Archives for the month of: September, 2019

 

October 3 should be interesting. Apparently it is “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”

Presumably, Muslim students will bring their Koran. Jewish students will bring a facsimile of a Torah. Mormon students will bring the Book of Mormon. And other religious groups will bring their sacred texts.

Will it remind everyone that religious activity belongs in houses of religious worship, not in the public school?

 

September 23, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Students Bring Bibles to School

 

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — More than half a million students from across the United States will participate in the sixth annual Bring Your Bible to School movement on Thursday, October 3, 2019.

 

Though the First Amendment guarantees students the right to discuss their beliefs and read the Bible at school, Bring Your Bible to School day provides a unified opportunity for young people to share their faith at school without fear.

 

Throughout the day, students can share their experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #BringYourBible.

 

The Constitution allows students the religious freedom to bring their Bibles or other religious books to school and read them during free time. Students can even use the Bible in a class assignment if they do so in a way that is relevant to the subject matter and meets the requirements of the assignment. Students can voluntarily express their personal and religious beliefs to their classmates through verbal or written expressions if they follow school policy and do not engage in these activities during classroom or instruction time. The First Amendment also guarantees students the right to pray individually or in groups on school grounds during any non-instructional time. All students may express their opinions verbally or in writing before or after school, in between classes, during the lunch hour or on the playing field, according to the federal guidelines on prayer in public schoolsfound on Liberty Counsel’s website.

 

Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Liberty Counsel supports all students who exercise their constitutional right to bring their Bibles to school on Bring Your Bible to School day and throughout the academic year. Schools must remain neutral towards any expression of a religious viewpoint and provide equal access to students exercising their right to freedom of speech by praying or reading the Bible during non-instructional time,” said Staver.

 

Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics. Liberty Counsel provides broadcast quality TV interviews via Hi-Def Skype and LTN at no cost.

Liberty Counsel, P.O. Box 540774, Orlando, FLORIDA 32854, United States

 

Just when you think Trump could not get crazier, this happens.

 

The Trump administration is investigating the email records of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent messages to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email, reviving a politically toxic matter that overshadowed the 2016 election, current and former officials said.

As many as 130 officials have been contacted in recent weeks by State Department investigators — a list that includes senior officials who reported directly to Clinton as well as others in lower-level jobs whose emails were at some point relayed to her inbox, said current and former State Department officials. Those targeted were notified that emails they sent years ago have been retroactively classified and now constitute potential security violations, according to letters reviewed by The Washington Post.

In virtually all of the cases, potentially sensitive information, now recategorized as “classified,” was sent to Clinton’s unsecure inbox.

State Department investigators began contacting the former officials about 18 months ago, after President Trump’s election, and then seemed to drop the effort before picking it up in August, officials said.

Senior State Department officials said that they are following standard protocol in an investigation that began during the latter days of the Obama administration and is nearing completion.

“This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.”

To many of those under scrutiny, including some of the Democratic Party’s top foreign policy experts, the recent flurry of activity surrounding the Clinton email case represents a new front on which the Trump administration could be accused of employing the powers of the executive branch against perceived political adversaries

 

Perry Stein and Valerie Strauss wrote about a D.C. charter school that descended into chaos, with no meaningful oversight to protect its students. 

Top D.C. education officials knew for months about safety issues plaguing a charter school that serves some of the city’s most vulnerable children but did not force changes, public records and interviews with school employees show.

Students at Monument Academy Public Charter School fought during the school day, routinely destroyed school property and simply left campus without permission. Complaints poured into the city agency charged with overseeing the high-profile school, and some staff members reported to their superiors that they felt unsafe. Some child advocates and parents said they thought the school was dangerous, too.

Officials at the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees the city’s charter schools, acknowledged long-standing problems at Monument and said they believe they addressed those issues appropriately…

Still, unlike many charters, there was no dedicated security staff on the Northeast Washington campus of Monument — a weekday boarding school for middle school students, many of whom struggled in traditional schools.

At a public meeting of the charter school board in May, a member revealed that more than 1,800 safety incidents classified by Monument as serious were reported during the 2018-2019 school year. Those incidents included sexual assault, physical altercations, bullying and property destruction…

But the city’s charter school board did not direct the school — or Monument’s governing board — to take measures to ensure student safety.

“It is always appropriate for us to intervene when health and safety concerns emerge but not always in a public meeting setting,” Pearson said. “We were not prescriptive about what exactly they should do because we do not think that is our role.”

The handling of Monument by the charter school board — which prides itself on giving the 120 campuses in its sector autonomy — opens a window onto how the board operates. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run, and although they are subject to local and federal laws, they are not bound by the rules and bureaucracy of publicly funded school districts.

Monument’s governing board voted June 4 to close the school — more than six months after it said it realized that financial and academic issues were probably insurmountable.

Even then, that decision was not final: Monument, which serves about 100 students, reopened Aug. 7, partnering with another charter school operator. The campus remains a boarding school, where students live five nights a week.

Parents and supporters of public schools in Little Rock are outraged that Governor Asa Hutchinson refuses to meet with them. The state took control of the Little Rock district, and parents want democratic decision making restored. Remember when Republicans used to support local control? Not anymore.

Rev/Dr. Anika Whitfield write to the Governor on behalf of a large coalition of parents.

Gov. Hutchinson, 

 
As you may have heard at our rally on September 25, 2019, to fulfill the legacy of the Little Rock Nine to obtain a world class equitable education for students currently being denied by discrimination and state laws, and to #ReclaimLRSD in total with a locally elected school board, we demanded a meeting with you.
 
The organizers of the Support OUR LRSD coalition, a coalition of parents/guardians, students, alumni, community activists and supporters, faith leaders, volunteers in the LRSD, teachers, educators, retired teachers, and LRSD business leaders and faith leaders and communities need to speak with you about the fate of our beloved LRSD. 
 
You have been talking at us, and not with us. You and your appointed board and commissioner of education have been making decisions that work against our will, decisions and requests. 
 
As our elected Governor, you vowed to serve the entire state. You have not been serving our best interest, because you have not given us the opportunity to meet.  You have not provided us with an opportunity to not only state our case with you face to face, but you have denied us the dignity of being heard by you and your staff on multiple occasions.
 
We are insisting that you meet us on Monday, October 7th or Tuesday, October 8th prior to the Thursday, October 10th State Board of Education meeting.
 
There will be two representatives from each of our coalition groups ready to meet with you.
 
Please have your staff provide me with the date and time you will make yourself available to meet with The People of the LRSD, members of the Support Our LRSD coalition, who are requesting to meet with you.
 
Rev./Dr. Anika T.  Whitfield 
Grassroots Arkansas, co-chair
Support Our LRSD coalition 
By the way, Rev/Dr. Anika Whitfield is featured as a hero of the Resistance in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH, which will be published January 21, 2020.

 

Mercedes Schneider discovered that Oregon-based Stand for Children is pouring money into school board races in Louisiana. Why should an Oregon organization try to choose school board elections in another state? That’s the way the Disruption Movement works. The funding comes from the usual sources, none of which is based in Louisiana.

She writes:

Since 2012, hundreds of thousands of dollars has flowed into Louisiana elections from this Portland, Oregon, ed-reform organization, and when I examined the campaign finance filings for these three PACs, I discovered only two Louisiana contributors to one of the PACs, the Stand for Children LA PAC…

SFC is anti-union, pro-Common Core, pro-school choice—usual corporate-ed-reform fare. As for some of its major money: Since 2010, the Walton Family Foundation has funded SFC (via the SFC Leadership Center$4.1M, with $400,000 specifically earmarked for Louisiana.

Then, there’s the Gates funding…

It all sounds so locally-driven, so grass-rootsy.

It’s probably best to not mention that SFC in Oregon finances the show.

.

 

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, reports on a new federal analysis comparing charter schools and public schools.

She writes:

A recent report on school choice commissioned by the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) documented what we already know–the performance of students who attend charter schools is no better than the academic performance of those who attend true public schools.
 
The report based its findings on 4th and 8th grade NAEP scores. No school, public or charter, can test prep students for success on the NAEP, thus it is considered by many to be the most reliable measure of student achievement.
 
In addition to a simple comparison of results, the researchers who prepared the report used regression analysis to control for the influence of parental education level on student achievement on the NAEP. This is important because it contradicts those who claim that charters do a better job at educating disadvantaged students, and that the equal academic performance between the two sectors is because public schools educate a more privileged population.  Parental education level has been shown repeatedly to have a significant effect on student achievement, even when controlling for SES. 
 
The report also told us that the percentage of students in private schools has dropped to 9% and homeschool enrollment has risen to 3%. Of the remaining 88%, 94% of all students are enrolled in true public schools, while 6% are enrolled in charter schools. 
 
The charter school sector can produce as many biased studies not subject to peer review as they like, but studies from objective sources consistently produce the same results–charters, despite their creaming of students and “freedom” do no better than true public schools. Ironically, this one was commissioned by the US Department of Education led by Betsy DeVos. 
 


Carol Burris

Executive Director
Network for Public Education

A great victory for real education in Milwaukee, where the business community and politicians have been obsessed with “choice” for 30 years. From the FB page of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association.

This is a victory for students!

This is a victory for real education!

A Big Victory for Music in MPS!
 
70 photos5 hours ago
Last night the School Board decided to take the first step in moving towards giving the students of Milwaukee the schools they deserve by unanimously passing an initiative to bring music back to ALL MPS schools. This was a big first step in bringing our schools back to what they once were. Thanks to all who wrote letters, sent emails, made phone calls, and testified at the committee hearing on Tuesday to make this happen. We will win the schools our students deserve! Photos are from Tuesday’s committee hearing. #MPSproud

Trump selected inexperienced, hard-right Congressman John Ratcliffe’s to be the Director of National Intelligence, but the Republicans in the Senate sent word that they would not confirm Trumps’ unqualified lapdog.

This story from today’s Washington Post by James Hohmann shows what a difference this made. Had Ratcliffe been confirmed, the whistleblower complaint would never have seen the light of day..

 

THE BIG IDEA: The Ukraine donnybrook shows the degree to which institutions depend on the individuals inside of them to function as they were designed. The whistleblower who sounded an alarm while others bit their tongues showed that. So did the inspector general who alerted Congress to his complaint when President Trump’s loyalists were trying to keep it secret. And the public got a glimpse during a House committee hearing on Thursday of how differently this scandal might have played out if Trump’s previous pick to lead the nation’s intelligence community had been confirmed.

The temperamental contrast was stark between Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), the hyper-partisan congressman who wanted the job, and Joe Maguire, the decorated military hero who got it instead and seemed eager to show he’s no one’s toady. Democrats faulted Maguire, as the acting director of national intelligence, for checking in with the very entities who a CIA whistleblower had accused of wrongdoing, including Bill Barr’s Justice Department and Trump’s White House counsel’s office, to see if they wanted to claim executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of his allegations.

Maguire noted earnestly that he was new in the role and wanted to do the right thing. The retired admiral had been running the National Counterterrorism Center after 36 years in the Navy, including as commander of Seal Team 6. He said he’s sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution 11 times. “No one can take an individual’s integrity away,” Maguire explained. “It can only be given away.”

Ratcliffe’s questioning of Maguire – which was more of a monologue, really – offered a window into how he might have handled both the complaint and the hearing if he’d found himself in the hot seat. The congressman made the case that Trump prodding his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former vice president Joe Biden was “lawful conduct.” He claimed without evidence that the whistleblower was “wrong in numerous respects” and dubiously compared the complaint to the “Steele dossier” in the Russia investigation. “The United States is allowed to solicit help from a foreign government in an ongoing criminal investigation, which is exactly what President Trump did in that conversation,” Ratcliffe declared.

Ratcliffe’s hopes of getting formally nominated went down in flames on Aug. 2 after Senate Republicans expressed concern about his qualifications and evidence that he had padded his résumé. The three-term congressman had impressed Trump in July with his hostile questioning of former special counsel Bob Mueller. When the president pulled his supportjust a week after announcing his intention to nominate Ratcliffe, reporters asked Trump why he put someone with such limited national security experience up for such an important job without fully vetting him. “I think he would’ve picked it up very quickly,” Trump replied. “I give out a name to the press and they vet for me. We save a lot of money that way.” Trump gave the job instead to Maguire, who had no idea he’d immediately be thrust into the center of an epic fight between the White House and Congress.

During the hearing, Ratcliffe also falsely insisted that the legal opinion from the Justice Department, which claimed that intelligence community officials didn’t need to turn over the whistleblower complaint because it was outside of their jurisdiction, was written by nonpolitical lawyers. “That’s an opinion from the Department of Justice ethics lawyers – not political appointees, but career officials that serve Republicans and Democrats,” Ratcliffe said during the hearing.

In fact, that opinion – released publicly on Wednesday – was authored by Trump appointee Steven Engel. Engel earned a reputation as a highly partisan figure in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, which is why Democrats fought his confirmation to run the Office of Legal Counsel. He was confirmed by a vote of 51 to 47 in November 2017. As a former U.S. attorney, it seems inconceivable that Ratcliffe would not know the Office of Legal Counsel is led by a political appointee.

Audio: In private U.N. speech, Trump calls whistleblower ‘almost a spy’

— It’s also very revealing to contrast how Maguire and Trump talked about the whistleblower. The acting DNI testified that he does not know who wrote the document, but he said he doesn’t question the person’s motives. He added that he believes they “acted in good faith” and insisted that he is glad the information has finally come out. “I think the whistleblower did the right thing,” Maguire said. “I think he followed the law every step of the way.”

As Maguire was testifying, Trump declared that the whistleblower acted like “a spy” and suggested that the legally protected conduct was akin to “treason.” Speaking in New York at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the president made clear that he’d also like to ferret out anyone else who provided evidence of his misconduct. “I want to know who’s the person that gave the whistleblower … the information because that’s close to a spy,” he said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right? We used to handle them a little differently than we do now.”

The Los Angeles Times published an audio recording of the closed-door speech, and The Post later obtained a video. “We’re at war,” Trump said in his ad-libbed remarks, referring to the scandal. “These people are sick. They’re sick. And nobody’s called it out like I do.”

— Trump and his band of brothers have been leaning on the language of war this week. Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, congratulated Democrats at the Maguire hearing on the “rollout of their latest information warfare operation against the president.”

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House strategist, compared Nancy Pelosi’s speech on Tuesday night to the start of the Civil War in 1861. “Pelosi’s announcement to begin a formal process at 5 p.m. was the shot at Fort Sumter,” Bannon said. “Now you cannot freelance, you cannot go rogue. You have to be disciplined. You have to be high and tight.”

— Former DNI James Clapper likened the president’s comments about the whistleblower to “witness retaliation.” “What’s really bad about it is this is going to have a very chilling effect on any other potential whistleblowers,” the Trump critic said on CNN.

Now here is good news!

The new superintendent of the Boston Public Schools Brenda Casellius announced a reduction of district tests.

This does not affect the state-mandated tests, but it is a welcome acknowledgement that students need more instruction, not more testing.

School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has announced a moratorium on district-mandated standardized tests, according to a Sept. 19 memo to school leaders.

To read the memo, click here.

“For this school year, we will take a pause in requiring that schools administer specific assessments,” the memo says.

It also announces an end to “End-of-Year” district assessments in English Language Arts and math, and says BPS will stop giving the Terra Nova standardized test to students in grades four and five. That test has been used to decide which students should be invited to Advanced Work Class (AWC) for the following year. The Terra Nova will still be given in third grade as a gateway to AWC in grade four.

The memo does recommend continued use of certain reading tests and district assessments that are used to evaluate students’ academic progress during the year. “Administration of these assessments is highly recommended,” Cassellius wrote, “but completely optional.”

(MCAS tests are not affected by the new policy because they are mandated by the state, not BPS.)

Cassellius says one reason for the new policy is to “shift attention from executing the status quo to … reflecting upon our practice.”

This is a welcome contrast with New York City, where a spokesperson recently declared that there would be four additional off-the-shelf standardized tests each year, to prepare for the state tests.

 

 

The Metro Nashville School Board took the bold, brave step of rejecting a proposed Rocketship charter school.

The Nashville school board denied charter school network Rocketship Education a new school — despite receiving its first recommendation to approve an application in years.

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board bucked the district’s charter school review recommendation for the resubmitted application with seven votes to deny it. Only Gini Pupo-Walker did not vote to deny. Board member Sharon Gentry was not present on Tuesday night.

James Robinson, Rocketship’s Tennessee director, said the charter school network will appeal the decision to the Tennessee State Board of Education, which hears all charter school appeals…

Newly-appointed Board Vice Chair Amy Frogge criticized the school for its computer-based learning model and the way it uses investors to pay for its property.

The model, she said, “creates fertile ground for investors to reap millions.” Frogge also cited news reports, saying the school follows an “extreme militaristic” behavioral model.

“Assuming Rocketship is producing higher test scores, I must ask at what cost,” Frogge says. She said the school is a “drill and kill” instruction model.

Board member Christiane Buggs said her reasons for denying the school were purely financial. 

“We don’t have the funding right now to outsource,” she said.

Amy Frogge is a parent activist and lawyer. She is featured as a leader of the Resistance in my new book Slaying Goliath. It will be published in January.