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Who’s Behind the Flood of Anti-CRT Legislation? ALEC. Is Anyone Reading This Surprised?

July 29, 2021 Comments off

I’ve written a couple of op ed pieces and several posts on CRT and in reading about the various bills introduced in State legislatures noted that they all had remarkably similar language and suspected that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was involved in this given their participation in the drafting of anti-government bills. Common Dreams investigative reporters Don Wiener and Alex Kotch confirmed those suspicions in a post that appeared in yesterday’s newsletter:

Right-wing politicians have misconstrued the term’s meaning and convinced many of their constituents that teaching an honest history of racism in America is akin to telling white students to hate themselves and their country.

Republican efforts to ban the teaching of the history of racism in public schools picked up steam when the corporate “bill mill” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) hosted a workshop on December 3, 2020 called “Against Critical Theory’s Onslaught.”

The virtual workshop, part of ALEC’s annual States and Nation Policy Summit, included state legislators, corporate lobbyists, and staff from right-wing policy organizations and private foundations, according to an attendance list obtained and published by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

Described by Wiener and Kotch as “a pay-to-play operation where legislators and corporate lobbyists meet behind closed doors to adopt model legislation that weakens environmental protections, advances anti-union measures, reduces funding for health care, promotes private prisons, and weakens state regulation of corporations“, ALEC had recently backed off of social issues because the corporate donors who were interested most in the deregulation elements of ALEC’s agenda found themselves having to defend some of ALEC’s inherently racist “model legislation” like Stand Your Ground bills.

The article does an excellent job of describing how ALEC wrongly defined CRT, used that false definition to generate animus among the racist legislators who attended their event, and seeded discontent by getting editorials published and– in all probability— provided templates for position papers and op ed articles as well as the bills themselves.

Teachers unions, school board associations, PTAs across the country should The authors should seek the names of any corporate sponsors who attended the workshop on developing anti-CRT legislation and send it to the AFT, NEA, NSBA, and AASA along with a copy of this article highlighting the section that described how corporate sponsors stopped funding ALEC when pressure was applied. I expect each organization might alert their respective constituents of the corporations who attended the event and, in the case of the NEA and AFT, might divest from them. At the same time, a list of ALL corporate sponsors and the addresses of the HQ might be useful as well. When corporations are faced with the reality that they effectively sponsored a KKK rally they might think twice about donating in the future.

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Mask Mess Makes Re-Opening a Nightmare for Public Schools

July 28, 2021 Comments off

If anything, the recent Washington Post article by Valerie Strauss and Moriah Balingit UNDERSTATES the train wreck that will occur in schools across the nation as local boards wrestle with conflicting messages from State legislatures, Governors, medical experts, and the CDC. My heart aches for the School Board members and Superintendents who will have to unsnarl the mess created by former President Donald Trump, for it was his complete and total lack of federal leadership on this issue that brought us to where we are now. And where are we? 

In nine states where GOP governors have forbidden schools from mandating masks. 

In other states, including New Hampshire and to a lesser degree, Vermont, Governors of both parties have delegated the decision to the school districts resulting in disjointed and idiosyncratic regulations and programming in schools. In doing so, the Governors have followed the lead of the former President, giving epidemiologists the floor at public forums but failing to develop and implement mandates based on their advice. This had the effect of undercutting medical science. When a non-partisan expert like Dr. Fauci delivered news that was politically unacceptable to the former President, he sidelined him and replaced his medical recommendations with home remedies. Unsurprisingly, GOP leaders who wanted to curry favor with the President followed his lead. Like the President, they minimized the impact of the disease, tried to focus the public’s attention to the source of the disease, and spoke about the “overreach” implicit in mandating the mask-wearing and social distancing. 

The decision of the federal and state governments to decentralize decision-making regarding the actions needed to mitigate COVID had a happy by-product for them: it meant that they could sidestep the vitriolic pushback from anti-vaxxers and ultra-libertarians leaving those heated debates to local governments and school boards. Unsurprisingly, the result was a chaotic and unsystematic political response to a disease that didn’t care whether an individual was a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. 

As schools open in the coming weeks, school board members and superintendents will likely find themselves consumed in THIS debate instead of focussing on educational issues. As Ms. Strauss and Balingit reported, 

Paul Imhoff, superintendent of the Upper Arlington Schools district in Ohio and president of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, lamented that the debate over how to control the coronavirus had become fraught with politics, complicating even the most straightforward measures, such as mask requirements.

“A mask mandate sounds easy, but on the ground how do you actually enforce that? These are questions we are left to grapple with, school district to school district to school district,” Imhoff said. “It’s very political. What we want to do is educate kids. We want to focus on learning loss, the well-being of kids and the things they went through during the pandemic. Instead, we are being forced to focus on this.”

The mask mandate issue is a classic lose-lose proposition for local governments and school boards. But voters should realize that the only reason the bulls-eye is on local officials is that the GOP leaders are operating on their conviction that their levels government cannot address this complicated problem…. or stated more bluntly, they are afraid to take a position supporting science when they realize that the voters who selected them to run for office do not want to hear of any “loss of liberty” that is implicit in putting on a mask or listening to an authority figure other than a former reality show host who is the only person who can solve a problem. 

And here is the ultimate irony. Had President President Trump sought bi-partisan support to implement the universal preventative measures recommended by experts at the beginning of this outbreak it is possible that the disease could have been brought under control earlier… say by October of 2020. Had that been the case, voters would have had no questions about how he managed the pandemic and he would, in all probability, been re-elected. If that alternative sequence of events happened, President Trump would now be comfortable requiring us to mask up again to push back against this variant and those wishing to curry his favor would fully support his efforts.

Oh, and one more result: the public’s trust in science would be higher than ever as would it’s faith in the government to solve complicated problems. 

 

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Columbia Teachers College Highlights Another Wasted COVID Opportunity: A Chance to Use American Rescue Funds to Respond to Needs of Black Students

July 28, 2021 Comments off

The NYTimes reported yesterday on a study completed by Teachers College at Columbia illustrating the devastating impact of COVID on Black students and underscoring the need for federal funds to be used to address this deficiency.

The opening paragraphs detail the lack of confidence Black Americans have in the government due to the response to the events of January 6, the continuing police brutality, and the seeming tolerance for systemic racism. This information was astonishing but unsurprising. The information on the disproportionate impact  of COVID on the Black community, though, was stunning:

According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, Black Americans are 2.8 times as likely to be hospitalized for Covid-19 as white Americans are, and twice as likely to die from the disease. Black Americans also saw a steeper drop in life expectancy during the pandemic than white Americans did.

Sixty percent of respondents said they lived with an essential or frontline worker who performed a job in unsafe conditions. Nearly one-third of all survey respondents had lost a family member, a friend or a neighbor to Covid-19. About one-third of the survey participants faced job insecurity, and over 50 percent experienced employment status changes, according to the report. The level of loss, along with uncertain pandemic responses, negatively affected the mental health of about 86 percent of participants.

Given that the spotlight on the injustices visited on Blacks intensified at the same time as COVID wracked their communities, given the disproportionate percentage of Blacks who held essential or frontline work, and given the relentless negative reporting on civil rights initiatives like BLM and CRT, why would a Black child be eager to return to school… especially if that school is overcrowded, under-resourced, and dilapidated.

The solution advanced by Columbia Teachers College probably has no chance of passing given the many issues Congress needs to address, but it is a justified and reasonable one:

“For years we’ve talked about reimagining education and reinventing education. And we actually have a window by which we can do that,” Dr. (Sonya Douglass) Horsford (associate professor of education leadership at Columbia’s Teachers College and an author of the report) said.

The report notes that the “separate and unequal” design of schools keeps them “ill-equipped” to teach and take care of 7.7 million Black students at nearly 100,000 public schools in the United States.

In order to rebuild trust, the study’s authors wrote, leaders should begin to view students, parents and educators as “equal partners in education.” The report recommends using funds allocated to schools by the American Rescue Plan — nearly $122 billion — to respond to the academic and mental health needs of Black students.

Some of these solutions include simply investing in school infrastructure and hiring more Black teachers to update school curriculums to better understand Black history in the United States.

“I see the timing as really being great to pose a set of solutions and research-based recommendations that could help local communities — including students and parents and those who are reflected in the study — to put forth a set of recommendations for how those dollars should be spent,” Dr. Horsford said.

I am certain that those who cannot see the need for reparations will view this as a backdoor means of accomplishing that goal and know that many underfunded rural districts need facilities upgrades and improved teaching staffs. But given the higher incidence of COVID in the Black communities and the high percentage of Blacks who helped see us through the pandemic, now would be a good time to make amends and, at the very least, simply invest in the infrastructure and staffing needed in schools serving predominantly Black children.