Archives for the month of: February, 2017

Earlier today, I posted the letter that Isabel Rose wrote to Ivanka Trump about her transgender daughter. It is a powerful and moving letter. It has gone viral. It has been reprinted in many places and today appeared in Harper’s Bazaar with photographs of Isabel, Sadie, her husband Jeff, and her other daughter Lily.

What a wonderful testament to a family’s love!

I am reposting this because I forgot to put in the link. Please listen. It is a lecture so you can listen while driving. I knew the late Michael Joyce of the Bradley Foundation, a very rightwing foundation, and I can confirm that he knowingly manipulated black leaders in Wisconsin to get vouchers passed.

Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, is a fierce critic of corporate education reform. He is equally hard on Democrats and Republicans who have sold out their schools to satisfy rightwing foundations and Wall Street.

In this post, he lacerates DeVos, Trump, Booker, and Obama
as enemies of public schools, who sold out their community schools to satisfy their funders or (in DeVos’s case) personal ideology.

Here is an excerpt:

“Sometimes, when ruling class competitors collide, the villainy of both factions is made manifest. Donald Trump did the nation’s public schools a great service by nominating Betsy DeVos, the awesomely loathsome billionaire Amway heiress, for secretary of Education. In turning over that rock, Trump exposed the raw corruption and venality at the core of the charter school privatization juggernaut. Only an historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence saved DeVos from rejection by the U.S. Senate. Two Republicans abandoned their party’s nominee, joining a solid bloc of Democrats, including New Jersey’s Cory Booker, a school privatizer that crawled out of the same ideological sewer as DeVos and has long been her comrade and ally. Booker defected from his soul mate in fear that the DeVos stench might taint his own presidential ambitions.

“The New York Times editorial board, a champion of charters, bemoaned that DeVos’ “appointment squanders an opportunity to advance public education research, experimentation and standards, to objectively compare traditional public school, charter school and voucher models in search of better options for public school students” – a devious way of saying that the Senate hearings exposed the slimy underbelly of the charter privatization project and the billionaires of both parties that have guided and sustained it.”

A group of former government officials, scholars, and activists have joined together to act as an informal “Shadow Cabinet,” for the express purpose of exposing and debunking Trump’s errors, mistaken policies, and alternative facts.

I am pleased to share with you that I was invited to be the Shadow Secretary of Education.

Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School is the Shadow Attorney General.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Laor, is the Shadow Secretary of Labor.

Laura D. Tyson, former head of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, will be the cabinet member for treasury and trade.

To learn about the other members, follow @ShadowingTrump on Twitter.

Shadow Attorney General Tribe tweeted this morning: “Trump’s silence on Kansas or any other white supremacist attack speaks louder than his tweets.”

For more, follow @ShadowingTrump

Politico wrote about a letter that the staff at Success Academy charter schools wrote to their peerless leader Eva Moskowitz, complaining about her open support for Trump and DeVos, although she publicly claimed to have voted for Clinton.

Unfortunately the article does not contain a link to the letter. If you have a copy, send it to me by email or post it here.

Moskowitz says she can’t speak out on political issues, such as the roundup of undocumented persons (which might include some of her students and their parents), but as the article points out, Moskowitz is never shy to speak out on political issues that involve self-aggrandizement.

A group of Success faculty members recently wrote Moskowitz a letter outlining their concerns about her ties to DeVos and Trump, and her silence on Trump policies that impact Success students, particularly the executive order on immigration and new deportation guidelines.

Moskowitz responded in a lengthy letter this week, writing, “I … need to consider whether it is appropriate for me to use my position as the leader of a collection of public schools paid for with government funds to advocate politically.”

A copy of the letter was obtained by POLITICO New York.

It’s an entirely new argument from Moskowitz, who has emerged as one of the most politically potent forces in national education reform over the last several years.

At home, she has been one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most vociferous critics, and has convened dozens of rallies and press conferences over the past three years to attack his stance on charters. Moskowitz has shut dozens of her schools for the rallies, busing thousands of children to Albany to rally for charter causes, and has asked parents to take the day off from work to attend the events. One rally, in March 2014, cost the network at least $734,000, according to a POLITICO New York analysis. She has deep ties to local lawmakers and helped influence the passage of a sweeping pro-charter bill through the New York State Legislature in 2013.

Moskowitz has testified in favor of charter schools during congressional hearings and is a regular attendee at Sun Valley, an annual private conference of the world’s top CEOs and financiers. A former city councilwoman, she has long considered running for mayor.

As the article points out, Moskowitz has been a vocal defender of DeVos and criticized those who challenged her qualifications. These were political statements.

Apparently, defending her students against Trump’s executive orders is too “political” for Moskowitz, but defending Trump and DeVos plans to hand out more money for charters is not political.

Here is a paradox. Congress wrote a new law called “Every Student Succeeds Act,” late in 2015, loaded with limits on the power of the Secretary of Education. Both parties were fed up with Arne Duncan’s overweening reach into every school in the nation, going far beyond what Congress intended. Perhaps they knew that all the boasting about his great successes was empty, as a recent evaluation proved.

But along comes Betsy DeVos, never having ever attended or worked in a public school, and knowing nothing of federal policy or federal programs, who has decided to impose her personal ideology on the schools of America. She knows nothing of evidence, and when it flatly contradicts her ideology, she ignores it. This is the definition of a closed mind.

DeVos wants vouchers. The research says that vouchers haven’t improved student test scores.

Mercedes Schneider says we will learn the details later, stuff like the cost. DeVos claims that every child will be able to attend the same quality school as the most affluent but she knows that no voucher will be large enough to put every student (any student) into an elite private school, that such schools don’t have empty seats, nor do they want the kids with disabilities and a host of other issues. She is peddling empty promises. Does she know it? Does she believe what she is saying?

What we do know is that DeVos’s personal desire to bust up public schools and use federal funds for vouchers has been tried for 25 years without any evidence of success. Indeed, there is a growing body of research showing that children who use vouchers may actually lose ground compared to students in public schools. If vouchers were the solution, as she insists, we would be looking now to Milwaukee and Cleveland as the lodestars of American education. Sadly, they are not. Milwaukee has had vouchers since 1990, Cleveland since 1995. Researchers pore through data looking for the promised gains. They can’t find them.

Why is Congress allowing Trump and DeVos to foist their failed ideas on public schools? If NASA were run like the U.S. Department of Education, every space mission would explode on launch.

When will they learn? Schools need well-prepared, certified educators who are able to do their work as professionals, unencumbered by the petty whims and interventions of politicians. Students need healthcare, food security, and the basic essentials of life. Students and teachers need reasonable class sizes and adequate resources. What they don’t need is disruption and the demonstrably failed policies of a rightwing religious extremist.

Tim Slekar, the dean at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, summarizes the research consensus about the effect of vouchers: Vouchers suck.

Justin Paul and his team won the Academy Award for the best song, “City of Stars,” in the movie “La-La Land.”

Justin gave a wonderful shout out to public education, where he said that “arts and culture were valued” and resourced, and he thanked his teachers.

He and his group are also responsible for the Broadway hit, “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Justin is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music, which is very proud of him.

Hypocrisy anyone?

The biggest issue in the recent presidential campaign, as blown up (and now forgotten) by Trump, was Hillary Clinton’s email server. He said should she be prosecuted and sent to jail. Crowds shouted “lock her up!” Remember “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts at Trump rallies?

Now it seems that Scott Pruitt used his private email to conduct state business while attorney general of Oklahoma. When asked about this in the Senate hearing on his nomination, Pruitt lied. Or maybe it was an “alternative fact.”

OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) – The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office confirms former Attorney General Scott Pruitt used a private email for state business. The information comes a week after FOX 25 first revealed the emails that appeared to be sent from Pruitt’s private email account.

FOX 25 requested answers about Pruitt’s private email use and whether that account was searched for records in accordance with state law. It took one week for the office to return our multiple calls and emails and confirm it did search the account.

A spokesman for the agency, Lincoln Ferguson, said that attorneys within the office conducted the search of Pruitt’s private, personal email account and did not find any documents that had not been captured in the search of official Oklahoma attorney general accounts.

Open government advocate and media professor Dr. Joey Senat said the state law regarding open records indicates that private accounts cannot be used to shield government officials from transparency laws. Senat said one of the weaknesses of Oklahoma’s law on open records relies on trusting public officials that they have conducted appropriate searches of private accounts.

It is not illegal to use a private email account for state business, as long as those records are included in searches for public documents.

However, the revelation is in direct conflict with Pruitt’s written and oral testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee during the confirmation process. Pruitt, who is now the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told lawmakers he had never used private email for state business.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., asked Pruitt directly, “Have you ever conducted business using your personal email accounts, nonofficial Oklahoma attorney general email accounts, text messages, instant messenger, voicemails, or any other medium?”

“I use only my official OAG [Office of the Attorney General] email address and government-issued phone to conduct official business,” Pruitt replied.

Journalist Glen Ford explains and eviscerates the corporate education movement. He shows how black leaders like Corey Booker joined the rightwing effort to destroy the key pillars of progressivism: unions and public education. He shows the important role of Michael Joyce of the Bradley Foundation in figuring out how to use black leaders to achieve far-right goals.

Glen Ford is editor of the Black Agenda Reprt.

This is a brilliant analysis of the co-opting of black politicians by the corporate movement.

There is a little-known group called “the Flippables,” created by smart young people to focus energy on state and local political races. They identify crucial down-ballot races and help the candidates that represent liberal, progressive values..

Over the past dozen years, Tea Party Republicans have concentrated on gaining control at the state and local levels. They have knocked out moderate Republicans, driving Republican policy to the far right.

Democrats have wrung their hands and lamented but that was fruitless. Republican governors now control most state houses and legislatures.

The Flippables showed their power in Delaware over the weekend, where the Democratic candidate Stephanie Hansen beat her opponent. If Hansen had lost, Republicans would have gained control of the Delaware Senate. Currently, Republicans control 25 states–governor and legislature–Democrats control only 6. Flippables raised $131,600 for Hansen, enough for her to compete and about half f what she raised.

One-party control is not good for democracy, especially when that once-venerable party is now led by white nationalists who scapegoat religious and national groups and excoriate the free press.

I am sending money to the Flippables. I have also sent gifts to the ACLU, People for the American Way, and other important defenders of our rights and freedoms.

I just made a contribution to the campaign of Jon Ossoff, who is running for an empty Congressional seat in Georgia’s 6th District, vacated by radical conservative Tom Price, who joined Trump’s cabinet in charge of HHS, where he hopes to repeal Obamacare and stop funding Planned Parenthood. Jon has been endorsed by civil rights icon John Lewis.

I know the family of the writer of this letter, Isabel Rose. Her family is one of the most prominent and philanthropic families in New York City. The Rose family endowed major gifts to the New York Public Library, the Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum, and many other major cultural institutions.

She wrote a public letter to Ivanka Trump, from one mother to another. She wrote about her child, who is transgender. It was incredibly brave of her to tell her story in public. The letter is beautifully written, sincere, and heartfelt.

I hope Ivanka reads it.

I am posting only a portion. I hope you will read it in its entirety.

My name is Isabel Rose and I bet if we played a quick game of Six Degrees of Separation we would discover many mutual acquaintances. This shouldn’t come as a suprise. After all, we are both from prominent New York real estate families, we both attended private all-girls schools and went on to earn degrees from Ivy League colleges, and we both married smart Jewish men and now have young children. And I suspect, from the photos you share on your Instagram feed, that we also share a love of motherhood and would do anything to ensure the happiness and security of our kids.

You recently gave birth to your youngest so your memory is still fresh with the elation you feel holding new life in your arms. I, too, remember that thrill. It seems like only yesterday that my second child was born. My husband and I already had a daughter so we were ecstatic to add a son to our growing brood. We named our child Samuel and took him home from the hospital with hearts filled with anticipation and love.

Samuel liked to play dress up from a very young age. When he was two, his camp counselor sent us photos of him dressed up in princess costumes and a pink bonnet. At three, Samuel’s preschool teacher informed us that he chose a tutu from the dress up bin instead of the doctor’s lab coat or fireman jacket that the other boys favored. By four, Samuel broke out in hives when we tried to cut his hair, and at five he told us, through tears, that he wanted to burn his face off because it wasn’t a girl face. He also tore at his genitalia with such hatred, I had to pin his arms down at his sides. “I’m not supposed to have a penis!” he sobbed night after night. “I’m supposed to have what you have, mommy.”

Ivanka, when I saw that photo you posted recently of you and your five-year old daughter at the Supreme Court, I could tell you would have done exactly what I did next because you are a mother who wants her children to feel empowered. Yes, you, too, would have sought professional help. And I know you would have wept in relief, like I did, when you realized your child wasn’t doomed to a lifetime of misery but was simply transgender.

Just before his sixth birthday, our Samuel became our Sadie, and we watched a butterfly break free from a chrysalis. Naturally, it was not what my husband or I had imagined when we held our infant son in our arms and uttered the phrase, “That’s our boy!” Naturally, we went through a period of adjustment. But we always knew that our priority was our child’s happiness. And that is exactly what we have today: a happy child.