Archives for the month of: September, 2020

CNN reporter Donnie O’Sullivan reports that the Trump campaign is releasing doctored videos that purport to show that Biden is senile or is an extremist. When the campaign is asked why they traffic in manipulated and false ads, they say it’s a joke. However, Trump’s followers are not in on the joke, and they believe what they see.

Somehow, I imagined that there was a federal elections commission to hold campaigns accountable for lies, but Trump must have killed it or filled it with loyalists to him.

At a Trump rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, last Friday, grievances against social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were a common refrain.

Many of the President’s supporters told CNN that they felt the platforms’ fact-checking processes were biased against conservative viewpoints. Others discussed social media posts that contained manipulated media as if they were real.

“Like when Joe Biden fell asleep during a live interview on television,” one supporter recalled, describing a video that went viral only a few weeks prior to the rally.

The video — which appears to show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sleeping as a TV news anchor repeats, “Wake up!” — was shared on Twitter by White House social media director Dan Scavino.

But the video was fake.

It was achieved by splicing together real footage of a 2011 interview between journalist Leyla Santiago, now of CNN, and entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte with footage of Biden looking down, his eyes appearing at least partially closed, to make it appear as if he were snoozing. An audio track of loud snoring was placed on the video to complete the effect.

When the video was fact-checked by news outlets, including CNN, and eventually labeled as “manipulated media” by Twitter, prominent Trump supporters complained that it was an obvious joke and a meme.

Open the link to see the video and other examples of lying by the Trump campaign.

For more examples of Trump ads that were lies about Biden, see here.

Trump needs to lie to defame Biden.
Biden can show actual clips of Trump at his rally to demonstrate his lies about the coronavirus.

Dan Alexander, a senior editor at Forbes who covers Trump’s businessses, writes that Trump really is a billionaire. His net worth, he says, is about $2.5 billion. That’s after taking into account more than $1 billion in Trump debts.

That makes it even more scandalous that Trump employs every accounting trick to pay no taxes in most years (while deducting $70,000 for his hair stylist), and only $750 in two years when he actually paid something to the government.

Chalkbeat reports that the rating agency GreatSchools has revised the way it measures school quality. Critics have long complained that its reliance on test scores as the measure of school quality disadvantages schools that enroll children of color and encourages housing segregation by steering white parents to white neighborhoods.

In the future, GreatSchools will rely on test score growth, not just scores alone.

This, of course, puts pressure on teachers and schools to raise test scores. Test scores thus continue to be the single most important criterion of school quality, instead of school climate, experienced teachers, class size, a rich arts program, and other consequential elements.

Matt Barnum writes:

America’s most widely used school rating system is overhauling its approach with a series of changes that will weaken the link between race, poverty, and school scores.

The website GreatSchools is rolling out the changes nationwide Thursday after introducing them for schools in California and Michigan in August. They are part of an effort by the site to make its ratings better reflect how much schools help students learn, rather than things like students’ prior academic achievement and poverty levels that schools don’t control.

“The new system is better because there is more of a focus on learning and growth and what’s actually happening in schools,” GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane said. “We know that’s more important.”

The move comes amid growing scrutiny of GreatSchools’ system of judging schools, including a Chalkbeat investigation that found that its ratings effectively steered families away from schools serving more Black, Hispanic, and low-income students.

GreatSchools says the average school will see only a modest score change. Still, the shifts mean that the tens of millions of people who find the ratings on real estate sites like Zillow will now see a different measure of school quality, potentially affecting enrollment patterns that contribute to school segregation.

Notice how the rating agency conflates test scores with learning. The changes for schools’ rating will indeed be modest because they are still measuring schools by test scores, which are highly correlated with wealth and poverty, special education status, and LEP status.

*sorry about the error in the original headline. I write most posts on my cellphone so I did not see the last words in the heading. My error and my apologies.

Denisha Jones, an expert in early childhood education and a lawyer (and a member of the board of the Betwork for Public Education) has prepared an excellent report for Defending the Early Years.

DEY advocates for sound educational practices for young children, and their advice in this report is balanced and humane.

Be sure to read the recommendations at the end of the report.

It begins:

Though the push to online learning/remote schooling was necessary to deal with a global pandemic, it ushered in fundamental changes to the lives of young children, their families, and their teachers. The speed at which schools were closed and how quickly we expected children and families to learn online or at home made it difficult for parents and teachers to prepare children for this new reality adequately. Now that another school year has begun, time to adjust to hybrid or full online/remote schooling has slipped away. As children and families spent their summer trying to regain a sense of normalcy, they now face the reality that a return to schooling as we knew it might not happen for quite some time. Some families will send their children back to socially distant schooling while others will keep them home and hire tutors or teachers and replace traditional schooling with “pandemic pods.” We recognize that all families, regardless of the option they can choose, continue to want the best for their child’s education and health and need support, resources, and guidance. We propose the following recommendations to assist families of young children and their teachers to reap as many benefits from online learning/remote schooling as possible and mitigate the challenges.

1. Do not try to replicate school at home.
This might seem unrealistic faced with another quarter, semester, or year of online learning/remote schooling, but it is essential to recognize that we cannot do at home all the things we do at school. First, parents are not teachers and even if you are a teacher, teaching your child is different than teaching someone else’s child. If you are homeschooling your child during the 2020-2021 school year, then you are your child’s teacher, but if you are working from home, you should not expect to be a full-time teacher, full-time parent, and full-time or part-time employee. Online learning/remote schooling is not traditional schooling. It is a substitute for the educational environment we typically provide children and, just like when your child has a substitute teacher at school, things cannot be precisely the same. Traditional schooling is set up to function very differently than online teaching/ remote schooling. We expect children to spend an entire day in a room with many other children and at least one adult and to complete a variety of tasks in a variety of different formats. Teachers come prepared to facilitate this environment, and, over time, many children adjust to it. Online teaching/remote schooling should not have the same expectations. Yes, children are at home all day, and yes, parents who are working from home need to keep them engaged, but that does not mean we should sit them down in front of a computer or tablet and expect them to do the same things they would do in school. In-person instruction cannot transform into online teaching for young children. Remote schooling should not mean that we expect children to do the same things that they did in school at home. For children, their families, and their teachers to gain benefits from online learning/remote schooling, we must separate the functions of traditional schooling from the realities of online learning/remote schooling.

2. 2. Use screens and technology sparingly and wisely.
Many of us are aware that an increase in screen use can be harmful to young children. But we also know
that Zoom and other platforms provide valuable connections for children whose lives have been disrupted by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, many families used technology-based communication platforms to stay connected when they lived in different geographical locations. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers love seeing grandma and grandpa on the tablet, and many love seeing their teachers and peers as well. Thus, we must find ways to incorporate these platforms that maximize their benefits but also limit their exposure. We should
not expect young children to spend more than 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, on technology. Brief opportunities to connect with their teacher and classmates that are engaging and developmentally appropriate are crucial to maximizing the use of technology. Reading stories, sharing items from home, singing songs, watching a puppet show, and playing are good examples of how technology can bring young learners and their teachers together. However, we must keep these sessions brief and optional. We know not all children want or need to be on Zoom every day. Even if the teacher offers daily 30-minutes class meetings, families should be able to decide whether to attend as many or as few as their child can handle each week. We do not recommend longer remote schooling sessions that include online teaching for young children. Just as we did not (or should not) expect young children to sit still at a desk and listen to a teacher for extended periods of time in schools, we cannot expect them to do the same at home. Remote schooling does not mean that all teaching and learning has to happen through direct online instruction.

3. Prepare children to be s 2. Use screens and technology sparingly and wisely.
Many of us are aware that an increase in screen use can be harmful to young children. But we also know that Zoom and other platforms provide valuable connections for children whose lives have been disrupted by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, many families used technology-based communication platforms to stay connected when they lived in different geographical locations. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers love seeing grandma and grandpa on the tablet, and many love seeing their teachers and peers as well. Thus, we must find ways to incorporate these platforms that maximize their benefits but also limit their exposure. We should
not expect young children to spend more than 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, on technology. Brief opportunities to connect with their teacher and classmates that are engaging and developmentally appropriate are crucial to maximizing the use of technology. Reading stories, sharing items from home, singing songs, watching a puppet show, and playing are good examples of how technology can bring young learners and their teachers together. However, we must keep these sessions brief and optional. We know not all children want or need to be on Zoom every day. Even if the teacher offers daily 30-minutes class meetings, families should be able to decide whether to attend as many or as few as their child can handle each week. We do not recommend longer remote schooling sessions that include online teaching for young children. Just as we did not (or should not) expect young children to sit still at a desk and listen to a teacher for extended periods of time in schools, we cannot expect them to do the same at home. Remote schooling does not mean that all teaching and learning has to happen through direct online instruction.

The report goes on to identify ways that parents can best help their young children navigate these difficult times.

California has been underfunding its public schools for years. The state has vast wealth but low taxes for commercial real estate, due to Prop 13, which was enacted in 1978 as part of a taxpayer revolt. It froze taxes on commercial real estate at 1975 levels.

Who are the plutocrats funding the fight against Prop 15? Investigative journalism Capital & Main followed the money.

As reporter Bobbi Murray shows, the tax system is badly skewed and vastly profitable properties are under taxes.

Prop. 15, the second of 12 initiatives to appear on California’s ballot, would establish a “split-roll” system to tax corporate and commercial property at presently assessed values instead of at rates based on purchase prices set by Proposition 13 in 1978. Chevron, for example, has saved over $100 million a year on taxes, as its property is assessed at 1975 rates.

At 1.8 million square feet, the sprawling Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, the headquarters of the Walt Disney Company media conglomerate, is also assessed at 1975 rates and gets taxed at roughly $5.60 per square foot.

Comparable rates in the area range from $150 to $200 per square foot—some older properties are still assessed at $10 to $30 a square foot.

Prop. 15 would reset the tax system in a way that could add billions to state coffers. A recent California Legislative Analyst’s Office assessment showed that, should Prop. 15 pass, “Overall, $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion per year in new property taxes would go to local governments. Sixty percent would go to cities, counties, and special districts. The other 40 percent would go to schools and community colleges.”

Homeowners and small business owners would not be affected by Prop 15.

Homeowner property tax rates are not affected by Prop. 15—there is no adjustment to the present homeowner tax structure… Small business owners with fewer than 50 employees wouldn’t see a tax hike, provided their combined commercial holdings in California are worth less than $3 million. The text of the initiative says a new tax structure would be phased in over several years—the earliest that most storefront shops would be reassessed is 2025.

The No campaign has been largely focused on stirring fears among homeowners that somehow passage of Prop. 15 will raise their property bills.

Small businesses would actually get a boost from a provision that eliminates an existing state tax on equipment investment. Under the current system, if you run a coffee shop and need to buy new stoves and refrigerators, you pay taxes based on the value of the expenditure. Prop. 15 would eliminate the tax for any expenditure under $500,000.

The No on 15 campaign, financed by wealthy businesses, has resorted to scare tactics and lies.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative has contributed to the Yes on 15 campaign.

Jacques Leslie, a regular contributor, wrote in the Los Angeles Times about Prop 15:


Proposition 15, the November ballot measure that addresses California’s rickety property tax system, has been in the works for five years. Its creators could have had no advance knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic. But COVID-19’s crippling of the state’s economy has underlined the importance of the initiative.

Proposition 15 would amend the state Constitution and deliver a sharp poke to one of the state’s most famous experiments in legislation via ballot measure: Proposition 13, the 1978 taxpayer-revolt initiative that stabilized state property taxes for many but also hobbled the state’s revenue base.

Proposition 15 is a partial repeal of Proposition 13, but the key word is “partial.” It applies only to commercial and industrial property, and only to holdings worth more than $3 million. If it passes, the assessment on such property would rise annually based on market value instead of being capped at a 2%-increase a year. (The tax rate would stay the same, 1% of the sale price of a property.)

This limited reform could generate proceeds as high as $12.4 billion a year, according to a February study by three USC researchers. Local communities would receive 60% of the revenue; schools would get 40%.

That money could turn out to be indispensable. Because of COVID-19, California is facing a $54-billion budget deficit over 19, California is facing a $54-billion budget deficit over the next year. State revenues are expected to drop by a staggering $41.2 billion compared with a pre-coronavirus projection in January. Los Angeles estimates a budget shortfall up to $400 million, with concomitant cuts in city services.

Proposition 15’s deep-pocketed opponents will portray the measure as an all-out assault on Proposition 13, an attempt to raise homeowners’ property tax. But, in fact, it would have no effect on the tax bills of most Californians. The measure exempts all residential and agricultural property, and because it targets only high-value commercial and industrial property, the owners of your local café and dry cleaners will probably be unscathed as well.

On the other hand, Disneyland, whose property tax is still based on its assessment when Proposition 13 passed, would have to pay more. In fact, the USC study found that most of the increase in state revenues would come from properties worth at least $5 million. A study released by Proposition 15 supporters this week shows that just 10% of the state’s of the state’s corporate properties — that is, the biggest ones — would generate 92% of the revenue raised by the initiative.

Besides improving the state’s bottom line, passage of Proposition 15 would have a huge symbolic effect. Before 1978, California invested generously in its future, and earned big dividends for its residents. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, the state built highways, dams and aqueducts, and its educational system earned a reputation for excellence. But Proposition 13 marked a retreat from public investment. Now California’s infrastructure is outdated, the state is ranked as the fourth-most-unequal state in the union and its school expenditures-per-pupil have dropped from 14th in 1978 to 39th. Propositition 15’s passage would mark the end of an era of magical thinking: You can’t have the benefits of government without revenues to pay for them.

Most important, Proposition 15’s reforms could go a long way toward overriding some of the most pernicious side effects of Proposition 13. For example, the initiative would eliminate the competitive tax advantage that longtime commercial property owners hold over recent buyers, which are often business startups. New businesses, a key to innovation (and in the wake of COVID-19, economic recovery) would face one less major obstacle in California.

The initiative would also stimulate new housing at a time when the state desperately needs it. Under Proposition 13, properties deliver so little revenue to municipalities that cities have encouraged retail business starts instead of housing development, because more retail means more sales taxes. Proposition 15 would prompt development of vacant urban land by increasing taxes on speculators who hold onto empty properties because their tax burdens are so low.(A 2018 UC Santa Cruz study found that vacant properties with near-market- value assessments were five times more likely to be developed than properties with 1970s and early 1980s assessments.)

The initiative would also close what has been a gaping loophole in Proposition 13 that has added to its worst effects. New, market-value property assessments of commercial properties kick in under current law only when majority ownership changes. That has enabled publicly traded corporations to avoid new assessments even though their stock ownership may have rolled over many times, and it allows landowners to buy and sell and yet maintain lower assessments by dividing purchases among enough entities so that none holds majority ownership. Companies such as Chevron, Intel and IBM own land whose assessments are still based on 1975 values, while nearby properties are assessed at values as much as 50 times higher, according to the initiative’s organizers.

That has enabled publicly traded corporations to avoid new assessments even though their stock ownership may have rolled over many times, and it allows landowners to buy and sell and yet maintain lower assessments by dividing purchases among enough entities so that none holds majority ownership. Companies such as Chevron, Intel and IBM own land whose assessments are still based on 1975 values, while nearby properties are assessed at values as much as 50 times higher, according to the initiative’s organizers.

When Proposition 13 passed, rising real estate values were pushing California homeowners’ property taxes so high some lost their homes. It solved that problem but created others, adding to the state’s epic gap between rich and poor. Without the virus, Proposition 15 ought to have won because it is just. Now it is also urgent.

A week ago, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop 15 and said it was about restoring fairness to the state’s broken taxing system.

UNICEF released a ranking of nations in terms of child wellness. The United States is one of the lowest ranking among the advanced nations of the world. The rankings do not include test scores. It’s important to understand that the test scores are the result of child wellness, not a cause. If we expect to improve children’s academic performance, we should focus on their well-being, which is a summary of causal factors. I have often said that when we are comparing students from different nations, we should look at child poverty, access to healthcare, food security, access to high-quality pre-K, and other indicators of child wellness, not test scores. This important report does that.

See the report here.

CNN reports that Trump paid no income taxes at all for 10 of 15 years since 2000. The CNN report is based on a story published by the New York Times (behind a pay wall). The Times apparently received Trump’s tax returns from an insider.

Trump denied the story and said he would release his tax returns when the IRS finishes auditing them. He has said this for four years. Being under audit is no barrier to releasing your tax returns. Trump’s taxes from 2000-2008 are no longer under audit, but he won’t release them.

If every American followed Trump’s example and dodged paying their taxes, the federal government would be unable to function.

The Times’ report did not include his returns for 2018 and 2019.

The story by Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire begins:

The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

Right now, Mayor Bill de Blasio must be thinking that mayoral control of the schools is not such a great idea. Michael Bloomberg demanded mayoral control when he was first elected mayor in 2001. The State Legislature turned the schools over to the billionaire. Despite specious claims of a “New York City Miracle,” the problems remained serious. The mayor broke almost all the large high schools into small schools. He embraced charters as an engine of innovation, which they were not.

Now de Blasio is trying to deal with a major publuc health crisis that has hurt the city’s economy, and the dilemma of reopening is on his desk.

The Council of Supeervisors and Administrators passed a resolution of no confidence in both de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza.

Leonie Haimson explains why.

New York City’s CSA (Council of Supervisors and Administrators) passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza for their poor leadership during the public health crisis and asked the state to intervene to help the public schools reopen safely.

CSA represents the city’s public school principals.

Link corrected!

In case you missed our Zoom conversation, this is the link to my discussion with Steve Suitts about his new book about the segregationist origins of “school choice.”

His book is “Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement.”