Archives for the month of: October, 2018

During her confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos pledged not to make political contributions while she was Secretary of Education.

But, knowing her penchant for parsing words, we may now assume that she was not covering the political donations of her family, which continue.

This latest review of political donations by Ulrich Boser and Perpetual Baffour of the Center for American Progress shows that the DeVos family gave $2 Million to far-right candidates.

My hunch is that they gave far more than $2 million, through Dark Money PACs that do not disclose the names of their donors.

The report finds:

“Even by the loose standards of U.S. campaign finance laws—and President Donald Trump’s blatant corruption—the donations by the family members of a Cabinet official have been brazen. In February 2018, Richard DeVos, Secretary DeVos’ father-in-law, gave $1 million to the Freedom Partners Action Fund—a political action fund that has long been associated with far-right causes. Over the past year, the DeVos family has also given $350,000 to the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund and another $400,000 to the Republican National Committee.

“The DeVoses have also donated to specific candidates for federal and state office. Wisconsin’s far-right firebrand, Gov. Scott Walker (R), for example, has received more than $635,000 over the past decade from the DeVos family—including $30,000 in 2018. Bill Schuette, Michigan’s Republican attorney general who is running for governor, received almost $40,000 over the past year.

“But it seems that the state of Arizona is of particular interest to the DeVos family’s political agenda. Rep. Martha McSally (R), who is in a tight race for a U.S. Senate seat, landed $54,000 in contributions from the family this cycle—more than any other U.S. Senate candidate received from the DeVoses. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has likewise received more in campaign contributions from the DeVos family than any gubernatorial candidate across the country this election cycle, raking in $50,500 in donations.”

In Wisconsin, a vote for Scott Walker is a vote for Betsy DeVos.

In Michigan, a vote for Bill Schuette is a vote for Betsy DeVos.

In Arizona, a vote for Martha McSally is a vote for Betsy DeVos.

A vote for these candidates is a vote for charter schools and vouchers.

A vote for these candidates is a vote to privatize public schools.

You know how sometimes you get a fantastical idea, but you know that it won’t happen? Like, suppose there was a pill that would cut my body weight by 10 pounds in a day or two. Never gonna happen.

How about this: What if blogger Peter Greene became a regular contributor to a major magazine read by people in the business world? Nah, never gonna happen.

But it did! Peter Greene is now writing regularly for Forbes about education, patiently explaining the realities to people who need to read him.

His latest column explains why no one should get excited by the latest SAT test scores. The press releases boasted of higher scores and increased participation. Greene explained that the test score gain was very small, and participation rates went up because some states required everyone to take the SAT. This, “participation numbers are coerced.”

And don’t get excited about the College Board numbers for students who are “college-ready,” because the College Board really doesn’t know.

What does the SAT really measure? I would say it is best at measuring family income and education. Greene doesn’t disagree but he puts it succinctly: “The SAT measures SAT-taking skills.”

Amy Lueck writes in this article about the role of the high school in shaping American society and building a sense of community, an understanding that these children are OUR children.

She begins:

In 2016, shortly after she was appointed to the position, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declared American public schools a “dead end.” Instead, DeVos advocates for “school choice,” code for charter schools, vouchers, and other privatization efforts.

Families who have watched their local schools struggle might agree with DeVos, but her characterization is still troubling. It reflects a distrust of education as a communal goal, not just an individual one. That’s a big change from the objective of American public schools during their first two centuries. Far from being a “dead end,” for a long time the public school—particularly the public high school—served an important civic purpose: not only as an academic training ground, but also as a center for community and activity in American cities.

From curricular offerings to extracurricular activities, shared milestones to cultural traditions, high schools have been remarkably consistent across the country and even across generations. Many Americans can remember the awkward school dances that memorialized the best (and worst) music of the day. Or bumping past different teenage archetypes on their way to classes. Or the pep fests and rallies they may have loved, or loved to hate. Football games that captured the attention of entire towns.

Public schools have also perpetuated racial and economic inequity. But the high school still galvanized a shared, American society. It helped people aspire toward greater equality together, and it used education to bring together diverse interests and people to forge social bonds of support. That effort shaped the American city of the 19th and early-20th centuries. High schools can continue to do this, so long as they can resist being dismantled.

She traces the history of the high school, and the departure of affluent white families for the suburbs, which has affected desegregation and funding.

She concludes:

As Americans face a new era of educational reform and broad societal change, they might do well to heed a lesson from the first two centuries of public education: As an institution, the fate of the high school cannot be detached from the community of which it is a part. Like all educational institutions, it is inextricably wrapped up with the goals and values of the town, city, and nation in which it is located, reflecting and perpetuating them.

Those values include Americans’ attitude to the very schools that would pass them along, too. If, as a nation, we decide that the public schools are a “dead end” for students, we should not be surprised if they become so—and along with them, the cities, towns, and communities they once built together.

Yes, we are trying to hold on to something important: community, democracy, the common good. Are we prepared to junk them in exchange for “choice?”

Mercedes Schneider notes that Indianapolis is the target of a corporate reform takeover.

She describes the situation, then notes that this election offers voters a chance to vote out a school board member who supports privatization.

She writes:

When it comes to killing traditional public education in favor of market-based ed reform models that remove the community control from its own schools, market-based ed reformers means business– and the public would do best to believe that there is a market for the usurping of community influence over schools….

Granted, it is easier to discuss this issue from 2018 hindsight; however, the candidate who serves as the focus of the remainder of this post, Mary Ann Sullivan, is running for reelection on November 06, 2018, and there is still time for unsuspecting Indiana voters to educate themselves about what she was and is before heading to the polls in November 2018….

Let the lessons begin.

First of all, beware of those deflecting attention away from “school type” in the name of
improving educational opportunities for children,” especially if the candidate offering such advice is drawing quite the trove of funding to support her campaign.

Second, check for out-of-state contributions. According to Sullivan’s October 10, 2014, pre-election filing, she already had $51.4K in her campaign chest, including $2,000 in contributions from California billionaire Reed Hoffman, founder of Linkedin, and his wife, Michelle Yee, plus $1,100 from Manhattan, NY-based Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

One might think that one or two out-of-state, ed reform contributors really doesn’t matter, but it does, and where there are a couple, there will likely be more:

According to Sullivan’s 2014, end-of-year filing, her campaign received a total of $73.7K for a local school board election– including $2,500 from former New York City mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and $2,500 from Connecticut billionaire and OxyContin heir, Jonathan Sackler.

Out-of-state billionaires spending money on school board elections is a hallmark of the ed reform preference of ushering in charter schools while snuffing out community schools.

Finally, where there is market-based ed reform, there is likely notable support from a business entity. In Sullivan’s case, it’s the political action committee (PAC) of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee (BAC).

In 2014, Indy Chamber BAC supported Sullivan for a total of $18.8K ($10.5K cash; $8.3K in-kind).

Stop and think about that for a second: A candidate for school board has the $18.8K support of a business advocacy committee. it makes sense if one considers that ed reformers view education as a business and charterization of entire districts as an ultimate goal.

So, here we are, Indianapolis, in October 2018.

IPS is now marketized via the likes of the Mind Trust, which Sullivan endorses, and Sullivan is running for re-election.

Sullivan’s 2018 contributions (also here) to date are more modest than in 2014: $11K total, with $8.7K coming from the business PAC, Indy Chamber BAC.

Converting neighborhood schools to the portfolio model is part of the business of ed reform, and Sullivan is a conduit for ed reform in IPS.

Okay, Indy voters: Now that you know who is financially backing Sullivan, will you reelect her or send her packing?

The great education scholar Yong Zhao will speak at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on November 1. Everyone is welcome and admission is free.

I will introduce him. His lecture is sponsored by the Fund I established to benefit the College’s Education Department, the Diane Silvers Ravitch 1960 Fund.

If you have read any of Yong Zhao’s books, you know that he was born and educated in China and is very critical of the high-stakes standardized testing environment. He has a brilliant overview of global education, the impact of new technologies, and the importance of preparing children to be divergent and creative thinkers.

Here is a link to most of his books. His latest book is What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education.

He is also a wonderful speaker!


Fred Rogers was the iconic television host of a program for children called “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He taught love and kindness.

Mr. Rogers grew up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Latrobe High School. He attended Dartmouth College, then Rollins College, where he earned a degree. He subsequently became a Presbyterial minister. In the 1960s, he lived in the Squirrel Hill and attended the Sixth Presbyterian Church.

This is the advice his mother gave him, when there was tragedy: “Look for the helpers.”

The community of Squirrel Hill mourned last night. Mourners met at the Sixth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, around the corner from the Tree of Life Synagogue, where the massacre occurred.

That church was Fred Rogers’ church.

People said to one another, “Look for the helpers,” quoting Mr. Rogers.

PITTSBURGH — Under a persistent drizzle on Saturday, more than 500 people stood shoulder-to-shoulder during a vigil in front of Sixth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh to express shock and anger over the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue around the corner.

The church has a storied history of fighting for social justice and was the home congregation of the late Fred Rogers, a humanitarian who starred in the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” television program.

The service was designed to show the unity in this city after 11 people were shot and killed at the synagogue during Saturday services. As they wept and sang religious hymns, the mourners who gathered said the shooting will spur them to greater action in tackling anti-Semitism, assault rifles and fighting poverty.

“You are seeing all of these people show up from this community, because we care about love,” said Jenna Cramer, 37, who lives in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. “This is Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood and this is a neighborhood where we serve…”

Throughout the day, as the news sunk in here, Cramer said her friends began sharing one of Rogers’s best-known quotes. In times of trouble, Rogers, who died in 2003, used to tell children to “look for the helpers” so they know they are not alone.

“All of these people here are ‘looking for the helpers,” Cramer said, “because that is what this neighborhood is about…

“One of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in the United States is here, and we value and love our neighbors, and we are not going to allow them to stand alone through this,” said the Rev. Vincent Kolb, the pastor at Sixth Presbyterian Church…”

When it concluded, hundreds broke into a spontaneous chant of “vote, vote, vote …”

“We have a president that doesn’t understand the dark forces that he has unleashed,” said Ed Wolf, 62, who is Jewish and has attended services at Tree of Life synagogue.

Wolf noted that he’s worshiped at numerous synagogues in Europe.

“I used to marvel at the level of security they have, and I would always leave those places thinking how lucky I am to live in a place where we don’t have to think about stuff like that,” said Wolf, as he began to cry.

Beth Venditti, Wolf’s wife, said anti-Semitic fliers and some graffiti occasionally appears in the community. But Venditti said Jews “always felt safe here.”

“There has been precious little hate until today,” said Venditti, 62.

She also fears Trump will not be able to rise to the occasion to help stamp out violence and anti-Semitism.

“We had a president who stood up and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ after Charleston,” said Venditti, referring to President Obama’s response after Dylann Roof killed nine worshipers at a church with a predominantly African American congregation in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. “That ain’t going to happen now.”

In our modern media environment, major news disappears within a day or two.

Will that happen now?

If you live in Ohio’s Senate District 19, please vote for Louise Valentine and help Andrew Brenner return to private life.

He is chair of the Senate Education Committee. He thinks that public schools are “socialism.” He received nice payouts from the ECOT scam. He needs to leave public life and return to private pursuits.

Read about him here.

He likes the word “socialist” and uses it to smear anyone or anything he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like public schools. He doesn’t like Louise Valentine. Socialist! She is an Ohio native, a graduate of public schools, Ohio State University, and a businesswoman. Among many other endorsements, she was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and Columbus Firefighters, The Columbus Building Trades Council, also the Ohio Education Association and Emily’s List. Not known as socialists.

As Denis Smith, formerly of the Ohio Department of Education, writes:

“Radical. Socialist. Extremist. This from the guy whose top campaign contributor is still shown to be William Lager of ECOT on Votesmart, a popular campaign finance website. But he has no problem taking money derived from public funds that were diverted from those “socialist” public school districts. This from a guy who is the darling of the National Rifle Association, an extremist group that many believe fits the profile of a domestic terrorist organization through its indifference to the rising number of school shootings and promotion of a weapons culture in this country…

“We’ve read about his views of public schools as examples of socialism. We’ve read that he thinks cursive writing is the most important skill that the socialist schools aren’t currently teaching. We know that he hasn’t returned that socialist public money that was given to him by ECOT. And we know that he loves the Second Amendment while dishonoring the First Amendment by blocking constituents from commenting on his social media pages.

“Andrew Brenner must be willing to show up and answer these questions. He also needs to show his mettle and seeming command of the issues by debating Louise Valentine.

“But don’t hold your breath.

“A candidate who can hurl insults and tag his opponent as #LyinLouise but doesn’t have the courage to face her in front of an audience does not deserve your support. And like his hero, Donald Trump, there comes a time when you just run out of bullshit.

“Andrew Brenner has reached that point.

“On November 6, if you live in Senate District 19, please show up and be counted. Vote for Louise Valentine for Ohio Senate. By doing so, you’ll send Andrew Brenner to retirement so that he can have time to learn more about socialism, attend Jerry Falwell University, and work on becoming a realtor.

“Um, there is one more thing. If Brenner acquires a public pension due to his time in the legislature, he would be submitting to socialism.”

Please save Andrew Brenner from taking socialist government money.

Vote for Louise Valentine.

Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate about where the responsibility lies for the horrendous hate crimes of the past week.

We have been told over and over that we are not to take this President literally, or seriously, or jokingly, or truthfully, even though he daily shows his supporters who he is, and they not only believe in him, they quite literally believe him. For too long we have been trapped in a cycle of figuring out how to talk about a president who is neither truthful nor presidential, who cheerfully labels Democrats as “evil” and gleefully leads chants about locking up the very people who were the recipients of bombs at their homes. How does one even begin to explain to one’s children what it means that the president denounces violence and division as he foments both, on an hourly basis? Perhaps we can look to Florida for a tip. Last week the state’s gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said that because Neo Nazis and white supremacists were supporting and campaigning for and contributing to his opponent Ron DeSantis, perhaps it was time to stop talking about causation entirely. “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” he said. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

The formulation is useful because it reframes a pointless debate about what leaders’ dog whistles really mean into a debate about what their followers end up believing. If what is said no longer matters, we can perhaps still evaluate what is heard. In the current ontological meltdown, there is no point in debating what leaders actually mean—they are affirmatively telling us that they lie constantly—but what we can and should focus on is what kind of people they ask their followers to be. Do they ask their adherents and admirers to see the best in others? Do they ask them to find common ground?

In the last week we have encountered two actual killers and one aspiring killer who believed their president when he said that caravans of murderous foreigners are approaching, and who believed that what their president wants is to have those caravans halted by force. They believed their president when he said that the media is hurting America and they believe their president wants to stop the media from doing that journalism by physical force. In the last week, we have seen that when the president makes or amplifies false claims about George Soros and globalists and refugees, people want to act on those claims. It doesn’t matter whether the president is being truthful or arch or ironic or funny or even if he admits moments later that he was just lying for sport. It does matter that millions of Americans believe this president wants them to rise up if the election is stolen by way of “vote fraud,” and that this president wants them to physically assault journalists who report bad things about him. That is what they hear every day, and that is what we need to worry about.

Perhaps instead of wasting another day on the pointless cycle of whether people who tweet racist, anti-semitic, anti-immigrant and anti minority statements actually cause anti-Semitic, anti immigrant and anti minority attacks or just stoke what was there to begin with, we should content ourselves with the accepting that this is actually beside the point. The point is that people who hate Jews and immigrants and minorities believe that when they commit violence against these people, they are behaving as the followers their president wants them to be. Do all or most of the President’s fans believe this? Certainly not. But we have we seen far too many of them performing on the words the president puts out there. And it doesn’t matter who is “responsible” because he accepts no responsibility no matter what. It does matter what we do next.

Hate existed before Trump. Bigotry and racism existed before Trump. But admit it: Trump incites bigotry and racism and gives permission to haters to come out of the shadows. It has been a long time since we have had political leaders who openly welcomed white nationalists as part of his base. And they are celebrating their new-found acceptance into the Trump mainstream. We must quarantine them in the next election. Their virus is dangerous, deadly, and puts us all at risk. Vote on November 6. Get your neighbors and friends to vote. Stop the virus.

Jan Resseger sums up the many reasons to be optimistic about resistance to corporate education Reform.

Among them are the teacher walkouts this spring.

And much more.

The Reformers are no longer making grandiose claims. The evidence is in. They have no secret sauce. Just money. Lots of it.

Summary: Democracy beats billionaires.

Voucher advocates claim they want to “save poor kids from failing schools.”

Well, it turns out that in Arizona, most of the students who use vouchers come from highly-rated schools. 70% of the students who use vouchers come from A or B schools.

Very few poor students seek vouchers.

Arizona Republic reporter Laurie Roberts writes:

“Anyone who thinks that Gov. Doug Ducey’s expanded voucher program is aimed at helping poor kids escape failing public schools, raise your hand.


“If you’re buying the Prop. 305 argument that creating a universal voucher program is about helping poor and middle-income kids escape bad schools, make sure you read Republic reporter Rob O’Dell’s latest analysis of who is using state money to pay for private school.

“And as importantly, who is not.

“Here’s a hint: it isn’t the poor kids and the parents snagging a public subsidy to send their children to private schools are escaping failing schools.

“What the numbers show

“O’Dell’s latest analysis shows that nearly 70 percent of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (read: vouchers) are being used by students leaving wealthier A- or B-rated school districts.

“Only 7 percent of ESA money is being used by students leaving districts rated D or F.

“Yet Ducey and the Republican-run Legislature have repeatedly expanded the voucher program, which began in 2011 to allow children with disabilities to attend the school best suited to address their special needs. Since then, it has been broadened to include a variety of categories of children, including those who attend failing schools.

“In 2017, our leaders expanded the ESA program yet again, decreeing that any child should be able to snag public funds to put toward private school but capping the program (for now) at 30,000 students by 2022.

“An earlier Republic analysis showed that 75 percent of ESA money was going to help suburban kids get out of wealthier, higher performing school districts. The top districts being “escaped” with a little help from taxpayers: Mesa, Tucson, Gilbert, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Chandler and Peoria.

“That 2017 expansion is now on the ballot, thanks to a referendum campaign launched by a group of women who formed Save Our Schools Arizona. A vote for Prop. 305 would allow voucher expansion to take effect. A vote against Prop. 305 would kill the expansion plan.”

Stop the hoax.

More vouchers means less money for the state’s underfunded public schools, which enroll at least 90% of the children in the state.