Archives for the month of: June, 2018

Almost every time I get a fundraising appeal from Democrats, I respond with a contribution. Nothing big. Between $25 and $100. I support Beto O’Rourke and Lupe Valdez in Texas. I supported Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania. I sent money to Amy McGrath in Kentucky. I make a monthly small donation to the Indivisibles.

Consequently, I am now on every progressive and Democratic fundraising list. My email is crammed daily with appeals.

I want your advice. I get many emails from Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Joe Manchin in West Virginia. I haven’t heard from Heidi Heiskamp in North Dakota but r pact I will.

All three voted to confirm the execrable Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. I expect they will vote for whoever Trump nominates this fall to win the friendship of his base. Manchin has said he might support Trump in 2020.

Can you persuade me why I should send any money to any of them? Why are they Democrats?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the 28-year-old upstart who scored a surprise victory over one of the most powerful figures in the Democratic Party, Rep. Joseph Crowley, the #4 ranked Democrat in the House of Representatives. The vote was not close.

She explains her victory and her message here, on Morning Joe.

I can’t get the link to the article in the New York Times, but it starts like this:

“At the Parkchester apartments in the Bronx, neighbors heard the news from a maintenance worker: The woman down the hall had just won a primary and was probably headed for Congress. At a popular restaurant in Union Square in Manhattan, workers struggled to comprehend that the young politician whose face was all over TV really was the same woman who had tended bar until a few months ago.

“And on the streets of Midtown Manhattan Wednesday morning, the candidate herself was trying to make sense of it all. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stood outside Rockefeller Center after appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” juggling phone calls and live TV interviews and the well-wishes of doormen and office workers on their coffee breaks.

“I’m used to people kind of knowing me in the community,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, 28. But to have a stream of random people walk up and ask to take a selfie with her? “Insane.”

“Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, whose résumé up to now included waitress, children’s-book publisher, community activist, member of the Democratic Socialists of America and former Bernie Sanders campaign organizer, was now something else: an instant political rock star. She stunned the Democratic establishment by beating one of the senior leaders in the House, Joseph Crowley, in a near-landslide in Tuesday’s primary.”

Michael DesHotels, an experienced educator in Louisiana, explains here why the Rand study concluded that the Obama-Duncan teacher evaluation program flopped.

Gates wasted $575 million. The federal and state governments wasted billions. Thousands of teachers lost their careers and reputations. Another reformer disaster.

Unfortunately, the Obama education department had convinced most of the country to implement the same defective evaluation system at the same time before we could see the results of the study. So just like implementation of Common Core, which was also pushed upon school systems by the Gates Foundation, an expensive and time consuming teacher evaluation system was implemented without knowing if it would work. All that money and effort just drove a lot of good teachers out of the profession without improving student learning.

The new teacher evaluation system sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the Obama Race to the Top grants included basing teacher evaluations on student test scores and intensive observation of teachers using a strict rubric for teaching methods. The end result would supposedly identify the highly effective teachers as well as the ineffective ones. Then, teachers could be fired or awarded merit pay based upon their ranking in the evaluation system. Some reformers had theorized that such a system would dramatically improve student academic performance. There was even a theory that low performing students could be brought up to grade level performance by being exposed to highly effective teachers for only three successive years. It was believed that socioeconomic factors affecting student performance could be ignored by just fixing the teachers. These theories have now been proven wrong. Scapegoating teachers for problems of society just does not work, but it does drive good teachers out of the profession, and discourages bright young persons from entering the profession. Result: a serious teacher shortage.

Louisiana went whole hog on VAM (basing teacher evaluations on student test scores) and highly structured teacher observation because we were told that there were findings that proved that any student could be converted into a high academic achiever after only three years of instruction by highly effective teachers. This theory developed by Hanushek and others unfortunately was not scaleable (didn’t work) even though now our entire teacher evaluation system has been revised to supposedly identify highly effective as well as ineffective teachers. Louisiana law now bases teacher job security and even merit pay on highly dubious student performance measures. It turns out that VAM scores for each teacher are extremely unstable (and dangerously irrelevant) from year to year. It turns out that very little of a teacher’s VAM score depends on her/his performance in the classroom. Socioeconomic factors and noise in the highly imprecise VAM formulas routinely outweigh the actual performance of the teacher. In addition, teachers teaching untested subjects have a major advantage over teachers of tested subjects in winning merit pay and job security.

Here is an interesting fact about Louisiana teacher evaluation reform: Did you know that the new teacher evaluation rubric was actually designed by a person (Rayne Martin) who had never taught or evaluated teachers. Before coming to the Louisiana Education Department, Martin had worked for the Housing Authority in Chicago. She had never received teacher training or evaluation training. This is typical of most of the education “deform” we have been subjected to in the last 13 years. Unfortunately, here in Louisiana, we are still stuck with VAM and the new observation matrix for the evaluation of teachers that was developed by a non-teacher who has long left Louisiana.

So what did the Rand study find in its nationwide evaluation of VAM and the accompanying high stakes evaluation of teachers? Basically it has made no difference whatsoever in student performance nationwide. Zero results! After all that money and after the gnashing of teeth by so many thousands of teachers. We have produced however a growing teacher shortage, probably because all those potentially “highly effective” teachers found that they could make more money in jobs that did not use a form of torture to rate their performance….

Read it all!

Another powerful column by Charles Blow of the New York Times. He has my proxy.

Donald Trump, a lying, bullying, womanizing autocrat-idolizer, is fundamentally transforming America in very real and lasting ways, in ways that have left decent people slack-jawed, enraged and exasperated.

He has overtaken and destroyed the structure of the Republican Party, unleashing its ugliest elements to chant his praise and stroke his ego like drunken apostates dancing around a golden calf.

He has attacked American institutions that seek truth and justice, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the press, because he wants to weaken America’s faith in truth and facts themselves.

He has shunned and denigrated America’s traditional allies and cozied up to America’s traditional enemies, in one of the most bewildering presidential postures the country may ever have seen.

And now, with the retirement of the Supreme Court moderate Anthony Kennedy, Trump will be able to solidify the court’s conservative majority for a generation.

Elections have consequences. Not voting has consequences. Falling for Russian propaganda has consequences. Voter suppression has consequences. Taking the absolutely ridiculous position that there would be little difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has consequences.

The most lasting consequence is in the Supreme Court, which has lifetime appointments.

So now, if you are a woman, a minority, an immigrant, a person who is L.G.B.T., the rights you have acquired could be in jeopardy.

If you are just a decent person who believes in expanding equality, respecting choice and identity and civil rights, your vision of America is in jeopardy.

This is for the long game; this is for all the marbles.

Conservative strategic thinkers are not caught up in the moment’s outrages and absurdities. They are thinking in terms of generations and eras.

They know as well as I know that the demographic tide is moving against them and will soon wash away much of their power.

Therefore, their strategy is to slow that progress as much as possible, if not reverse it.

That is why there is so much energy to restrict immigration, both illegal and legal. That is why there is such a push for voter restrictions, suppression and disenfranchisement. That is why there was so little resistance to mass incarceration.

Conservatives want to arrest America’s development and send our country into regression. This is about the maintenance of their power long after they have lost the dominance of numbers.

The courts are an insurance policy in their strategy of impeding progress.

Conservatives want to reserve the right to use religion as a weapon, to control other people’s bodies and to judge some people as less worthy of full participation in the American experience because of whom they love, how they identify, where they are from or which God they worship.

They want to protect what they call “American culture,” which is more aptly described as white culture. No matter how advantage was gained, no matter how privilege was acquired, it is the province of the deniable, scrubbed clean of blood and tears. Present privilege, power and prestige must be preserved.

That is one reason that the court’s decisions on the Affordable Care Act were closely watched and in some ways controversial. At its core, Obamacare is about the interconnectedness of civil societies. It asked those with more to help support the health and well-being of those with less.

North Carolina gives out public money to private and religious schools with little or no oversight. Do not be surprised that some people take advantage of the open cash register and help themselves to taxpayers’ money that should have done to public schools.

This is what Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hopes to see in every state.

In the latest case of embezzlement, the former headmaster of a Christian school was indicted on multiple counts of stealing $134,000 of public money.

“The former headmaster at Rutherfordton’s Trinity Christian School, Tiffany Walker, was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on 137 counts of embezzlement and obtaining property by false pretenses while serving in her official capacity at the school…”

“According to press accounts, between July 2016 and December 2017 Walker wrote herself checks from the school’s bank account on a regular basis, totaling nearly $35,000. She also used school credit cards to make more than $100,000 in personal purchases.

“Trinity Christian is a private school in western North Carolina that has participated in the state’s publicly funded Opportunity Scholarship Program since its inception. Between 2014 and 2018, the school has taken in $327,178 worth of scholarships, also known as school vouchers, that low-income families have received from the state to use toward private school tuition.

“The school voucher program is promoted by advocates as a pathway toward improved academic achievement for poor students who are not succeeding in their local public schools. Vouchers enable some of these students to access private educational options; however, throughout its existence the program has faced criticism not only for lawmakers’ failure to ensure participating private schools employ high academic standards, but also the fact that there is little in the way of robust financial oversight for the millions of public dollars that are being funneled to privately managed schools.

“Because Trinity Christian does not receive at least $300,000 on an annual basis in voucher funds, the school is not legally obligated to file a financial review with the state agency tasked with overseeing the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The headmaster’s fraudulent activity was only discovered when the school was undergoing an optional reaccreditation review process and began gathering documentation for a financial audit, according to Trinity Christian’s board chairman, Grant Deviney…

“If the name Trinity Christian School rings a bell, that’s because it’s also the name of the state’s largest voucher school located in Fayetteville – and that school, too, has been in the news over the past year and a half.

“In a Wake County courthouse last summer, Trinity Christian’s (Fayetteville) athletic director and high school teacher Heath Vandevender pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $400,000 in employee state tax withholdings over an eight year period while serving as payroll manager for the school.
Vandevender entered into a plea deal struck with the state that allowed him to serve three months in prison, pay a $45,000 fine and be placed under supervised probation for five years. He was also required to serve 100 hours of community service. Vandevender has already repaid the nearly $400,000 owed to the state that he embezzled.

“Following his plea deal, Vandevender continued to work and coach at Trinity Christian (which is run by his father, Dennis) while serving his jail sentence on the weekends as part of a work release option. The school is home to one of the state’s top high school basketball programs and has produced high profile players like Joey Baker, who recently decided to graduate early to join the Duke Blue Devils, and Dennis Smith Jr., who spent just one year playing for NC State University before joining the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

“Trinity Christian (Fayetteville) has received more than $2 million in school voucher funds since 2014 and continues to be the state’s top recipient of publicly-funded vouchers despite the revelation that public funds were embezzled by a school employee over nearly a decade. The flow of taxpayer dollars to the school has not stopped despite the fact that Vandevender, now a convicted felon who was responsible for the embezzlement, continues to teach and coach at the school. It’s not clear if he continues to manage payroll operations as well.

“Remarkably, Vandevender’s fraudulent activity was not uncovered by way of oversight mechanisms required by the Opportunity Scholarship Program. As the state determined Trinity Christian to be eligible to participate in the program in 2014 and then began sending millions of public dollars to the school through scholarships awarded to low-income families, Vandevender was nearing the end of an eight year period of embezzling hundreds of thousands of employee payroll tax dollars, which only came to light thanks to an investigation by the state’s Department of Revenue.

***

“North Carolina places few requirements on private voucher schools to account for how the taxpayer dollars they receive are used to educate students.

“While private voucher schools receiving more than $300,000 annually in taxpayer dollars must undergo a financial review that is then submitted to the state, that requirement only captures a very small percentage of the schools that currently receive public dollars. Last year only ten voucher schools out of more than 400 were subject to that requirement. And a financial review is not nearly as robust or revealing as a financial audit, which means fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars could still continue under the radar.

“This indicates that the overwhelming majority of private voucher schools are free to spend public funds as they choose, out of the public eye.”

Really, who cares how they spend the money? Who cares if it’s stolen or pays for the personal expenses of the headmaster or the coach?

If legislators don’t care and taxpayers don’t care, just keep shoveling the money out the door and forget about it.

Make no mistake: the Janus Decision is a victory for plutocrats and corporations. As Jan Resseger argues here, it is an attack on working people that will weaken them in their efforts to enter the middle class.

It will weaken every public sector unions, not just teachers, but police, firefighters, social workers, and many others. It is a victory for the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the same people trying to cripple public schools, Medicare, Social Security, and the principle of government of, by, and for the people.

She writes:

“Weakening public sector unions is part of the far-right corporate political agenda. Political economist Gordon Lafer describes the impact of the the Red-wave 2010 election that turned more than half the states all-Republican: “For the corporate lobbies and their legislative allies, the 2010 elections created a strategic opportunity to restructure labor relations, political power, and the size of government… Starting in 2011, the country has witnessed an unprecedented wave of legislation aimed at eliminating public employee unions, or where they remain, strictly limiting their right to bargain… The number of public sector jobs eliminated in 2011 was the highest ever recorded, and budgets for essential public services were dramatically scaled back in dozens of states.” (The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time, pp. 44-45)”

The champagne corks were popping yesterday at ALEC, the Center for Education Reform, the Heritage Foundation, and all the other habitats of the corporate elites.

From @JerseyJazzman:

“This is exactly right. @DFER_News set the table for today, as did @FiftyCAN, @StudentsFirstNY, the charter industry, and a whole host of other “liberal” education “reformers.” Great job decimating the party you all claim to belong to, guys.”

Phonies.

The authoritarian anti-democratic Trump gets another seat on the Supreme Court.

Remind me again why the choice for president in 2016 didn’t matter?

Th U.S. Supreme Court released a decision today intended to cripple public sector unions by reducing their resources and members. Non-members who receive benefits negotiated by unions will no longer be required to pay agency fees. The decision benefits the Republican Party, since unions are part of the Democratic Party base.

Public sector unions respond here:

Contact:
Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603
acrook@aft.org
Marianne von Nordeck
AFSCME
202-812-0091
Sara Lonardo
SEIU
202.730.7332
Staci Maiers
NEA
202-270-5333

WASHINGTON– The following statement was issued by leaders and members of AFSCME, AFT, NEA and SEIU following the decision by the United States Supreme Court to rule against working people and in favor of billionaire CEOs and corporate interests in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, holding that requiring fair-share fees in the public sector violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY at Noon Eastern with public service union presidents and members to discuss the decision. RSVP to andrew@feldmanstrategies.com (link sends e-mail) for dial in information. Follow #UNION today.

As millions of American workers recommit to their unions and launch new organizing drives and as support for labor unions has risen to its highest level in years, it is shameful that the billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests behind this case have succeeded in manipulating the highest court in the land to do their bidding. This case was nothing more than a blatant political attack to further rig our economy and democracy against everyday Americans in favor of the wealthy and powerful.

Public service workers—teachers, social workers, firefighters, 911 operators—are more determined than ever to stick together in their unions. Unions remain the most effective vehicle for the power in numbers working people need to secure their rights and freedoms, and provide a pathway to the middle class. We will remain a strong and vibrant force for working people, and will continue fighting to sustain our families, improve our workplaces and to make our communities stronger regardless of the court’s ruling.

Today’s decision sends our economy in the wrong direction. But it is also a rallying point. We call on elected leaders and candidates to do everything in their power to make it easier to unite in unions and build more power for all working people.

Union leader and member responses:

“Unions will always be the most effective force and vehicle to propel working people into the middle class. Despite this unprecedented and nefarious political attack – designed to further rig the rules against working people — nothing changes the fact that America needs unions now more than ever. We are more resolved than ever to fight like hell to win for our members and the communities they care so much about. AFSCME members don’t do this work to get rich. They do it because it’s a calling — and for that service, they deserve respect. They deserve the same freedoms as the CEOs and billionaires who continue to rig the rules against everyone else. The American labor movement lives on, and we’re going to be there every day, fighting hard for all working people, our freedoms and for our country.” – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME

“No court case, win or lose, could ever change how important my work and service is to me and the community I care about. My union gives me the strength, freedom and the tools I need to help people and to provide for my family. That’s why I’ll always stick with my coworkers, no matter what. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing: organizing and talking to coworkers and community members, building power for working people.” – Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

“Don’t count us out. While today the thirst for power trumped the aspirations and needs of communities and the people who serve them, workers are sticking with the union because unions are still the best vehicle working people have to get ahead.

“Strong unions create strong communities. We will continue fighting, caring, showing up and voting, to make possible what is impossible for individuals acting alone. The teacher walkouts this spring, with educators fighting for the funding children need, were an example of how we will continue to make that case—in the halls of statehouses and the court of public opinion, in our workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box in November—through organizing, activism and members recommitting to their union.

“This is a dark day in U.S. jurisprudence. Swung by a Trump-appointed justice with a long history of ruling for the wealthy and corporations over regular people, the Supreme Court overturned a 40-year unanimously decided precedent that has given teachers and firefighters, nurses and cops, a path to a better life for themselves and their communities.

“More than forty years ago, the court recognized that collective bargaining for teachers and other public sector workers benefits those workers, their employers and their communities. Union representation, if chosen by a majority, is the glue that holds us together. That wisdom has now been abandoned by the slimmest majority.

“The dissenting justices saw this case for what it really was—a warping and weaponizing of the First Amendment, absent any evidence or reason, to hurt working people. Not only was Abood well within the mainstream of First Amendment law, it has been affirmed six times and applied to other cases upholding bar fees for lawyers and student activity fees at public colleges.” -Randi Weingarten, President, AFT

“Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, the teachers in our district will stick together to make sure we have a say in the future of our kids. We are a small union in a rural and conservative part of Ohio. But nearly all of the teachers in our district are full dues-paying members—because we know that teachers’ ability to create a safe learning environment for kids and make teaching a viable profession comes directly from being part of a strong union.” – Holly Kimpon, a high school biology and anatomy teacher, AFT member and president of the Genoa Area Education Association in Ohio

“Today’s radical decision by the Supreme Court is a blatant slap in the face for educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers and all public servants who make our communities strong and safe. We are living in a system that is rigged to benefit special interests and billionaires, all at the expense of working people. Those behind this case know that unions amplify workers’ voices and transform their words into powerful and collective action. Even though the Supreme Court sided with corporate CEOs and billionaires over working Americans, unions will continue to be the best vehicle on the path to the middle class.” – Lily Eskelsen García, President, National Education Association (NEA)

“Fine arts programs were being cut from my school and students were missing out on subjects like arts and music. My union negotiated with the district to bring back music so our students could have a well-rounded curriculum. When some school principals tried to renege on the agreement, as a union, we stepped up. Educators came together through our union and spoke out for what our kids need. Strong unions build strong schools and strong communities. We need unions now more than ever.” – Alex Price, band director and instrumental music teacher, Belmont High School and Wright Brothers Middle School in Dayton, Ohio

“This decision is yet another example of how billionaires rig the system against working people, but SEIU members won’t let the extremists behind this case divide us. We will stay united, help workers who are fighting to form unions, and call on our elected leaders to do everything in their power to make it easier for working people to join together in unions.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU

“My coworkers and I are not going to let this court decision stop us from sticking together in our union. We know that we are stronger together, and that matters when we are working to ensure our community is resilient when faced with disasters like earthquakes or floods. We won’t let any court case, billionaire, or propaganda campaign divide us.” – Sara Campos, Department of Human Services, SEIU Local 503 in Salem, Oregon

# # # #

For immediate release:

Media Contact:
Carol Burris, Network for Public Education: 516-993-2141 (cell) cburris@networkforpubliceducation.org

NPE calls decision “politically motivated” and not in the best interest of American public school students.

New York City, New York —The Network for Public Education is deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to rule in favor of the plaintiff in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 3.1. By a 5 to 4 vote, the Court nullified the laws of 23 states and the District of Columbia that oblige those who are covered by public sector union contracts to pay “fair share” fees. Such fees cover the expense of the cost of negotiating and enforcing employment contracts. In doing so, the Supreme Court overturned the 40 year-old decision of a previous court that asserted the right of unions to receive payment from all they represent.

“This ruling is an extraordinary example of judicial activism on the part of a court whose majority claim to be aligned with conservative principles,” said Network for Public Education Executive Director, Carol Burris. “It is clear this was a politically motivated decision designed to reduce the power and voice of public sector unions—including all of the unions that represent teachers, nurses, custodians, instructional assistants and administrators in public schools.”

The implications of the decision go far beyond the protection of workers’ rights. It will have a deleterious effect on the well-being of all public school students. Teacher unions have been strong advocates for well-funded, safe public schools for America’s children.
NPE Board member and student and parent advocate Leonie Haimson said, “For more than fifty years, teacher unions have been a positive force in fighting for more funding and better conditions in our public schools, including smaller class sizes. Especially now when our public school system is under attack, we need strong unions to preserve, protect and strengthen our public schools from the privateers who are trying to undermine them by outsourcing education to corporations — whether charter schools, private religious schools or ed tech companies.“

NPE President, Diane Ravitch agrees. “The evidence is clear. Nations with strong student performance, such as Finland, have strong teacher unions. The best student scores on the NAEP exams are in states with strong unions, while weak scores are associated with states with so-called “right to work” laws. Unions give teachers a voice to advocate for more funding for schools and better working conditions. This provides great benefit for students. This is a sad day not only for our nation’s education professionals but for our nation’s children.”

About the Network for Public Education
The Network for Public Education (NPE) was founded in 2013 by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. We are an advocacy group whose mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools for both current and future generations of students. The goal of NPE is to connect all those who are passionate about our schools – students, parents, teachers and citizens. We share information and research on vital issues that concern the future of public education.
networkforpubliceducation.org