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Georgia Columnist Offers Good Synopsis of ALEC’s Anti-Democratic (and Racist) Ploys

January 7, 2019 Leave a comment

Marietta Daily Journal columnist Keven Foley recently offered an insightful op ed describing how elected officials supported by ALEC undercut public schools and, in doing so, undercut democracy and support racism.

In the column Mr. Foley provides background on how ALEC legislation offering tax credits drained resources away from public schools and how ALEC-like local legislation limited the taxes wealthy non-parent had to pay. He then described how the recent mid-terms brought two candidates into office as school board members and then quoted from a letter-to-the-editor written by an ALEC legislator and offered his reaction to their letter as follows:

“Two Grinches are coming to the Cobb Board of Education and their names are Charisse Davis and Jaha Howard,” began Mrs. Ehrhart. “My fervent warning to the good folks of Cobb-ville is to bolt the doors and guard their pocketbooks lest the BOE’s newest members attempt a late-night smash-and-grab in the name of educational funding … they too are looking to rob taxpayers through a millage rate increase while simultaneously snatching the rug of security out from under our seniors and stuffing it up the chimney. That’s a double punch to the gut.”

Are you picking up what Mrs. Ehrhart is putting down? “Smash-and-grab,” “rob,” “punch,” all words evoking crime and stoking fear. It doesn’t take a dog to understand the whistle she’s blowing.

Mr. Foley is right: it DOESN’T take a dog to understand the whistle she’s blowing…. though it might take an especially perceptive dog to understand the whistle ALEC is blowing when it seeks to privatize public schools… This old dog, though, isn’t fooled!

 

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Misrepresentation of “Obama Era Policy” Exemplifies Why Our Nation is Divided

December 24, 2018 Comments off

My daily Google feed invariably provides me with one blatant example of right wing propaganda a week, and this morning’s doozy from the “One America News Network” is pasted below in it’s entirety with egregious misrepresentations in bold italics:

Trump Administration Revokes Obama-Era Policy Urging Public Schools To Be Lenient On Students Of Color

OAN Newsroom
8:15 PM PT – Sat. Dec. 22, 2018

The Trump Administration scraps another Obama-era policy urging public schools to be more lenient with students of color.

The Education and Justice departments on Friday removed the 2014 rule, which the Federal School Safety Commission claims may have actually made schools less safe.

This comes after the prior administration issued guidelines, claiming students of color are disproportionately impacted by suspensions and expulsions,allegedly leading to the “school-to-prison” pipeline.

The Commission, however, claimed the policy tied the hands of teachers and administrators and ultimately decided disciplining students is best left to school officials.

The so-called “Obama-era policy” did NOT urge “public schools to be more lenient with students of color.” The purpose of the policy, as noted in a fact sheet prepared by Democratic Congressmen, was to remind schools that “Under Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, schools have legal obligations to administer student discipline without discriminating on the base of race, color, or national origin.

The “Obama-era policy” provided unassailable data demonstrating that a disproportionate number of students of color were suspended and expelled from school. This is not a “claim”… it is a FACT that cannot be altered any more than the time of the sunrise and sunset can be altered.

Similarly it is a fact that a disproportionate number of students of color have been arrested in school and placed in programs that increase the probability that they will end up in prison.

Finally, as written in this blog on more than one occasion and noted repeatedly in the mainstream and progressive news sites, none of the school shooters were minority students. None. The Federal Commission on School Safety was created by Betsy DeVos in the wake of the shootings in Florida and was charged with developing policies and guidelines that would address the horrific mass shootings that plague public schools. Given that NONE of these shootings were perpetrated by students of color it is hard to see how the elimination of a Civil Rights directive addresses this problem.

After reading this misleading and inaccurate report from a news agency, I wondered who was behind the agency and what their purpose might be. When clicked on “about” link at the bottom of the web page, I found that the “One America News Network” was actually an arm of the Herring Networks and when I entered their name into Goolge I eventually found my way to this Wikipedia post describing “One America News Network”. Here’s what I found:

One America News Network (OANN), also referred to as One America News(OAN), is an American right-wing[1] pay television news channel launched on July 4, 2013 owned by Herring Networks, Inc. The network is headquartered in San Diego, California, and operates a news bureau in Washington, D.C.[2] and New York City.

Originally launched with the intention of targeting a conservative and center-right audience,[3][4] OAN states a goal of delivering credible national and international news coverage throughout the day while its prime time political talk shows illustrate a conservative perspective.[5][6][7] According to The Washington Post, the channel has risen to greater prominence due to its pro-Trumpcoverage.[8] The channel has been noted for promoting falsehoods and conspiracy theories.[9][10]

If you want to know WHY this group is promoting the idea that the “Obama era policy” was designed to urge public schools to be more lenient with students of color.I encourage you to read the comment section… but only after pouring yourself a strong cup of coffee. You will see that racism is alive and well among the readers of OAN….

 

Ballyhooed USDOE Report on School Safety a Nothing-Burger on Guns… But DOES Recommend Repealing Obama Regulation on Punishment of Minorities

December 20, 2018 Comments off

Earlier this week, the USDOE issued it’s much anticipated report on school safety and, as reported in Politico, it was full of nothing. Well, the on-line journal didn’t say that exactly, instead it put it this way:

The final report in many ways is largely symbolic, amounting to a list of ideas states and school districts can take or leave on issues like school mental health.

“A list of ideas” but no specific recommendations about arming teachers, which the GOP favored, no ideas about providing more mental health services, which both sides of the aisle seemed to agree on, nothing on gun laws…. and, of course, nothing calling for additional spending except at the local level:

“Our conclusions in this report do not impose one-size-fits-all solutions for everyone, everywhere,” DeVos told reporters on a conference call. “The primary responsibility for the physical security of schools and the safety of their students naturally rests with states and local communities. Local problems need local solutions.”

But the report DID include one specific recommendation: the rescinding of the Obama administration’s 2014 directive on school discipline that, in Politico’s words:

…sought to confront a widespread problem: that minority students and students with disabilities are disciplined, suspended out of school and expelled more often.

The logic leading to the inclusion of this recommendation in the USDOE report was reminiscent of the tortuous logic that linked Sadam Hussein to the 9-11 bombings. None of the school shootings that prompted this report were in any way the result of this directive, yet since it was put in place by the former President it was widely despised by conservatives. Here’s Politico’s explanation:

Conservatives have long maintained the Obama instructions made schools less safe, arguing that school leaders in Broward County, Fla., where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located, and elsewhere have been much more reluctant to report dangerous students because of such policies. The guidelines came under scrutiny from Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio after the Parkland school shooting.

Rubio said it “may have contributed to systemic failures to report Nikolas Cruz,” the accused gunman in Parkland, to police sooner when he exhibited disturbing behavior.

And the law and order crowd also flagged the “soft” restorative justice program put in place in the district where one of the shootings took place:

Republicans also criticized a 2013 decision by Broward schools to overhaul the district’s school discipline policies and launch a program to replace some suspensions, expulsions and arrests with support, mentoring and counseling when students committed nonviolent offenses.

The Politico post concludes with this quote, which captures my thinking on the panel’s findings:

The group Educators for Excellence was among those expressing disappointment over the school discipline recommendation.

Rescinding the guidance and failing to put forward a concrete plan of how schools can end unjust discipline disparities reflects a true failure of leadership,” said Marisa Crabtree, a member of the organization and Los Angeles teacher who met with DeVos in April.

Exactly!

Chalkbeat: “Indiana’s War On Teachers Is Winning”

November 29, 2018 Comments off

“Reformers” can get legislators to suspend regulations but they can’t change the fundamental laws of supply and demand…. nor can they entice creative teachers to a state where teaching to the test is a de facto mandate. The teachers, though, aren’t the real losers in Indiana: the students are.

via Chalkbeat: “Indiana’s War On Teachers Is Winning”

Deregulation: We’ve Seen This Movie Before… and It Doesn’t Have a Happy Ending

November 27, 2018 Comments off

The Washington Post’s Laura Medlar’s recent article, “DeVos Rescuing For-Profit Education” seems like a rerun of the movies that came out after the crash of 2008, movies that described how a toxic mix of deregulation and lax oversight by auditors combined to undercut our economy.  In place of de-regulated banks, the article features three profiteering post secondary education institutions—Virginia College, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute— and in place of Moody’s, the firm that accredited loans, we have ACICS, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

The Obama administration, who saw the ominous parallels between the student loan industry and the banking meltdown in 2008 instituted stricter accreditation guidelines that resulted in ACICS no longer being recognized as an accrediting agency and the denial of government backed loans to students attending Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, a decision that led to the closure of those enterprises. Why? Because the USDOE under the Obama administration saw its role as protecting students from enrolling in “...poorly performing career training programs” that failed to prepare them for the employment the for-profit colleges promised and protecting taxpayers from spending billions of their funds on those same schools.

Unsurprisingly… Betsy DeVos and President Trump see things differently.  From their perspective, regulations “interfere with innovation” and prevent students from having a wide range of choices when it comes to seeking higher education. And, as Ms. Medlar reports, this is only a portion of the deregulation Ms. DeVos is implementing:

At the Education Department, DeVos has long believed the federal government should exercise as little control as possible over the nation’s schools, and she has spent a large chunk of her tenure undoing the work of her predecessors. She has revoked guidelines on affirmative action and transgender students, and is expected to cancel guidance regarding racial bias in school discipline.

Now, DeVos is poised to build a legacy of her own — creating new rules for schools and not just jettisoning regulations in place when she arrived. Her goal, aides say, is to encourage innovation by letting new players into the federal student loan program who are barred by today’s regulations, and eliminating or modifying requirements that no longer make sense.

I suppose protecting the taxpayers’ commitment to pay off loans to fly-by-night for profit education enterprises that do not have to meet regulations is an example of a “requirement that no longer makes sense“… and, similarly, guidelines that avoid racial bias and protect the rights of transgender student must also fall under that rubric. Here’s hoping, as noted in an earlier post, that the Democratic controlled House enacts legislation that undercuts these efforts to protect minorities, students, and taxpayers.

 

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My Thinking: The Democrats in the House Should Spend Time and Energy Legislating Instead of Investigating

November 27, 2018 Comments off

Yesterday’s Morning Report from Politico included a rundown of the various investigations the House Committee chairs might launch. The synopsis is pasted below, with my commentary in red italics. :

HOUSE DEMOCRATS GEAR UP TO TAKE ON DEVOS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will face new scrutiny next year from as many as many as five Democratic-led House committees. Even as Democrats eye a wide-ranging list of oversight priorities across the Trump administration, DeVos stands out as a major target.

— A handful of the Democrats who are set to wield gavels next year are lawmakers who have long worked on education issues and have been particularly vocal about their opposition to DeVos. Read our full story here — and here’s a guide of what to expect from each of the presumptive Democratic committee chairs:

— Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), poised to be chairman of the House education committee, will have DeVos squarely in his sights. Earlier this month Scott said his top oversight priorities would be the Education Department’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as its handling of claims for student loan forgiveness by public servants and borrowers defrauded by their colleges. Maybe Rep. Scott could introduce a bill that forgives student loans.

— Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) , who is expected to lead the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said that a top priority would be oversight of for-profit colleges that enroll veterans — including DeVos’s efforts to deregulate them. “I want to examine the extent to which her rollbacks of regulations negatively impact veterans,” he said in an interview.

— Takano said he’d like to see joint hearings with the House education committee on “the impact of the for-profit industry on our student veterans.” In addition, Takano said he’s “concerned about the reach of for-profits on military bases in terms of their recruitment”—an issue he wants to address by working with the House Armed Services Committee. Maybe Rep. Takano could introduce a bill forbidding the use of federal dollars to pay for tuition of for-profit schools unless those schools accept regulatory oversight and funds are provided to ensure that such oversight is possible.

— Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) , in line to lead the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing education funding, said that taking on the Trump Education Department will be a priority. The panel’s oversight work, DeLauro said, will focus on ways to “hold Secretary DeVos accountable for her agency’s failure to uphold federal protections for our students.”

— DeLauro called DeVos’ record on student debt issues “appalling,” pointing to her efforts to eliminate or scale back the “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” rules enacted by the Obama administration. “I will make sure Secretary DeVos knows Americans want her to protect students and veterans, not the for-profit school industry,” she said. Maybe Rep. DeLauro could introduce a bill that incorporates the “rules enacted by the Obama administration and funds auditors to make certain federal protections for students are in place. 

— Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) , incoming chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, said that while she’ll largely be focused on big banks and Wall Street, the panel also has jurisdiction over student loan companies and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “I’ll be involved in student loan issues, absolutely,” she told POLITICO.

— Waters has also long railed against for-profit colleges – and forecasted more scrutiny for the industry with Democrats in control of the House. “Just as you saw us put the pressure on Corinthian [Colleges] so that they had to basically close down, I think you’re going to see more work that’s being done on private postsecondary schools,” Waters told POLITICO. Perhaps that “work” might include the passage of legislation that regulates for-profit colleges and, while she’s at it, regulates for profit K-12 schools. 

— Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is the presumptive chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which could also take on DeVos. Cummings conducted an investigation of CEO pay at for-profit schools during the Obama administration. And this past year, he and Scott expressed concern over DeVos’ treatment of the union that represents her agency’s employees. Maybe his committee could introduce legislation that restores the power to unions that was eviscerated by the Trump administration.  

— DeVos has so far struck a conciliatory tone with Democrats coming to power in the House. “I look forward to working with Congressman Scott and the rest of the committee as well,” she told reporters last week. An Education Department spokesperson declined to comment on how it was preparing for an onslaught of oversight requests.

My thought: hold back on those oversight requests and begin drafting legislation that will empower the government to regulate the for-profit colleges and K-12 schools. In doing so, it might help the public appreciate that their tax dollars are going from the pockets of hard working students and veterans and into the pockets of billionaires and shareholders… and since the agencies have been stripped of money and power “government” cannot intervene on their behalf. The Democrats have an opportunity to do something positive: they can pass legislation that is designed to help middle class Americans. I hope they don’t squander that opportunity by “going after” the Trump administration, for in so doing they will be giving the Trump administration the opportunity to frame the argument. Why give Betsy DeVos and her cronies another chance to convince voters that choice is a good idea. Force them to agree that the regulation of avaricious profiteers is a bad idea.

In Indiana, Accountability Only Applies to Public Schools… Um, Make that GOVERNMENT Schools

November 26, 2018 Comments off

In a post yesterday, Diane Ravitch drew on a Washington Post article by Carol Burris to describe the latest shenanigans in Indiana, where former Governor and now VP Mike Pence launched a de facto voucher plan that his successor Mitch Daniels bought to fruition in 2011. Ms. Burris describes how funds from the American Federation for Children (led at the time by Betsy DeVos) helped assure the election of pro-voucher state legislators who allowed funds to go from public coffers to parents who had already enrolled their children in sectarian private schools bleeding millions of dollars from the public schools. Here’s a paragraph from Ms. Burris’ article that summarizes the kinds of private schools that benefitted from this shift of funds:

Nearly all of the 300-plus Indiana private schools that receive vouchers are religious schools.Although they may not discriminate in admissions based race, color, national origin or disability, they can require attendance in a designated church, mosque or synagogue and they may select students based on other factors such as test scores, discipline records and the lifestyle of their parents…

So much for the notion of public education providing future citizens with an equal opportunity… But here’s what I found even more discouraging. When some of these private schools failed to meet the standards set by law, the elected officials created a work-around… as did the operators of charter schools:

Voucher schools with grades of ‘D’ or ‘F’ for two years in a row are prohibited from taking on new voucher students until they raise performance. This law cost private schools with poor test scores considerable funding. To keep the voucher money flowing, last summer the legislature passed a new law that allows voucher schools to appeal to the State Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor. As soon as the law was passed, four religious schools applied for a waiver and all four were approved to take on new voucher students despite their failing grades.

The Indiana voucher program has also been an escape hatch for failing charter schools. The Padua Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis, had two years of consecutive failing ratings. Instead of shutting down, Padua became St. Anthony’s Catholic School. The same principal who led the failing charter stayed on as the leader of the replacement voucher school, which received $1.2 million in tax dollars.

But the workarounds were’t limited to religious schools whose principles, presumably, allowed this kind of misrepresentation. Unsurprisingly those seeking to make money from operating charter schools also devised ways of circumventing the accountability measures adopted by the legislature:

Failing charters flipping to voucher schools is not limited to Padua. Imagine Schools is the largest charter management corporation in the United States. Imagine was founded and operated by Dennis Bakke, the former CEO of an energy company, AES, which merged with the Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPALCO) in 2001. That merger would quickly become a disaster for IPALCO stockholders and workers. Stock price plummeted and many lost their jobs and their retirement savings.

When Bakke was ousted from AES in 2002 after its stock crashed, he moved into the charter management business. Imagine quickly expanded and became notorious for the real estate deals of its subsidiary company, SchoolHouse Finance. SchoolHouse Finance buys properties, often selling them for twice or three times the purchase to a buyer, and then leases them back from the buyer in order to then lease them to Imagine charter schools at exorbitant rates. Investigations of Imagine Charters in Ohio and Florida found charters paying leases that amounted, in some cases, to half of the schools’ revenue from tax dollars. Imagine was fined $1 million by Missouri for self-dealing.

Apparently, religiously affiliated schools view accountability as something that does not apply to God-fearing parents and children…. and capitalists view accountability as something that applies only to “government schools”. As for democracy… it doesn’t matter to either those who practice religion or those who practice plutocracy.