Archives for the month of: July, 2018

This editorial is in the “New York Times.”

Somehow I have a mental image of pigs feeding at a trough. Maybe it’s an old Thomas Nast cartoon.


It seems that last year’s $1.5 trillion tax-cut package, despite heavily favoring affluent investors and corporate titans over workers of modest means, was insufficiently generous to the wealthy to satisfy certain members of the Trump administration. So now Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offers an exciting plan to award an additional $100 billion tax cut to the richest Americans.

Specifically, Mr. Mnuchin has directed his department to explore allowing investors to take inflation into account when calculating their capital gains tax bill. (Instead of determining how much value a stock had gained by subtracting its selling price from its original purchase price, investors would first adjust the purchase price to reflect what it would be in inflation-adjusted dollars.) Fans of the move argue that it would benefit the wide swath of middle-class Americans who own stocks, along with all those older Americans whose homes have appreciated in value over the decades. And, indeed, many middle-class Americans could wind up with a sliver of savings. But not all investors are equal. Independent analyses say that a whopping 97 percent of the savings from Mr. Mnuchin’s plan would go to the highest 10 percent of income earners. (For the severely math challenged, that would leave a paltry 3 percent to be divvied up by the remaining 90 percent of the country.) Two-thirds of all savings would go to the top 0.1 percent of income earners.

So in rough dollar terms, the administration is looking to hand $66 billion-plus to the ultrarich like — just to name a few — Mr. Mnuchin, who did very, very well during his years at Goldman Sachs (and already has a net worth estimated at $252 million); Wilbur Ross, the loaded secretary of commerce (estimated net worth: $506.5 million); Betsy DeVos, the even richer secretary of education (about $1.1 billion); and, of course, the extended Trump-Kushner clan. (To be sure, Ivanka Trump could use a financial pick-me-up to help take the sting out of having to close down her clothing brand.)

Thus die the final vestiges of this president’s pretty little narrative about being a populist hero.

Hard-core economic conservatives and anti-tax activists have long pushed to index capital gains taxes for inflation under the dubious argument that it would bolster the overall economy. Unsurprisingly, this crusade has failed to catch fire in Congress, where even anti-tax lawmakers can be skittish about so blatantly playing to the plutocrats.

But here’s where Mr. Mnuchin’s plan is so politically inspired. He hopes to cut Congress out of this deal altogether by declaring it a regulatory matter and allowing Treasury to unilaterally redefine the term “cost.” No need to subject this process to the messiness of the legislative process when it is so much more efficient to claim jurisdiction for oneself and change the meaning of words to suit one’s purpose. Behold Trumpian logic at its purest.

One potential sticking point is that Mr. Mnuchin’s proposal may not be, strictly speaking, legal. Congress has never authorized the Treasury Department to interpret tax law in the bizarre way the secretary is advocating. And the last time such a possibility was floated, in 1992, President George Bush’s Justice Department shot it down with extreme prejudice. The department’s Office of Legal Counsel went so far as to issue a 23-page opinion laying out in excruciating detail why the Treasury Department does not have the legal authority to index capital gains for inflation by means of regulation.

So there’s that.

But the Trump administration isn’t one to fret about legal niceties when pursuing its pet projects. It much prefers to plow forward and let the court challenges shake out as they will. You win some. (Think travel ban, eventually, after multiple revisions.) You lose some. (Snatching migrant kids from their families at the border.) But as the adage goes, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Mr. Mnuchin may well figure that the risk is worth the potential gain for himself, his wealthy friends and, more broadly, members of the Republican Party’s donor class who might very well show their gratitude by channeling some of their tax savings into party coffers. Besides, a case like this could take a while to wend its way through the courts, and who knows how many millions could be saved in the meantime.

Beyond pure greed and a desire to suck up to the 0.1 percent, it’s hard to see any real-world logic behind this move. As political messaging goes, it seems flat-out bonkers to position Republicans as the party of the superrich — especially during a critical midterm election campaign with control of both houses of Congress on the line.

But at this point, President Trump may have decided that it doesn’t much matter what economic policies he pursues so long as he can keep the base distracted and fired up with his relentless culture warring. (Build the wall! Lock her up! Gorsuch! Kavanaugh! Stand for the anthem or be fired!) In early 2016, candidate Trump famously boasted that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any voters. Since becoming president, he has been given little cause by his base — or by Republicans in Congress — to doubt his political infallibility. As such, with Mr. Mnuchin’s proposal, as with so many other moves undertaken by this administration, Mr. Trump’s thinking may boil down to little more than, “Why the heck not?”

This may strike some as a depressingly cynical reading of what is being proposed. What, you thought their motives were pure?

Chalkbeat reports that Eva Moskowitz wrote a letter to parents of students in her high school, explaining why 70% of the teachers left in one year.

High expectations are hard on everyone, she says. Draconian punishment is not easy.

But in the end, her methods pay off, she says. Only 33% of KIPP graduates persist to finish college. Of course, we have no idea how many of Eva’s 16 high school graduates will finish college because they graduated only a month ago.

This article in The Washington Post explains why Christian nationalists love the Second Amendment.

They think God handed down the Second Amendment.

Andrew Whitehead, Landon Schnabel and Samuel Perry wrote the following:

“We’re now at a point when Americans are killed or injured in a mass shooting almost every month; by some definitions, almost every day. Despite this, resistance to stricter gun control in the United States remains fierce.

“As researchers of religion, we know the power of religious identities and beliefs. And so we wondered: How does Christian nationalism influence Americans’ attitudes toward gun control?

“In our newly published and freely available study, the connection between Christian nationalism and gun control attitudes proves stronger than we expected. It turns out that how intensely someone adheres to Christian nationalism is one of the strongest predictors of whether someone supports gun control. One’s political party, religiosity, gender, education or age doesn’t matter.

“You could be a mainline Protestant Democratic woman or a highly educated politically liberal man — the more you line up with Christian nationalism, the less likely you are to support gun control.

“But what is Christian nationalism?

“Christian nationalism is an ideology that argues for an inseparable bond between Christianity and American civil society. It goes beyond merely acknowledging some sincere religious commitments of the Founding Fathers.

“Rather, Americans who subscribe to Christian nationalism believe that America has always been ― and should always be ― distinctively Christian in its national identity, sacred symbols and public policies. What’s more, for adherents to this ideology, America’s historic statements about human liberties (e.g., the First and Second Amendments) are imbued with sacred, literal and absolute meaning.

“How does this affect attitudes on guns? Consider these two responses to the Parkland, Fla., shooting in February:

“National Rifle Association Executive Director Wayne LaPierre claimed that the right to bear arms “is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

“State representatives in Alabama and Florida passed bills soon after the shooting that encouraged posting Christian symbols and writings, like the Ten Commandments or “In God We Trust,” in public schools.

“These leaders responded to gun violence in our schools by asserting the Christian God’s role in our nation’s heritage and encouraging a greater infusion of Christianity into the public sphere.

“For Christian nationalists, the gun-control debate isn’t just about guns. It’s about a perceived blessing by God of the right to bear arms. Any attempt to limit this right is a denial of the foundational liberties instituted by God.

“Moreover, Christian nationalists believe that any government attempts to fix social problems such as gun violence are foolish. Governments can’t fix the wickedness in people’s hearts. For Christian nationalists, the only way to protect our nation from the menace of gun violence is to address the nation’s underlying “moral decline.”

“We suspected that Americans who want the United States to be a Christian nation would be less likely to agree that gun control is a viable answer to the problem of gun violence. Similar to the leaders quoted above, many Americans might believe that the only way to combat gun violence is by rebuilding America’s Christian foundations.”

Arne Duncan wrote a book about his seven years as Secretary of Education and is now promoting it and touting his record. You know, the record where teachers were demonized as lying to kids, kids were belittled as dummies, and parents were belittled for not embracing the Common Core.

Peter Greene read an interview with Arne and realized that he learned nothing from his experience.

He begins:

“Never mind a Secretary of Education who has never taught anything; I’m beginning to think it would be a step forward if we had a Secretary of Education who has ever learned anything.

“Arne Duncan was interviewed for the pages of US News, and the resulting piece reminds us, first, that there’s not nearly as much difference between Duncan and DeVos as some Democrats would like to believe, and second, that Duncan remain unrepentant and unenlightened about anything that happened under his watch. So join me in yelling fruitlessly at the computer screen as we walk through this trip down Delusion Lane.

“Chicken Little’s History of School

“Count Duncan as a member of the Century Club– that special group of reformsters that is certain schools haven’t changed in 100 years. Arne would also like to beat the expired equine about how “other nations out-educating, out-investing, out-innovating us.” Because, you know, we’re competing with India and China and Singapore for jobs. That’s certainly true, but at no point is it going to occur to Duncan that those countries compete by offering little or no regulation and workers who will do the job for pennies. In all the times I’ve heard the “we must change education to compete with China” refrain, not once have I heard an explanation of how education will help American workers better compete with people working under conditions we wouldn’t accept for wages we couldn’t live on. Arne wants us to now that our kids– his kids– are going to grow up in that world. And if you think Arne’s kids, raised in privilege and comfort, are going to be competing with some Chinese smartphone assembler for work, well– I have a bridge over a swamp to sell you.

“This guy. This frickin’ guy.

“Oh, and we are not in the top 10 internationally. Which– first, what does that even mean? Top 10 ranked by what? Because if, as I would guess, he means test scores, let me repeat for the gazzillionth time that we have never, ever been in the Top 10 for international test scores. Nor has Duncan ever offered a shred of evidence that being in the Top 10 of test scores translates into any sort of national achievement like higher GDP or higher standard of living or happier citizens or military might or best frozen desserts!

“Duncan’s Diagnosis and That Damned Status Quo

“Having failed to effectively define the problem, Duncan now goes on to offer his idea about the cause.

“This is not a cure for cancer, this is not rocket science. It’s total lack of political will. And I think the politics of the left and the right stand in the way of what’s best for kids.

“Well, actually, it is too rocket science. Duncan’s thesis is that fixing schools is actually quite easy; we’re just not willing to do it, because after all this time, he still doesn’t realize how complex and complicated it is to run an entire educational system. And Duncan doesn’t seem to know what he’s trying to change because he also notes “There’s a small number of political leaders willing to challenge the status quo.”

“Dammit, Arne.

“First, the status quo in education right now is the status quo you help make. Common Core, in its various bastardized forms and under its various assumed names, is the status freakin’ quo, and an ugly obnoxious one it is, too. Schools and teachers being evaluated based on bad uses of bad data generated by bad tests– that’s status quo, too. As is the draining of resources from public schools by private charterized schools. These are all problems, these are all status quo, and these are all a legacy in part of your administration.

“Second, the idea that you need political leaders to change the educational system shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the education system (and, for that matter, the political system) works. You need teachers and education leaders and actual trained professional educators to change an educational system, yet another fact we can put on the list of Things You Don’t Understand. All these years, and you still treat teachers like the hired help, certain that your amateur insights are more important than anything they might have to say.

“Duncan also thinks we need Republicans to challenge their base, and I’m not sure where he’s coming from here, because other than a deadly aversion to the words “common core,” the GOP base is in tune with most of the Duncan program. Duncan offers Obama’s championing of merit pay as a profil;e in courage because “that’s very hard to do” and well, yes, it’s hard to do because we have lots of evidence that merit pay doesn’t work. There’s nothing courageous about standing up for a bad idea.”

I don’t think anyone told Arne that his own Department evaluated Race to the Top and concluded it was a flop.

Larry Cuban wrote an insightful post about the Reformers’ revival of the ideology of social efficiency that was popular a century ago.

He writes:

“The current incarnation of “Taylorism” and focus on student outcomes can be seen in the standards, testing, and accountability movement launched over three decades ago in the wake of A Nation at Risk report. The application of business practices and lingo under the umbrella of scientifically acquired evidence reappeared anew albeit with different labels.

“Since the 1980s, reforms that called for uniform curriculum standards and increased testing while holding districts and schools responsible for student outcomes aimed to harness education to a stronger economy. With the increased power of computers to gather and analyze data, new techniques to prod schools to teach more, better, faster, and cheaper appeared (see here, here, and here) *

“The frequent gathering and parsing of test data, school-by-school, district-by-district, state-by-state, and nationally became a major enterprise. The lure of increased productivity and efficiency through evidence-based decision-making in light of huge (and available) data-sets has led to increasing use of algorithms to grade performance of individual schools, evaluating teacher performance, and customizing online lessons for each student (see here and here).

“States and districts now evaluate the performance of schools based on test scores, growth in achievement, graduation rates, and other measures and then assign rankings by issuing a grade to each school ranging from an A to a F, awarding one to five stars, or similar systems. Such grades signal parents which schools are high-performing and attractive to enroll their children and which schools are to be avoided—an efficient way of sorting out schools especially since parental choice in public schools has expanded.

“Determining which teachers are productive, i.e., “effective,” using students’ test scores has occurred in many states and big city districts. Such outcome measures should not shock anyone familiar with the spreading influence of the business model (e.g., earning profits, market share, and return on investment) upon schooling.

“Policymakers’ concerns over inefficiency in sorting effective from ineffective teachers (most districts graded 90-plus percent of teachers satisfactory) led to an embrace of an economic model of providing incentives to increase organizational productivity and efficiency.

“Within classrooms, both effectiveness and efficiency have come to the fore in customizing lessons for individual students. Earlier efforts to introduce “teaching machines” in the 1920s and later in the 1950s testify to the history of educators seeking ways to tailor teaching and learning to fit individual students. With the spread of faster and cheaper technologies since the 1990s, new classroom models of integrating devices and online programs took hold in many schools. The growth of huge data-sets of information on student performance in math, reading, and other school subjects also segued into a Niagara of software spilling over schools in the past two decades. The rationale for extensive buying and distributing of new devices and software has been to make teaching and student learning faster, better, and individualized.”

This mode of thinking, mandated and imposed as federal policy, threatens to extinguish childhood and the joy of learning.

What works in an automated warehouse is not what should be applied to a schoolroom.

The Columbus Dispatch reports on the continuing financial misadventures of the Imagine charter chain.

Imagine Schools, a for-profit Charter chain, bought an appliance store in a building valued last year at $2.4 Million. It renovated and passed the bill to Ohio taxpayers for $7.7 Million, triple the buolding’s value.

The charter, Great Westerm Academy, will have 700 students.

“Under its finance deal, Great Western Academy had to come up with added lease payments totaling $7.7 million over the past decade to cover the renovations — $3.3 million above their actual cost — at times paying nearly $1 million a year in total rent.

“According to the Franklin County auditor, the property was valued at $2.4 million in 2017. In other words, the $7.7 million the school paid for renovations was more than three times the building’s value.

“The deal has raised questions about Great Western’s lease agreement with SchoolHouse Finance, a subsidiary of Imagine Schools. SchoolHouse rents the space and sub-leases to Great Western. SchoolHouse also financed the renovations.”

This is the sweet part of the deal. Imagine rents the space, then subleases it to an Imagine school.

Do Ohio taxpayers care what happens to their money?

Giuliani made some amazing remarks today, which are explained in this article in the Washington Post.

There is more in the story that is fascinating, but I can’t repost in full.

“Whenever Rudolph W. Giuliani makes a new round of television appearances saying false, curious or just bizarre things in defense of his client, President Trump, some people inevitably ask why he keeps getting invited back on these programs. But there’s a great value to Giuliani’s appearances. They tell us what the president is thinking about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the Russia scandal — and what he’s afraid of.

“They also serve as a kind of briefing to Trump’s supporters: Here’s the new defense of Trump’s actions, so you’d better get ready to repeat this argument, however ridiculous it might be.

“This morning, Giuliani appeared on Fox & Friends and CNN’s New Day, and said some very interesting things. Let’s begin with this portion of the CNN interview, in which he was trying to argue that Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman who is about to go on trial for a panoply of crimes, barely had anything to do with the campaign or Trump himself:

[Guiliani said:] “Four months, they’re not going to be colluding about Russians, which I’m not even [sure] if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians. You start analyzing the crime, the hacking is the crime, the hacking is the crime. Well, the president didn’t hack! He didn’t pay them for hacking!

“There’s something else important Giuliani said on CNN, but before we get to that, here’s how he reiterated the point on Fox:

[Guiliani said] “I’ve been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find “collusion” as a crime. Collusion is not a crime.

“In a very strict sense, Giuliani is right that there isn’t a particular crime called “collusion.” But that’s kind of like saying that if you walked into an Apple Store, stuffed an iPhone in your pants and walked out, you’re innocent because the criminal code makes no specific reference to “stuffing an iPhone in your pants.”

“Now it’s possible that Trump himself, or someone on the Trump campaign, could have “colluded” with Russia to commit an act that is not illegal and, therefore, they wouldn’t be guilty of any crime. For instance, they could have colluded to find the best taco truck in Manhattan. They could even have discussed some kind of policy initiative that they would cooperatively pursue if Trump became president. But the real problem with the “collusion is not a crime” argument is that if they cooperated to do almost anything that helped Trump in his election campaign, then it would have been illegal.

“As Randall Eliason lays out here, there are multiple crimes under which any cooperation between the Russian government and the Trump campaign could potentially fall. If the campaign sought and/or received damaging information on its opponent from sources connected to the Russian government, it would almost certainly be in violation of this statute, which prohibits “a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution” from a foreign national for the purpose of a political campaign. A contribution could be money, but it could also be any other “thing of value,” and dirt on your opponent would seem to qualify. In addition to the crime of accepting the contribution, they could also be charged with conspiracy to violate election laws, or with aiding and abetting another person’s crime.

“It’s important to remember that the Trump defense on Russia has gone through numerous iterations, ranging from outright lies to laughable assertions. First they said nobody on the campaign ever talked to any Russians. Then they said they may have talked to Russians but didn’t have any planned meetings. Then they said that they had a planned meeting with Russians but didn’t collude with Russians. And now they’re saying that even if they did collude with Russians, that’s okay because collusion isn’t a crime.”

Isn’t it time to admit that our politics have crossed over into Cloud Cookoo-Land?

Leeches gonna leech.

Less money for the 90%+ in public schools as a result of this decision, if it is upheld.

This note just in from civil rights lawyer Wendy Lecker: “This decision denied the motion to dismiss. The case is still pending- the actual controversy has yet to be resolved. At the end of the decision, the judge set a schedule for the DOE to file an answer. So NYC has not yet been ordered to pay.”

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, 240 Jay Street in Brooklyn. Image credit: CityLaw.

City DOE refused to pay costs to renovate charter school’s rental space. The Education Law requires the City Department of Education, upon the request of a charter school, to provide the charter school with a co-location in a New York City public school for no charge, or to reimburse a charter school for its “actual rental cost” if the charter school is required to rent at a new location in New York City.

The Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, a charter middle school located in Brooklyn, New York, requested co-location which City DOE denied. The charter school appealed City DOE’s denial to the New York State Department of Education. The State Commissioner found in favor of the charter school and ordered City DOE to pay the school’s rental assistance once the charter school provided proof of its actual rental costs.

The charter school submitted a new rent bill to City DOE accompanied by a copy of its lease and correspondence with its landlord which explained that the landlord had charged the charter school a reduced rent because the charter school had agreed to make alterations to the premises. The landlord agreed to consider the alterations additional rent under the lease.

City DOE refused to reimburse the charter school for the additional costs it incurred in making alterations, and determined that it would only pay the base rent costs. The charter school sued City DOE. The charter school alleged that it was entitled to payments covering the alterations under the State Education Law and under the prior order by the State Education Commissioner. City DOE moved to dismiss the complaint.

Supreme Court Justice Judge Lucy Billings ruled in favor of the charter school on its claim, including the alteration costs, and denied City DOE’s motion to dismiss. In the absence of a definition of “actual rental costs” in the Education Law, Judge Billings construed the phrase to have its ordinary meaning. She held that this meant City DOE was required to reimburse the charter school for all costs it actually incurred in renting its facility, and not just the base rent.

Brooklyn Lab. Charter v. NYC Dept. of Ed., 67 N.Y.S.3d 397 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cty. 2017).

By: Danielle Mabe (Danielle is a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.)

Rudy Guiliani said today that colluding with the Russians is not criminal unless Trump paid for the hacking.

Moving the goal posts.

Methinks we will soon learn that Trump colluded to rig the election.

But he didn’t pay for it!

I received the following request:

A former charter school teacher,who was a strong advocate for the students, currently is working on her PHD.

She’s wants to speak with former, “No Excuses” students to learn their point view from being constantly suspended and asked to leave (if that was their experience, course).

The target population would be former students of KIPP, AF, Success, Uncommon, or any of those types of schools. They don’t have to be adjudicated or a part of the criminal justice system, just former students who were “counseled out.”

She wants to focus on the former student’s voices because there is not enough research on their experiences and when they go to the media, they tend to be dismissed. So far, she has been able to uncover the inherent racism in their ideology (She will be presenting that this fall) but to put it all together, she needs to talk to kids and see if they recognized their schooling as discriminatory. It’s ok if they didn’t; she just want to talk to some kids or young adults to gain their insights.

The email address to reach out to Ms. Williams at rkp5@illnois.edu, please share this with other education advocacy groups.