Archives for the month of: January, 2021

If you live in Missouri, get active to stop this dangerous effort to destroy your public schools!

Dear Friend,

If you love your public schools you need to drop what you are doing and get to work.

There is only one intent of Senate Bill 55–to destroy public education in Missouri. It was pushed through the Senate Education Committee early this morning and may go to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week. 

1. Call your state senators NOW and ask them to support public schools by OPPOSING Senate Bill 55. You can find your Senator and their phone number by going here

2. Click here and send an email in opposition to Senate Bill 55 NOW.

3. Share this link with friends and family who live in the statehttps://actionnetwork.org/letters/oppose-senate-bill-55/

Below is the notice we just received from the Missouri School Boards Association information that provides background on the bill.

“The Senate Education Committee jammed through a mega bill on Thursday that will be heard on the Senate floor soon. Senate Bills 23 and 25 started out creating voucher schemes and expanding charter schools but were loaded up on SB 55 at the last minute with a long list of provisions hostile to public education that have never even had a public hearing. The bill now includes:

  • School Board Member Recall: Requires an election to recall a school board member if a petition is submitted signed by at least 25% of the number of voters in the last school board election.
  • Education Scholarship Account/Vouchers:Creates up to $100 million in tax credits for donations to an organization that gives out scholarships for students to attend a home school or private school – including for-profit virtual schools.
  • Charter School Expansion: Authorizes charter schools to be opened in an additional 61 school districts located in Jackson, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties or in cities of 30,000 or more and allows charters opened in provisionally and unaccredited districts to remain open even after the school district regains accreditation.
  • Turning MOCAP into Virtual Charter Schools: Allows students enrolling in MOCAP full time to apply directly to the vendor and cuts the resident school district and professional educators out of the process.
  • Home school students allowed to participate in MSHSAA activities. Districts are prohibited from belonging to MSHSAA unless home schooled students are allowed to participate in district athletics and activities governed by MSHSAA.
  • Limiting State Board of Education: Restricts members of the state board of education to serve only one full term.”

Read more on these issues here.

Please send your email, make your calls and thank you for all you do. 

Carol Burris

Executive Director

Network for Public Education

On the day before the election, Donald Trump signed an executive order establishing a “1776 Commission” to rewrite American history. This commission was intended to refute the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which told the story of American history from the view of African Americans. It was also, allegedly, an answer to “critical race theory,” which you can be sure Trump could not define. I thought this was a bad idea, since history should be written by historians, not by presidential commissions packed with cronies and ideologues.

On December 18, with 33 days left in his term in office, Trump announced the members of his commission, all predictably conservatives and reactionaries. The group was headed by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, a Trump ally. I called this “absurd.”

Many thought that the commission couldn’t possibly rewrite American history in the few days allowed to them, but miraculously they issued a report just a few days ago. Presumably, it was written before the commission ever met (if it ever met). The commission said that slavery was unfortunate but it was widespread and everyone did slavery. So there.

Talk about looking on the bright side!

Ironically, the not-long-awaited report was released on Martin Luther King Day. MSNBC host Chris Hayes said it read like a sophomore year term paper by Stephen Miller, Trump’s minister of hate. He interviewed Christina Greer, a professor at Fordham University, and said that Hayes was too generous. She said it read like the term paper of a sophomore in high school.

Peter Greene, who specializes in reading horrible reports so that others don’t have to, gave the report its due: It is awful. Beyond awful. It is rightwing drivel.

The 1776 Commission released their thing today, and pardon my French, Mom, but holy shit is it bad. You knew it was going to be bad. It’s really bad. You probably didn’t know that Progressivism is on the same Challenges to American Principles list with slavery and fascism. Slavery, by the way, is addressed primarily through a massive whataboutism. 45 pages, and every one of them is filled with horrific, racist, dumb, awful awfulness (okay, pages 2 and 4 are blank). 43 pages of awful (without any footnotes or endnotes or citations or bibliography in sight for this work of ultimate scholarship). I don’t have the time at the moment to pick apart all of it (I’ll link to it, but you really shouldn’t read it on a full stomach, and empty stomach, or at the end of a hard day)...

It’s like someone managed to take the 1950s version of squeaky clean white American life and mash it up with 1950s style Soviet Commie borg-style mind-melding. No critical thinking here. This is “education” that rejects pluralism, inquiry, actual thought and scholarship, while simultaneously nodding at and minimizing injustice, asserting that victims of such injustice should stay calm and love their country because it includes people who have the right values (and the right personal circumstances). 

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and may the Biden administration swiftly drop this damned thing into the deepest circular file in DC. 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order last night wiping out Trump’s 1776 Commission.

Rebecca Klein, education editor of Huffington Post, reviewed the textbooks written for and used in Christian schools and found that they repeated the lies of Trump and the far-right. Because of vouchers, many of these Christian schools receive public funds.

Klein wrote:

Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the “fighter” Republicans want, a HuffPost analysis has found.

The analysis, which focused on three popular textbooks from two major publishers of Christian educational materials ― Abeka and BJU Press ― looked at how the books teach the Trump era of politics. We found that all three are characterized by a skewed version of history and a sense that the country is experiencing an urgent moral decline that can only be fixed by conservative Christian policies. Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well. 

Scholars say textbooks like these, with their alternate versions of history and emphasis on Christian national identity, represent one small part of the conditions that lead to events like last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, an episode that was permeated with the symbols of Christian nationalism. Before storming the Capitol, some groups prayed in the name of Jesus and asked for divine protection. They flew Christian and “Jesus 2020” flags and pointed to Trump’s presidency as the will of God. The linkage between Christian beliefs and the violent attack on Congress has since pushed evangelical leaders to confront their own relationship with Trump and their support for the rioters...

Representatives from BJU Press and Abeka did not respond to inquiries about how many schools use their products. However, a 2017 HuffPost investigation found that about one-third of Christian schools participating in private school choice programs used a curriculum created by these two publishers or a similar company called Accelerated Christian Education, amounting to around 2,400 schools. The number of schools using these company’s products that do not participate in a voucher program likely amounts to thousands more. (Voucher programs allow students to use taxpayer funds to attend private schools.) 

HuffPost’s previous investigation of these textbooks found that they also dismiss evolution as junk science, characterize Nelson Mandela as a “marxist agitator” who helped drive South Africa to “radical affirmative action,” and suggest that Satan hatched the idea of modern psychology. Many of the schools that use these books also ban LGBTQ students and families, and the books repeatedly condemn homosexuality. At one point in an Abeka textbook, slavery is described in purely economic terms, saying that “slaves seemed to be better investments than indentured servants.”

“I absolutely thought of these textbooks when watching what played out last week,” Wellman said. “It’s the anti-science culture, anti-elite, the identification of Christianity with military culture.”


Tom Ultican has written extensively about the insidious goals of “reformers,” who move forward despite multiple failures because of their billionaire funding.

In this post, he reviews the Biden education team, which is not yet fleshed out. He wrote this post before the announcement that Cindy Marten, the Superintendent of Schools in San Diego, was selected to be Deputy Secretary. This will be the first time in history that the top two jobs in the Department of Education were held by people who were actual educators with classroom experience. He added a comment about Superintendent Marten.

Tom Ultican defines the unanswered questions:

Joe Biden has chosen a person with an education background to lead the department of education but his experience running large organizations is almost non-existent. He was assistant superintendent of a school district with less than 9,000 students from 2013 to 2019. He then became Education Commissioner of Connecticut. That system serves less than 530,000 students. His primary strength seems to be he has not engaged with the controversial education issues of the day like “school choice” and testing accountability.

Which begs the question, will the Biden-Harris administration support and revitalize public schools or will they bow to big moneyed interests who make campaign contributions? Will Biden-Harris continue the neoliberal ideology of “school choice” or will they revitalize public schools? Will they continue wasting money on standardized testing that only accurately correlates with family economic conditions or will they reign in this wasteful practice?

Tom Ultican added:

Update added 1/19/2021: Today, Cindy Marten was nominated by Joe Biden to be Deputy Secretary of Education. I have met Marten a few times and believe she is a special kind of leader committed to public education. This gives me great hope. For the first time, we have two educators with deep k-12 experience running the Department of Education. This article from the San Diego Union gives a good synopsis of her education career. In his announcement Biden noted, “Superintendent, principal, vice principal and literacy specialist are all job titles Marten has held in her 32-year career as an educator.” The appointment makes me think the Biden administration may become the best friend public education has had in Washington DC since the Department of Education was created. Of course, Marten does not walk on water but from my perspective she is the real deal.
– tom

The Connecticut Mirror wrote a revealing in-depth analysis of Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona’s life, career, and education ideas.

His meteoric rise has been well documented. He grew up in poverty. He started public school in Meriden, Connecticut, not speaking English. He saw education as his route to a better life.

He became a teacher, then a principal, then assistant superintendent of the Meriden district of 8,000 students. From there, he was tapped to become State Commissioner of Schools.

From the outside, the Meriden Public Schools system looks like a network of struggling city schools.

The state has designated it an Alliance District and one of the “lowest-performing districts” since more than one-quarter of the students are multiple grades behind in English, math and science. It is also an economically isolated district that spends 30% less per student than the state average despite three-quarters of its students coming from low-income families. And the school ratings often used in real estate listings don’t look favorably on the district, either.

This is where Miguel Cardona — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to become the next U.S. education secretary — grew up and spent 21 years of his 23-year career as an educator. And his experiences there — his battles and the district’s successes — will likely be front-of-mind as he coordinates policy for all the public schools in the country.

Cardona has never put much weight into titles, and he has grown used to defying low expectations set upon him and his students.

In Meriden, it meant broadening opportunity by opening access to advanced-level courses to drastically more students, embracing the Common Core standards and the accompanying tests that raised the bar for where students should be academically, providing emotional support and interventions for students acting out rather than suspending them, and setting up programs to help more high school graduates navigate to college.

Cardona also took the lead in Meriden to fine-tune controversial education reforms aimed at teacher accountability that were being pushed onto his district by state and federal officials into a model that the local union eventually supported.

Meriden’s results are ahead of most districts’ throughout the state on arguably the most important benchmark — the share of students who meet their growth targets and are on track to catch up or stay ahead.

Statewide, 33% of students from low-income families were on track to catch up in English Language Arts, compared to 39% of the poor students in Meriden by the end of the 2018-19 school year, the last year Cardona was the district’s assistant superintendent before becoming state education commissioner. In math, 37% of poor students in Meriden were on track, compared to 34% statewide. The growth of Meriden students also jumps out compared to the state’s 32 other “low-performing” Alliance Districts.

The share of Meriden students from low-income households reaching their growth targets has outpaced state averages nearly every year since 2014-15, when the state first started measuring whether students were on track to catch up.

The leader of Biden’s education transition team, Linda Darling-Hammond, served on a panel with Cardona when he was an assistant superintendent and was very impressed. That meeting was probably the key to his remarkable ascension.

This article provides insight into the educator who will lead the U.S. Depatnentbof Education in the Biden administration.

This is a great post by Mike Klonsky about the ignominious end of the Trump nightmare.

He planned a big military send-off for himself but was afraid no one would show up, so the invitations went out to people like John Bolton and Anthony Scaramucci, who long ago deserted him. Every invitee was asked to bring five friends to bulk up the audience. Someone said on CNN today that she had seen more people in an Apple store than showed up for Trump’s departure.

Not even Mike Pence showed up! Maybe he was annoyed that Trump told his mob to go after Pence when they vandalized the Capitol building, and they set up a scaffold and chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” That’s not the way you reward four years of puppy-dog loyalty!

Mike also laughed, as I did, at the thought that Woody Guthrie’s iconic “This Land Is Your Land” was sung at the Inauguration. If only Woody knew!

Politico reports that Trump officials at the Pentagon refused to share information with the Biden transition team.

Shameful but typical of Trump, who lacks any sense of propriety, decency, duty, or patriotism.

The Pentagon blocked members of President Joe Biden’s incoming administration from gaining access to critical information about current operations, including the troop drawdown in Afghanistan, upcoming special operations missions in Africa and the Covid-19 vaccine distribution program, according to new details provided by transition and defense officials.

The effort to obstruct the Biden team, led by senior White House appointees at the Pentagon, is unprecedented in modern presidential transitions and will hobble the new administration on key national security matters as it takes over positions in the Defense Department on Wednesday, the officials said.

Typical Trump. Mean of spirit. Unconcerned with the well-being of the country. Lie a spoiled child, he screams, “All the toys are mine. If you try to take them away, I’ll break them. Mine, all mine.”

A fitting ending to four years of the worst president in American history.

It felt as though it would never be over. Our long national nightmare has come to an end (to repeat a

But it did! Proving that all bad things must finally come to an end.

Now we await the trials and prosecutions. First, the Senate. Then the trials in New York City and New York State. Maybe one in Atlanta for election tampering.

Justice and accountability must be served.

My hunch: when the insider accounts are published, we will learn that he had no interest in governing or policy. He just liked the trappings of power. He liked winning. He liked being saluted. We will learn why he was obsequious to Putin. His tax returns will become public.


Now go watch the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. They have a big task ahead cleaning up the mess that Trump left behind. Our nation will once again have a chance of living up to its lofty ideals, abandoned for four horrible years.

Congratulations to the new President and Vice-President!

I “attended” only one Inauguration, that of John F. Kennedy in 1961. I had been married only six months, and my husband and I took the train to D.C. It was a bitter cold and snowy day. Our train contained many members of Congress. Because of the snow, the train crawled and arrived very late.. All of us heard JFK’s stirring Inaugural Address on our portable radios, one train. We missed a historic moment. It was a frustrating moment for all of us, me especially, because I had worked for months in the Kennedy campaign, at campaign headquarters at 277 Park Avenue in Manhattan (since replaced by a high-rise building). I remember when he visited us. I was struck by how freckled he was and starstruck like everyone else.

Our reader Greg B. reflects on the importance of the Inaugural ceremony.

It strikes me that the upcoming inauguration can only be compared to both of Lincoln’s inaugurations. They will have been the only three in which there was serious concern about the life of the president. I think, very sadly, the many of us here and elsewhere who have expressed fear about the rise of fascism and intolerance in this nation over the past five years have been proven to be correct. What I feared in 1989 when I was a part of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism has come to fruition.

Making it even sadder, the only inauguration I experienced personally was the Clinton’s first in 1993. It was a celebration. The tents from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival were erected on the National Mall for a musical, culinary and cultural celebration. It featured musical acts from the range of American experience. I remember being in the tent that had McCoy Tyner, followed by Etta James, followed by Booker T and MGs (!!!), and concluded by the Very Rev. Al Green (!!!!!!). Front freaking row. Free. For the people.

I remember sobbing like a baby when watching tv as the crowd at Obama’s first inaugural celebrated in peace and joy and wishing I could have been there. And while I was just a baby, I remember later learning about JFK’s stirring speech at his inaugural. I also remember laughing at Sean whatever-his-name-is making a fool of himself and cheering my wife and her friends on at the Women’s March from a distance four years ago.

The Idiot has taught me how to hate, something I didn’t think would have been possible four years ago. But mostly, I hate what this craven Idiot and his enablers have done to our national rituals, rituals that confirm the legitmacy–not perfection–of our system of governing. And what they continue to do. They have robbed our Nation–and more importantly, our Nation’s historical and international standing–of an essential act of legitimacy. Murderers of people and our system of governing are still at large, both within and outside of our governing institutions. We must take it back. More importantly, we must all pledge to protect President Biden. Whether we supported his candidacy or not, we must do so to restore this nation’s legitimacy, for us, the world and posterity.

Michelle Boorstein writes about religion for the Washington Post. In this article, she explores the roots of Biden’s deep faith. This is an excerpt of a longer article.

Pitching himself as president, Joe Biden promised to heal America’s hurting soul. His experiences with suffering and healing were well known, including the deaths of his wife and two of his children, his struggle against stuttering and many political losses.

On a bigger stage than ever, Biden was trying to show the country how he did it.
 Through his Catholic faith.


“For me, faith, it’s all about hope and purpose and strength,” Biden said in a February video ad. “Faith sees best in the dark.”
“Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning,” he quoted from the Book of Psalms in October.


Now, Biden will lead a nation deeply in need of healing — with soaring coronavirus cases, thousands dying daily and millions out of work and hunkered down in isolation. But he is facing not one America but two, each claiming with new religious fervor that God and righteousness are on its side.


As divided as any are Biden’s own people, U.S. Catholics, with millions who don’t even see him as a legitimate Catholic at all, because of his support for abortion access and LGBT equality.


The question is how the country will adjust to a man whose faith doesn’t feature literal Bible-waving promises to “save Christianity” or threats that political opponents might eliminate God (all Trumpian moments).


Biden presents a less common image: a devout, churchgoing liberal. The country will soon observe for the first time a president who goes to Mass every Sunday, plus on Catholic feast days, and sprinkles conversation casually with scripture, religious hymns and references to religious history but describes faith’s purpose in general, inclusive terms — as sustenance for the weary, encouragement for the suffering and an obligation to welcome and care for one another.


Can Biden heal today’s America?
Catholicism and its structures — its poetry, humor, teachings, rituals — have always been how Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has understood healing, others and himself.




“Catholicism and family provide the substructure of his life. … That’s his whole conception of how society works,” said Evan Osnos, a writer for the New Yorker who recently published a book on Biden and his 2020 run for president. “It’s more personal than political. That’s what separates him from 2021 in Washington, D.C., where there are few ways in which religion is not part of politics. Biden doesn’t go out of his way to make it that.”



“I think he’ll try very hard like he always does at everything to bring people together and build bridges,” said Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., a Pennsylvania Democrat who grew up in the same Catholic community of Scranton as Biden. “He’ll have more patience than I would have.”


Millions of Americans hungry for a faith focused on healing and inclusion will embrace it — especially on the left, where believers have felt trampled by the religious right into nonexistence since the 1970s.
Millions of others will reject Biden’s version of religiosity, one that’s less tied to doctrine, less likely to honor religious conservatives’ legal demands, less invested in America as a Christian nation. This is problematic for many on the right. A 2020 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found sharp partisan divides on the issue of religious diversity, with 43 percent of Republicans preferring the country to be made up “primarily” of Christians, compared with 16 percent of Democrats.


Some further to Biden’s left will also bemoan his unwillingness to draw a direct line from the gospels to policy changes like free higher education and universal health care.




But what makes Biden different, says Villanova University theologian Massimo Faggioli — whose spiritual biography of the president-elect is being published this month — is that he’s unapologetic.
“Joe Biden is a Catholic in the public square who doesn’t take lectures from bishops about what being Catholic is about. This is totally new,” Faggioli said.


His desire to be a uniter will be tested quickly on the religious front. On Jan. 29, nine days after Biden’s inauguration, perhaps the largest annual gathering of U.S. Catholics will take place blocks from the White House: the March for Life, where tens of thousands of mostly Catholic abortion opponents rally. The march has become heavily Republican in recent years, filled with abortion opponents willing to overlook President Trump’s record-breaking number of executions and his laissez-faire approach to a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands in the United States. In 2020, Trump became the first U.S. president to speak live at the march. This year, it will undoubtedly feature many speakers and signs challenging Biden’s faith.


But Biden has long pushed back on the idea that, for him, faith must lead to policies.
“I’m prepared to accept doctrine on a whole range of issues as a Catholic. … I’m prepared to accept as a matter of faith — my wife and I, my family — the issue of abortion. But what I’m not prepared to do is impose a rigid view, a precise view … that is born out of my faith, on other people who are equally God-fearing, equally as committed to life,” Biden told the Jesuit magazine America in a 2015 videotaped interview.




Yet Biden has bound up his promises to make significant social change in areas from health care to the environment with that to “restore the soul of the nation.” If he is a healer, Biden has an epic pastoral challenge.


The shaping of Biden’s religiosity stems from two sources — his family and his era.


He was raised in working-class, Irish-Catholic communities, where faith routines and Catholic institutions such as schools and parishes were everything. When Biden talks about his Catholic upbringing, he usually repeats the word “dignity” multiple times. The dignity of work. The dignity of the poor.


“My father would say, ‘The cardinal sin of all sins is the abuse of power,’” Biden told America editor Matt Malone in the 2015 interview. “Whether it’s a man raising his hand to a woman, whether it’s economic power being evoked and asserted over someone else, whether it is the government abusing its power. And that’s how I look at what this is all about.”