solutions about how to repair our system and save our children’s futures.  

Lisa Benson Outreach Coordinator, Early Childhood Education Teacher

Review of Battlegrounds: America’s War in Education and Finance: A View from the Front Lines authored by Todney Harris educator/author


Education in America is at a crossroads.  The focus is on making meaningful reforms that within the current system that are affordable and most importantly, reforms that make sense!  It is my opinion that Todney Harris has accomplished these goals with his publication.  It is wonderful that he has written a book concerning the welfare of America’s children.  I hope that all who read this book will find it to be both insightful and resourceful.  I hope that educators, administrators and most importantly parents, acknowledge the issues in and around the school system and make a choice to be proactive in terms of letting their voices be heard.  I commend Mr. Harris for being an advocate for America’s children! 

I have received the book from the author and was asked to write an unbiased review. 

Privatization (my thoughts)

According to data from the Shanker Institute, Charter schools do not perform any better or worse than schools in the public sector.  It is my opinion that the movement towards privatization is of a profit motive by corporate elitists.  In addition, it is simply a union busting technique.  Charter schools are non unionized.  If true reform efforts are going to be implemented, then the educators who are in charge of servicing America's youth must be given the right to effect meaningful and necessary change.  Once again, I make reference to my book!  Purchase it and read it.  I make suggestions that are appropriate and most importantly, COST EFFECTIVE!
Todney Harris

Chicago mayor aims to aggressively privatize schools

CHICAGO - Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) sparked uproar among educators, legislators and many parents with the announcement that a record 10 schools will be "turned around" and 8 others will be closed or phased out in response to low performance.

Meanwhile CPS will radically expand its relationship to charter school operators.

The action will affect 10,000 students and result in the firing of 600 teachers, principals, building maintenance, cafeteria and other workers. All the turnarounds and closures are on the West and South Sides, predominantly African American and economically distressed communities.

The twin announcements came as new studies show the last 10 years of school reforms driven by leading corporate and financial interests, including turning increasingly to charter schools, have barely made a difference in student achievement.

Another study shows charter schools often perform more poorly than public schools.

In announcing the plans, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said they are part of a more aggressive response to the recent report that 42 percent of the city's schools were on probation for academic low performance. Critics say placing schools on probation opens the door for new rounds of closings and privatization.

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis sharply criticized the announcement. "School closings, consolidations, turnarounds and other similar experiments do not work and do little to improve student achievement," said Lewis.

"Today's 'school actions' are the same old, ineffective, policies couched in new and exciting public relations boosting language; however, the outcomes will remain the same," notes Lewis. "Until this administration addresses the structural inequity in our schools and deals with poverty and other social impediments to learning, we'll be right back at this place again next year."

CPS will contract with Academy for Urban Leadership (AUSL) to run six of the turnaround schools and provide them with $20 million to do so.

"What we challenge is that the board is now saying that we are going to invest in a turnaround school," said Norine Gutenkanst, CTU organizing director, to the Chicago Journal. "We are going to pour millions of dollars into this school now, but we're wondering where was the millions of dollars before and why wasn't it invested before?"

Teachers at the AUSL schools will still be under the CPS-CTU collective bargaining contract.

The CTU and community groups have launched a campaign to "support our schools, don't shut them down." Over 400 people gathered to map out strategy of bringing together teachers, parents, students and community to oppose the Board's actions. An all night vigil will precede a mass rally at the next Chicago Board of Education meeting Dec. 14.

The new board action marks over 100 schools, nearly one in six, that have been "turned around" or closed since a new policy took effect in 2002 under then schools CEO and current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Under the policy the entire school staff is dismissed, and outside "education maintenance organizations" are often brought in to run the schools.

The CPS relationship to AUSL, the national charter operator started by Chicago venture capitalist Martin Koldyke, is being called a blatant conflict of interest. AUSL previously employed Brizard. Emanuel has a close relationship to AUSL including that the principal of AUSL's Bethune School of Excellence was a co-chair of Emanuel's mayoral campaign.

Earlier this year Emanuel doubled the number of AUSL run teacher-training academies, from seven to 14.

David Vitale, president of the Chicago Board of Trade, heads the Chicago Board of Education, whose membership is dominated by big corporate and financial interests appointed by Emanuel. Vitale previously was on the board of directors of AUSL.

In welcoming large out-of-state charter operators to Chicago, Emanuel is continuing a privatization policy begun under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

"I want all the charter operators who don't yet operate in the City of Chicago to see this as an opportunity to now look at Chicago as a place to set up shop," Emanuel told a group of charter operators during a signing ceremony for a new "Charter Compact" backed by the Gates Foundation, which boosts the city's commitment to charter operators.

In signing the pact, which could mean millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation in additional funding for charters, Emanuel was ignoring fresh evidence that charter schools don't provide any advantage over traditional public schools. In a new report the Illinois board of education found eight of nine Chicago charter school networks do worse than traditional schools for the percentage of students who pass state standardized tests.

Photo: Chicago Teachers Union, labor and community groups are calling for restoring Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds that are being diverted from property taxes meant for education funding. (John Bachtell/PW)

Braun: New kind of N.J. school privatization on the rise

Public education in New Jersey has been roiled recently by conflicts over charter schools, vouchers and "virtual" schools — but, now, a new type of privatization is on the horizon: allowing public schools to contract with a private company to offer "alternative" education.

The idea has been promoted to school superintendents by one of their own, Mount Olive schools chief Larrie Reynolds. He says it could bring extra income both to cash-strapped school districts and to a private, Dubai-based company for which he works as a consultant.

Reynolds is a friend and former employee and business associate of acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. Reynolds, who calls Cerf a "magnificent man," recently appeared with Cerf and Gov. Chris Christie on a panel to discuss school reform.

Cerf has known Reynolds for years — hired him twice — and the relationship provides a glimpse not just into the growing political brawl over privatization, but also into the network of entrepreneurs who use longstanding contacts in both government and the private sector to try to make money on what had been a public monopoly.

Cerf says he knows Reynolds was "in the early stages of thinking about a program that would serve alternative education students drawn from multiple districts." He says he is unaware "of the specifics of his ideas."

Under Reynolds’s plan, a company he says that he represents as a consultant — GEMS Education — would help a school district apply to the commissioner to become a "district of choice" under a newly expanded inter-district choice law, allowing it to admit students from other communities. The law gives the commissioner the power of approval.

GEMS Education, a company owned and funded by Dubai entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, would recruit outside students for the program, hire teachers privately for lower-than-contract salaries and provide supplies for a "pathways" program run independently of, but under contract to the district. The private company would split the additional state aid coming into the district as a result of its status as a choice district.

Reynolds says the company would have to make a "sizable" capital investment in the program and "take on a lot of risk." Only a private entrepreneur could do that, he says.

The Mount Olive schools chief, who has distributed materials on the program at meetings of school administrators, has not yet filed an application. He says his own district might apply. Reynolds says he works as a consultant for GEMS Education and is not being paid for bringing in customers.

He also is president of Sangari Active Science, a subsidiary of Sangari Global Education, a company once run by Cerf. Reynolds also headed Newton Learning, a division of Edison Schools, a private education management company Cerf served as chief operating officer.

The current president of Sangari Global, Rajeev Bajaj, headed Global Education Advisers, a consulting company started by Cerf out of his Montclair home. It received a $500,000 contract from the Newark public schools. Cerf said he left Global Education Advisers before it received the contract and never received money from the company. Randy Cerf, Cerf’s brother, is chief financial officer of Sangari Global.

Reynolds says that, even though he works for both companies, there is no connection between Sangari and GEMS.

One superintendent Reynolds approached was Judith Rattner of Berkeley Heights, until recently president of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

"All school districts are looking for ways to bring in more revenue," says Rattner. "But I decided pretty quickly this was not something I’d be interested in doing."

According to its website, GEMS Education is the "largest kindergarten to year 12 education operator in the world," with 100,000 students enrolled, mostly in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. It boasts $500 million in annual revenues. While it only operates one school in the United States — "Little Gems" in Texas — its American subsidiaries provide consulting services to public schools in Arizona, Maryland, Connecticut, Colorado, Ohio and Missouri. Its parent company, the Varkey Group, also has expanded into privately operated hospitals and construction management.

The American subsidiaries are headed by Manny Rivera, once executive vice president of Edison. Marlaina Palmeri, another former vice president of Edison, is in charge of charter school management for the company.

Cerf says he met with Varkey seven years ago "on a completely unrelated matter" and may have "run into him" again at a charitable event. The commissioner said, if he were faced with making a decision involving Reynolds, he would "consider the facts presented, seek advice concerning any applicable legal guidelines and act accordingly."

The issue of privatization has spawned rallies and counter-rallies, litigation and sharp debates in the Legislature recently. A spokeswoman for an opponent of privatization, SOS-New Jersey, says Reynolds’ work and the involvement of for-profit companies in public education show the need for tighter controls on charter and other privatized schools.

"We have to close the loopholes," says Julia Rubin of Princeton. "What’s happening is that the state is allowing anything that is not expressly forbidden."

Reynolds defends private involvement, contending public schools have neither the money nor the time needed to create "alternative schools" envisioned by his plan. In the materials he provided other superintendents, he also sees it as a fundraiser:

"At a minimum, a choice district’s first year revenues at a 50 percent split would generate as much as $641,000 to the potential district."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Government Entitlement

Do Half Of New Teachers Leave The Profession Within Five Years?

You’ll often hear the argument that half or almost half of all beginning U.S. public school teachers leave the profession within five years.

The implications of this statistic are, of course, that we are losing a huge proportion of our new teachers, creating a “revolving door” of sorts, with teachers constantly leaving the profession and having to be replaced. This is costly, both financially (it is expensive to recruit and train new teachers) and in terms of productivity (we are losing teachers before they reach their peak effectiveness). And this doesn’t even include teachers who stay in the profession but switch schools and/or districts (i.e., teacher mobility).*

Needless to say, some attrition is inevitable, and not all of it is necessarily harmful, Many new teachers, like all workers, leave (or are dismissed) because they are just aren’t good at it – and, indeed, there is test-based evidence that novice leavers are, on average, less effective. But there are many other excellent teachers who exit due to working conditions or other negative factors that might be improved (for reviews of the literature on attrition/retention, see here and here).

So, the “almost half of new teachers leave within five years” statistic might serve as a useful diagnosis of the extent of the problem. As is so often the case, however, it’s rarely accompanied by a citation. Let’s quickly see where it comes from, how it might be interpreted, and, finally, take a look at some other relevant evidence.

The primary source for the claim seems to be analyses by respected University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll (presented, among other places, in this 2003 report). Ingersoll uses data from the 2001-02 Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS). The TFS is a supplement to the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), a highly regarded national survey of teachers conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

And, indeed, he estimates cumulative five-year attrition at 46 percent, and also reports finding similar results using SASS/TFS data from previous years.

So, there is an empirical foundation for this claim, but there are also a few very important caveats and limitations (all of which Ingersoll dutifully acknowledges and/or addresses directly with additional analyses). First, this figure is only an approximation. Few surveys follow respondents for five years, and even fewer contain a sufficient number of new teachers to get precise estimates. As a result, “true” estimates of new teacher attrition are very hard to come by.

The SASS samples a large group of teachers, but contacts a sub-sample of them only one year later (that’s the TFS). This means Ingersoll must derive his five-year attrition figure from estimates of the probability of teachers leaving in their first, second, third, fourth and fifth years.

So, given that the 46 percent is only an approximation, it’s best to give it a little bit of an error margin, and say that, according to this analysis, between 40-50 percent of new teachers left within five years.

Second, due to data limitations, these estimates cannot account for teachers who leave teaching and then return at a later point. This phenomenon is quite common – in fact, some studies estimate that as much as 20-25 percent of leavers return to the profession at some later point (also see here). Some also take non-teaching jobs within the education field.

The fact that many leavers come back does not necessarily detract much from the policy importance of the 40-50 percent figure – schools that lose a teacher must still incur the multi-dimensional costs of hiring a new one, regardless of whether the first teacher eventually returns. (The same basic point of course applies to teacher mobility – e.g., teachers who switch schools/districts.)

On the other hand, a large proportion of returners may mitigate the harmful aggregate effects of new teacher attrition, since many “new” hires will have some experience under their belt, and fewer brand new teachers would be needed.

The third issue is very important, and it usually applies to estimates for a large group (in this case, for a whole nation): There is a tremendous amount of underlying variation. New teacher attrition varies within and between states. In some districts, the rate of leaving (and mobility) is much lower than the national figures suggest, whereas in others, particularly in lower-income areas, it is higher.

For example, one study using Philadelphia data found that, among the teachers hired for the 1999-2000 school year, a full 70 percent had left the district within six years (though it’s very important to note that this analysis, like most single-district estimates of new teacher attrition using administrative [usually payroll] data, significantly inflates the amount of leaving per se, since it doesn’t differentiate between teachers who actually exited the profession entirely versus those who simply got a job in another district). High rates (with the same caveat about inter-district mobility) can also been found in other urban districts, such as New York City and Chicago (also see Ingersoll’s work in this area).

In other words, any national estimate of new teacher attrition (and mobility) might over- or understate the prevalence, depending on the context. Attrition rates are also higher among teachers entering the field with less preparation and mentoring (but there’s some evidence that the former may be more likely to change schools)

The fourth issue to keep in mind about this particular finding is that, by itself, it lacks a frame of reference. In other words, one might point out that the fact that a given proportion of new teachers leave within five years doesn’t by itself tell us whether it’s “high” or “low.” It might be compared with something, such as the rates in other professions.

Certainly, new teacher leaving is higher than that among entrants into other professions, such as law and medicine, that require extensive investment in occupation-specific human capital. But research comparing teachers with a wide range of other jobs is somewhat limited. This 2001 paper looks at 1992-93 college graduates who were teaching in 1994. The analysis indicates that the proportion who had left teaching by 1997 was similar to or lower than those of other graduates’ occupations.**

Ingersoll compared total turnover (attrition plus mobility) with data from other sources, and found that it was higher than that in other occupations by small margins (also see here for a comparison of total teacher turnover [attrition plus mobility] with that of nurses, social workers and accountants). Other studies find an important role of childbearing in contributing to young teachers’ leaving the workforce.

Fifth and finally, these are older data, and even though Ingersoll has stated that the results using the 2004-05 TFS were roughly the same, there is some even newer evidence on beginning teacher attrition that bears on this discussion. NCES, which conducts the SASS/TFS, has begun a supplemental survey survey that follows a cohort of new teachers over time. The first round of results, though preliminary, indicates that, among beginning teachers hired in 2007-08, about 10 percent had left teaching by 2008-09, and only 12.5 percent had left by 2009-10. These are considerably lower than all previous figures, especially the second-year rate.**

On the other hand, the most recent estimates from the TFS (2008-09) find that the raw leaving rate among teachers with 1-3 years of experience is about nine percent, while the rate for teachers with 4-9 years is around eight percent. These figures, very roughly ballparked, are more in line with previous work (though, again, many leavers do return, and it’s the 2009-10 estimate that really diverges).

In any case, it’s obviously true that that job attrition rates can change over time, and it’s quite possible that new teacher attrition may not be as high as it used to be. For instance, comparing the rates from the 2008-09 TFS with those from the previous administration (2004-05), there seems to have been a decrease in leaving among teachers with no prior experience. The recession might have played a role here, as fewer teachers are being hired, and those that do enter may be less likely to incur the risk of changing jobs when so few are available. Shifts in new teachers’ demographics or qualifications could also affect leaving rates.

So, overall, it’s fair to say that the “almost half of new teachers leave within five years” statistic has some backing, but, like almost any standalone statistic, it’s an incomplete assessment of the current situation. To the degree that the approximations from the 1990s and early 2000s are on target, about 40-50 percent of new teachers left the profession within five years, but many did return, and, perhaps most importantly, attrition was higher in some places and lower than others. In addition, there is very tentative recent evidence that the five-year cumulative rate may be somewhat lower going forward.

Regardless, none of this should distract from the larger, important point: New teacher attrition (and total turnover) are serious problems that might be productively addressed. The entire nation may not lose quite as many as half its new teachers, but many districts, especially the poorer, lower-performing ones, do lose half or more, sometimes more quickly than five years. Moreover, if you include mobility (which, from a district’s perspective, has the same basic effect), these rates get much worse.

High turnover among new teachers can create a self-reinforcing cycle that threatens the stability and efficacy of schools, especially those serving the most disadvantaged children. And that’s much more important than quibbling over the precise national rate and how it was calculated.

- Matt Di Carlo

New Policy Brief: The Evidence On Charter Schools And Test Scores

Posted by Shanker Institute Staff on December 14, 2011
In case you missed it, today we released a new policy brief, which provides an accessible review of the research on charter schools’ testing effects, how their varying impacts might be explained, and what this evidence suggests about the ongoing proliferation of these schools.

Download the policy brief

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Senate Committee on Track to Make No Child Left Behind Even Worse

In an attempt to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act of 1965 for a ninth time, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced a proposal late Thursday night with over 1,000 pages of federal policy for local schools. (As if NCLB’s 600 pages weren’t enough.)

On top of the content itself, one more problem with this proposal is the short timeline on which it has been debated. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) infamously said that Congress would have “to pass the [health care] bill so you can find out what is in it.” Senators Harkin and Enzi appear to be following suit, releasing the full text of the massive ESEA rewrite only days prior to the markup.

Senator Richard Burr (R–NC) was not pleased, as he noted during Wednesday morning’s markup:

In 17 years of serving in congress, I’m not sure that I’ve ever, in the minority, found myself the recipient of an 868 page bill on the Friday before a Wednesday markup. And the leadership of the committee suggested that there had been consultation.… [T]here was no consultation with me. I got the text of this bill the same time it was released to the public. I don’t think that was a mistake. I think it was on purpose.

Similarly, Senator Rand Paul (R–KY) wrote in a letter last Tuesday to Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi:

The HELP Committee has not held a single hearing on this bill since I have been here. We have not had enough time to allow the teachers, superintendents, and principals in our states who specialize in educating our children to review this legislation. We have not had time to thoroughly read and review this bill to determine whether it will actually help our children, or whether it will, in fact, make matters worse.”

Well, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke has read the bill and concludes that it will, in fact, make matters worse. Sure, the proposal does away with “adequate yearly progress”—one of the most loathed aspects of NCLB. But it would replace it with requirements that states prove that they have “college- and career-ready” standards, giving Washington more control over the content taught in local schools.

Nearly five decades of failed federal involvement in education has yet to convince Congress that governing schools from Washington doesn’t work. Academic achievement remains stagnant as greater federal regulation forces schools to focus on Washington’s demands rather than look to the needs of those whom they are meant to serve: children and families.

Instead of more mandates from Washington, schools need flexibility and freedom to implement the policies they decide are best for the students in their state. As Burr stated at Wednesday’s markup:

I can’t compare North Carolina to Wyoming. I can’t compare it to Iowa. Our schools are made up of a different group of individuals.… To suggest that what works there is the answer that we need in North Carolina is absurd. And so when we talk about flexibility, let’s make sure that flexibility is open to all and that it’s not conditional upon doing something that we’ve federally mandated.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Writing and Marketing Tips for Authors (my thoughts)

Hello and good day fellow authors!
My name is Todney Harris.  I am pleased to write a few words regarding the process of publishing and marketing books that are self published.  I want to begin the conversation by stating that I heavily emphasize having your publication professionally reviewed prior to publishing.  It is a worthy investment and it helps to ensure author credibility.  So with that statement, let me begin!
First, control your product!  Prior to publishing anything online, own your domain names.  Establish control of your product.  For example, your name and the name of your book should be the priority.  Purchase the domains and create your websites from templates that are very easy to manipulate.  Word Press and Go Daddy are online sellers that offer templates for all types of genres.  Once the domain names are purchased, create your websites!  Once the websites are officially published, make sure that they are registered with the major search engines.  Use key words and or phrases that will allow your book to appear in the links that consumers are researching! 
Next, take the time to target your market. It is very important to locate the venues, online media, publications, organizations and any other outlets that are necessary in order to promote your book.  All of your social media efforts must revolve around your target market.  Establish relationships with people who advertise and publicize the types of genres that you have written.  On a personal note, I have learned that Twitter, Face book, Linkedin, as well as the blog and personal websites that I have created have been quite successful in promoting my ideas and establishing relationships.   I have met people who are not only interesting in purchasing my book, but these people are also interested in sharing information as well.  I think that I have been so successful in manipulating social media is due to the fact that I have all of my social media sites linked or bundled together.  It does not matter what site that a consumer is using, one site will lead to another of mine!
The most important piece of information that I have to share is that reach out to people whom you meet via social media!  A phone call goes a long way in establishing a personal relationship.  Involve the people whom you are going to need for promotion.  The most important thing that I have learned is that the traditional model of publishing is losing its dominance.  It makes sense to establish relationships with those online organizations who read, review, edit and publish books.  One strategy that I have a lot of success with revolves around blogging!  I have established relationships with those people.  I have written guest posts, read and reviewed book myself, and used those services to advertise my book as well.  Once again, relationships are everything! 
In closing, I just want to say that the better organized you are the more results you will encounter.  BE PROFFESSIONAL at all times.  Please take the time and invest in yourself.  Any online tool that you use must be of the highest quality.  If you do not take the time to do this, you will seriously compromise your credibility.  Do not even think about putting any product online that is not complete!   Remember, the success of your product depends upon how you represent yourself.  I try to emulate the processes of major book publishers.  I try and follow the “model” that major publishers use for their successful authors.   

Thank You Very Much!

Todney Harris

Press Release Battlegrounds: America's War in Education: A View From The Front Lines


East Hartford, Connecticut 01,01,2012.  Educator and author, Todney Harris will be celebrating the launching of his new, informative and controversial book entitled Battlegrounds: America’s War in Education and Finance: The Fight to Save Public Education in America on January 15, 2012.  America’s economic classes (lower, middle and upper), as well as America’s most important institution education focuses and revolves around the economic philosophy of capitalism.
The book is a call for urgent action to parents, the government, community activists, and all advocators of education that a plan must be enacted in order for our children to realize the importance of education and stay in school. Harris provides insight that the government and many school officials are not telling the public. Harris presents tips and solutions to address negative influential factors such as drugs, lack of parental involvement and the government’s current reform practice etc., that affect America’s educational setting.
When asked what message he hopes readers will take away from his book, Harris states, “It is not my intent to be controversial or racist, but I just wish to state for the record that there are burning issues/problems that need addressing.  This situation is dire.  I cannot express the sense of urgency that is upon us. All I ask is to be given the opportunity to foster discussion, as well as the opportunity to speak openly and in a candid manner regarding our current educational and economic issues.”
Visit to learn more information about Battlegrounds: America’s War in Education and Finance: A View from the Front Lines. 


Todney Harris

Telephone Number:


Antonia Harper Publicist

Book Excerpt (Introduction)

Hello America! I just thought that I would take a moment and explain the reason why I decided to dedicate myself to writing this publication. First, let me introduce myself. I am an African American male who has dedicated my life to servicing America’s youth as an educator. I have learned a great deal about education and the children of America during my career. My specialty is the content area of History and related subjects. I have worked at both the middle level and at the high school level. I can state for the record that I have enjoyed my career and the interaction with the youth for the last thirteen years. During this time, I have seen changes in this wonderful country of ours that has had a definitive effect on education. These changes in America are the inspiration for this book.
The reason why I have written this book is due to the fact that America’s economic classes (lower, middle and upper) as well as America’s most important institution education, focuses and revolves around the economic philosophy of capitalism. The economic social structure and educational structure in America was created due to the growth of industrialization in this country. The book focuses heavily on economics and it role in the American educational system. There are probably a few people who are wondering why a teacher in America would write a book that talks about America’s economic system due to the fact that I am not a college professor or a teacher of economics. In essence, I am serving as a primary source.  I am speaking in a forthright manner regarding the effects of economics on our educational system.  It is my hope that everyone enjoys the reading. I also hope that my thoughts that I have written are taken seriously.

 I think it is important to start the book by speaking about how our educational system functions currently and then make suggestions as to how the educational and economic systems can improved in a forthright and realistic manner. The politicians must be given a realistic and practical view of changes that will be effective. I have used experience and research to write this book. I hope that the information that is written is taken into serious consideration by the lawmakers in America.

I hope that whoever reads this does so with an open mind.   It is not my intent to be controversial or racist, but I just wish to state for the record that there are burning issues/problems that need addressing.  This situation is dire.  I cannot express the sense of urgency that is upon us.  I know that there are individuals that will repudiate what I have written.  There are those who fear the truth and will do everything in their power to reduce the importance of the truth.  All I ask is to be given the opportunity to foster discussion, as well as the opportunity to speak openly and in a candid manner regarding our current educational and economic issues.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Idiotic Statement From Those Who Oppose the Occupy Movement

These Tea Party People need to stop with the propaganda.  Obama is not to blame.  American people are poor, hungry and jobless.  Why make excuses?  Why aren't members of the one percent trying to help instead of fabricating falsehoods about American citizens? 

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This article was written in 2006. I am just wondering how many people will agree that the rich are doing everthing in their own power to STAY rich at the expense of the 99% majority!
NOT long ago, I had the pleasure of a lengthy meeting with one of the smartest men on the planet, Warren E. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, in his unpretentious offices in Omaha. We talked of many things that, I hope, will inspire me for years to come. But one of the main subjects was taxes. Mr. Buffett, who probably does not feel sick when he sees his MasterCard bill in his mailbox the way I do, is at least as exercised about the tax system as I am.
Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.
 Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.
It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees.“How can this be right?”
Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.  “There’s class warfare, all right,”Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”  This conversation keeps coming back to mind because, in the last couple of weeks, I have been on one television panel after another, talking about how questionable it is that the country is enjoying what economists call full employment while we are still running a federal budget deficit of roughly $434 billion for fiscal 2006 (not counting off-budget items like Social Security) and economists forecast that it will grow to $567 billion in fiscal 2010.
 When I mentioned on these panels that we should consider all options for closing this gap — including raising taxes, particularly for the wealthiest people — I was met with several arguments by people who call themselves conservatives and free marketers.
One argument was that the mere suggestion constituted class warfare. I think Mr. Buffett answered that one. 
Another argument was that raising taxes actually lowers total revenue, and that only cutting taxes stimulates federal revenue. This is supposedly proved by the history of tax receipts since my friend George W. Bushbecame president.
In fact, the federal government collected roughly $1.004 trillion in income taxes from individuals in fiscal 2000, the last full year of President Bill Clinton’s merry rule. It fell to a low of $794 billion in 2003 after Mr. Bush’s tax cuts (but not, you understand, because of them, his supporters like to say). Only by the end of fiscal 2006 did income tax revenue surpass the $1 trillion level again.

By this time, we Republicans had added a mere $2.7 trillion to the national debt. So much for tax cuts adding to revenue. To be fair, corporate profits taxes have increased greatly, as corporate profits have increased stupendously. This may be because of the cut in corporate tax rates. Anything is possible.
The third argument that kind, well-meaning people made in response to the idea of rolling back the tax cuts was this: “Don’t raise taxes. Cut spending.”
 The sad fact is that spending rises every year, no matter what people want or say they want. Every president and every member of Congress promises to cut “needless” spending. But spending has risen every year since 1940 except for a few years after World War II and a brief period after the Korean War.
 The imperatives for spending are built into the system, and now, with entitlements expanding rapidly, increased spending is locked in. Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt — all are growing like mad, and how they will ever be stopped or slowed is beyond imagining. Gross interest on Treasury debt is approaching $350 billion a year. And none of this counts major deferred maintenance for the military.

The fourth argument in response to my suggestion was that “deficits don’t matter.”  There is something to this. One would think that big deficits would be highly inflationary, according to Keynesian economics. But we have modest inflation (except in New York City, where a martini at a good bar is now $22). On the other hand, we have all that interest to pay, soon roughly $7 billion a week, a lot of it to overseas owners of our debt. This, to me, seems to matter.

Besides, if it doesn’t matter, why bother to even discuss balancing the budget? Why have taxes at all? Why not just print money the way Weimar Germany did? Why not abolish taxes and add trillions to the deficit each year? Why don’t we all just drop acid, turn on, tune in and drop out of responsibility in the fiscal area? If deficits don’t matter, why not spend as much as we want, on anything we want?
 The final argument is the one I really love. People ask how I can be a conservative and still want higher taxes. It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?
Oh, now, now, now I recall. It changed when we figured that we could cut taxes and generate so much revenue that we would balance the budget. But isn’t that what doctors call magical thinking? Haven’t the facts proved that this theory, though charming and beguiling, was wrong?
 THIS brings me back to Mr. Buffett. If, in fact, it’s all just a giveaway to the rich masquerading as a new way of stimulating the economy and balancing the budget, please, Mr. Bush, let’s rethink it. I don’t like paying $7 billion a week in interest on the debt. I don’t like the idea that Mr. Buffett pays a lot less in tax as a percentage of his income than my housekeeper does or than I do.
 Can we really say that we’re showing fiscal prudence? Are we doing our best? If not, why not? I don’t want class warfare from any direction, through the tax system or any other way.
 Ben Stein is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist. E-mail:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Human Programming (my personal thoughts)

As I have aged and matured, I have always had a positive outlook regarding the world in which I live. I have always lived by the teachings from family traditions, secular traditions and most importantly religious pedagogy. Most importantly, I allowed these influences to govern my life and the decisions that I have made. I never really critically thought about these influences and the impact that they have had on my adult life. I just accepted them as “normal” due to the fact that the majority of the adults that I knew personally or professionally behaved in a manner acceptable to society’s standards. Despite these influences, I have always questioned authority which in turn has given me the ability to critically analyze society’s standards and procedures. As a mature adult, I have always wondered what human existence would be if human beings weren’t bound by the standards of tradition, family, religion and scientific thought. As of late, I have begun to question the very essence of the threads that bind us together as a human family.

Which leads me to my line of thought: Human beings are heavily programmed. As much as I hate to admit this, I believe that religion and science are used as tools to control the human mind and human behavior. Science and religion intersect. These two ideologies have existed for thousands of years. However, most people do not realize this fact. Human beings have been “conditioned” to believe that science and religion are in a constant state of conflict. I do not agree. As a student of history and social science, I have come to the conclusion that each ideology must coexist. One cannot exist without the other. For example, throughout history, the Old and New Testament (Christianity) has governed human outlook upon life. There are many stories found within the Old and New Testament that can be proven historically and scientifically. I refer to it as the biblical/historical connection. In fact, historians, archeologists, and forensic specialists are continually looking for remains and or artifacts of ancient peoples and or kingdoms that are referenced in the Old and New Testament. (Christianity)

Most of the programming that human have endured is from nature. Human genetics have evolved over thousands of years. For those individuals who favor the argument that God took the rib from Adam and made Eve I say that if you believe in the creationist story of human beings then so is it. However, for arguments sake, let us consider that this is true. I have one question regarding the creationist story. How are clerics going to explain how human beings have evolved over thousands of years? Science has proven that humans evolved in stages. If you are a proponent of the creationist story then you generally accept that when God made man and woman, humans were already in the current state of evolution that we currently enjoy. In fact, humans deny their natural instincts. Nature has given us the genetic blueprint for survival. Most human beings are afraid to listen to their natural instincts due to the constraints of the secular world. Once again, religion, family and secular traditions have us “locked in” to standards of behavior and morality. 

The remainder of our programming comes from the government and religious institutions. Each religion has a standard of behavior or code of conduct. These beliefs are ingrained and reinforced in human beings at an early age. The years of one to seven are the critical years of human programming. It is during that time when the code of conduct from the government and religions are continually learned and repeated. It is no secret that these beliefs are ingrained during the formative years of a child’s life. It is very hard to undo the programming once it has taken root. The very thought of “thinking outside the box” or thinking and behaving in an alternative fashion other than the “norm” of society’s standards can be very frightening indeed. 

At this point in my life, I must admit that hindsight is everything. If I had these realizations as a younger man, my life would be vastly different from the life that I currently enjoy. I feel that I have gotten myself locked into a cycle of behavior, debt, and thoughts that are not truly of my own origin. There are so many things that I wish to try. Unfortunately, I cannot attain this because I have responsibilities that I must fulfill. I do so without regret. I live in the world that I have created for myself. My choices have created my reality. I hope that whoever reads this understands and accepts the fact that life is what you make it. A human can either live according to the religions, scientific or familial beliefs that one has been accustomed to. Or a human can take risks and take control of the life that they have been given. If successful, a person then will have the life that he or she chooses without the influence of the programming that he or she has been subjected to.

 Todney Harris.


 Tim Riddiough, professor of real estate and urban land economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he expects 2012 to play out much the same as 2011 in terms of economic recovery efforts.

 Speaking with during REITWorld2011: NAREIT’s Annual Convention for All Things REIT in Dallas last month, Riddiough said you will not see the benefits of good political decision making immediately. He pointed to issues that require a long-term thought process and commitment to solve.

 “Our education system is broken. That has been one of the long-term competitive advantages that the United States has had in the world, and that advantage is eroding,” Riddiough said. “Reinvesting in our educational system is really important. We won’t see dividends from those investments immediately, but that is the kind of thing we need to consider.”

Looking at the commercial real estate space, Riddiough said there is a trifurcation at play. “The upper end of the market (higher quality properties located in coastal cities) has been doing very well,” he said. “What are still struggling are the middle and lower ends of the market. We have a large number of commercial banks in the United States that are struggling with poor commercial mortgageloan performance, and we haven’t seen the recovery in the lower and middle-tier market.”

 Riddiough said not enough attention has been paid to the looming debt maturity crisis in the commercial real estate sector. He said because 2003 to 2007 was the boom for commercial real estate lending the majority of these loans will begin coming to due in 2013 and will cause a real issue through 2017.

 “This will be an even bigger issue as we get into 2012, especially if the economy doesn’t