Archives for the month of: August, 2018

Masha Gessen is a Russian dissident who publishes frequently in the New York Times, the York Review of Books and elsewhere.

This article appeared in the “New York Review of Books” right after Trump’s election.

We should pay attention to Masha Gessen.

“Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: “The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly” rather than those protesters’ “liver should have been spread all over the pavement.”

“Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one. For all the admiration Trump has expressed for Putin, the two men are very different; if anything, there is even more reason to listen to everything Trump has said. He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him—from the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.

“He has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted “Lock her up!” They, and he, meant every word. If Trump does not go after Hillary Clinton on his first day in office, if he instead focuses, as his acceptance speech indicated he might, on the unifying project of investing in infrastructure (which, not coincidentally, would provide an instant opportunity to reward his cronies and himself), it will be foolish to breathe a sigh of relief. Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out. These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint—and, yes, punishing opponents.

“To begin jailing his political opponents, or just one opponent, Trump will begin by trying to capture members of the judicial system. Observers and even activists functioning in the normal-election mode are fixated on the Supreme Court as the site of the highest-risk impending Trump appointment. There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right; there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court. And since Trump plans to use the judicial system to carry out his political vendettas, his pick for attorney general will be no less important. Imagine former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie going after Hillary Clinton on orders from President Trump; quite aside from their approach to issues such as the Geneva Conventions, the use of police powers, criminal justice reforms, and other urgent concerns.”

Greg Windle, a journalist at The Notebook, has drawn together the many strands of the tangled web of Reformer groups in Philadelphia, as seen through the lens of a contract awarded to The New Teacher Project for principal training. TNTP, Michelle Rhee’s creation, was designed to hire new teachers. When did it develop an expertise in training principals? Were there no veteran educators, no one in the Philadelphia School System, capable of training new principals? Or were they recruiting principals who had been a teacher for a year or two?

As Windle gets deeper into the story of a contract dispute about hiring TNTP to train principals, a familiar cast of money-hungry Reform groups washes up on the beach.

“Marjorie Neff, a former School Reform Commission chair who voted against the TNTP contract to recruit and screen teachers, said that in her experience such national education vendors use an approach that is “formulaic” and doesn’t tailor well to the needs of an individual teacher or the “context” of teaching in Philadelphia, where a teacher’s needs are different than in the suburbs. Neff is a former principal at Samuel Powel Elementary and J.R. Masterman who earned a master’s degree in education from Temple University.

“They’re selling a product. From that perspective, their formula is their vested interest,” Neff said. “Their bottom line is profitability, and we need to take that into account. Is it the most effective way to do this, or is it the most profitable? I don’t think those necessarily have to be in conflict, but sometimes they are.”

“In 2017, TNTP reported that its expenses were $20 million higher than revenue. In 2016, its revenue was nearly $21 million higher than expenses, but this was entirely due to the $41 million it brought in from “all other contributions, gifts, grants” (excluding government grants). That pot includes grants from outside philanthropies, such as foundations, but also investments from venture capital firms. In 2015, the nonprofit lost $6.1 million, despite millions in outside funding.

“Shifting funding, but consistent ideology

“Bain Capital’s consulting firm has two members on the board of TNTP. Since 2009, Bain’s consulting arm has partnered with Teach for America to develop “high-impact leaders in education” by placing TFA alumni in “leadership” positions in public education. Together, TFA and Bain designed “a series of programs to inspire, prepare, match and support Teach for America alums on the path to leadership.” Bain aimed to bring leadership development practices from the private sector into public education.

“In 2012, the two organizations got together to “expand the scope of work” of their partnership — the same year that Teach for America founded School Systems Leaders to train TFA alumni to “serve at the highest levels of leadership in public school systems.”

“Matt Glickman, an employee of the Bain consulting firm and board member of TNTP, has also served on the board of the NewSchools Venture Fund. That fund has invested in free-market education reforms since 1998. The Sackler family – whose fortune is based on profits from Purdue Pharma, developer of OxyContin – decided to invest heavily in the fund.”

When will education be returned to educators?

Anyone advocating for edupreneurs should be fired. As Neff said quite well, these national vendors are in it for the money.

Laura Chapman, retired arts educator and diligent researcher, has created a partial portrait of the privatization movement.

My guess is that the privatization movement consists of a small but significant number of billionaires and several hundred of their lackeys, shills, and front groups. As you will see, it is almost impossible to tell the Republicans from the Democrats.

Laura writes:

I have been building some spreadsheets on who is funding what. There are so many interconnected initiatives that Jeb Bush and friends are part of.

For example. Bush’s projects are connected with another big reform outfit: Partners for Innovation in Education (PIE) an outfit with at least 180 affiliates (in my spreadsheet) all connected to many others and all seeking national, state, and large metro area policies that favor charter school expansion (marketed as innovative), along with Teach for America (mostly on the job training), and active interference with teacher union contracts.

The PIE website still includes a guide for “Rabble Rousers” who were given quidance on how to work on legislated policy changes to favor charters, TFA and privatizers and how to enlist active support from civic and business organizations. It is a guide for lobbying and controlling narratives about education in the press.

The 47-page PIE Rabble Rousers handbook (2010 funded by the Joyce Foundation) includes this statement about the process of changing state policy:

“Most of the groups we spoke with (about shaping state polcies) declined to involve educators on their governing boards; if they did so, those groups do not make up a majority of the governing board. The rationale was clear enough: if the goal is to be a voice for the public’s interest, educator involvement confuses that message. As one group leader explained: “Educators already have the overwhelming voice in our state capital through their various associations. If we brought the interest lobby to our meetings, our discussion would get rutted in the same issues that already complicate the public debate. Our goal is to have a conversation that looks at the issues differently, considering only the students without the adult agendas.” An even blunter explanation was: “We tell our teacher associations that when they invite our leaders to vote on their boards, we will include union representation on ours (p. 32).”

Since that 2010 publication, PIE has shifted its strategy to include carefully selected educators. Most are working in charter schools or they have been willing to be indoctrinated into PIE’s agenda. Indocrination is the correct word.

In Oakland, CA, for example, the bait for PIE’s program has been a two-year “fellowship” with $1000 for the first year, and $2000 for the second year for attendance at two-hour meetings twice monthly plus readings and research. (I could not determine if the “year” was a calendar year nine month school year). In a series of tasks, the Oakland Fellows were given preferred data about their union to think about, along with model language for changes.

There are similar programs in multiple metro areas and states, with teachers working as if hired hands of PIE, token payments or emblems of prestige by virtue of becoming “fellows” or “ambassadors.”

Here is a list of organizations and financial supporters of “teacher voice” in the PIE Network–all recruiting teachers to advocate for policies favoring TFA, charters, and dismantlying unions and more under the banner of “innovation.”

Advance Illinois “Every Student World Ready”; Chalk Board Project; Ed Allies (Minnesota); Educators for High Standards; Go Public Schools (Oakland CA); Hope Street Group (multiple states); National Network of Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY, nominated by governors of states and celebrated by the Council of Chief State School Officers); Rodel Foundation of Delaware; State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE, Tennessee); Stand for Children Louisiana; Teach Strong (National, with one year “ambassadors” who lobby politicians), Educators for Excellence (in Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, Los Angeles , Minnesota, New York); Teach Plus (in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts); and Texas Aspires.

PIE Board members are powerbrokers. Many are veterans of reformy projects to undermine public education through draconian standard-setting, exemptions for and expansions of charter schools, and killing collective bargaining by teachers.
1. Derrell Bradford, Executive VP of 50CAN, recruits state executive directors, fellows, and YouCAN advocates; known for leadership of legislated tenure reform in New Jersey.
2. Rachael Canter, Executive Dir. and co-founder of Mississippi First. Two years Teach for America; successfully lobbied for Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013.
3. Jonah Edelman, co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children Leadership Center and Stand For Children with affiliates in 11 states (Edelman is son of civil rights activist and lawyer Marian Wright Edelman). A political scholar (Ph.D Oxford, Yale) with deep family connections to the Democratic Party. SFC works for privatization with major funding from the Gates and Walton foundations among others. Major promoter of Read-by-Grade-Three policy.
4. Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, backed by The Broad Foundation and supporters of projects to undermine teacher unions.
5. Scott Laband, President of Colorado Succeeds, coalition of business executives for corporate friendly education, including school policies that subsidize workforce preparation.
6. Patricia Levesque, CEO Foundation for Excellence. Was Jeb Bush’s Chief of Staff for education promoting corporate friendly education, six years as Staff Director for education policy in the Florida.
7. Lillian M. Lowery, Ed.D. V.P. of Ed Trust’s PreK-12 Policy, Research, and Practice, former state superintendent of schools in Maryland and state secretary of education in Delaware.
8. Nina Rees, President and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, first Deputy Under Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.
9. Aimee Rogstad Guidera, former president and CEO of the Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign for enganced surveillance of K-12 school and “teacher of record” performance, with a variant tracking workforce outcomes of pre-K to post-seconfary workforce outcomes.
10. Evan Stone, Co-CEO and Co-Founder in 2010 of Educators for Excellence. Yale University thesis on No Child Left Behind in urban school systems, Master degree in teaching, Pace University.
11. Suzanne Kubach, Executive Dir. PIE Network. Appointed to California State Board of Education, former Chair of Los Angeles Charter School Board. Ph.D. in Education Policy, University of Southern California.
12. Tim Taylor, co-founder and Executive Dir. America Succeeds, founder of Colorado Succeeds, seeking corporate friendly policies.
13. Jamie Woodson, Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), Former legislative leader for expansion of Tennessee’s public charter schools. J.D., the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

And that is just for starters. What “innovative policies” are being marketed in your state, by whom, and why?

Bob Braun, the veteran investigative reporter who has covered New Jersey politics for many years, describes an astonishing ripoff of taxpayers.

No surprise. The U.S. Justice Department supports a rightwing group suing Harvard to stop its efforts to promote diversity.

Asian-American Students Suing Harvard Over Affirmative Action Win Justice Dept. Support

The plaintiffs want test scores to trump every other factor.

Although Asian Americans are accepted at far higher rates than their proportion of the population, the plaintiffs want fewer blacks and Hispanics admitted.

No. Even though Tories thought so, he was not.

I ask this question facetiously, in response to the two or three commenters here who keep posting negative articles about John McCain and calling him a “war criminal.”

McCain served his country with honor. He spent five years in brutal captivity and rejected the chance for an early release because he didn’t want favorable treatment. He said he would not leave until his fellow captives were also freed.

I did not share his political views. If I were a Senator, I would have voted differently than he did. I oppose his views on almost every issue.

But from what I hear, Senator McCain had friends on both sides of the aisle. He represents an era when people could disagree but still be friends.

The great British political philosopher Walter Bagehot wrote many years ago that one of the great features of a democracy was that there are good people on different sides. If your side lost the election, you knew you could try again next time. You knew that the victor would not jail you and other members of the losing party. There would be no show trial and execution of the losing candidate. There would be no chants of “Lock her/him up” because the other side did not support the winner.

The fate of the Republic was secure because we shared a consensus of democratic values and love of country that were more important than a single election. There would always be another election, another chance.

In that sense, McCain was an exemplar of the democratic values that he fought for and suffered for.

Even though I did not agree with his politics, even though I hate war, I have the greatest respect for John McCain. He was a great American. In the current climate, his voice and his spirit will be missed.

Supporters of education had hoped to get a referendum on the ballot to raise taxes on high earners to generate a guaranteed revenue stream of funding for the schools.

But the Arizona Supreme Court kicked the measure off the ballot.

PHOENIX — Arizonans will not get a chance to decide whether to hike taxes on the rich to generate more money for education.

In a brief order Wednesday, the Arizona Supreme Court said petition signers were not informed that the measure would do more than increase the tax rate on those earning more than $250,000 a year. It also would eliminate the indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation.

Chief Justice Scott Bales, writing for the court, said a majority concluded that omission “creates a significant danger of confusion or unfairness.”

The ruling is a significant setback for the education community, and not just because it means there will not be a dedicated revenue stream for public education. There were hopes that having this measure on the ballot, coupled with a referendum already on the ballot over expansion of vouchers, would bring out voters who also would support candidates willing to put more money into public schools.

There was no immediate comment from supporters of the Invest in Ed initiative, including the Arizona Education Association.

Wednesday’s ruling is a victory for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry which led and financed the legal fight to block a public vote.

Organization president Glenn Hamer argued that hiking income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans “would just create a drag on the state’s overall economy.” And he said that if the state targets the rich, many would just choose to move elsewhere.

That question is now academic.

There is no dispute that the main provision of the measure would have imposed an 8 percent state income tax on earnings of more than $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. That compares with the current 4.54 percent rate.

And there would be a 9 percent tax rate on anything over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples filing jointly.

Proponents estimated that the additional revenues would generate about $690 million a year for public education.

Can you believe this? The College Board gave the SAT IN Asia in 2017, released the questions and answers, then recycled the same test in the USA in 2018.

Mercedes Schneider has the story here.

Earlier this summer, the rightwing rag Breitbart posted a very positive article about Marshall Tuck, who is running to become California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Breitbart, long associated with Steve Bannon and white-nationalist policies, identifies Tuck as pro-charter school and anti-union.

The article correctly notes that Tuck received only 5% of the votes at the state Democratic convention.

The overwhelming majority of Democratic delegates to the convention endorsed Tuck’s opponent, Tony Thurmond.

There are many reasons to vote for Tony Thurmond, including his experience as a social worker and his demonstrated concern for students, not corporate interests.

If you want Eli Broad and the other billionaires to control public education and privatize it, then Tuck’s your man.

If you want public schools to remain public and accountable to democratically elected school boards, vote for Tony Thurmond.

Mitchell Robinson, professor at Michigan State University, writes that Democrats must fully support public schools if they want to galvanize their base in November.

“If Democrats want to be successful in November they need to offer voters a true alternative to Republican and neo-liberal thinking on education policy. Sadly, we could add Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to the list above of Democrats who don’t “get it” when it comes to understanding the importance of public education.

“I still run in to far too many Democrats who make distinctions between “for profit” and non profit” charters, as if there’s a meaningful difference…or support candidates who claim this belief. Or point to states with “strong regulations” on charters, like Massachusetts, as some sort of model for other states to follow when it comes to charter school policies. This ignores the fundamental charter problem–the presence of charter schools hurts public schools, period. In an economy that seems not to have enough money to fund 1 set of schools, we are trying to fund both charters and traditional public schools, with reformers clamoring for vouchers that would fund a 3rd group of schools–religious and private non-sectarian schools.

“What we need are Democrats who support real public education, not faux public charter schools that are governed by private management corporations.

“The only thing public about charter schools are the tax dollars that fund them. It’s way beyond time to eliminate all charter schools, and fully fund public education.”