Archives for the month of: June, 2021

Dana Milbank is a regular columnist for the Washington Post and one of my favorites.

Read his latest column: “Even the Squad Is More Pro-Police than These Republicans”

Republican leaders have developed a new strategy for ousting Democrats from their majority in Congress: Blue Lies Matter.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) falsely tweeted Friday: “The ‘Defund the Police’ campaign — endorsed by Democrats — has decimated our law enforcement. … When Republicans are in the majority, we will FUND the police.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), who with McCarthy’s help ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) as Republican Conference chair, falsely tweeted Monday: “Dems’ manta [sic] ‘Defund the Police’ was one of their top policy messaging points in 2020.… GOP has always supported increasing funding for police!”

The rank and file have followed their leaders down Mendacity Lane. Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that “Joe Biden is being held hostage in the White House by the Squad and the radicals in the Democrat [sic] Party who control their party, who have spent the last year stigmatizing one of the most honorable professions in America, in our law enforcement.”
By midday Tuesday, a dozen House Republicans had tweeted messages about Democrats defunding the police.

How, then, to explain the latest “legislative scorecard” from the National Association of Police Officers, a group claiming to represent a quarter-million officers who endorsed President Donald Trump’s reelection?

McCarthy, Stefanik and Banks all scored 57 percent, and some of the back-benchers piling on Tuesday — Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.), Jody Hice (Ga.), Mo Brooks (Ala.) — scored a paltry 43 percent on NAPO’s pro-police scorecard.

And the Squad? Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) all scored 86 percent. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) scored 71 percent. Where it really counts, all four members of the Squad are more pro-police than their Republican critics.

The pattern continues when looking at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California (80 percent) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland (86 percent), compared with Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana (50 percent). Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.), one of 21 House Republicans to vote against giving medals to the police heroes of Jan. 6, scored 33 percent.

Things are a bit more even in the Senate, although Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (80 percent) bests Republican Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas (both 60 percent) and Rand Paul of Kentucky (a perfect zero).

The reason is simple. Democrats, at least at the federal level, have been the ones funding the police. The 2019-2021 scorecard is based on votes on health care, pensions, covid-19 relief, bulletproof vests, victim compensation and policing reform. There’s not yet a scorecard of votes in the new Congress, but police groups favored the American Rescue Plan covid-relief legislation, which Republicans uniformly opposed, and President Biden wants to pump $300 million more into the COPS community policing program, which Republicans have long opposed.

Few Democratic voters support defunding the police. Seventy-two percent of likely Democratic voters in New York City’s mayoral primary agreed that there should be more police officers on the street, an online poll last month by NY1 with Ipsos found. Only 20 percent disagreed.

Biden himself rejected “defund” calls during the presidential campaign. Arguing for the $350 billion in aid to states and municipalities contained in the covid relief legislation this year, he warned on at least three occasions that such funds were needed because police officers were at risk of losing their jobs.

Contrast that with McCarthy, who, well before opposing this year’s relief bill, voted against funding for the COPS program in 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011 (twice) and 2009.

Or contrast it with Banks, who was challenged on “Fox News Sunday” by host Chris Wallace: “You voted against that package, against that $350 billion, just like every other Republican in the House and Senate. So can’t you make the argument that it’s you and the Republicans who are defunding the police?” Banks tried to change the subject.

Or contrast it with Stefanik, who opposed the legislation that is now funding cops in her district. The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times reports that the city is using funds from the American Rescue Plan to reinstate four police positions that had been cut because of a budget squeeze.

Certainly, there has been a serious spike in violent crime over the past year. Undoubtedly, the justified demands from the left for policing reform, and the popular backlash since the murder of George Floyd, have taken a toll on police morale. But for every Tlaib rashly demanding “no more policing,” there’s a Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) refusing to shake hands with the Jan. 6 police hero who was beaten unconscious and suffered a concussion and heart attack.

Democrats ought to be saying, as Biden aide Cedric Richmond did on “Fox News Sunday,” “Republicans are very good at staying on talking points of who says defund the police, but the truth is, they defunded the police.” Unlike GOP leadership, the numbers don’t lie.

New Hampshire’s Republican legislature passed a bill banning teaching about racism, and Governor Chris Sununu signed it. The bill also included funding for vouchers and cuts for public schools.

Ten of the 17 members of the governor’s Diversity Council resigned in protest, citing censorship.

“It should not be taken lightly that nearly every member of the Council that is not part of your administration is resigning today, as we collectively see no path forward with this legislation in place,” the resigning members wrote in their letter to Sununu. The group includes the executive director of the New Hampshire ACLU, educators, doctors and children’s advocates. 

Sununu established the council in 2017, with a mission to “combat discrimination and advance the ends of diversity and inclusion.” 

Last week, he signed House Bill 2, a policy-focused “trailer bill” that passed along party lines in the GOP-controlled legislature. Among other provisions, the legislation bars public schools and government employees from teaching about systemic racism and bias. It also bans abortions beyond 24 weeks gestation, with exceptions only to save the life of the mother. Doctors who perform those abortions could face up to seven years in prison. 

State Rep. Jim Maggiore (D) told HuffPost that he voted against the bill because he “could not in good conscience support language restricting the free speech of Granite Staters.” He was one of the 10 council members who quit Tuesday.

Gary Rubinstein teaches mathematics at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. Stuy is a selective admissions school. It accepts only the students with the highest score on a standardized test of math and reading that is offered on one day only.

But is Stuy a good school?

The big question for this post is “Is Stuyvesant a good school?” At a first glance this may seem like a crazy question. It’s like asking “Was Mozart a good composer?,” right? Everyone knows that Stuyvesant is not just a good school, but a great one. In the US News & World Report ratings, Stuyvesant is ranked number 1 (tied with one other school) in the country in the category ‘Math and Reading Proficiency Rank.’ There are other metrics by which Stuyvesant is highly ranked. It is the most difficult school to get into since only the highest scorers on the SHSAT are admitted. There are advanced electives offered like existentialism, forensics, and quantum mechanics. The average SAT score is nearly 1500. It is also a very beautiful building that has an Olympic sized swimming pool. Nearly 20% of the graduating class goes on to either one of the Ivy League schools or MIT, Stanford, or the University of Chicago. The school newspaper rivals most college newspapers. Four alumni have won Nobel prizes. Is Stuyvesant a good school? Does a bear SHSAT in the woods?

But do those things I listed really mean the school is great or even good? If having a big pool makes a school good, why not just install one in every school at whatever cost? And if offering courses in existentialism, forensics, and quantum mechanics makes a school good, why not just offer them in all high schools? And the SAT scores and the Ivy league acceptances? Surely 8th grade SHSAT scores will correlate with 11th grade SAT scores and since Ivy league colleges use SAT scores as an admissions criteria, it will result in a lot of Ivy league acceptances.

Of course a school can be good without any of those accolades on its Wikipedia page and even if it, like most schools, does not have a Wikipedia page. So if a school doesn’t need the accolades to be good, could a school be bad even with them?

He asks what makes a good school? Is it the students or the teachers? Of course, any school that is highly selective will have high test scores. But is that a definition of a good school? As I have learned from many parents, New York City has a large number of non-selective high schools that are excellent, where students get a solid education, and are well prepared for college. A student does not need to gain admission to a school like Stuy or Bronx Science or Brooklyn Tech or any of the other exam schools to get an excellent education and to thrive in an atmosphere that is less competitive than the exam schools. I am aware of students who went to the exam schools and cracked under the pressure. Students pay a price for the prestige of winning admission.

See the full post here.

NY Chalkbeat recounts the story of a black student who won admission to York High School in Queens, one of the most selective in New York City. Admission is based on students’ test scores on one test of mathematics and reading, offered on one day. Only those with the highest scores are admitted.

The first thing Elizabeth Yarde noticed on her first day at Queens High School for the Sciences at York College was the lack of Black students.

The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Yarde felt intense stares from other students, their looks seemingly questioning Yarde’s place at the elite high school, and she heard racial slurs being tossed around freely. At lunch, when Yarde started up a conversation with a fellow student, he remarked that he had never had a Black friend before.

“I started to slowly realize that a lot of these kids had kind of been sheltered from other races of people to the point where they didn’t really know how to be racially sensitive,” said Yarde, 17, who graduated Monday. “It seemed like kids were either automatically intimidated by me, or they immediately undermined me.”

As one of the eight specialized public high schools in the city where admissions is determined solely by the Specialized High School Admissions Test, or the SHSAT, York High School, as Yarde’s school is sometimes called, does not have a student body that comes close to representing the nation’s largest public school system. Asian American students account for more than 80% of the student body – about 480 students – while only 3% of students are Black, even though Black students make up roughly a quarter of students in New York City’s public schools.

Over the course of her freshman year, Yarde felt her mental health deteriorate. Panic attacks became regular occurrences. She often felt overwhelmed and ran to the bathroom to cry. Racist remarks from other students – such as one student’s comment that his mother would rather he be gay than date a Black girl – wore her down.

Yarde begged her mother to let her transfer to a different school, but her mother encouraged her to stay. As the youngest of 10 children, and the first to attend a specialized high school, she felt significant pressure not only to stick it out but also to perform well academically.

And she has. She is graduating with a 3.8 GPA, and she will start college in the fall at Northeastern University in Boston. A member of student government and the school’s student leadership team, Yarde discovered at York High School that she has a strong voice and deft communication skills. She aspires to be a lawyer or a marketing executive one day.

But Yarde’s academic success has come at a cost, one that she is not sure she would be willing to pay again.

“I don’t personally think it was worth it,” she said. “I don’t think that Black children should always have to face trauma in order to be stronger. The world is already very difficult as a Black child – walking down the street, going anywhere with your friends, always having to be so racially aware at such a young age. If you can have a safe place for four years, eight hours a day, five days a week, you go there.”

The nation’s most segregated school system

New York City’s public school system is the most segregated in the country. According to a recent report released by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, about 85% of Black students and about 75% of Latino students attend segregated schools in the city. Only 11% of white students and 43% of Asian American students do.

The racial divide is especially evident in the city’s specialized high schools. This year, only eight Black students were offered a seat at Stuyvesant out of 749 seats, and only one Black student got into Staten Island Technical High School. At York High School, 10 Black students were offered seats, an increase from last year’s 8.

Black and Latino students, who together make up almost 70% of the school system, received 9% of offers to specialized schools for the coming school year – a decline from 11% the year before..

Ironically, Elizabeth Yarde chose to attend Northeastern University, where black students are only 3% of the enrollment. She knows she can handle it.

Leonie Haimson remembers that Bill DeBlasio promised to reduce class sizes when he first ran for mayor of New York City in 2013. She is executive director of Class Size Matters. He even signed his promise. But when he got extra money, he spent it on universal pre-K.

Now more new money is arriving for the schools, and he is resisting using it to reduce class size, despite the obvious benefits to the neediest children, those who would be helped by extra attention.

She writes:

After he was elected, de Blasio never followed through and focused on expanding preK and 3K instead.

Still, when parents pressed him about the need for smaller classes, he repeatedly said that he would do this when he finally received the full funding from the state from the CFE lawsuit.

Now that our schools are receiving that additional CFE funding of $530M next year, rising to $1.3B annually over the next three years, not to mention $7B in additional federal aid to our schools, he no longer has this or any excuse to deny NYC children their right to smaller classes.

We have heard that instead, de Blasio is arguing for spending a very small amount towards putting two teachers in a classroom. Yet doubling up on teachers has not been shown through research to have the same positive impact as lowering class size, nor does it have the same effect in terms of creating a focused, engaged learning environment.

In fact, the number of inclusion classes with two teachers has grown steadily over the last decade, and now fully one third of all elementary school children in NYC public schools are in classes with two teachers. Yet there has been NO significant improvement in achievement as gauged by the NAEP results over this period for either general ed or special ed students, or in any other way that can be measured.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have subpoenaed the campaign contributions made to the notorious Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, which operated for 20 years with minimal accountability and many political friends. The virtual charter raked in about $1 billion before it closed.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed nearly 20 years of campaign contribution records for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow — an indication that the now-closed online charter school and its key players have come under federal criminal investigation.

The USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau obtained the grand jury subpoena in response to a public records request submitted to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The Secretary of State received the subpoena because it is the custodian of campaign finance records.

The subpoena, sent Feb. 4, 2019, seeks all campaign contribution records since 2000 for ECOT, Altair Learning Management, IQ Innovations, WL Innovations, William and Jessica Lager, Richard James Harris, Melissa Vasil and Teresa Berry…

ECOT-related campaign contributions became politically toxic. Lager had been a top contributor for Republican candidates and GOP organizations, giving about $2.1 million since 2000.

In August 2017, the Ohio Republican Party returned $76,000 in campaign donations to Lager and Vasil. That refund came after former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder returned $70,000 to the Summit County Republican Party — the same amount the county party got two weeks earlier from the state GOP. Lager and Vasil each wrote $38,000 checks to the Ohio Republican Party’s state candidate fund June 26, 2017....

Bill Lager founded ECOT in 2000 and used for-profit companies he created to manage and provide IT services to the charter school.

In 2016, the Ohio Department of Education determined that ECOT had been overstating the number of students it served and the state demanded repayment of $80 million. That triggered a financial death spiral for the school, which abruptly shut its virtual doors in January 2018.

Then-state Auditor Dave Yost issued a blistering report on the operation in May 2018 and referred the audit to county and federal prosecutors for possible investigation.

Florida teacher James Ring received a prestigious award, followed by a letter of congratulations from Senator Rick Scott. Senator Scott not only praised Ring but praised himself for supporting the schools while he was Governor.

In his brilliant reply, Ring reminded Scott of his budget cuts to the schools and his support for charters and vouchers. In other words, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

Last year, New Hampshire had a Republican Governor and a Democratic legislature. The legislature blocked Governor Chris Sununu’s efforts to create vouchers and defund public schools. But Republicans gained control of the legislature in the 2020 election and are full steam ahead on privatization with 20 new federally funded charters and a full array of vouchers. Not only did the legislature endorse privatization, it banned the teaching of systemic racism, sexism, ableism, and other “divisive concepts.”

Christina Pretorious wrote the following summary for Reaching Higher New Hampshire.

Lawmakers pass budget with significant implications for public education in New Hampshire

On Thursday, June 24, lawmakers in the New Hampshire House and Senate passed two budget bills that will map out the state’s priorities and spending for the next two years. The budget bill includes provisions that will significantly change the landscape of public education in the Granite State, including a sweeping school voucher bill that will divert funding to private, religious, and home school programs. The budget also cuts funding to public schools by $25 million next year and institutes a ban on teaching and training on systemic racism, sexism, ableism, and other “divisive concepts.”

WMUR’s John DiStaso reported that Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 1 and HB 2 on Friday afternoon.

With this budget, lawmakers and the Governor had the opportunity to fully fund our public schools to ensure that they had the resources they needed to offer every New Hampshire child access to a high quality public education. Instead, they reduced public school funding by $25 million and slipped in a sweeping school voucher program that was overwhelmingly rejected by Granite Staters,” said Christina Pretorius, Reaching Higher NH’s Policy Director. “At a time when we should be focusing on a strong and inclusive recovery, this budget hurts those that were hardest hit by the pandemic. New Hampshire deserves a budget that will help our students, communities, and state thrive. The policies in this budget will intensify the consequences of our already inequitable school funding system.”The key elements of the bill include:

  • Sweeping school voucher bill: The budget includes the language of SB 130, which allows taxpayer funds to pay for private and homeschooling expenses through “Education Freedom Accounts,” or vouchers, for families who earn <300% of the federal poverty guideline (approximately $78,000 for a family of four in 2020). It has been overwhelmingly opposed by the public in hearings, polling, and in the news due to concerns over the absence of accountability or transparency provisions, the cost to the state and local school districts, and objections over using public tax dollars to fund private education. RHNH estimates that the program will cost New Hampshire $70 million in new state spending in its first three years and will cost local school districts $15 million in lost state revenue over the same time period.
  • $25 million cut in public school funding: New Hampshire public schools were faced with an $89 million drop in state funding this upcoming school year due largely to the expiration of two targeted aid programs and enrollment fluctuations. The budget allows the NH Department of Education to use pre-pandemic student counts to calculate state aid for next school year and extends one of the two targeted aid programs (renamed a “Relief Fund”), but allows the targeted aid program for property-poor communities to lapse, resulting in a $25 million cut in public school funding.
  • Tax cut for property-wealthy communities: The budget replaces a targeted property tax relief fund with a $100 million cut to the statewide education property tax (SWEPT), which disproportionately benefits owners of higher valued properties and would result in a cut in funding for residents in towns with lower property tax bases (“property-poor” towns).
  • Maintains funding for two scholarship programs: The budget maintains funding for the Governor’s STEM Scholarship Program, which allows high school students to earn college credit for up to two STEM courses per year for free through the Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Program, a partnership between the Community College System of NH (CCSNH) and the NH Department of Education, and allocates $6 million for the Governor’s Scholarship Program, which provides up to $2,000 per eligible student for postsecondary educational or training programs.
  • Adds $30 million into the school building aid fund: The school building aid fund, which was in moratorium for over a decade, will be infused with $30 million for new projects. There were approximately $250 million worth of projects proposed for the 2022-2023 biennium.
  • Maintains separate funding and governance structures for CCSNH and the University System of New Hampshire: The budget keeps both entities separate, but budget negotiators expect a legislative proposal in the fall that would merge the two systems. Learn more: WEBINAR: Higher Education Roundtable by NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness

Join the New Hampshire Education Network (NHEN) to engage with the Reaching Higher team and other Granite Staters who are passionate about public education and ensuring that all children have access to a high-quality public education. Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 13. Sign up now and be a member.

On June 4, 1989, thousands of Chinese people peacefully protested in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, demanding democratic reforms. The uprising was brutally suppressed. Since then, the Chinese government has effectively obliterated the events of 30 years ago. It has censored mention of the failed democracy and quickly punished those who dare to remember what happened. A few young people, born after 1989, learned about what happened and tried to commemorate it. “He tried to commemorate erased history. China detained him, then erased that too.”

As I read this account in the Los Angeles Times, I could not help but think of the current debate in our country about “critical race theory,” which at root is an effort to suppress honest discussion about racism and its toxic and persistent legacy. Red-state governors like Texas’ Gregg Abbott, want “patriotic education.” Tennessee passed the most extreme legislation, banning the teaching of racism, sexism, or bias.

BEIJING — He stood in Tiananmen Square, wearing sneakers, track pants and a black T-shirt printed with the date of a massacre.

It was June 4, 2019, the 30th anniversary of the killing of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing. Dong Zehua, then 28, hadn’t even been born when tanks clattered over the square and the world watched. The events on that bloody day in 1989 weren’t taught in school or ever mentioned in Chinese media. But Dong knew what had happened.

Tech-savvy and good at English, Dong had mastered circumventing the Great Firewall. He had learned about the anti-government protests and deaths through foreign websites banned in China. As the anniversary approached, he booked a train ticket and traveled to Beijing, keeping the T-shirt hidden until he was on the square.

Dong was a jiulinghou, as those born after 1990 are called in China. They are a nationalistic generation raised on “patriotic education” and state propaganda in a prosperous, increasingly strong China. Many have little knowledge of the traumas their parents endured or the ongoing suppression of Chinese citizens around them.

But there are outliers among them. A handful of Chinese youth like Dong have tried to expose and preserve China’s true history and honor those erased from the official story. They do so despite censorship, imprisonment and growing pressure from peers who are encouraged to report on anyone who criticizes the state.

Counter-narratives have been crushed by a Communist Party determined to carefully choreograph its 100th anniversary in July. That means deleting official wrongs, promoting a whitewashed version of party history, punishing those who deviate — and in recent days, expunging the records of that punishment as well.

“What they’re doing is to control every Chinese person’s thinking and erase every person’s history,” Dong said. “They want to write history themselves.”

To Dong’s surprise, two other young people were in the square the morning he arrived: Yuan Shuai, 24, a recent college graduate from Inner Mongolia working at an advertising company in Beijing, and Gao Tianqi, 21, a Beijinger attending university abroad who’d come back for the summer. Gao carried a yellow umbrella — a symbol of Hong Kong’s youth-led democracy movement — with the number “30” written on it in black marker.

They hatched a plan to interview foreigners on the square and post a video of their comments online.

“It was a normal, simple sense of justice in our hearts, thinking: I want to do this, because someone should,” said Dong. “Someone should commemorate. This shouldn’t be forgotten.”

The three were arrested within hours. Yuan and Dong were convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and sentenced, respectively, to six and seven months in jail. Gao was let go after 38 days of detention without trial.

Dong was quiet for several months after his release. But on June 4, 2020, he emailed The Times about his experience and provided a link to a judgment issued by the Beijing Dongcheng People’s Court. The Times verified the judgment, which was documented in a public archive of court rulings kept by the Supreme People’s Court online.

Last month, he contacted The Times again: The record of his arrest had vanished.

“In their eyes, it’s as if our detention never happened. It’s as if they never did it to us,” Dong said. “They deleted it … as if they can just delete all Chinese people’s memories…. With one stroke of the arm they can cover the sky.”

Last April, I published an excerpt from an essay that Andrea Gabor had written for a forthcoming book. The book is a collection of essays titled Media Capture: How Money, Digital Platforms and Governments Control the News. The book editor is Anya Schiffrin. The publisher is Columbia University Press. Gabor’s chapter is titled “Media Capture and the Corporate Education-Reform Philanthropies.”

You will enjoy her chapter.