Nel's New Day

June 22, 2020

Week 178 – Glimmers of Hope for the Future

The media has been consumed today with how Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), who wanted to be the comeback kid, failed in Tulsa yesterday. Fire marshals estimated his crowd at 6,200 after DDT bragged that he has requests for over 1 million tickets. Reporters wrote about how teenage TikTok users and Korean pop music fans (aka K-pop stans) quietly spread the news to Snapchat and Instagram users to order tickets from false accounts and telephone numbers as a prank.  

DDT was furious with the small turnout and the publicizing of six campaign workers infected with COVID-19. The result was a low-energy event, especially when he returned home shown by this video of his return to Washington. People question if he will be explaining by the end of the week he was only inspecting the inside of BOK Center.

Missing from his 123-minute speech: references to tragic deaths of Black people, anything about Juneteenth and the end of slavery, the number of people who have died from COVID-19, the unemployed tens of millions, and any sense of compassion or empathy for suffering people. Important stuff that DDT shared in his speech with lots of lies: 15-minute detail of how well he can walk, a demonstration of how he can drink with one hand instead of two hands (causing the crowd to go wild with cheering), horrible, radical “rioters” in the streets, and his order to “my people”:

“When you do more testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases. I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”  

This week, DDT heads to Arizona, speaking at a megachurch with a capacity of 3,000. When Students for Trump rented the Dream City Church auditorium in northern Phoenix, the church didn’t know the purpose was DDT’s campaign rally. It stated online, “facility rental does not constitute endorsement of the opinions of its renters.” Phoenix now has a mask ordinance. DDT also plans to look at his border wall at Yuma, among the hardest hit locations in the state which has become a hot spot for COVID-19. 

After refusing to reveal any information about which businesses received the $600 billion from the CARES $2.3 trillion act, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin caved into the protests and announced he will announce general information. Loans of under $150,000, about 25 percent of the total, will be lumped together into categories of industry, business type, and demographics with no names. The remainder will be groped by amount: $150,000-$350,000, $350,000-$1 million, $1 million to $2 million, $2 million to $5 million, and $5 million to $10 million. Demographics are vital because the agency gave no guidance to lenders about prioritizing rural, minority, and women business borrowers who may not have received loans guaranteed by legislation.

 In California, a district judge stopped enforcement of the Education Department’s rules preventing undocumented students at the state community colleges from getting a portion of the state’s $580 million from CARES funds for pandemic relief. The law does not restrict types of students eligible for aid.

A U.S. district judge in New York blocked ICE from making civil arrests at courthouses. A federal judge in Massachusetts make the same ruling last year; the appeal is pending.

The U.S. Soccer Federation repealed the league’s three-year-old ban on kneeling during the national anthem, and the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association apologized to its “players—especially our Black players—staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism.”

After DC Circuit Court judge Lawrence Silberman called renaming U.S. bases honoring Confederate officers “mad,” a Black law clerk responded in this brilliant way, when he wrote about his slave ancestors.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cannot order the 11 Confederate statues removed from the capitol, but she can take down four portraits of previous House Speakers who served in the Confederacy. One of them, Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter (left) who was expelled from the U.S. Senate for supporting the Confederacy, became the Confederate Secretary of State. The last House Speaker portrait to be removed was that of former Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL). In 2015, then Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) took it off the wall after Hastert pled guilty to breaking banking laws when he obtained hush money concealing molestation of young boys while he was a wrestling coach.

An investigation from a panel created by the National Academy of Public Administration panel found that NOAA violated its scientific integrity policy in “Sharpiegate,” NOAA’s backing of DDT’s falsifying Hurricane Dorian’s path last September. After DDT mistakenly identified the Hurricane going into Alabama, NOAA contradicted its own meteorologists, and DDT changed Dorian’s path on a map with his Sharpie pen. According to the report, NOAA’s acting administrator Neil Jacobs and former NOAA deputy chief of staff and communications director Julie Kay Roberts twice violated agency codes through their involvement in the Sept. 6 statement. Jacobs is still claiming that DDT was correct in his ignorance that Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Jacob’s problems continue: The Commerce Department’s inspector general, responsible for NOAA, and the House Science Committee both plan to release reports. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire NOAA’s top employees if they didn’t endorse DDT’s fake claims. 

A three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court upheld the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit against former British spy Christopher Steele, center of the publicity surrounding the Mueller report. Russian investment giants, owners of the country’s Alfa Group, claimed Steele’s reports had defamed them.

The FDA withdrew the emergency use authorization for DDT’s COVID-19 drugs of choice, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, because of health problems they may cause.

The King County Labor Council, the largest labor group in the Seattle area, expelled the city’s police union because it fails to address racism. The vote was two days after the city council unanimously voted to ban police use of tear gas, pepper spray, etc. after law enforcement used them on primarily peaceful demonstrators. Among other police attacks on protesters, an officer deliberately pepper-sprayed a seven-year-old and then arrested Evan Hreha, who videoed the episode, with no evidence of any wrongdoing by Hreha.   

White supremacists, DDT’s base, have infiltrated protests to cause a race war. Steven Ray Baca, 31, opened fire against protesters trying to pull down a statue of Spanish conquistador and tyrant Juan de Oñate outside a museum in Albuquerque (NM), leaving a person in critical condition. Heavily armed people in military-style garb calling themselves a “civil guard” circled Baca for protection. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, an avid far-right extremist “boogaloo boy,” killed a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Cruz County and an Oakland courthouse guard. A peaceful protest of 200 in small Bethel (OH) was overtaken by over 700 heavily-armed menacing people circling them like snipers. And more. DDT ignores the violence from the far-right while ranting against the far-left.

Facebook finally started deactivating DDT’s lying, hate-filled campaign ads, beginning with one using a Nazi symbol for political prisoners on protesters he falsely calls the Antifa and “far-left groups.” Along with the red inverted triangle, ads labeled peaceful protesters “Dangerous MOBS.” The campaign presented 88 ads, a significant number representing “Heil Hitler” in white supremacist code.

Earlier, FB took down ads with misleading references to U.S. Census and more recently one from DDT with copyrighted materials. The company proclaims, however, that it has a “light touch,” defending Holocaust deniers, claiming he did not believe “they were intentionally getting it wrong.”

Twitter marked a DDT campaign ad “manipulated media” to deceive viewers before the ad was removed because of copyright infringement. DDT’s campaign used an video from last year that went viral showing a white toddler chasing his best friend, a black toddler, to hug him and ran a fake CNN chryon, “TERRIFIED TODLER (sic) RUNS FROM RACIST BABY.” The ad used its fake chryon to accuse CNN of faking poll numbers. Facebook also removed the ad for copyright infringement. 

CNN’s Jim Acosta asked press secretary Kayleigh McEnany about DDT’s fake ad:

“So you’re saying it’s okay to exploit two toddlers hugging one another on a sidewalk to make some sort of political point? You — I mean, as you know, the President has described members of the press as ‘fake news’ during the course of this administration. When you share fake videos like that, doesn’t that make you fake news?”

McEnany tried to call DDT’s ad a satire “that was quite funny,” but Costa called her out, “What’s funny about these two toddlers … hugging one another?” The argument continued, and McEnany came out second in the exchange.

On its advertising platform, Google banned ZeroHedge, a far-right website trafficking in conspiracy theories after policy violations from comments about Black Lives Matter protests. The server also took the same action against The Federalist after a three-day warning. Google said that both websites violated its policy against monetizing content that “promotes hatred, intolerance, violence or discrimination based on race.” Having created a culture of monopolies, conservatives are complaining about how they behave.

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 25, 2014

City Blocks Little Free Library

I love books. Not the electronic ones. The ones that have covers and paper pages and real ink. Sometimes I’m in the middle of reading five or six books, and there’s always a high stack of them next to my bed. Occasionally, they spill over on the floor as one of the cats walks around them.

That might be why I was so caught up in a recent article from the Eugene (OR) Register Guard about a Little Free Library. I looked at the pictures and said to my partner, “Can you make a waterproof thing to hold books outside.” She never accuses me of being crazy; she just patiently listens.

free library redAll over the country, cute home-build cabinets with doors and shelves filled with books are appearing in front of houses, on street corners, and in other accessible locations. Each one is a Little Free Library for a free exchange of books. People are encouraged to “take a book, return a book.” The thousands of them across the United States have company in other countries, even one in western Russia.

One man in Wisconsin started the movement in 2009 when he honored his mother, a school teacher, with a model of a one-room schoolhouse. He filled it with books and invited people to take them. What he discovered is that he ended up with more books because people brought others to add to the collection. The word spread, and 400 of them were scattered across the country within two years.

By 2012, the Little Free Library free library eyesdecided to get nonprofit tax status and surpassed its goal of registering 2,510 of the little libraries—one more than Scottish magnate Andrew Carnegie endowed between 1883 and 1929. As a nonprofit, Little Free Library can receive tax-deductible donations and grants for buying books and materials for the little libraries. By now, there are over 15,000 of the tiny libraries registered.

The wee library featured in the Register-Guard article built his from donations: a builder tearing down a house gave the windows, and neighbors gave him wood and shingles. The city of Eugene and the Eugene Water & Electric Board allowed him to put the small structure on their property. He said, “EWEB even donated the gravel, which volunteers from the neighborhood came out and spread, and when we had the big (February snow) storm when a lot of tree limbs came down, their crews cleaned it all up.”

Neighbors now get together for potlucks when they provide painting or other maintenance for the structure. Over 1,000 books have been exchanged, and it’s a “kid magnet,” according to the man who constructed the library. A neighbor said, “Two weeks ago, I saw a mom and two little kids coming along the street. The little girl was just jumping up and down with excitement to get there and look at the books.”

free 1 childThis year, Cheerios will help the Little Free Library organization raise money to build at least 50 of the units in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. Cheerios teamed with Indiegogo, a crowd-sourcing site that helps people and organizations raise money online.

People with little free libraries find that they promote reading and build communities. People pick up books that they might otherwise not have discovered. And they aren’t new. In earlier times, lighthouse keepers kept bookcases of books to trade with other keepers, and traveling libraries were found in general stores and post offices where libraries didn’t exist.

free library child 2Some homemade libraries are plain, some are ornate. Some have benches or chairs nearby, and you can find them in parks, neighborhoods, bicycle paths, college campuses. Except in one town in Kansas.

On Mother’s Day, nine-year-old Spencer Collins enlisted the help of his father and grandfather to build one of these libraries. He decided he wanted to put up a little library his neighbors in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood to share his love of reading with others. “It’s kind of like I’m in a whole other world and I like that. I like adventure stories because I’m in the adventure and it’s fun.” The fun ended when he and his family got back from a vacation to find a letter from the city. According to the city, Spencer’s library was a violation to the city code and had to be removed by the June 19. Otherwise, the Collins would receive a citation.

spencer-collins-little-free-library-638x403 Leawood called the little library an “accessory structure,” and the city bans buildings that aren’t attached to someone’s home. They said they had receive two complaints. Spencer took down the library to avoid a citation, but he plans to fight City Hall. “I would tell them why it’s good for the community and why they should drop the law. I just want to talk to them about how good it is.” He also thought about attaching it to the house, to “tie a rope around it and attach the rope to the house.” And he has a Facebook page for his Little Free Library.

Libraries in the United States go back to 1638 when John Harvard donated 280 books to a new college, and they named the school after him. Yet until 1833, people had to pay to use libraries. After Peterborough (NH) opened a free library that year, there were no others for another 21 years when the Boston Public Library opened. Its statement of purpose proclaimed the importance of education on the future of democracy and the right of citizens to free access to community-owned resources.

Andrew Carnegie was known as a “robber baron,” but he still believed that everyone should have access to libraries. Conservatives called him a Communist for wanting to use taxes for libraries, and progressives claimed the taxes were a drain on working people. His donations of $50 million to build 2,500 library buildings probably led to the public library system.

free library child 3In the nineteenth century, libraries had age restrictions to keep children from borrowing books and lacked open shelving for books. With the arrival of large numbers of immigrants, libraries became community centers. During the Great Depression, they were a warm place to go. Images of Nazis burning books during World War II and other totalitarian governments throughout the century made libraries more important to people in the U.S.

A form of burning books is restricting availability as the South did to blacks during the 1940s. I’m glad I live in Oregon where grassroots efforts can be successful. I’m also glad that Leawood tried to cite Spencer and his family for his “illegal” structure. Because the news has gone viral, millions more people know now about Little Free Libraries.

[The following isn’t a picture of a Little Free Library, but I love the concept!]

book fountain

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.


September 24, 2013

School in the 21st Century

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:56 PM

Seventh-grader Miranda Washinawatok speaks two languages, Menominee and English. Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano (WI), a school over 60 percent American Indian, suspended her from playing a basketball game because she said “I love you” in the Menominee to another student. Her assistant coach told her she was being benched because two teachers said she had a bad attitude. Miranda’s mother, Tanaes Washinawotok, went to the school early next morning to find out what the problem was.

The principal explained that her “attitude problem” was saying “posoh,” meaning hello, and “ketapanen,” meaning I love you. Miranda’s grandmother is the director of the Language and Culture Commission of the Menominee Tribe and has a degree in linguistics from the University of Arizona’s College of Education-AILDI American Indian Language Development Institute. She has also been a tribal chair.

The school is operated by the Diocese of Green Bay. It has an option on its answering machine for Spanish but not Menominee.

Constitution Day, a day each week when schools that accept public funding must teach about the U.S. Constitution was a week ago. To commemorate that day, Robert Van Tuinen stood outside the student resource center at Modesto Junior College (CA) and handed out copies of the constitution. Ten minutes after he started doing this, campus police told him that he had to stop because he could hand out materials only in the designated “free speech zone.” It seems that free speech is allowed in only one spot at the school. Even there, he would have had to schedule his “free speech” in advance. According to a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):

“Modesto Junior College is hardly alone in its fear of free speech. In fact, one in six of America’s 400 largest and most prestigious colleges have ‘free speech zones’ limiting where speech can take place. This video brings to life the deeply depressing reality of the climate for free speech on campus.”

Tuinen hoped to start a chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty, a conservative libertarian organization, at his school.

A few weeks ago, a seven-year-old girl was banned from her Tulsa (OK) charter school for wearing her hair in dreadlocks. After a protest, she was readmitted. This week, Neices Houston was banned from her seventh-grade classes for two days at Seagraves Junior High School (TX) because her hair had been dyed blonde. Houston had won permission to do this after two years of straight A grades. The school said that they were trying to prepare their students for the business world and would suspend students who didn’t conform to their necessary fashion etiquette. Houston has transferred to the nearby Loop Independent School.

Gay Alex Worthley, a freshman at the University of Central Missouri, was assigned to a homophobic roommate who had requested that he not be put in a room with an openly gay person. Although Worthley  asked to be assigned a different roommate, the school refused because, it claimed, that would be discrimination.  After the two young men got in an argument over Alex’s music, the roommate said, according to Alex, “I do have a knife and I’ll use it if I have to.”  Worthley reported the violent incident to school authorities, and the two were given separate rooms. Then the school sent Worthley a disciplinary letter that stated, in part:

“There seems to be a strong possibility that some of your own actions and comments were part of the reason this situation escalated from jesting to threatening.”

Schools have gone beyond brainwashing students in religion to forcing politics on them. An example is Illinois where teachers are legally required to teach students that coal is a safe, affordable source of energy. The propaganda mandate,  the Illinois Coal Technology Development Assistance Act, inserts pro-coal content into all parts of the curriculum from math to art and essay contests. Teachers are kept from telling students that air pollution from coal-fired power kills thousands of people in the U.S. every year as countless more suffer illness and health problems.

This isn’t the first time coal companies have entered the curriculum: in 2011, American Coal Foundation-funded fourth-grade curriculum materials were promoted by Scholastic; a pro-fracking coloring book from Talisman Energy used a cartoon called “Terry the Fracosaurus” who taught kids that natural gas is “one of the cleanest, safest, and most useful of all energy sources.” Fortunately, the Illinois Commerce Department, which oversees the coal education program, recently released a 400-page evaluation that recommends a reevaluation of the curriculum because of its outdated, biased nature.

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