Archives for the month of: August, 2018

My view of John McCain. He was a man of honor and integrity. He served with honor in a war where Donald Trump took five draft deferments, the last one for “bone spurs” in his foot. I saw the squalid prison where he was tortured for five years in Hanoi. He could have gotten an early release but he turned it down and said he wouldn’t leave unless his colleagues and buddies were also released. He was modest. He had humility. He voted to save Obamacare. He was first to say he made mistakes (choosing Palin was a big one). Unlike Trump, he was not a coward or a liar. Unlike Trump, he was not a narcissist or a bully. I will always remember the campaign event when a supporter said to his face that Obama was an Arab, and he quickly corrected her, defended Obama, and said he was a fine family man. McCain acknowledged that he was not perfect. I did not agree with most of his votes. In a different world, people could have different political views and still drink and laugh and dine together. In the world we have today, he was a giant among weasels. The rest of the Senate looks shrunken compared to him.

Eugene Robinson is one of my favorite columnists at the Washington Post. The Post has the best opinion writers in the nation.

Here is his tribute to John McCain.

Much of the nation will spend the coming days honoring the late Sen. John McCain. The Republican Party, however, will only pretend to do so.

President Trump’s GOP could not care less about the ideals McCain stood for, such as honor, service and community. The party is shamefully molded in Trump’s image now, with his enormous corruption, monumental selfishness and grasping little hands.

This is no exercise in hagiography, which is supposed to be reserved for saints. McCain (R-Ariz.) had many flaws and made big mistakes, not the least of which was loosing Sarah Palin upon the world and letting her bring the politics of idiocy into the mainstream. He was a conservative and a foreign-policy hawk; I am neither. But never for a minute could I, or anyone else, doubt McCain’s commitment as a public servant. He cared more about the nation’s well-being than his own.

How quaint such sentiments sound, 19 months into the Trump era.

The man now living and working in the White House is uniquely different from, and worse than, his predecessors. All of them. Other presidents have been venal, bigoted, corrupt, divisive, ignorant or unstable, but never all of these things at the same time, in such lavish measure.

When Trump used a huggy-kissy interview with “Fox & Friends” last week to rail against “flipping” — the standard practice of prosecutors to offer a member of a crime organization a lighter sentence in exchange for testimony against higher-ups — he didn’t just sound like a mob boss who knows he’s being ratted out. He sounded like a man who would do anything, and I mean anything at all, to keep the investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in New York from uncovering secrets whose exposure threatens him and his family.

Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt reflects on the life and legacy of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
Trump keeps warning that he “may have to get involved” in the Justice Department, which means he may intervene to shut Mueller down. Why would anyone refuse to believe this is a real threat? Why would anyone refuse to believe that now — with Trump’s personal lawyer singing to the feds, the keepers of his financial and personal secrets talking to prosecutors under grants of immunity, and his former campaign chairman under great pressure to “flip” — the threat is greater than ever?

Republican senators, who will outdo one another in their lavish encomiums to their longtime colleague McCain, have the power to push back hard — yet they refuse to consider legislation to protect the Mueller probe. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of McCain’s close friends, once said that there would be “holy hell” to pay if Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a way to assert control over Mueller; now, Graham meekly says that Trump “is entitled to an attorney general he has faith in.”

Graham is wrong. Trump is not entitled to an attorney general who would sabotage a revelatory and productive investigation because Trump fears it threatens his legitimacy. But that is what Trump clearly wants — and there is no indication the Republican majorities in Congress will lift a finger to stop him.

The only congressional Republicans who even occasionally speak out in clear language against Trump’s outrages and excesses are those who have decided to retire, such as Sen. Jeff Flake, who calls himself “the other senator from Arizona,” and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

But Flake and Corker — and the many other Republicans in the Senate and the House who privately acknowledge Trump’s gross unfitness — are afraid to back up their words with deeds. In the closely divided Senate, one courageous Republican could send a message to the president by, for example, crossing the aisle to hold up his judicial nominees. In the House, non-xenophobic Republicans could join with Democrats to pass sensible, comprehensive immigration reform, putting an end to the reign of terror that Trump and Sessions are imposing at the border.

McCain, famously, did take action. Last year, shortly after being diagnosed with brain cancer, he cast the deciding vote against Trump’s slapdash attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump is nothing if not vindictive and petty; he issued a brief tweet rather than a lengthier prepared statement about McCain’s death, and on Monday morning the flags at the White House were not at half-staff. Trump lowered them again that afternoon.

We will hear much this week from Republicans in Congress about honoring McCain’s legacy. Anyone who takes those noble words seriously should do everything possible to elect Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in November. As Trump well knows, the GOP no longer has a spine.

Denis Smith introduces you to “Profiles in Cowardice.”

This is the Republican leadership who grovel before Trump.

Smith lists those like Senator Lindsey Graham who voted to impeach Clinton because he lied about having an affair. Trump had an affair, multiple affairs, lied about them, made illicit payments, violated campaign finance laws, etc. But that’s ok.

Why?

Forget all you have heard about tens of thousands of students on waiting lists for charter schools. That’s a marketing ploy. When people think a product is rare and hard to get, they really want it. When Bernie Madoff said that his fund was closed, people literally begged to get into his fund.

Mercedes Schneider obtained a copy of a guide to marketing charter schools, published by the Colorado League of Charter Schools. It is slick. It tells charter folk which words to use and which to avoid. It advises them to build alliances with their local public schools, the better to poach their children away.

It has the fascination of watching a train wreck in slow motion. That is, it is repulsive. It is consumerism at its worst. Read if you dare.

Let us now praise a fearless street fighter, who beat back and defeated the corporate reformers, billionaires, hedge fund managers, and Dark Money in Massachusetts in 2016. Let us now praise Barbara Madeloni, who as president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, led the fight against the proliferation of charter schools in Massachusetts.

This article is a fitting tribute to her spirit and leadership.

The Reformers bundled millions of dollars and set their sights on Massachusetts as a ripe target. In 2016, the state voted on a referendum (Question 2) that would have allowed the addition of 12 charters schools a year for the indefinite future. It would have wreaked havoc on the budget of every school district in the state.

The “No on 2” forces included teachers, parents, and other citizens who believed in public schools. They were outspent 2-1 (both the AFT and NEA made sizable contributions). Almost every school district committee (elected school board) came out in opposition.

People power beat money power, by 62-38%.

After the election, the Massachusetts campaign finance officials fined the lead Reform organization Families for Excellent Schools nearly half a million dollars and barred them from the state for four years. Soon after, FES collapsed. Another organization soon popped up to take its place as a bundled of Dark Money.

But, let us not forget. We won. Public education won. Parents and teachers won.

Thank you, Barbara Madeloni!

I humbly add your name to the blog’s Honor Roll.

Reverend Anika Whitfield wrote an open letter to Arkansas’s State Commisioner of Education, its Governor, and the City Superintendent, complaining about the state takeover of the Little Rock School District. This has long been a goal of the Walton family, the richest, most powerful family in the state and in the nation.

She writes:


Superintendent Poore and Commissioner Key (with a copy to Governor Hutchinson),

How are you able to live with what appears to be placing a hit on the lives of over 17,000 innocent students in the LRSD?

What appears to be your willful cooperation with political and philanthropic interest groups to violate the most vulnerable children in our city by closing their schools; selling (without our permission) their community schools to private charter businesses and to governmental programs that are run by officials who have benefited from a prison industrial system that profits off of incarcerating the lives of many of these same students, is unfathomable.

What does it profit you to watch innocent children suffer at your own hands?

What do you gain by taking away resources from children, families, and educators?

How many families and communities must destroyed before you have seen enough?

Are there any valid examples of affluent neighborhoods and communities that you have imposed your power to take over their children and absolve their patriotic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

What wealthy communities have you tried to force, without the will of the people, to accept a subservient educational business model for educators and students while imposing legalized disenfranchisement of their wealthy parents?

What truthful evidence can you provide that school closures, increasing class sizes, creating job losses by merging schools, and re-segregating communities, has proven to be a successful model in strengthening those same communities?

The plans that were laid out today for the LRSD showed ample evidence that your jobs have been, as has been suspected and predicted since your unorthodox appointments, a political and economic bidding to make wealthy investors like the Walton Family Foundation, Stephen’s, Inc. and others, to gain more wealt by privatizatizing public institutions and disenfranchising persons primarily impacted by poverty and systemic racism.

We have attended your previous school forums in large numbers. We have participated with consistent and persistent voices our opinions and desires to regain locally, elected, representation by our peers.

We have made clear our desires to keep all of our schools open, to raise community economic support for all of the schools and, particularly students, in the LRSD so that all students are attending classes and schools that are excellent.

We have provided plans, options and opportunities to work with you to keep schools open, and to improve the overall moral in schools by creating more community support and developing public accountability.

Yet, despite our active participation in your created system of governance, you have repeatedly denied all of our requests.

What will it will take for you to stop disrespecting and disregarding the voices and presence of our LRSD children, their parents, community?

What is the ransom you require to return our district back into the hands of the LRSD community?

Sincerely,
Rev. Anika T. Whitfield

Arthur Goldstein, veteran teacher, writes here about the special privileges available to Eva.

Not only did she hire her son to teach AP economics while he is still in college, but last year he taught middle-school math.

Just goes to show: Wealth has its privileges. Or, to paraphrase the great Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the Queen.”

Eva Moskowitz has made a career of telling the world how UFT teachers suck. We devote our lives to helping the city’s children and that’s an unpardonable crime. Only she has the secret sauce that leads to an amazing 20% of her students graduating over at the Moskowitz Academy. You might say, but Eva, we graduate that many on a very bad year. That doesn’t matter because there are no excuses over in Moskowitz World. I mean no excuses for us.

And we know that she’s right. Otherwise, why would hedge funders be taking suitcases of cash and buying off easy targets like Andrew Cuomo? Why would the last Democratic president have hired Arne Duncan to push charter schools and whatever programs flowed from the ample posterior of Bill Gates? Why would we all be bribed to Race to the Top and be judged via junk science? They must be right because they have all that money. Who cares if research fails to support their ideas, or if the American Statistical Association rates them as nonsense?

Now some people might say that the incredible churn of charter teachers is an issue. How can you have institutional memory when year after year you lose most of your people? How do kids feel coming year after year and seeing the teachers they may well love gone and never coming back? Is that how you do role modeling? None of that is important. Otherwise why would all those people with all that money keep supporting Eva?

Furthermore, Moskowitz Academies have high standards. No excuses. If you screw up, be prepared to suffer. Eva Moskowitz doesn’t pay herself almost a million dollars a year to put up with your nonsense. They hire only the best teachers charter pay and working conditions can provide. The fact that they can’t hold on to the overwhelming majority of them is only a testament to the selfishness of teachers. They aren’t focused on the test scores because they want to have lives. Some of them want to get married and even have children.

But in Moskowitz World, there are no excuses. Make the kids pass the tests. No excuses and no time for that nonsense. Except for Eva, of course, who is in fact married with children. I wasn’t actually aware she had children until I read Chalkbeat, the publication that covers All Things Moskowitz All the Time. It turns out that Eva has hired her 19-year-old son to teach economics.

A lot of people shook their heads in wonder when Eva and her BFFs wanted charters to certify their own teachers. I mean, shouldn’t teachers graduate from college? In Moskowitz World, that seems not to be a prerequisite. This is particularly true if you happen to be Son of Moskowitz. Here’s yet another innovation from Moskowitz World:

Michaud says Culver Moskowitz makes minimum wage, as he did last year as an intern at Success Academy Harlem East, a middle school. Santiago, Venner, and a former student said he taught eighth-grade math classes there last year.

Wow. Teachers making minimum wage. Betsy DeVos is probably rolling over in her coffin this morning wondering why she didn’t think of that. And then there’s that other tidbit–while reformy Chalkbeat is all over Moskowitz Junior teaching economics, this isn’t the first time they’ve set him up as a teacher. Maybe they think teaching math while being totally unqualified doesn’t merit mention, but teaching economics is beyond the pale.

How creative. How innovative.

Eva Moskowitz’s son is teaching AP Economics at her high school because the teacher hired to teach the class quit before school started. Her son Culver Grannis Moskowitz does not have a college degree. (Grannis is Eva Moskowitz’s husband’s name).

Some of the students think it is odd to have a teacher only a year or two older than themselves. Others like it.

Maybe he is just filling in until she can find a real teacher.

He is uncertified, of course. Was this the reason Eva wanted the power to certify her own teachers?

Culver may be a fine young man but he is not certified to tesch in New York State.

The moral of the story is that when you are CEO, you can do whatever you want.

Or, when your school is not a public school, you don’t have to hire certified teachers. You can even hire your son.

Glenn W. Smith, an opinion writer for the Austin American-Statesman eviscerates the sinister motives behind the A-F grading of schools. This plan was promulgated by Jeb Bush and his team of privatizers. My home state of Texas is the home of NCLB accountability. Nearly 20 years after that law was passed, we are still waiting for “no child [to be] left behind.] Fortunately, we now have a federal law in which Congress promises that “Every Child” will Succeed. More snake oil. Comply or die.

The leadership of the Republican Party in Texas and around the country is hell-bent on ending public education as we know it and replacing it with private corporations that will get rich on our tax dollars while educating fewer of our children.

The dream of a universally educated citizenry will be killed in a premeditated attack on perhaps the most important institution of democracy there is. In fact, its importance to democracy is one reason why the authoritarian-minded want to kill it.

There are other reasons. Many may wonder how the Christian Right can ally itself with Donald Trump, his greed-soaked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other school privatizers. The equation is simple enough: The rich get richer, and the Right gets public tax dollars for private, fundamentalist schools.

Children in public schools will, over time, receive fewer and fewer resources and fall further and further behind. Then, there will come a moment when the underfunded public education system perishes like a starved prisoner in a forgotten cell.

The state recently released its latest version of school ratings, this one called A-F report cards. The “simplified” ratings are used, it seems, so Texas parents — already victims of underfunded public schools — have a shot at remembering what A and F grades mean.

Such ratings are sold to us on the premise of increased accountability. Instead, they used to destroy confidence in public schools to advance the cause of publicly funded private schools.

Think for a moment of all the time and money spent on questionable standardized testing and the casting of dark bureaucratic spells — I mean development of ratings systems — upon public education. Think of the anguish of educators and students who are sentenced to Dr. Standardized’s Hamster Wheel Test of Accountability.

Now, imagine if you can that all that time and money was spent on educating our public schoolchildren instead of on the purchase of great barrels of ink to paint scarlet F’s on schoolhouse doors. Why, gosh and golly, maybe all our schools would get A’s and B’s…

If we look carefully, we might find that the efforts of the privatizers to embarrass public education sometimes backfire. Let’s put two facts back to back:

• Democratic state Rep. Donna Howard of Austin recently pointed out that charter schools get 100 percent of their funding from the state. Public schools get 33 percent. The rest comes from local property taxes. Local districts’ efforts to overcome the state’s funding failure is the reason your property taxes increase, by the way.

• As a public school advocate and former state school board member, Thomas Ratliff put it in a tweet after the A-F grades for schools were released: “8 percent of charter schools are rated F while only 1.2 percent of public schools [are].” Ouch.

Looky there on the blackboard: Charter schools, treated lavishly by the state, don’t quite pass on that lavish treatment to our children’s education.

Adding a profit motive to public education does not lead to better performance; we pay more for less. That doesn’t make that much difference when we’re talking about our socks costing more and wearing out sooner than they should.

A reader sent these hopeful thoughts about the Democratic candidate for Governor in Ohio:

There is HOPE in Ohio. The Democratic candidate for Governor, Rich Cordray, actively sought out the endorsement of OH BATS. Not only that, he met with a group of us and allowed us to tape him replying to some of our questions. He emphatically supported an END to high stakes testing in Ohio – he said he supports reducing testing to the federal minimums which in Ohio means ending High School Exit testing and the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee” (guaranteed only to give your young child anxiety about reading and testing). OH BATS was leery about endorsing ANY candidate regardless of party because both parties have been complicit in “Reform” around the nation. However, Rich Cordray has actively sought to allay our fears – I believe he is sincere and genuine in wanting to turn things around in Ohio. He is well aware of the ECOT scandal and holds great disdain for charters (He accepted a $600 Lager contribution many years ago before the corruption was apparent – when he discovered this, he immediately donated that money to his local public school! This is way different from the tens of thousands Faber, Brenner, Husted, DeWine, and Yost took from Lager). He is THE person we need in Ohio to turn things around. I hope ALL educators rally around not only OEA and OFT’s endorsed candidate, but OH BATS endorsed candidate, Rich Cordray. Any help you can give us in spreading the word that Rich is PRO PUBLIC ED would be greatly appreciated!! I have been an avid reader and admirer of yours for several years – your pro public ed heroism is unmatched! With our current slate of candidates running for the legislature and Rich Cordray leading the ticket, I am hopeful for the first time in many, many years.

Imagine that! A potential governor in Ohio who sought out the views of OHIO BATS!

If you live in Ohio, let me know what you think of Rich Cordray. Is he the anti-Kasich? Will he restore good government and support for public schools?

This article expresses our frustration with arrogant, clueless billionaires like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Betsy DeVos, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, the Waltons, the Koch brothers, and Mark Zuckerberg. We have long known that they don’t like democracy. It gets in the way of their grand plans to change the world. Why should we—the targets of their plans—have any say? Those of us who are not billionaires think that they should stop rearranging our lives. We don’t want them to disrupt our lives and our institutions. We believe in the idea of one person, one vote. We are losing faith in democracy because these plutocrats have more than one vote. They use their vast resources to buy elections and, what is even cheaper, to buy politicians.

Anand Giridharadas frequented their circles, mainly at the Aspen Institute, which made the mistake of inviting him to join them as a Fellow. He confirms what we suspected. These people are a threat to democracy. They think they are “doing good,” but they are destroying democracy.

It begins:

“In 2015, the journalist Anand Giridharadas was a fellow at the Aspen Institute, a confab of moneyed “thought leaders” where TED-style discourse dominates: ostensibly nonpolitical, often counterintuitive, but never too polemical. In his own speech that year, Giridharadas broke with protocol, accusing his audience of perpetuating the very social problems they thought they were solving through philanthropy. He described what he called the Aspen Consensus: “The winners of our age must be challenged to do more good, but never, ever tell them to do less harm.” The response, he said, was mixed. One private-equity figure called him an “asshole” that evening, but another investor said he’d voiced the struggle of her life. David Brooks, in a New York Times column, called the speech “courageous.” That lecture grew into Winners Take All, Giridharadas’s new jeremiad against philanthropy as we know it. He weaves together scenes at billionaires’ gatherings, profiles of insiders who struggle with ethical conflicts, and a broader history of how America’s wealth inequality and philanthropy grew in tandem.”