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Posts Tagged ‘vouchers’

Profiteers Amplify Controversies in Public Schools to Market Their (Ahem) Demographic Advantages

June 2, 2021 Comments off

The reliably insightful and provocative Jeff Bryant wrote an article for Alternet describing the REAL reason the right-wing is seizing on Critical Race Theory (CRT)… and it has nothing to do with disputes over educational philosophy or the desire for CRT advocates to look at the past through a different lens. It has to do with money:

(Executive director of the Center for Racial Equity in Education James)Ford views these attacks on “woke” indoctrination in schools are “unequivocally related to efforts to privatize education,” and he points out that many of the same people orchestrating these new laws targeting public education are strong proponents of school choice. “Historically, there is a pattern connecting race issues and privatization,” he says.

Numerous studies have found evidence supporting Ford’s argument, but it’s not at all hard to imagine that an effective strategy for pushing white families out of public schools is to raise fears that their children are being indoctrinated with values and beliefs that could divide them ideologically or emotionally and draw a wedge between them and their families and neighbors.

Nor is it a stretch to believe that families of color, seeing white families become enraged about the teaching of structural racism, would consider fleeing a public school to find a privately operated alternative that would be more culturally affirming for their children.

And it will be no surprise to readers of this blog to know that the national and coordinate effort to criminalize the teaching of “divisive topics” is at the root of this movement to divide public school parents. And Mr. Bryant’s article underscores a chilling reality that comes to the fore when “divisive content” is forbidden: children are not only separated from each other, they are separated from a whole host of uncomfortable truths. He opens the article with the description of a NC Teacher of the Year who was invited to give testimony in the NC legislature on the challenges of hybrid learning. When he appeared before a House Committee, though, the topic changed. Instead of being asked about remote learning he was grilled on his presentation of a controversial subject: air pollution. 

And that kind of McCarty-ism is what makes teachers shudder when legislation like the “divisive topics” bills make their way through state legislators. There are still parents who oppose instruction on evolution, business leaders who see lessons on water and air pollution and land use “divisive”, and many parents who see CRT as “indoctrination”. James Ford sees what is going on and he is trying to make everyone in NC aware:

The real target, Ford explained, is “divisiveness.” For the people who criticize teachers and promote these bills, Ford believes, there can be “no nuance at all” in discussing “matters of religion and customs and the values of rugged individualism and free-market ideology.” There can be no challenges of assumptions and no revising of long-standing mythologies about America and American society.

According to Ford, these people see education as a process about “making kids assimilate,” and “simply talking about a subject like pollution takes on a heightened sense of alarm about society being undermined.”

Proposed laws against “divisiveness” in schools prompt Ford to question, “Divisive for who?” and he notes that the people behind all these bills are overwhelmingly white, wealthier folks who have generally benefited most from the nation’s education system.Ford suggests they may be provoking white resentment against public schools because schools are now more populated with Black and Brown children who may express doubts about a prevailing narrative about the country that may not include people who look like them.

Ford also finds it ironic that people who are intent on outlawing school “indoctrination” have chosen to impose their own agenda by attacking critical thinking and questioning of cultural norms, which, to him, is what truly sounds like indoctrination.

Jeff Bryant makes the point that enforcing these laws will be difficult, especially given the vague definition of “divisive content”. He senses that teachers will self-censor to an extreme, and he may be right. As one who had to push back on a few occasions when parents felt some books assigned were “inappropriate” for their children, I can see where parents who don’t like a book or topic will be emboldened to appear before the school boards across the country to protest a given book or topic a teacher is offering. And it is not too difficult to see the politicization of topics like CRT, pollution, and the labelling of toilets leading to divisive and contentious school board elections in the years ahead. 

And here is what is especially sad to me: given the choice between unity and profit, businesses are siding with their commitment to shareholders… and given the choice between unity and power, at least one political party is choosing power. 

 

 

 

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NH Refusal to Take Benefits Hurts FAR More Families Than Initially Reported… But the GOP and Business Community Don’t Care

June 1, 2021 Comments off

As Rick Green of the Granite State News Collaborative notes in an article that appears in our local newspaper this morning, GOP Governor Chris Sununu’s decision to withdraw from the federal unemployment payments hurts far more people than originally reported. He writes:

Much has been made of the fact that unemployment compensation checks will be reduced by $300 per week in New Hampshire on June 19 because Gov. Chris Sununu is joining other Republican governors in opting out of a federal pandemic aid program.

But what might not be so well known is that about 15,000 people — nearly half of those receiving unemployment in the state — will lose all unemployment benefits as of that day because the governor is also taking the state out of other federal programs that expand and extend unemployment benefits.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is one of those programs. It covers 8,600 people in the state who would not otherwise be eligible to receive unemployment compensation, some of them self-employed.

This includes those who have COVID-19, people living in a household where someone has it, those providing care to a family member who has it, people who have become the main support for a household because the breadwinner has died of the disease and those who had to quit a job as a direct result of the disease.

Another 6,500 people will lose their benefits because they were covered under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which expanded the length of time for receiving benefits. Normal state coverage lasts for six months.

Extensions under the federal program boosted this to about a year.

About 32,000 people are receiving unemployment compensation in New Hampshire, and about half of these can continue to receive benefits through the state program.

What the article fails to note is that many of the INDIVIDUALS receiving these benefits are breadwinners in FAMILIES  and those families include children.

This entire episode involving support for unemployed families is partisan politics at its worst. There is not a single Democrat led State that has refused to accept these funds because not a single GOP member voted to approve them. Both parties are beholden to the billionaires who bankroll their campaigns, but only the GOP is so beholden to business that they would deny funds to families whose “…breadwinner has died of the disease and those who had to quit a job as a direct result of the disease.” But at least the children can secure a voucher to attend a private religious school and they can get a gun to protect themselves if someone tries to break into their home— assuming they have one after they are unable to pay the rent. 

NH Budget Has Everything… Except Money for Public Schools

May 30, 2021 Comments off

Conservatives generally tend to favor limited government oversight of local issues, limited spending by the government to achieve social goals, and fiscal prudence. Those conservative principles have long been associated with the GOP. But NH’s GOP legislature has re-defined the meaning of “conservative” and public education will suffer the consequences of this redefinition the most. And now public schools find themselves hoping against hope that GOP Governor Sununu, a “classic conservative”, will reject the budget as written and send it back for revisions. 

The budget adopted by the NH House and Senate and now awaiting the Governor’s signature includes a provision that allow New Hampshire parents to use public funds for private school tuition, a de facto voucher program with the glossy label of “Education Freedom Accounts”. It also has a a measure to ban abortions in the state after a fetus reaches 24 weeks, and last, but not least, language from New Hampshire’s “divisive concepts” legislation that would prohibit schools and public entities from teaching that one race or gender is superior to another, and would ban the teaching that a person is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” None of these are “budget” issues in the traditional sense. They are all hot-button legislative issues bundled into a bill that funds the day-to-day operation of the State in conformance with laws that are on the books. There is no law that allows education funds to be spent for religious schools and there ARE laws that restrict such spending. There is no law on the books to ban abortions in the state after a fetus reaches 24 weeks nor is there any plausible link between such a law and the State’s spending plan. There is no State law that forbids schools from discussing “divisive concepts” nor is there any plausible link between such a law and the State’s spending plan. 

At the same time as the State AG is suing to allow the money for American Rescue Act to allow those funds to underwrite a tax cut instead of going to help those who lost wages during the pandemic and need support in the coming months to transition back, GOP lawmakers voted to reduce New Hampshire’s business taxes, its meals and rooms tax, and to gradually eliminate entirely its interest and dividends tax. Basically, the fiscal conservatives are buying into the failed “trickle down” theory of government espoused by GOP since the Reagan era and compounding the problem by cutting revenue sources that are already limited in NH. There is one obvious problem with embracing this theory: unlike the federal government who racked up deficits in the years after GOP-led legislatures at the federal level adopted “trickle down” thinking, STATE legislatures cannot operate at a deficit. If the forecasted business expansion doesn’t materialize as expected, look for deep cuts in the future because as long as the GOP is in charge of the State budget tax increases will be off the table. 

In a commentary piece that appeared in The New Hampshire Bulletin ACLU-NH advocate Jeanne Hruska outlined the horrific elements of the budget headed for the Governor’s desk and tried to divine the reason for the shift in their thinking about the role of government and came to this conclusion: 

The toxicity of Washington has finally reached Concord, and it’s not a good look, New Hampshire. This obsession with culture wars, on censoring speech, and targeting civil rights, it’s ugly. It makes our state look abysmal.

And the failure to adequately fund public schools, to adopt short-sighted tax policy that diminishes revenues in the long run, and the seeming willingness to walk away from federal funds in the name of even deeper tax cuts is worse that “ugly”… it’s irresponsible. At this juncture only Chris Sununu can stop this train wreck of a budget from becoming law. He reportedly likes the idea of implementing the arguably extra-legal school vouchers, opposes the abortion restrictions, and believes the “controversial issues” rider to the budget is an over-reach. Being a true blue GOP conservative, he finds tax cuts appealing no matter how many times “trickle down” economics has failed. Will he stop the train wreck or yield to the know-nothing element of his party? Stay tuned….