Archives for category: Privatization

 

The following statement was written and released by a group of non-governmental organizations concerned about the growing movement to privatize education in Kenya. They call here for resistance to the introduction of for-profit organizations and for the building of a genuine free public education for all children. Pearson is one of the prime movers behind for-profit Bridge International Academy and Omega.

 

 

 

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Joint Statement

 

Students before profit: Teacher unions and civil society unite to condemn the commercialisation of education in Kenya

 

Tuesday 26th January, 2016 (Nairobi)

 

According to Article 53 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 every child has the immediate right to free and compulsory basic education. This is emphasised in Section 28 of the Basic Education Act 2013 and Section 7 of the Children’s Act 200.

 

The 2009 Policy for Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET), recognises alternative or ‘non formal’ schools. Under this policy, non-formal schools have fewer requirements in terms of curriculum, infrastructure and teacher qualification.

 

The original intention of APBET recognition and support for non-formal schools was to provide access to education to children who would have otherwise been unable to attend the formal education system do to the unavailability of an adequate number of public schools. However, this policy has allowed big corporations and edu-businesses to benefit from these lower legal requirements and profit from the delivery of non-formal education in areas of the country that remain largely under-served by public schools.

 

These unintended consequences have drawn the attention of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights all of which have expressed concern over the growing privatisation of education and fee charging for-profit schools in Kenya such as Bridge International Academies.

 

Most recently, on 21st January 2016, the 71st session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Kenyan government to respond to the growing privatisation of education, specifically the impact of Bridge on the quality of education in Kenya. Olga Khazova, UN Committee member and Rapporteur for Kenya stated: “There are regulations on the quality of education children should receive but when it comes to Bridge, these regulations seem not to be enforced. What is the government doing about this?”

 

This follows from concerns expressed in November 2015 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR). Specifically, it asked “how the State party has regulated and monitored informal private schools, or low-cost private schools, to ensure quality education.”

 

Similarly, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights questioned the definition of “non-formal schools” by the Kenyan Government. It asked: “Why are private school chains, such as Bridge International Academies, registered as non-formal schools, whereas they appear to offer formal education?”

 

In May 2015, 116 organisations across the world expressed their deep concerns about the World Bank’s support for Bridge International Academies.

 

Bridge is a multinational chain of low-fee profit-making private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria. It has over 400 schools in Kenya. In Kenya, it is exploiting a loophole in regulations allowing it to register as ‘non formal’ schools instead of private schools.

 

The school chain has recently come under scrutiny over its opposition to new guidelines by the Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Education aimed at ensuring basic standards in non-formal schools such as the recruitment of qualified teachers.

 

The expansion of Bridge is a manifestation of the growing commercialisation and privatisation of education in Kenya. This commercialisation and privatisation of education represents one of the greatest threats to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015.

 

This threat has also been recognised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to Education, Kishore Singh, who warned that “soon, it may not be an exaggeration to say that privatization is supplanting public education instead of supplementing it”, where “inequalities in opportunities for education will be exacerbated by the growth of unregulated private providers of education, with economic condition, wealth or property becoming the most important criterion for gaining access to education”.

 

 

Teacher unions and civil society therefore, call on the government to

 

  • close existing legislative and regulatory loopholes and ensure compliance in relation to minimum national standards with respect to the provision of education. Registration of schools must be conditional on full compliance with minimum standards.

 

  • fulfil its obligations consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4. By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals governments have committed to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Target 4.1 requires governments to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

 

  • fulfil its primary obligation to properly and adequately fund free quality education for all children regardless of the background. This is crucial to Kenya’s future prosperity.

 

 

 

Signed,

 

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT)

East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights)

Economic and Social Rights Centre – (Hakijamii)

Action Aid-Kenya

Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET)

Universities Academic Staff Union

International Commission of Jurists – Kenya Chapter

Katiba Institute

The Cradle

Transparency International – Kenya

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Education International

New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is devoted to charter schools. As he has repeatedly demonstrated, he despises the New Jersey Education Association, and charters seldom are unionized. So he gets a twofer: he can privatize and bust the union at the same time. In his state of the state speech, he said he would expand the charter sector. No surprise. But David Hespe, the state commissioner of education, made the goal concrete: 50,000 charter “seats.” 

 

Hespe’s remarks at the state’s annual School Choice Summit at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City echoed Christie’s Jan. 12 speech. The governor called charter schools a resounding success for the state and said he would “aggressively prioritize” regulatory relief for charter schools.

 

Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from traditional school districts. If a student leaves their home district to attend a charter school, that district must send a portion of it’s average per-pull funding to the charter school.

 

Christie has authorized dozens of new charter schools since taking office but the initial flood of new schools has slowed in recent years. Overall, Christie has added 39 new charter schools while closing 17 charter schools for poor academic performance or organizational and fiscal issues.

 

The state has about 41,500 students enrolled in charter schools and the number will expand to 46,000 as existing charter schools add more grade levels, according to the state Department of Education. The state has not identified a specific timeline for the 50,000 seat goal.

 

In total, New Jersey more than 1.3 million public school students, Department of Education spokesman David Saenz said.

 

Christie said his administration will explore ways to create greater flexibility in the teacher certification for charter schools and ways to make it easier for charter schools to find buildings.

 

To sum it up, the charters take money away from public schools, causing them to lose teachers, increase class size, and cut back programs. This is odd because the state has 1.3 million students, but not quite 50,000 in charters. So the vast majority of students will suffer harm so that the small number in charters can get some of the money the district schools need.

 

The state will lower standards for teachers in charter schools, thus providing greater flexibility.

 

The state will seek ways to fund the construction of charter schools or give them  public space. One way to ease that problem would be to seek contributions from the New Jersey hedge fund managers who are strong supporters of charter schools.

 

The strangest thing about this scenario is that New Jersey is one of the highest performing states on the NAEP, usually scoring either second or their behind Massachusetts. At the same time, it has some cities that contain desperately impoverished families. Charter schools will not diminish their poverty nor will it alleviate the segregation that characterizes these districts, like Newark, Camden, and Paterson.

 

What Governor Christie’s plan will do is to damage the overall condition of public education, in order to push forward his goal of more “charter seats.”

The Florida legislature is dominated by Republican legislators who don’t like public education. Some of them have direct ties to the for-profit charter industry. Others are active members of ALEC and believe in the privatization of public schools.

 

The latest move to damage public schools is Rep. Erik Fresen’s insistence that public schools spend too much on construction. He wants to rein those costs in, while increasing the funding of new charter schools. Rep. Fresen is the brother-in-law of Fernando Zulueta, who owns one of the state’s most profitable charter chains, Academica, which has about 100 charter schools and virtual charter schools.

 

But some Democrats and public school representatives said Fresen’s findings aren’t the whole picture.

They said requiring accountable spending of taxpayers’ dollars is a conversation worth having, but that Fresen’s conclusions over-simplify how school construction projects are funded. In addition to state aid, districts have their own local sources of revenue — such as local sales tax and bond referendums — which they’ve had to rely on more and more as the state has cut funding and shifted dollars to charter schools.

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, of West Palm Beach, who sits on the budget committee, told the Times/Herald the conversation serves as another attack on Florida’s public education system by a Republican-led Legislature that’s friendly to for-profit charter schools and voucher programs.

“The Legislature commonly uses information and manipulates it to fit its own argument,” Pafford said of Fresen’s presentation last week. “There was a lot not mentioned… They’re purposely breaking the back of the public education system.”

 

Florida is utopia for for-profit charter schools, such as Academica.

 

Governor Rick Scott, trying to appear even-handed, allocated equal amounts of money to public schools and charter schools for construction costs, even though the public schools enroll far larger numbers of students.

 

 

Officials at traditional public schools want lawmakers this year to restore districts’ taxing ability — which lawmakers chipped away at in recent years — and also to allocate more capital dollars for maintenance and repairs. Much of the capital money in the past several years has gone to charter schools, which are privately managed but publicly funded. District officials and superintendents argue traditional schools are long overdue for a jolt in funding.

 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has proposed equal capital funding for 2016-17 for traditional and charter schools: $75.2 million to each. House and Senate budget proposals are expected later this week.

 

But Fresen doesn’t appear amenable to considering the schools’ requests. He told the Appropriations Committee he’ll seek to reduce the state-imposed cap on per-student-station spending so that schools cut costs. He also wants to broaden what revenue sources and expenses would be subject to that cap and then enact penalties for districts that exceed it.

 

Those ideas will be met with resistance. Pafford called those proposals “the continued torture of the public school system.”

 

Fresen told the committee he’d been interested in districts’ construction spending for years “but didn’t want to make it my war” previously. Now he has support from House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, to take it on.

 

“The expenditures that are taking place are an absolutely horrible stewardship of the taxpayers dollars,” said Corcoran, in line to become House speaker in November. “It is somewhat laughable. It’s taxpayers’ money that is being robbed in areas that are far more crucial.”

 

 

 

One of the funniest and sharpest commentators on the follies and madness of contemporary education policy is EduShyster, known to friends and family as Jennifer Berkshire.

 

Jennifer is launching a podcast, which she calls “Have You Heard?”

 

Her first podcast is about the opt-out movement in Philadelphia. She is a great interviewer, and her podcasts will help to spread the word about the good and terrible things happening in education today.

 

She travels the country in search of stories, and she will be interviewing some of the leading figures in education from different ends of the ideological spectrum, asking tough questions.

 

Add EduShyster’s podcast to your reading and listening routine.

The edu-propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” promulgated the myth that charter schools were the equivalent to Superman, that powerful guy who flies through the sky to save the city from destruction time and time again. Geoffrey Canada says in the film that he cried when he learned that Superman was not real, because help was not on the way. But the film proceeds to construct a fairy tale in which children are saved by leaving public schools, Catholic schools, and even suburban schools and enrolling in a charter school, if they were lucky enough to win the lottery. More than five years have passed since the release of that film in September 2010, and we now know that charter schools are a mixed bag. Many get lower test scores than district public schools; those that get higher test scores, on closer inspection, have weeded out the kids likely to have low scores. Yet politicians continue to promote them as a sure cure for the neediest children.

 

Peter Greene here explains the fascination with Superman. No matter how many times sensible people and experienced educators warn that improving education is never quick or easy, that there is no secret sauce, no magic bullet, no miracles, the charter promoters are still selling their pie-in-the-sky.

 

The fundamental Superman idea is that some external force, some deus ex machina, will descend from the skies (or corporate headquarters) and perform miraculous feats. In the case of school reform, the belief in Superman is expressed through such mechanisms as a state takeover, a turnaround strategy in which everyone gets fired and replaced, a charter takeover, an Achievement School District. The very act of bringing in new management is supposed to have a transformative effect. Although there is no research, experience, or evidence, our leaders refuse to abandon their belief in Superman, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus.

 

Greene writes:

 

The emergency management system we see in Michigan is just one way of expressing the Superman Theory of Change– there are Supermen among us, and they could save the lesser beings, if only we stopped holding them back. Superman could bring us excellence, but the enemy of excellence is bureaucracy and regulation and rules and, most of all, democracy.

 

Counting on Superman has led to a variety of initiatives. The various attempts to break tenure (like Vergara and Reed before it) have come from the belief that when Superman takes over a school district, he must (like a CEO) be free to hire and fire based on what he alone can see with his super vision. (And schools would work so much better if every classroom was taught by another Superman).

 

The need to break unions is part of the same trend. Unions tie Superman down, forcing him to follow a bunch of stupid rules every time he wants to strap on his cape and take to the skies.

 

Likewise, government regulations get in Superman’s way, keeping him earthbound in a web of red tape. For a Superman believer like Jeb! Bush, it makes perfect sense to say that Flint’s crisis was caused by too much regulation– if the Supermen who emergency manage Flint and Detroit hadn’t had to deal with local and federal authorities at all, they would have avoided this whole mess.

 

Superman also needs to be un-hampered by “politics.” Reed Hastings (Netflix) famously supported the idea of doing away with elected school boards entirely, because they are too unstable, too susceptible to the will and whims of the public. This distaste for politics gives, in hindsight, a new understanding to the common complaint from reformsters a few years ago, who kept bemoaning how ed reform ideas like Common Core were being tripped up by “politics,” meaning, we can now see, that people were trying to keep Superman from exerting his full powers.

 

Yes, the greatest obstacle to Superman is democracy. People get in the way. So it becomes necessary to have the state take control, to have an emergency manager with dictatorial powers, to create a commission appointed by the governor to override local school boards, to have a mayor in charge of the schools.

 

Look how well it has worked in Detroit. And now Governor Rauner of Illinois wants to take control of Chicago public schools. But politics and democracy get in the way.

 

 

Public education advocates were stunned to learn that State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia plans to attend a charter school rally, where 1,000 students, parents, and staff will gather to demand more funding for privately managed schools, which translates into less funding for public schools attended by the overwhelming majority of students in the state. Charter school rallies are political rallies, meant to whip up enthusiasm to increase the number of charters and the amount of funding for these schools. Even Elia’s predecessor, John King–whose teaching experience was in a “no-excuses” charter school–never attended a charter school rally.

Make no mistake: The purpose of privatization is to make a profit. The promise of privatization is efficiency. But in its pursuit of both profits and efficiency, privatization creates perverse incentives. It encourages privately managed charter schools to avoid or get rid of “expensive” students” (unless the reimbursement formula makes them profitable to keep); it encourages for-profit hospitals to over diagnose patients and perform unnecessary surgeries; it encourages private preschool providers of special education to misdiagnose children as in need of services to produce profits.

 

And it encourages private managers of prisons to keep the prison population as large as possible, since an empty cell is a cell that produces no revenue.

 

Here are some recent examples, drawn from the invaluable website “In the Public Interest,” which reports regularly on privatization of the public sector:

 

On the tenth anniversary of Operation Streamline, Free Speech Radio News reporter Shannon Young interviews Grassroots Leadership’s Bethany Carson. The policy “significantly increased the caseloads in criminal courts along the southern U.S. border by criminalizing what used to be a civil offense: illegal re-entry into the United States.” Carson says “this is also a policy that has funneled people into for-profit federal prisons, that are segregated prisons specifically for immigrants, with worse conditions, the rationale being that they don’t want to spend money on people who are not going to be coming back into American society and will be deported afterwards. This has also dramatically increased the proportion of Latinos in the federal prison system.”

 

A new report by the Center for American Progress says “a key factor underlying the explosion in the number of immigrants in custody is the expanded role of for-profit prison companies in the U.S. immigration detention system. (…) The millions of dollars that for-profit prison companies poured into lobbying have paid off in a big way, resulting in an increase in the guaranteed minimum number of immigration detention beds, both nationally and within individual facility contracts.”

 

The National Journal’s J. Weston Phippen reports on how privatized probation systems victimize and trap the poor and lead to a loss of public control. “In the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood, a for-profit company promised city leaders it could take over its cash-strapped probation system without any expense to taxpayers. Not only that, but the company said it could actually turn a profit for itself, and the city, by collecting fines. Just eight months later, nearly 10 percent of the town’s 15,000 population was on probation for minor offenses like traffic violations and owing fees to the company.”

 

Corrections Corporation of America is awarded a new 10-year management contract with the state to house up to an additional 1,000 medium-security inmates at CCA’s Red Rock Correctional Center. The one-bid contract was the subject of a “public” hearing at which “there was not one member of the public at the meeting.” “It was not a public hearing, it was a CCA staff meeting,” said Caroline Isaacs, program director of the American Friends Service Committee—Arizona. “Half the people in the room were in uniform.”

 

Tucson stands up against an unjust immigration detention system buttressed by the for-profit prison industry. “Asked to describe a case that gave her the most satisfaction, Launius singles out that of her friend Alma Hernandez, a community leader and activist in Corazón de Tucson. ‘She wasn’t (an activist) when she first started working with us, but she was stopped and arrested and held in a CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) prison in Louisiana for months. That turned her into an activist. She was one of our first clients and has volunteered with us ever since.’”

 

 

 

 

I earlier reported that Steve Van Zant, superintendent of a small district, had been charged with conflict of interest for helping districts authorize charters in other districts (which is legal under California law), then getting contracts with the charters for his private business.

 

Now, crack reporter Maureen Magee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports the story (reprinted in the Los Angeles Times):

 

By the time Steve Van Zant left the Mountain Empire Unified School District in 2013, he had overseen the authorization of more than a dozen charter schools to operate in other districts throughout San Diego County — with several going on to hire his education consulting firm.

 

All the while, Van Zant coached at least one other district on how to approve out-of-town charters, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. As more districts approved far-flung charters, Van Zant’s EdHive consultant business took on some of the schools as clients.

 

The San Diego district attorney’s office arraigned Van Zant on Jan. 15 on a felony conflict-of-interest charge from an undisclosed incident in May 2010 while he was superintendent of Mountain Empire.

 

The district attorney’s office declined to disclose details of its investigation, and it is unclear whether the charge relates to his work with charter schools. According to the criminal complaint, Van Zant violated laws that prohibited him “from being financially interested in contracts made by him in his official capacity.”

 

The Union-Tribune has tracked a charter empire built by Van Zant by taking advantage of what some call a shortcoming in state law that gives districts a financial incentive to place charters in other school districts. By placing charters outside its boundaries, a district can raise new funds — up to 3 percent of a charter’s revenue — without any threat to enrollment or state attendance funds.

 

More than 80 out-of-district charters have been approved in San Diego County, the vast majority of which were authorized by small East County districts — several with help from Van Zant, who includes a list of charter clients on his LinkedIn professional network profile…

 

When Van Zant accepted the job in 2013 as superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, he was positioned to devote even more time growing his consulting business. He would commute from his Mission Bay home for the three-day-a-week position in Northern California with a starting salary of $165,000 and still run EdHive, which recently opened an office in Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego…

 

 

California secretary of state documents show that Van Zant’s wife, interior designer Ingrid Van Zant, registered the corporation in 2011. Steve Van Zant listed himself as both president and vice president of EdHive in 2015 on financial disclosure forms filed with Marin County

.

After leaving Mountain Empire in the summer of 2013, Van Zant helped usher through another charter in the Pine Valley-based district.

 

You are a charter God. Like Matt Damon in ‘Good Will Hunting.’ – Former Alpine Superintendent Tom Pellegrino in an email to Van Zant
The former superintendent personally petitioned the Mountain Empire school board to authorize the County Collaborative Charter School. Van Zant would go on to serve as director, and he listed his EdHive consulting firm as the provider of back-office services in charter petition documents.

 

By soliciting business from the district so quickly after leaving office in Mountain Empire, Van Zant has raised questions about whether he violated the Political Reform Act, which calls for a one-year “cooling off” period before government officials can lobby their agencies — or do business with them — after leaving.

 

The County Collaborative charter enrolled 201 students in the 2014-15 school year, and lists Van Zant’s downtown San Diego EdHive office as the school’s address on a California Department of Education website. Van Zant is listed as the charter’s director, a position missing from financial disclosure documents filed in Marin after taking office in Sausalito.

 

 

 

NC Policy Watch reports that legislation is advancing that would permit for-profit charter operators to take over the state’s lowest-performing schools, the great majority of them in low-income minority communities. The models for the takeover is the Tennessee Achievement School District, the Michigan Educational Achievement Authority, and the elimination of public schools in New Orleans. However, sponsors of the legislation say that the North Carolina would be the same only different. It would be done the North Carolina way.

 

N.C. Rep. Rob Bryan, the Republican from Mecklenburg County who chairs the committee and the leading proponent for achievement school districts in the legislature, said that the districts—pioneered, to mixed results in states like Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee—could be phased into North Carolina as soon as the 2017-2018 academic year.

 

“We are neither Tennessee, nor are we New Orleans,” said Bryan. “But what I’m looking to do here is do what’s right for North Carolina.”

 

Bryan authored a much-discussed draft of legislation last year that would have funneled five of the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools into the state-controlled achievement districts as a pilot program, although the notion did not gain any significant traction during the General Assembly’s long budget debates last summer.

 

The draft Bryan unveiled Wednesday had few differences from last year’s prospective bill, potentially ceding the power to hire and fire teachers and administrators to private, for-profit charter leaders. Pilot schools would be placed into a special state-run district, with a superintendent chosen by the State Board of Education who would have the power to negotiate operation contracts with private companies, effectively seizing control from local school boards.

 

The charter operators would be expected to help turn around academic performance in the schools.

 

As N.C. Policy Watch reported last year, lobbying for the movement was financed by Oregon millionaire and conservative private school backer John Bryan (no relation to Rep. Rob Bryan).

 

One of the researchers at Vanderbilt who studied the Tennessee ASD model and found it ineffective was in town to speak to a public education group about his study, but the legislative committee did not invite him to address them about what his group learned.

 

The state superintendent said that the public schools should lead any turnaround effort; the Tennessee study from Vanderbilt showed that the iZone schools, created and led by the public schools, outperformed the ASD charter schools:

 

“I believe that the taxpayers of North Carolina would get a better return on their investments by going with a model that has proven positive results,” North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told N.C. Policy Watch Tuesday.

 

To Atkinson, that means pursuing public school-led initiatives, offering low-performing schools greater support, access to preschool programs and more flexible calendar years.

 

As Atkinson points out, students in low-performing schools can lose two to three months of reading development during traditional schools’ summer break.

 

“We have to address these root causes or we’ll continue to have these conversations 10 years from now,” said Atkinson.

 

And then there was a startling statement, startling because it was plain common sense, which has been in rare supply since 2010 in North Carolina:

 

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Hanes Jr., a Democrat from Forsyth County, blasted state officials during Wednesday’s committee meeting for failing to do enough to address the societal and economic causes of low-performing schools.

 

As Barbour pointed out Wednesday, low-performing schools in the state are disproportionately serving low-income and minority children.

 

“It sounds like a lot of talk,” said Hanes. “It sounds like we don’t really dig into what the real issues are. … And it sounds to me like we really don’t care a whole lot about poor people.”

Jersey Jazzman gets irked by those who boast about the superior results of charter schools in Newark. He wrote a critical review of Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize, because she ignored basic data about charter schools and she wrote that the charter schools operated with a leaner administration and more services. Not true, says JJ, who in his real life is a teacher and a graduate student at Rutgers University named Mark Weber.

 

In this post, JJ lays out in easily comprehensible graphs, using state data, what the real comparisons are.

 

First, he compares the results of a highly-touted charter school in Newark to a suburban public school and shows that the charter school lags. But wait, you think, that’s not a fair comparison, and that is his point.

 

I don’t point this out to suggest either that Montclair’s schools are superior, or that TEAM/KIPP’s schools are inferior. Without adequately controlling for at least the observed variations in each district’s populations (and acknowledging that there are likely many unobserved variations), any comparison between the two systems is utterly pointless. My point here is that facile, a-contextual, cherry-picked factoids like these are completely meaningless, and that people who bring them up time and again show themselves to be fatuous. 

 

Using state data, he demonstrates that Newark public schools spend more on instruction than the city’s charter schools; that NPS spends far more on student support services — guidance counselors, nurses, librarians, psychologists — than the charters; that NPS spends more on support personnel than charters; that NPS has lower administrative costs than ANY charter in Newark; that the costs of administrative salaries is lower in Newark public schools than most Newark charters.

 

Jersey Jazzman has a refreshing impatience with false claims. How long can “reformers” get by on propaganda?

 

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