Archives for the month of: July, 2022

Molly Olmstead writes in Slate that the rightwing plan to replace public schools with charter schools just took a big step backward in Tennessee. Governor Bill Lee, an evangelical Christian, wanted to bring 100 charter schools designed by extremist Hillsdale College to Tennessee to spread the gospel of patriotism, capitalism, and evangelical religion to the state. Hillsdale scaled the plan back to 50 schools, expecting to spread them across the state.

But then someone taped a conversation between Bill Lee and Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale. Arnn said insulting things about teachers. The Governor didn’t speak up. Then school boards got angry. They respect their teachers. Their teachers are their neighbors. Lots of Tennessee teachers are Republicans. Their neighbors don’t think they are “radical Marxists.” They know they are not “grooming” their children.

Arnn and Lee made the Hillsdale brand toxic. Arnn was out of touch. So was Governor Lee. The people of Tennessee don’t want to dump their public schools. They don’t like it when people dump on their teachers.

Back off, Governor Lee.

Go back to Michigan, Larry Arnn.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post chastises CPAC, the Trump wing of the Republican Party, for inviting Hungarian leader Viktor Orban as a keynote speaker at its meeting in Dallas this week.

He writes:

Thank you, Viktor Orban, for showing us where the American right is heading.

The Hungarian strongman, who derailed his country’s nascent democracy, has been a darling of the MAGA crowd for his anti-immigrant policies. He has enjoyed a fawning interview and favorable broadcasts from Budapest by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, and he has been invited as a featured speaker to next week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas alongside a who’s who of Republican senators, governors and members of Congress, as well as former president Donald Trump himself. Several such luminaries addressed a CPAC gathering in Hungary in May, at which Trump described Orban as “a great leader, a great gentleman.”

But Orban made things awkward for his American friends a few days ago. During a July 23 address (in which he said immigration should be called “population replacement or inundation”) he gave voice to the belief underlying his nationalism: He opposes the mixing of races.

“Migration has split Europe in two — or I could say that it has split the West in two,” he said, after commending to his listeners a 50-year-old racist treatise. “One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations. They are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples.” He went on to contrast that with “our world,” in which “we are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race.”

That was too much even for Orban’s longtime adviser Zsuzsa Hegedus, who resigned and lambasted the prime minister for “a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels.” She said the speech could “please even the most bloodthirsty racists” and suggested he was “advocating an openly racist policy that is now unacceptable even for the Western European extreme right.”

But not for the American right! CPAC’s organizer confirmed to me on Wednesday that Orban is still scheduled to address the group next week. “Let’s listen to the man speak,” Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition, told Bloomberg News on Tuesday. Orban’s name remained on CPAC’s speakers list, along with Trump; some two dozen GOP House members; Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Bill Hagerty (Tenn.); Fox News’s Sean Hannity; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; and former Trump aides including Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.

These leaders shouldn’t say they’re surprised to be sharing a stage with a man leading the fight against “peoples of mixed race.” Last year, CPAC canceled an appearance by a speaker who had referred to Judaism as a “complete lie” that was “made up for political gain.” After the Guardian reported that the CPAC conference in Budapest featured a speaker who had previously called Jews “stinking excrement,” referred to the Roma population as “animals” and used racist epithets for Black people, CPAC issued a statement saying “anti-Semitism and racial intolerance are scourges that must be eradicated.” (The program for the Budapest CPAC, from which many media organizations were banned, included live or virtual addresses by Trump, Carlson, four Republican members of Congress and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.)

Republicans have hailed Orban as “Trump before Trump” (Bannon), whose government is doing “so many positive things” (Sen. Ron Johnson). Among the things it has been doing: seizing control of the judiciary and media, banning the depiction of homosexuality, demonizing Jewish billionaire George Soros, expelling asylum seekers and erecting a wire fence on the border, forcing out the country’s top university, and halving the size of parliament and redrawing districts to keep itself in power.

At its core, Orban’s rule has been about sustaining, and being sustained by, white nationalism. His July 23 speech was an extended articulation of the “great replacement” conspiracy idea — embraced by Carlson and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), among others — that non-White people are plotting to wipe out White people.

He claimed: “Brussels, reinforced with Soros-affiliated troops, simply wants to force migrants on us.” Orban railed against a “mixed-race world” in which “European peoples are mixed together with those arriving from outside Europe.” He warned that “Islamic civilization” is “constantly moving toward Europe” and is now “occupying and flooding the West.”

“This is why we stopped the Turks at Vienna,” he said, citing the 1683 battle between a European alliance and the Ottoman Empire. “This is why, in still older times, the French stopped the Arabs at Poitiers.” This was a reference to the Battle of Tours — in the year 732, when a Frankish Christian ruler defeated an army of Moors invading from Spain.

It was good of Orban to spell that out, because now we know what Hungary’s white nationalists — and their American fan boys at CPAC — have in mind when they rage against immigration and the “great replacement.” They want to take us back to the Dark Ages.


Josh Cowan of Michigan State University has been studying vouchers for two decades. He started his studies believing that vouchers might help kids. He now believes they are a terrible mistake. He has not yet given up on charter schools, but that’s probably a matter of time. Michigan charters have a very poor track record. A very large proportion are run by for-profit organizations. Their results are poor. Michigan should rebuild its public schools and make them excellent for all students instead of funding escape hatches that lead nowhere.

He writes:

In recent years, nearly half of all states have created publicly funded private K-12 tuition plans, collectively known as school vouchers.

This summer, advocates of these plans are pushing to expand their reach, boosted by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makinthat states permitting vouchers may not exclude religious schools.

Arizona just expanded its already large voucher program; in Michigan, former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and allies have proposed a voucher scheme modeled on plans elsewhere. In June, GOP supporters in Congress reintroduced legislation to create federal funding for voucher programs.

Vouchers are dangerous to American education. They promise an all-too-simple solution to tough problems like unequal access to high-quality schools, segregation and even school safety. In small doses, years ago, vouchers seemed like they might work, but as more states have created more and larger voucher programs, experts like me have learned enough to say that these programs on balance can severely hinder academic growth — especially for vulnerable kids.

I am an education policy professor who has spent almost two decades studying programs like these, and trying to follow the data where it leads. I started this research cautiously optimistic that vouchers could help.

But in 2022 the evidence is just too stark to justify the use of public money to fund private tuition. Particularly when other choice options like charter schools and inter-district enrollment are available to families and have a better track record.

There’s also a moral case to be made against voucher programs. They promise low-income families solutions to academic inequality, but what they deliver is often little more than religious indoctrination to go alongside academic outcomes that are worse than before…

Vouchers fail to deliver for the kids who are often most in need.

The end of the Milwaukee evaluation coincided almost exactly with the circulation of a report showing shockingly bad early test score results for students in the Louisiana voucher program in the years following Hurricane Katrina.

Over time, those poor test score results for vouchers held up, and were replicated by other studies.

Too coincidently, a group of advocatesknown previously for supporting test scores in standards and accountability started pushing parental satisfaction, school safety, character and “grit” — seemingly anything to move the goalposts away from academic outcomes, which had had been disastrous under the voucher program in Louisiana.

Now, it’s true that as parents we want more for our kids than the reading, math and science skills we can measure on tests. And those of us who teach for a living want to give our students more, too. But not at a cost of catastrophic academic results. Especially not for kids struggling in school to begin with.

Today we know that those bad Louisiana academic outcomes were no fluke, and indeed were beginning to appear in places like Indiana and Ohio.

All of these results have a straightforward explanation: vouchers do not work on the large scale pushed for by advocates today. While small, early pilot voucher programsshowed at least modest positive results, expansions statewide have been awful for students. That’s because there aren’t enough decent private schools to serve at-risk kids.


New York City Mayor Eric Adams is imposing budget cuts on the public schools, and teachers of the arts are getting laid off first. Cutting the arts is incredibly stupid. Many students are motivated to attend school because of their involvement with the arts. Anyone who cuts the arts cuts joy, cuts creativity, cuts love of learning. Is Mayor Adams trying to drive students to charter schools to satisfy the billionaire hedge funders who supported his election?

On June 13, Paul Trust was called into the principal’s office at the PS 39 elementary school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he had taught music for over a decade.

In the meeting, the school’s administration told Trust that his job was in jeopardy and letting him go was the “worst-case scenario.” But after the principal met with the Borough Central Office to discuss her 2023 budget, that scenario became the reality: Trust would be “excessed,” or laid off from his position. And the school told its only other music teacher Nick Deutsch, who had been there for six years, the same thing, effectively eliminating its music department.

PS 39 was forced to decrease spending by 14%, one of approximately 1,200 district schools in New York — 77% of the city’s total — that were told to cut their budget by a specific dollar amount after Mayor Eric Adams slashed school funding by over $200 million. The cuts are tied to enrollment declines, which the majority of NYC schools experienced over the course of the pandemic. Budget decisions are at the discretion of the schools’ principals, and arts departments, already under-funded despite representing a “core academic subject,” are not protected…

In NYC, there are no allocations or guidelines mandating arts funding in schools. Reversing a 1997 initiative that earmarked arts spending per student, Mayor Mike Bloomberg eliminated mandates for the 2007 school year, allowing school principals to use previously allocated arts funding on anythingthey chose. The impact was immediate: That year, the percentage of schools without a certified art teacher rose from 20% to 30%, and spending on art supplies fell by 63%. …

The 2023 budget cuts could shrink NYC arts education programs even further, threatening the careers of public school arts teachers and leaving them with an uncertain future.

Allison Fine wrote a passionate column in defense of reproductive rights in which she quoted the civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody Is Free.”

No one is free in America today because millions of people have lost the national guarantee of the power to control if and when they have children.

But the barbaric treatment of pregnant people, and the ongoing harassment and death threats against clinicians, isn’t the end of our story, it is the beginning of a new chapter. Our job is to keep getting up, and to keep showing up, just like Fannie Lou.

Fine describes a growing ecosystem that is growing up to provide help to women who seek abortion services, including take health consultations and abortion pills by mail.

She writes that the nation is in a state of “legal chaos” as a result of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe V. Wade, reversing a Court-guaranteed right for the first time in US history.

I am raising this issue to emphasize that we are in a totally chaotic period legally right now. It is actually a really profound moment for our country in terms of national versus states’ rights. Can I mail abortion pills to Mississippi, a banned state, today? No one knows the answer. The State of Mississippi says no, but BioGenPro, one of the two U.S. manufacturers of mifepristone, the abortion medication, with the force of the FDA and national postal service behind it, says yes, and they brought suit against MississippI to force them to allow it. We need to watch how this suit unfolds very closely over the next few months.

Please remember that just because states are passing crazy-ass laws doesn’t mean those laws will stand. They will all be challenged in court.

Sadly, the Supreme Court is sure to overturn any laws that conflict with their Dobbs’ decision.

But think about reality. Can a state actually ban the mailing of abortion pills? Will they open every package delivered to every woman in their state? How can Mississippi or Texas or any other state stop women from receiving the pills?

Ron DeSantis is either very crazy or very mad. At a press conference, he claimed that elementary school teachers are “instructed” to encourage children to switch genders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is never one to let the facts get in the way of his latest bit of fear-mongering. The governor and possible presidential candidate tossed out another bit of rancid, Republican red meat, telling a crowd at a recent press conference that school teachers are “instructed to tell kids” to switch genders.

Governor DeSantis has insulted every teacher in the state of Florida. He hates teachers, except when he wants to arm them.

This attack must be part of his plan to turn parents against their local public schools and to create demand for vouchers. With vouchers, students can attend religious schools that openly indoctrinate their students.

Please watch CNN at 11 PM tonight EST for a rerun of their powerful program about two Texas billionaires who want to replace public schools with religious schools.


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Peter Wehner worked in the George W. Bush administration. He knew Elise Stefanik when she was a moderate. Like others who knew her then, he is confounded by her transformation into a Trump lapdog/bulldog.

The lust for power does strange things to people. Compare Stefanik and Liz Cheney: Stefanik abandoned all principle to curry favor with Trump. Cheney gave up her powerful position and her political future by refusing to tolerate Trump’s assault on the Constitution and Trump’s lies. Cheney was the #3 House Republican before the failed coup; she was ousted by her colleagues and replaced by Stefanik.

Wehner writes:

There was a time in 2016 when Elise Stefanik, now the third-ranking Republican in the House, was so disgusted by Donald Trump, she would barely mention his name. Today he proudly refers to her as “one of my killers.”

She proved that again last month. In an effort to undermine confidence in the select committee investigating the violent assault on the Capitol, Ms. Stefanik said, “This is not a serious investigation. This is a partisan political witch hunt.” The committee, she said, is “illegitimate.” The hearings did not change her mind. In mid-July, before the final session planned for the summer, she referred to the committee as a “sham” and declared that “it is way worse than the impeachment witch hunt parts one and two.”

Maybe Ms. Stefanik was continuing to discredit the House committee because the evidence it has produced from Trump insiders — and the compelling way the evidence has been presented — has inflicted staggering damage on Mr. Trump, even though it might not prevent him from winning the Republican presidential nomination for a third straight time. Ms. Stefanik has failed in her efforts to sabotage the committee, but it’s not for lack of trying.

Ms. Stefanik’s fealty to Mr. Trump is so great that some of his advisers are mentioning her as a potential vice-presidential candidate if he runs in 2024, which he and his advisers are strongly hinting he will do.

The transformation of Ms. Stefanik, who is 38, is among the most dramatic and significant in American politics. Her political conversion is a source of sadness and anger for several people I spoke to who were colleagues of hers — as I was in the White House of George W. Bush although I did not work with her directly — and who were, unlike me, once close to her. To them, Ms. Stefanik’s story is of a person who betrayed her principles and her country in a manic quest for power.

When the cowardly House Republicans decided to grovel before Trump despite his failed coup attempt, Liz Cheney was ousted as the #3 Republican in the House and replaced by Elise Stefanik of upstate New York. Stefanik was elected as a moderate but decided that her future would be secured by joining the Trumpists. She did and got into the mainstream, which was now subservient to the disgraced 45.

Alan Singer of Hofstra University shows that Stefanik has gone full-MAGA. She recently accused the New York State Department of Education of promoting critical race theory. What she meant was that the state expects schools to teach honest and accurate history. To a true MAGA sycophant, that is intolerable. To challenge her means you are engaged in a “witch hunt.” Is she a witch?

Singer writes:

Top House Republican leader, Trump sycophant, and conspiracy theorist extraordinaire, Representative Elise Stefanik of upstate New York, is busy attacking the New York State Department of Education claiming it is using federal funds to promote the dreaded Critical Race Theory or CRT in state public schools. Stefanik is also pressing New York education officials on how they are using money provided through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) on “social emotional learning” and “culturally responsive and sustaining education.”

State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa tried to explain to Stefanik that “the state Education Department does not provide critical race theory. It does, however, provide critical thinking. This allows our children to distinguish fact from opinion, achieve deeper understanding.” Rosa added, “Your accusation — whether intentional or negligent — is disappointing. What lesson are we teaching our children when a U.S. Representative traffics in conspiracies — and conflates opinions with fact.”

Stefanik replied “Instead of addressing my questions into the blatant misuse of federal taxpayer dollars, Commissioner Rosa shamefully attacked me. The facts in my letter were clear, and the implementation of CRT by any other name in New York classrooms is wrong. It is no surprise the Far-Left department would fail to fully comply with my request for the truth and revert to petty name-calling, because they know how outraged parents would be if they knew their hard-earned taxpayer dollars were used to peddle this radical ideology.”

Unfortunately, Stefanik, who graduated from Harvard University, seems unable to understand the distinction between Critical Race Theory and critical thinking or the difference between Critical Race Theory and respect for diversity and inclusion.

There must be something wrong with education at Harvard. Senate Republicans with Harvard degrees include rightwing Presidential hopefuls Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and “Ted” Cruz (Texas). Other Senate Republicans who are Harvard alums are Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Michael Braun (Indiana), Michael Crapo (Idaho), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Nebraska), and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). Beside Stefanik, there are five other Harvard alum serving as Republican members in the House of Representatives. Harvard can also boast rightwing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin as alums. Youngkin recently appointed a Civil War apologist to the Virginia historic resources board who insist that the he Civil War was fought to defend the “sovereignty of each state and constitutional law” and that statues celebrating Confederate leaders who made war against the United States “were built to tell the true story of the American South.”

Jon Stewart, the long-time star of “The Daily Show,” devotes his time to lobbying on behalf of veterans who suffered grievous harm while defending our country. He raged yesterday against Senate Republicans who suddenly withdrew their support for legislation to provide long-term care for veterans who suffered from exposure to burn pits.

(CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democrats and comedian and activist Jon Stewart railed against Senate Republicans who voted against legislation to help veterans suffering from ailments related to toxic burn pits, calling it a “gut punch” to the veterans who had come to Capitol Hill to celebrate the legislation.

“So ain’t this a bitch?” Stewart said Thursday at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “America’s heroes, who fought our wars, outside sweating their asses off, with oxygen battling all kinds of ailments, while these motherf**kers sit in the air conditioning walled off from any of it? They don’t have to hear it. They don’t have to see it. They don’t have to understand that these are human beings. Did you get it yet?”

“And if this is America First, then America is f**ked,” he said.

Stewart, speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” said later of lawmakers, “I’m used to lies. I’m used to hypocrisy. I’m used to their cowardice. I’m not used to the cruelty, the casual cruelty … a bill they had fought for, for more than a decade.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Stewart said earlier during the news conference, lied to veterans by saying “we’ll get it done” and then voting against the bill. Stewart also criticized Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican retiring at the end of his term.

“Pat Toomey didn’t lose his job. He’s walking away,” Stewart said. “God knows what kind of pot of gold he’s stepping into to lobby this government to shit on more people. I’m used to all of it, but I’m not used to the cruelty.”

Stewart apologized for his foul language, but then outlined what the senators were voting against, with a veteran saying the bill “gives them health care, gives them benefits, lets them live from become an addict, keeps veterans from committing suicide.”

Historian Heather Cox Richardson explained that Senate Republicans were acting out of spite because they were angry that Democrats had reached agreement with Senator Manchin to pass a bill to boost technology and oppose climate change.

Blogger Robert Hubbell explains that Senate Republicans are voting against popular bills solely to punish Democrats for reaching agreement on the climate/energy bill. Republicans want to go into the midterm elections running against a Democratic Party that failed to accomplish anything.

Hubbell writes:

Just how good is the surprise agreement between Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin? It is so good it has caused a Republican nuclear meltdown resulting in an uncontrolled release of anger and irrationality. Under orders from Mitch McConnell, Republicans are seeking revenge by voting against legislation they previously supported—thereby voting against the interests of their constituents and American business.

So, too, with the Respect for Marriage Act. Susan Collins was attempting to convince her Senate colleagues to support a bill granting federal recognition to same-sex and “inter-racial” marriages. After Schumer and Manchin announced a deal on the Inflation Reduction Act, Susan Collins said that it would be “much harder” to pass the Respect for Marriage Act because Manchin and Schumer kept their negotiations “under wraps” until after Senate Republicans voted in favor of the CHIPS Act.

For example, Republicans supported the $52 billion investment in the US semiconductor industry (the so-called CHIPS and Science Act). The CHIPS Act was widely popular among Republicans because it challenged Chinese dominance in semiconductor manufacturing. After Manchin and Schumer resurrected the Inflation Reduction Act, House Republicans voted against the CHIPS Act en masse—thereby voting against American jobs, technology, and cybersecurity. Despite the Republican tantrum, the CHIPS Act passed and is headed to Biden’s desk for signature—a BIG win for Democrats.

Hmm . . . because Democrats kept negotiations among Democrats under wraps regarding the Inflation Reduction Act, that is cause for Republicans to vote against federal recognition of same-sex marriage? That makes sense only if the GOP’s animating principle is to frustrate Democratic efforts to do anything.

Another example is the GOP’s cruel flip-flop on support for a bill providing compensation to military veterans injured and sickened by toxic “burn pits.” The PACT Act had previously passed in the Senate with support from 42 Republican Senators. On Thursday, the PACT Act came back for another vote in the Senate (to approve technical changes). To “punish” Democrats, Senate Republicans voted against the bill they previously supported. The only people Republicans “punished” by voting against the bill were veterans suffering from cancer and emphysema from toxic fumes generated by “burn pits” used to dispose of ammunition.

Former Daily Show host John Stewart (now veterans advocate) was furious at the GOP’s betrayal of veterans. See Newsweek, Jon Stewart Calls Out GOP ‘Cruelty’ After Vote Against Veterans’ PACT Act. Republicans will regret their cruel vote, especially Ted Cruz, who was caught celebrating the defeat of the bill by “fist bumping” GOP Whip Senator John Thune on the Senate floor—a gesture that will rank with Josh Hawley’s “white power salute” to the insurrectionists on January 6th.

The GOP’s votes against American competitiveness, jobs, veterans, and same-sex marriage are irrational and destructive. Republicans are providing free advertising copy for Democrats in the midterms. While it remains too early to attach reliance on polls, the trends are moving in favor of Democrats (but by no means assure Democratic victory).

With each cruel vote—including upcoming votes to safeguard contraception and abortion at the national level—Republicans will distance themselves from persuadable independents. Indeed, as the three votes today demonstrate, Republicans have no interest in governing but are concerned only about obstructing the Democratic agenda—even if that agenda benefits Republican constituents.

The Republicans have become the party of “rule or ruin.”