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Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Gap Between Billionaires and Everyone Else on Earth Widens… Welcome to the Plutocracy

January 22, 2019 Comments off

Davos is convening this week, and as a result outlets like Common Dreams are publishing posts highlighting studies that show how the gap between the extraordinarily wealthy and the rest of the world are widening… and the gap is unimaginably immense!

Paul Buchheit, a blogger whose writings are often featured here, wrote a post with the sobering title “Capitalist-Style Wealth Gap: 1 Tech Guy = 1,000,000 Teachers” The “one tech guy” is none other than Jeff Bezos, who recently compelled hundreds of American cities to throw incentives his way for a second HQ for Amazon, incentives whose impact is not even a factor in Mr. Buchheit’s equation! But, as Mr. Buchheit highlights in his article, Mr. Bezos is hardly the only tech titian who’s made a billion dollars… and hardly the only one who’s earned it on the backs of his employees and thanks to the largesse of government policies.

An unapologetic Democratic Socialist, Mr. Buchheit concludes his essay with this:

Why Do Billionaires Want Even More Money? 

Harvard studies indicate that very rich people are likely to base their life satisfaction on the question “Am I doing better than other people?” A survey of 2,000 millionaires and multi-millionaires, who were asked how much money would provide perfect happiness, found that “basically everyone says [they’d need] two or three times as much.” 

Another insight comes from the “ultimatum game,” in which one player divides a pot of money between himself and another, and the second player can choose whether or not to accept the offer. If the offer is rejected, neither player gets anything. Offers below 30 percent are usually rejected. Even at the cost of losing money himself, a player apparently can’t bear to see another person outgain him.

Capitalism is a perfect system for people like this, who care only about making more money than everyone else, and fail to grasp the importance of a healthy, working society. It’s a game of winner-take-all. As Charles Koch said, “I want my fair share and that’s all of it.”

Common Dreams staff writer Jake Johnson used a slightly different data point to title his article on the economic divide: “A ‘Fundamentally Inhuman’ Economy: 26 Billionaires Own as Much as World’s 3.8 Billion Poorest People“. Mr. Johnson drew his facts from a recent Oxfam report on world poverty, which the billionaires attending Davos report is on the decline but only because the poorest-of-the-poor are earning slightly more than in years past. The reason for the expanding divide? Cuts to cooperate taxes. And who’s winning? Paul O’Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns at Oxfam America, has the answer:

“The only winners in the race to the bottom on corporate tax are the wealthiest among us. Now is the time to work towards a new set of tax rules that work for the many, not the few,” he continued, echoing the popular slogans of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “We need economic, political, and tax reform to level the playing field if we want to restore prosperity and opportunity for all, including women, girls whose needs are so often overlooked.”

The endless wars in the Middle East, the political bickering over a needless wall in our country, and the perpetual coverage of our President’s tweets are distracting us from the real problems in our country and the world… and those problems are the result of a mindset that believes “my fair share is all of it”.

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The Cato Institute’s Idea About Public Education: Public Funds Should be Used to Promote Religious Segregation

January 21, 2019 Comments off

In a recent op ed post that appeared in The Hill, Neal McCluskey, the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom argues that public funds should be used to promote schools that segregate students based on their religion, a concept that flies in the face of our country’s longstanding desire to be a tolerant melting pot of racial and religious thinking and undercuts the democratic governance of public schools.

Mr. McCluskey’s article was spurred by the recent reports that Vice President Mike Pence’s wife had begun a teaching job at the Immanuel Christian School, “…which among many policies does not admit actively gay students and forbids employees from engaging in “homosexual or lesbian sexual  activity.” This is clearly consistent with Mr. Pence’s views on homosexuality and also aligns with the views of roughly 30% of the public according to polls cited by Mr. McCluskey. Moreover, it is difficult to condemn Mr. Pence’s wife for taking a job in a school whose values reflect her own.

But Mr. McCluskey believes that ANY parent who shares the belief that their children should be shielded from “homosexual and lesbian sexual activity” should be entitled to a voucher to attend a school that will do so, even if “such sexual activity” is lawful and widely accepted by most citizens. He goes so far as to assert that this segregation by religious belief is desirable because if avoids placing children in an uncomfortable environment and avoids public “battles” over a charged issue:

Indeed, choice systems were sometimes created specifically to end painful wars for public school supremacy among highly religious people like Karen Pence and folks with different beliefs.

Unfortunately, American choice programs only reach about 500,000 students, meaning millions of families have little recourse but to try to impose their will on the public schools.

You may hate Karen Pence’s beliefs and those of the school where she teaches. For your own protection — and a truly free society — you should want school choice for everyone. 

Part of public education’s “hidden agenda” is to resolve these “differences of belief” democratically at the local level and, failing that, through court decisions. As I read this on the MLK Holiday, I cannot help but observe that “choice systems were sometimes created specifically to end painful wars for public school supremacy”. Indeed, in the South the idea of vouchers was developed to sustain the separate but equal schools Brown v. Board of Education eliminated. Our country remains engaged in a “painful war” over race. We once believed that black students shouldn’t share the same water fountains as white students and in the south a “separate but equal” system of public education was created based on that belief. That same kind of belief persists today regarding gay. lesbian and transgender students. In order for a democracy to thrive we need to work though our differences of belief… not separate ourselves based on those differences.

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Has the NYTimes Seen the Light? Diane Ravitch Sees Progress in Op Ed by Miriam Pawel

January 16, 2019 Comments off

From my perspective, it is heartening to see the LA teachers strike making national news despite the headline grabbing government shutdown and the ongoing political bickering that accompanies it. But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, the LA strike HAS national ramifications for it ISN’T about wages and working conditions in a lone district. The LA strike is about an ongoing battle within the Democratic Party about privatization of public services: between the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the party that has embraced the idea that the private sector should take over more and more government functions and the “Roosevelt” wing of the party who sees a strong government as necessary to eliminate poverty and racism and eliminate the distortions in our economy that have emerged since Reagan proposed that “government is the problem”.

Thus far, the NYTimes has reliably taken the side of the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the democrats, going so far as to reject countless articles on the ills of privatization from Diane Ravitch. But in a post yesterday, Ms. Ravitch pointed to an op ed article by fellow education historian Miriam Pawel as evidence that MAYBE the Times has seen the light! In “Whats Really at Stake in the Los Angeles Teachers Strike”, Ms. Pawel describes the recent history of public education in California in general and Los Angeles in particular, tracing the decline in public school quality to the passage of Proposition 13… and tracing the passage of THAT law to racism:

In the fall of 1978, after years of bitter battles to desegregate Los Angeles classrooms, 1,000 buses carried more than 40,000 students to new schools. Within six months, the nation’s second-largest school district lost 30,000 students, a good chunk of its white enrollment. The busing stopped; the divisions deepened.

Those racial fault lines had helped fuel the tax revolt that led to Proposition 13, the sweeping tax-cut measure that passed overwhelmingly in June 1978. The state lost more than a quarter of its total revenue.School districts’ ability to raise funds was crippled; their budgets shrank for the first time since the Depression. State government assumed control of allocating money to schools, which centralized decision-making in Sacramento.

Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help.The decades of frustration and impotence have boiled over in a strike with no clear endgame and huge long-term implications. The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?

As Ms. Pawel goes on to note, the problems whose roots can be found in Proposition 13 got even worse when deregulated charter schools were offered as the “solution”. These schools siphon funds away from public schools, which creates a cycle Ms. Powell describes in one paragraph:

It’s a vicious cycle: The more overcrowded and burdened the regular schools, the easier for charters to recruit students. The more students the district loses, the less money, and the worse its finances. The more the district gives charters space in traditional schools, the more overcrowded the regular classrooms.

And because billionaire Eli Broad spent millions to elect a pro-charter school board who, in turn, appointed a business-minded Superintendent with no experience, LA finds itself mired in a strike… a strike unlike any witnessed by a veteran mediator:

“In my 17 years working with labor unions, I have been called on to help settle countless bargaining disputes in mediation,” wrote Vern Gates, the union-appointed member of the fact-finding panel called in to help mediate the Los Angeles stalemate last month. “I have never seen an employer that was intent on its own demise.”

Like President Trump and the Tea Party wing who want to diminish the effectiveness of government, the LA school board seems to be intent on ruining what is left of the public school system in Los Angeles. Ms. Pawel concludes her op ed with this sobering description of what is at stake:

This strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.

If Los Angeles teachers can build on those gains, the victory will embolden others to push for more, just as teachers on the rainy picket lines this week draw inspiration from the successful #RedforEd movements around the country. The high stakes have drawn support from so many quarters, from the Rev. James Lawson, the 90-year-old civil rights icon, to a “Tacos for Teachers” campaign to fund food on the picket lines.

If this fight for public education in Los Angeles fails, it will consign the luster of California schools to an ever more distant memory.

From my perspective, it IS heartening that voters in California have supported tax increases to upgrade their schools and their legislature is sending more of those funds to economically deprived districts. But if those districts, like LA, use their funds to expand privatization Los Angeles schools will lose their luster forever… and the billionaires will prevail… the Winners WILL Take All.

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

January 7, 2019 Comments off

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!

 

Washington Post Editorial Board Concludes that the Trump Administration Favors GUN Rights Over CIVIL Rights

January 1, 2019 Comments off

Our local newspaper often reprints editorials from the Washington Post, and a reprinted editorial earlier this week summarized the recent report from the Trump administration on gun violence in schools that I wrote about earlier in December… and it did so in a far more forceful and eloquent fashion. Like me, the editorial board of the Washington Post was appalled and perplexed about the Commission on School Violence’s recommendation that a federal policy that protects minority students from unfair discipline be scrapped. But the Post emphasized the disconnect between gun violence and the civil rights issue of uneven disciplinary treatment between students of color and white males:

Most school shootings are committed by white males. That didn’t stop the commission, which includes three other Cabinet members, from recommending a rollback of guidance issued in 2014 to curb racial disparities in discipline.Black students, starting from preschool, are more often disciplined in school and receive harsher punishments than white students for comparable offenses. The 2014 guidance — which was formally rescinded by DeVos and acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker — properly prodded schools to examine disproportionate discipline rates for black students and reminded schools they can be held accountable for violations of federal civil rights laws.

The guidance was non-binding and, as Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee who will become committee chair next year, rightly pointed out, had absolutely no connection to school shootings.

“Rather than confronting the role of guns in gun violence, the Trump administration blames school shootings on civil rights enforcement,” he said in a statement.

Why was this included in the Commission report while any mention of gun control was omitted? The answer can be found in the final word of the Washington Post’s editorial:

But using school shootings that have been perpetrated by angry young white men to justify punishing black schoolchildren disproportionately is particularly base.

And this recommendation, conflating civil rights with gun violence in schools, appeals to Mr. Trump’s base while overlooking the real problems that contribute to shootings in schools. The “distract and divide” strategy continues….

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In Privatization Debate, it’s the Walton’s Billions vs the NAACP’s Principles

December 26, 2018 Comments off

A recent AP article in that appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press described the ongoing debate that is raging in the black community between the NAACP and (presumably) grassroots organizations consisting of parents whose children are enrolled in deregulated for profit charter schools. The lines of the debate have been delineated in several posts in this blog, but here’s how they are outlined in the AP report:

The Walton family, as one of the leading supporters of America’s charter school movement, is spreading its financial support to prominent and like-minded black leaders, from grassroots groups focused on education to mainstream national organizations such as the United Negro College Fund and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, according to an Associated Press analysis of tax filings and nonprofit grants data….

While some black leaders see charters as a safer, better alternative in their communities, a deep rift of opinion was exposed by a 2016 call for a moratorium on charters by the NAACP, a longtime skeptic that expressed concerns about school privatization, transparency and accountability issues. The Black Lives Matter movement is also among those that have demanded charter school growth be curbed.

One of the big problems in determining who is on which side and who is on the right side is the source of funding for these various groups. As noted in the first paragraph, the Walton family, whose primary motivation appears to be profit, is underwriting what are described as “grassroots groups” along with “mainstream national organizations” making it difficult to know the extent to which these groups are truly speaking their own minds as opposed to the minds of their financial backers.

Another major complication from my perspective is that the engaged parents, those who want and expect the best from their public schools, will do whatever they can to get the best education for their children. And, if their neighborhood school falls short of their standards and a charter school seems better for their child, it is difficult for me to stand in the way of them doing what they believe is best for their child. As a by-stander or as a school superintendent I think it would be problematic to tell them that they should sacrifice the well-being of their child based and instead join with those who are seeking funding reforms so that all of the children in their “short-of-the-standard” neighborhood school can benefit.

Since the non-engaged parents are those most likely to be trapped in single-parent roles, trapped in low wage employment, and incapable of having the time rescources needed to advocate for their children and their children’s neighborhood schools, it is incumbent on principled groups like the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and hopefully  mainstream national organizations who are not compromised by the lavish funds showered on them by the likes of the Waltons, to advocate for the social justice issue of equitable school funding.

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….