Nel's New Day

June 2, 2019

Catching Up on the Last Few Weeks

Looking through my files, I see information about events that has fallen through the cracks. Here’s a bit of “catch up” with links for readers who want to read more about the subject. 

Tariffs/Taxes:

Solar energy, responsible in 2016 for 43 percent of employment in electric power and twice as much as the fossil fuel industry, has lost almost 20,000 jobs since DDT’s inauguration, much of the loss from tariffs.

Increasing tariffs to 25 percent on some Chinese goods could annually tax a family of four $767 and destroy over 934,000 jobs. Tariffs on all Chinese imports, as DDT threatens, would annually tax families $2,294. The combined $72 billion for all DDT’s tariffs constitute one of the biggest tax increases since 1993, and that amount doesn’t include his new tax on all goods from Mexico. People, not companies or countries, pay for tariffs making them a tax increase, the equivalent of a ten-percent increase in Social Security tax for an average family. DDT plans to annually cost every family $100 annually and add to health problems and death rates with enhanced pollution by erasing efficiency standards for light bulbs and causing LED bulbs to be much more expensive. Since President Obama’s action, LED bulbs, which last ten years, dropped 90 percent in price to about $1.

According to DDT’s Commerce Department, the $891 billion merchandise trade deficit last year is the largest in U.S. history, and the trade deficit with China hit a record high of $419 billion after DDT’s tariffs. The 19-percent jump from November and December 2018 to $59.8 billion made the highest monthly trade deficit in 10 years.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), ready to declare war on Iran, told farmers that they’re making far less sacrifices by losing their farms from tariffs than soldiers “in Arlington” make. DDT calls farmers losing everything from his tariffs as “patriot farmers.” Did they know that they were signing up for the war by growing food? Meanwhile, GOP senators up for re-election in agricultural states are getting nervous.

DDT’s tariffs are closing down a South Carolina plant that assembles televisions using Chinese parts with a loss of 126 jobs.

Climate/Pollution:

Earth’s concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has reached 415 parts per million ( ppm). The first 280 ppm took 5,000 years until the Industrial Revolution; the last 5 ppm took two years. Ninety percent of all global fuel emissions have been released in the past 85 years. Excess carbon dioxide is causing men’s testicles to shrink from shortage of sperm. (Chemicals are also shrinking penises.)

The U.S. is one of two nations out of 189 to control movement of its waste across national borders, leaving the U.S. no place to send contaminated and plastic waste without other countries’ consent. 

Of the world’s 425,000 electric buses, China has 421,000. The U.S. has 300.

DDT may be able to escape any climate change penalties on the federal level, but New York is levying millions of dollars against his business because of pollution from DDT’s buildings. Without making improvements, DDT will pay annual fines of $2.1 million from 2030.

Not only has DDT failed to create more coal jobs, but he’s also losing the ones that existed when he was inaugurated. One-thousand jobs are at risk as the third-largest coal company declared bankruptcy because of a weak market, and over 50 coal plants closed under DDT’s leadership. A court ruling voided union contracts for another coal company, and lack of federal funding jeopardizes pensions of $600 a month for almost 100,000 workers. Transition to other jobs is highly problematic because coal workers aren’t well enough to work after leaving the mines.

Data:

DDT’s attempts to control the census by asking about citizenship isn’t the only way that he plans to skew information: poverty and pollution in the U.S. will be less severe once he changes all the numbers. After the EPA reported that DDT’s new energy policy to replace President Obama’s Clean Power Plan kills an additional 1,400 people, DDT ordered the number to be fixed.

DDT will allow oil and gas industry to drill places not within the safe drilling margin through the draft of guidelines that weren’t included for public comment last year.

Legislation:

DDT and the GOP hate net neutrality, which keeps prices lower for internet use, but love the idea of 5G wireless phones to speed up all those tweets. The result may be a 30-percent inaccuracy of weather forecasts because of interference, taking predictions back four decades. That means fewer days to prepare for hurricanes and incorrect tracking of storms’ paths to land. NOAA reported that the proposed 5G system would lose 77 percent data from its satellite’s passive microwave sounders. The FCC continues to auction off wireless spectrum, already making almost $2 billion.

Without legislation, Congressional Republicans will cause these catastrophes: lack of disaster aid; budget caps starting on September 30; not raising the debt ceiling resulting in calamitous financial crisis by the end of summer; government shutdown without passage of 12 appropriation bills by October 1; continued disintegration of infrastructure; no funds for Violence against Women Act which expired three months ago; no defense authorization or flood insurance which depends on the disaster bill; and lack of surveillance from sunsets on gathering metadata on domestic text messages and “roving” wiretaps—which might not be too bad.

DDT doesn’t think his ideas to use public-private relationships for infrastructure improvement “will work.

When the House passed the Equality Act, 173 Republicans voted in favor of discriminating against LGBTQ people. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment and house, and one of those states permits public accommodation discrimination. One Republican legislator compared LGBTQ people to Nazis.

IRS:

Every year, the IRS loses hundreds of auditing agents, so they pursue the poor rather than the wealthy. In 2018, millionaires were 80 percent less likely to be audited than in 2011, but the 43 percent of people receiving the earned income tax credit are audited at a higher rate than anyone except the richest. Highest audit rates are in poor, rural, mostly black, and Southern counties.

 Over 1.3 million college students on scholarships are taxed at higher rates than billionaires, including DDT, thanks to the new GOP “tax cut” law. High tax rates have also hit tribal funds paid to Native American youth for education or living expenses. Republicans have not only fixed the problem but seemed to have deliberately created it.

Education Department:

Republicans plan to renew investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for her emails although she recorded all of them. The GOP will undoubtedly ignore Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s use of personal email accounts for government businesses and her failure to properly save the messages. The practice is common for Republicans, and DDT fails to preserve public records.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that the Education Department is blocking efforts to police the student loan industry and costing borrowers thousands of dollars for those who owe over $1 trillion in these loans by refusing to share information.

As DDT wants to increase the charter school budget, the Network for Public Education reported how charter schools have scammed the federal government for over $1 billion in nonexistent or short-lived schools. With no adverse consequences, one in three schools that have received $4 billion closed, never opened, or hadn’t yet opened. Other charter schools fall short of the charter program’s promise of “high-quality” schools for disadvantaged students.

Ignorance/Bigotry:

Fifty-six percent of people reject the idea of teaching “Arabic numerals”—like 56.

DDT:

DDT likened himself to Hungary’s far-right authoritarian leader Prime Minister Viktor Orbán because of his being “respected all over Europe” and doing a “tremendous job.” 

At this time, 138 nominees are awaiting confirmation in the Senate, and another 132 positions have no nominees. The reason comes from overwhelming turnover in the past two years.

Condo sales in Trump Tower have plummeted, some of them as much as 20 percent, compared to 0.23 percent of Manhattan homes. Occupancy rates dropped even with lower than average rents; net income is 26 percent below banks’s expectations in 2012. DDT still made $434 million last year, especially from the D.C. hotel.

DDT said that he will not use any campaign dirt on his opponents from foreign companies—if he gets the opponents he wants.

DDT’s trial balloon of getting another two years with no election because he was treated “unfairly” has failed: 77 percent of the people don’t agree. Only seven percent of respondents think that he should ignore the 2020 election if he loses, and 90 percent believe that the “peaceful handover of power after elections” and “both parties respecting the results of elections” were essential for the “healthy functioning of American democracy.” Large majorities agree that DDT “does not respect the customs or traditions of the Presidency” and “the laws of the United States.”

September 12, 2015

Too Many Charter Schools for Profit Only

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In his push toward replacing all public schools with privately-managed, public-funded charter schools, Jeb Bush has become the sugar daddy of big business that makes big money off depriving young people of an education. The GOP presidential candidate opened the first charter school in the state when he was governor and increased it 56 percent annually during his first administration. By the time that he left office in 2007, the number had grown from 30 to 300 and since doubled to over 600. There would be more, but poor planning and management has caused the closure of another 308 schools so far this year. His first school closed in 2008.

Jeb Bush got the charter school ball rolling by maintaining that they would save students from failed public schools. By 2009, he sang another song—that charter schools are “a great opportunity… a half billion dollar opportunity.” Investors immediately showed interest in the lucrative possibilities. Bush has kept lobbying for these schools: almost all the classrooms with happy children in his campaign videos “are at schools operated by Academica, [Florida’s] largest for-profit charter school management company,” according to BuzzFeed reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy.

Academica has almost 100 schools in Florida and over $150 million in annual revenue along with being the subject of “an ongoing federal probe into its real estate dealings,” as reported by the Miami Herald in 2014. Charter schools must be overseen by a non-profit board of directors, but corporations make their money from everything else—payroll operations, food services contracting, textbook sales—as well as hiring personnel and controlling curriculum.

Another way that companies like Academica make profits is state grants, loans, and tax credits for building the school before charging the school district massive rents and leases to use the buildings. Charter Schools USA charged one school $2 million rent, 23 percent of its budget. Charter companies also get the profits if they sell the buildings to another entity. Within the last two years, only charter schools received capital outlay for new construction, and charter school companies are now going after local property taxes.

Although Florida districts traditionally decide when and where a new school is needed, charter schools can open up at the company’s volition without permission from a school district. Laurie Rich Levinson, a school board representative, said, “We must approve them even when we don’t know where exactly they’ll be located,” she says. Charter schools are also not subject to traffic restrictions, building codes, and other regulations mandated for other businesses and institutions.

Companies closing charter schools also punish communities through charges. When local officials in Florida tried to get $400,000 back from two closed schools, the companies had either moved the funds or had them frozen by liens. The Sun Sentinel reported, “County schools may have to repay $1.8 million owed by two closed charter schools.” The schools didn’t keep accurate counts of enrolled students; therefore money already collected will be withheld from future payments to the district.

Florida is not alone in its problems with charter schools. Claims that charter schools provide superior education have been debunked in other states. A report on Pennsylvania’s charters a year ago indicated that only one in six of these schools is “high-performing” and none of the online ones is “high-performing.” Charter schools weed out students based on characteristics such as those with special needs and low test scores. In many cases, English learners and children in poverty need not apply. The result is higher segregation in schools.

In many charter schools, cost-cutting curriculum limits students to little more than reading and mathematics test preparation, inexperienced teachers with high turnover, and products that line the pockets of board members. At the same time, the schools are used as cash cows.

Publicly-funded charter schools act like private entities, denying such basic information as salaries. In 2012, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature tried to introduce a bill that exempted all charters from the state’s sunshine laws. Companies have argued in California courts that they are private entities and cannot be treated as public institutions.

The drain on real public schools is tremendous. For example, charter tuition payments cost Pittsburgh $53 million in just one year. In order to make more money for their companies, charter corporations are working to close traditional public schools. Pennsylvania forced districts to approve new charters while slashing the budget and closing more schools.

Big donors for John Kasich during his 2014 run for Ohio governor were charter school operators and companies. He vowed to clean up charter schools after cutting money from public schools and to show how well the charters were doing with a public site to compare their performance with public schools. The upgrading of charter facilities and increase in their budgets cost Ohioans well over one billion dollars so far this year while public schools lost one-half billion dollars. Last month, David Hansen, state director of school choice, resigned after he admitted charter schools looked much better because he omitted poor grades for online and dropout-recovery schools. Kasich probably won’t be talking much about charter schools on the campaign trail.

One state has declared that giving public school funds to charter schools is unconstitutional. Washington state Supreme Court spent almost a year of deliberation before he overturned a narrowly-passed ballot measure in 2012 allowing publicly-funded, privately-operated schools. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards. Therefore, “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” she wrote. A coalition filing the suit asked for this ruling because these schools are “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.” The nine schools planning to open this fall will not close but instead plan to rely on private funding.

In 1992, democratic socialist Sweden began distributing vouchers to parents to send their children to any school, private or public. Companies were permitted to operate for-profit schools, and private equity firms ran hundreds of schools. The result:

  • Test scores fell consistently starting in 1995.
  • Social stratification and ethnic and immigrant segregation increased.
  • Better teachers went to schools with students of higher socio-economic status.
  • One of the biggest private education firms declared bankruptcy in 2013. About 1,000 people lost their jobs, and the company’s unpaid debt is about $150 million.
  • A convicted pedophile legally set up several schools.
  • The system found no impact on medium or long-term educational outcomes such as high school GPA, university attainment or years of schooling.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 2,486 U.S. charter schools closed between 2001 and 2013. [Check here for an interactive map of these closures.] Charter school students are two and a half times at risk of having their school closed, causing a disruption in their education and decreasing high school graduation rates by almost 10 percent.

Unknown millions of dollars of the $3.3 billion spent by the federal government went to schools that never opened to students. The Center for Popular Democracy documented more than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry in 15 states alone. Wisconsin was given $69.6 million between 2010 and 2015, but one-fifth of the charters opened in the first two years of grants have closed. Indiana was given $31.3 million because the schools are exempt from democratic oversight by elected school boards.

Failed charter schools may cost about $1.4 billion in 2015. This waste hasn’t stopped the Department of Education. Secretary Arne Duncan asked for a 48-percent expansion of the program and refuses to release any information about grants or their applicants.

Fraud, lack of transparency, lower achievement—these are a few of the problems in many states that allow these schools to be controlled by profiteers. People in every state should look into laws for charter schools to make sure that they don’t have the same problem.

June 16, 2015

Jeb for President? Part II

king bushJeb Bush’s plan for the half of 2015: raise tens of millions of dollars, separate himself from his brother’s presidency, win conservatives, and become the Republican who will win the GOP nomination. Thus far, he’s raised the money. Asked about his brother, he waffles between supporting him and trying to find a way to please people who disagree with George W. Bush’s Iraq War. Conservatives still don’t like him, and he has appeared incompetent through answers to questions and consistent flip-flopping.

Last week he changed his campaign manager to the more negative and conservative Danny Diaz, meaning that Bush may have reconsidered whether he’ll still campaign “joyfully.” Diaz’s participation in Bush II’s campaign is another connection between Jeb and Dubya. One Bush ally said that Diaz will signal that “the culture of the Bush operation will now be a Pickett’s Charge engagement campaign with his main opponents.” Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg lost most of its soldiers and contributed to the loss of the Civil War for the South.

The Bush name lacks the gleam it once had. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “He just hasn’t met the expectation level of what we expected of a Bush.” Sixteen years ago, Bush’s brother had over half the House GOP caucus—114 Republicans—on board with endorsements. The House has more GOP members in 2015, but Bush has only two dozen committed to him and no senators. Bush’s flip-flopping doesn’t seem to bother GOP congressional members, however, as much as his seemingly moderate views on immigration and education.

Bush may be sued for his fund-raising style.  He waited seven months after forming  a leadership political action committee in lieu of an “exploratory” committee to declare his candidacy while he’s acted like a presidential candidate. Without officially declaring as a candidate, he could send “anonymous donations” into his Super PACS, both named Right to Rise.

According to the New York Times, “federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate and thus subject to the spending and disclosure restrictions.” Technically, Bush sidestepped that law, but unethical behavior has never bothered him. As Florida governor, he engineered a vast voter fraud and intimidation program to tip the scales in favor of his brother George W. Jeb, and Jeb is back gaming the system to make more money from corporate interests.

Jeb Bush has declared that brother, George W, is his senior advisor. That’s the Bush with a foundation accepting undisclosed donations from millionaires while he was president. One big donor, Dallas oilman and major SMU supporter Edwin L. Cox, had his son pardoned by former President George H.W. Bush. Other donations to the Bush Foundation come from foreign governments such as the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. With assets of $47 million and another $3 million a year from undisclosed donations, the George Bush Presidential Library can funnel campaign and influence money—even illegal donations from foreign governments—to Jeb Bush with no record or transparency.

Jeb’s past shows the same sort of dodgy dealings in politics:

1989: Bush successfully lobbied his father, then president, for the release of Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch, who allegedly orchestrated the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people in 1976 as well as other terrorist attacks. In a federal prison on an immigration violation and dubbed an “unrepentant terrorist” by then-Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Bosch was a cause célèbre for Miami’s influential Cuban population—a voting bloc that Jeb used to launch his political career.

1994: Despite Bush’s strident advocacy to keep people in a vegetative state alive and prevent abortion, his first campaign for Florida government promoted the acceleration of the death penalty enforcement in the state by limiting death row inmates to only one appeal.

1996: Bush pushed for charter schools in Florida. Providing money to religious schools was later ruled unconstitutional, but after he was elected governor, he made sure that public money went to developers to build schools, free of public oversight and collective-bargaining agreements, that drained money from public schools. Despite a law that charter schools had to be operated by non-profit groups, for-profit companies were managing three-quarters of the state’s newly approved charter schools by 2002. The next year he signed a bill that removed any cap on the number of charter schools. Although Bush claims to have no profit from these schools, his allies do. Bush sticks to Common Core because it makes money for his friends.

1999: In his first year as Florida governor, Bush signed an executive order to end affirmative action in education and business after calling these policies “stupid and destructive.” Since then, Black enrollment in universities has dropped by almost half in some of the schools while the Black population in the state remains stable at 20 percent.

1999: Bush signed a law making Florida the first state to fund anti-choice initiatives through the sale of “Choose Life” license plates. He also supported “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) that provide women with medically inaccurate information—for example, abortion makes people go insane—and fail to tell women about the full range of their reproductive health options.

2000: During the recount for the presidential election, Bush made 95 calls to the George W. Bush campaign while his secretary of state and George W.’s campaign co-chair, Katherine Harris, lost or spoiled ballots from hundreds of thousands of Black voters.

2001: Bush gave Bsafe Online, an American Family Association subsidiary, $600,000 of tax money to block Internet users from information about LGBT identities. Yet he invested $1.3 million in state pension fund money in Movie Gallery, a video rental company with a wide selection of pornographic films.

2003: Thirteen years and many court cases after Terri Schiavo went into a vegetative state, Bush was instrumental in passing “Terri’s Law,” demanding that her feeding tube be reinserted.  It was another two years before she was allowed to physically die.

2003: Bush initiated the dumping of tons of toxic waste by the Koch brothers company, Georgia-Pacific, into the Florida St. Johns River after he and his cabinet, over the objection of then Attorney General Charlie Crist, gave a preliminary approval to the GP pipeline from its Palatka paper mill to the river. Within the next two years, GP moved forward without a constitutionally-required notice and fair warning for a wetlands permit and an easement. Law required that the public Trustees carefully consider the costs and benefits and the money savings by GP from the river dumping, but it was never done. No compensation has been made for the areas covered with toxic waste and the diminished swimming and fishing use in the affected area. GP got its easement in 2009 with no notice to citizens and environmental groups. After citizens sued and a Bush-supported court rubber stamped Bush’s actions, the case went to the 1st District Court of Appeals.

2003: Bush asked a court to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a developmentally disabled rape victim despite an earlier decision by the Florida Department of Children and Families to ask the court to appoint a guardian for the baby only after the woman gives birth.

2005: Bush is responsible for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law through his support of corporate-controlled ALEC. The media described it as a license to hunt and kill.

2006: Bush asked the Florida GOP legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot repealing a constitutional provision separating church and state. The legislature refused.

2009: Bush declared himself Hispanic on his 2009 voter registration. In 2012, Republicans accused Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) of misrepresenting herself as Native American.

2010: Bush and his education reform organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, created a group of school superintendents and other high-ranking officials called “Chiefs for Change” to advance the Florida model of education, which emphasizes accountability and emphasized giving schools letter grades based on performance, especially standardized test scores. One of the original eight chiefs was accused of inflating the grade of a lackluster charter school funded by a Republican donor. The office of another was caught manipulating test score data.

In October, a New Mexico advocacy group filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education failed to disclose thousands of dollars it paid to bring public school superintendents, education officials, and lawmakers to the group’s events, where they had private “VIP” meetings with the foundation’s for-profit ed-tech company sponsors. The complaint alleges that Bush’s foundation disguised travel payments as “scholarships” to hide the fact that the nonprofit was facilitating lobbying between big corporations and public officials.

2015: Bush’s first fundraiser for his PAC was hosted by Charles Davis who held a top job at an insurance brokerage sued by the state of Florida for swindling clients while Bush was governor.

2015: One of Bush’s emails reveals that he closely coordinated with the Florida legislature to schedule Florida’s 2016 presidential primary in a way most favorable for himself.

2015: Bush’s hire for his PAC’s chief technology officer, Ethan Czahor, tweeted about women being “sluts” and joked about being ogled by gay men at the gym. Jeb solved the problem by having the tweets deleted.

Bush promises to deliver a four percent annual economic growth. He has no method; he said that 4 is “a nice round number.” He cited his record as governor—the one that ended just as the housing bubble popped and wiped out 900,000 of Jeb’s 1.3 million jobs created while he was in office. The bubble filled state coffers, Jeb took credit and left office before the disaster, and now the candidate wants to be viewed as an economic genius.

There’s much more here. The last part of the Jeb Bush iceberg tomorrow.

June 20, 2014

Judge Overturns Tenure with Flawed Evidence

A little-noticed court decision last week amid the Iraq controversy was a California trial court ruling that five state statutes protecting teachers’ jobs discriminate against poor and minority children. Judge Rolf M. Treu argued that the 1 to 3 percent of teachers estimated to be “grossly ineffective” cluster in high-poverty schools resulting in harm to students that “shocks the conscience.” The decision in Vergara v. California evokes Brown v. Board of Education in condemning tenure, due-process laws, and policies that protect senior teachers.

Silicon Valley mogul David Welch bankrolled the lawsuit with a group called Students Matter. Because of his ownership of both charter and cyber-charter schools, Welch can financially benefit from the destruction of teacher tenure and unions. He also has a connection to the $9 billion-per-year textbook and testing giant Pearson. Welch’s non-profit organization, StudentsFirst, has a goal of privatizing all schools. Getting rid of tenure means that owners of charter schools can hire teachers cheaply and control what curriculum materials they use.

Because Welch lives in the most expensive zip code in the United States, he had to find nine children from low-income communities in his claim that teacher job protections harm their ability to get their constitutionally-guaranteed education. He didn’t do a very good job of picking them. Two attended charter schools with no teacher tenure or seniority, and two others attended a pilot school where teachers could be dismissed for any reason. One of the “bad” teachers had been named “teacher of the year” by the Pasadena school district; others had excellent records.

Fortunately, Welch had the money to hire a legal team co-headed by George W. Bush’s Solicitor General Theodore Olson. The law firm, known for a number of conservative causes, is representing Walmart in a gender discrimination suit, Chevron in its environmental dispute with Ecuador, and the Dole Food Company in a lawsuit involving allegations that pesticides used by the company caused sterility in farm workers.

Former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, another StudentsFirst leader, lauded the decision. Her obsession with standardized testing led the country to first declare her as “America’s most famous school reformer” before she parted ways with the District of Columbia, and they dropped her programs. Her results there were a disastrous “revolving door” of personnel as newly hired teachers left at much higher rates than nationally while students showed little or no gain in academic achievement.

At this time, 46 states grant teacher tenure, much to the displeasure of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Students Matter, the group that filed the lawsuit, includes people from his department including Russlyn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights who is also in charge of ensuring equal federal funding reaches schools, and Ted Mitchell, nominee for the position of under-secretary of the Obama administration and president and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund. Democrats for Education Reform, whose board of directors holds a statewide list of former governors, state senators and city mayors, were also early supporters of Students Matter.

Also participating in the lawsuit was the California Charter Schools Association. The parent of one of the co-defendants in Vergara, Karen Martinez, ran for the school board of the town of Alum Rock and eventually unseated one of the main opponents of charter school growth in the district.

According to Dr. Kevin Welner, head of the National Policy Center of the University of Colorada, the ruling “attacks teachers and teacher unions instead of addressing the root of opportunity gaps.” The lawsuit didn’t address what drives educational inequality and what policies get teachers into the classroom. At least half the variation in educational outcomes is correlated with childhood poverty and family background. Educational inequality tracks more closely with rising income inequality than any other reason. Treu failed to mention these factors although the two legal precedents he cites deal with these inequalities. He can’t rule that poverty is unconstitutional, so he blames the teachers.

California declares tenure at 18 months as compared to the national average of 3.1 years and the 5 years that teachers find reasonable. As Penn Graduate School of Education professor Dr. Richard Ingersoll, author of many studies on student staffing and turnover, pointed out, there may be some validity to changing the length of tenure. Treu’s ruling, however, has thrown out all tenure. Ingersoll explained that the problem is more with the working conditions than the need to eliminate teachers. The best educators would be attracted through job protections, better pay, and workplace autonomy.

The judge quoted David Berliner, emeritus professor of education at Arizona State University, as saying that 1 to 3 percent of the teachers in the state were “grossly ineffective” and calculated that this would be thousands of teachers. Yet Berliner stated that his figure was a “guesstimate” and not based on any specific data. He said:

“I pulled that out of the air. There’s no data on that. That’s just a ballpark estimate, based on my visiting lots and lots of classrooms.”

During the trial, he also never used the term “grossly ineffective,” and he does not support the judge’s belief that teacher quality can be judged by student test scores.

Even if the “guesstimate” were anywhere near true, about 25 percent of teachers at the most disadvantaged schools leave each year. This demographic, in itself, damages the student population. Fast-track, limited-commitment programs such as Teach for America have made the turnover even worse, resulting in an average 50-percent annual turnover rates. When Ingersoll was asked to testify in a different lawsuit two years ago about exempting some Los Angeles schools with younger staff, he found that as many as 30 percent of teachers were already leaving these schools every year.

The teacher accountability movement has not made the profession more rewarding or the working conditions more stable—two necessary factors to attract and retain good teachers. High-stakes testing policies in urban schools, which cause centralized curriculum, teaching to the test, etc., also erode teachers’ discretion and autonomy. Teachers leave, and Vergara’s ruling won’t solve these problems.

The evidence in Vergara did not connect “bad” teachers to tenure statutes. One of the “grossly ineffective” teachers cited was a substitute employed at will without tenure. Even people opposed to teacher unions stated that the judge did not have any evidence for his ruling.

The judge’s ruling is so flawed that it might be overturned on appeal. Yet the opportunists who make money off standardizing testing and privatizing education are just starting. Students Matter has said it is considering filing similar lawsuits in New York, Maryland, New Mexico, Connecticut, Oregon, Kansas and Idaho, as well as any other states that may be responsive. They have no concern for quality education. Once again, it’s just a matter of “follow the money.”

For a picture of education in the 21st century, read this article from an award-winning teacher about why he has decided to leave his career and how people can change the educational system.

 

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