Archives for the month of: April, 2023

A “transfer school” in New York City is one that enrolls high school students—some in their early 20s—who have fallen far behind and need intensive support to graduate. The Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School is a transfer school. It has been a life-saver for students who would otherwise have dropped out. The school has a wonderful range of facilities: “the suite of services West Side has offered from its specially designed West 102nd Street building—equipped with a gym big enough for Public School Athletic League play, a working kitchen for cooking classes, a health clinic, a childcare center and a youth employment program—can be transformative.

Unfortunately for the West Side High School, another school wants its building. The Young Women’s Leadership Academy wants a swap. As journalist Liz Rosenberg reports, the students and teachers at West Side High School don’t want to move. The YWLA building is smaller and lacks the amenities of West Side High School.

But YWLA has some advantages. It was founded by Ann Tisch, who is part of the billionaire Tisch family, who are part of the ownership of the Loew’s Corporation.

Some West Side supporters question whether the Andrew H. and Ann R. Tisch Foundation’s support for the Young Women’s Leadership School, its backing of the Eagle Academy Foundation led by Banks until he was appointed by Mayor Eric Adams in 2022 and its working relationships with both city officials—is playing a role in the DOE’s plans.

There are six YWLA schools in the city, and more in other cities. Last year, their network received a gift of $7 million from McKenzie Scott. Over the past years, the Tisch Foundation gave $50,000 to the Eagle Academy schools run by now-Chancellor David Banks.

Will these cozy relationships encourage the City to mandate the building swap?

Or will the billionaire Tisch family use some of their assets to build or buy a suitable structure for their YWLA? It would also be a good use of MacKenzie Scott’s millions.

The 23-member Panel on Educational Policy will vote tomorrow night on the swap. Thirteen members of the Panel were appointed by the Mayor, as was Chancellor Banks.

Heather Cox Richardson uses her analytical skills as a historian to demonstrate how Republicans are using their control of deep red states to impose unpopular policies, like abortion and easy access to guns. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, voters have affirmed abortion rights even in Kansas. So Republicans elsewhere are restricting the right to vote to protect their unpopular policies. The more they cut back the right to vote, the more they undermine democracy. Please consider subscribing to this excellent blog.

Richardson writes:

According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, legislatures in at least ten states have set out to weaken federal child labor laws. In the first three months of 2023, legislators in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota introduced bills to weaken the regulations that protect children in the workplace, and in March, Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law repealing restrictions for workers younger than 16.

Those in favor of the new policies argue that fewer restrictions on child labor will protect parents’ rights, but in fact the new labor measures have been written by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a Florida-based right-wing think tank. FGA is working to dismantle the federal government to get rid of business regulations. It has focused on advancing its ideology through the states for a while now, but the argument that its legislation protects parental rights has recently enabled them to wedge open a door to attack regulations more broadly.

FGA is part of a larger story about Republicans’ attempt to undermine federal power in order to enact a radical agenda through their control of the states.

That goal has been part of the Republican agenda since the 1980s, as leaders who hated federal regulation of business, provision of a social safety net, and protection of civil rights recognized that a strong majority of Americans actually quite liked those things and getting Congress to repeal them would be a terribly hard sell. Instead, Republicans used their control of federal courts to weaken the power of the federal government and send power back to the states.

Historically, states have been far easier than the much larger, more diverse federal government for a few wealthy men to dominate. After 1986, Republicans began to restrict voting in the states they controlled, giving themselves an advantage, and after 2010 they focused on taking over the states through gerrymandering. This has enabled them to stop Congress from enacting popular legislation and has created quite radical state legislatures. Currently, in 29 of them, Republicans have supermajorities, permitting them to legislate however they wish.

The process of taking control of the states by choosing who can vote got stronger today when the North Carolina Supreme Court, now controlled by Republicans, revisited an earlier ruling concerning partisan gerrymandering. Overruling the previous decision, the court green-lighted partisan gerrymandering, opening the door for even more extreme gerrymanders in the future. The court also okayed voter restrictions that primarily affect Black people.

Gutting the federal government and throwing power to the states makes it easier for business leaders to cozy up to legislators and slash business regulations. It also enables a radical minority to enact its own worldview despite the wishes of the state. This dynamic is very clear over abortion rights and gun safety.

Last June, quite dramatically, the Supreme Court overturned federal protection of the right to an abortion guaranteed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision the right-wing court said that decisions about abortion rights belonged to voters at the state level.

But as the last ten months have made clear, the right wing does not really intend to let the voters of the states make decisions that contradict right-wing ideology.

After the Dobbs decision, Republican-dominated legislatures immediately began to restrict the right to abortion, although it remains popular in the country and voters have rejected extreme abortion restrictions in every special election held since the decision. Now Republican legislators in Ohio are trying to head off an abortion rights amendment scheduled for a popular vote in November by requiring 60% of voters, rather than 50%, to amend the state constitution.

Gun safety shows the same pattern. A new Fox News poll out yesterday shows that 87% of voters favor background checks for gun purchases, 81% favor making 21 the minimum age to buy a gun, 80% want mental health care checks on all gun buyers, 80% want flags for people who are dangerous to themselves or others, 77% want a 30-day waiting period to buy a gun, and 61% want an assault weapons ban.

And yet, Republican majorities in state legislatures are rapidly rolling back gun laws. Republican lawmakers in the Tennessee legislature went so far recently as to expel two young Black representatives when they encouraged protesters after the majority quashed their attempts to introduce gun safety measures after a mass shooting in Nashville. But they were not alone. Last week, when the Nebraska senate passed a permitless concealed carry law, Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, shouted “Shame!” multiple times. She has since been “barred and banned” from the Nebraska statehouse.

The attempt of a radical minority to enforce their will on the rest of us, who constitute a majority, by stealing control of the states and then, through them, control of the federal government is precisely what the Confederates tried to do before the Civil War: it is no accident that one of the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, carried a replica of a Confederate battle flag.

And yet, in the wake of the Civil War, when former Confederates tried to dominate their Black neighbors despite the defeat of their ideology on the battlefields, Congress tried to make it impossible to pervert our democracy by capturing the states. It passed and in 1868 the states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, putting into our fundamental laws the principle that the federal government trumps state power.

It reads, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” and it gives Congress the “power to enforce…the provisions of this article.”

Please open the link to read the footnotes.

Fabiola Santiago is a wonderful columnist who writes for the Miami Herald. Whenever I read her opinions, I find myself vigorously agreeing. In this column, she wrote about DeSsntis’s spiteful treatment of immigrants, which is abetted by people who were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Florida, once known for its diversity, is rapidly becoming a stronghold of white and Christian supremacy (DeSantis appeals to Jews in Florida by his devotion to Israel, which also pleases evangelical Christians). Santiago notes that DeSantis will harass businesses that hire undocumented immmigrants (think hotels, restaurants, farms), but exclude businesses owned by his donors. Sounds like fertile ground for a shakedown: contribute to the DeSantis campaign and avoid prosecution.

Santiago wrote recently:

Immigrant-hate-stoking Florida Gov. DeSantis should be persona non grata in South Florida. But gullible voters eagerly follow charlatans.

There are plenty of reasons to whisk away the welcome mat — DeSantis has attacked practically every distinctive feature we once stood for — none more repulsive than his loathing of undocumented immigrants, encapsulated in an immigration bill making its way through the Legislature.

This is a region risen from the tears and triumphs of decades of immigration, and BD — Before DeSantis — even Republican politicians held us up as an example of the heights a diverse community can reach.

Before the abhorrent “Florida blueprint” DeSantis is peddling nationwide — autocracy, anti-gay, anti-Black and anti-women’s rights, anti-immigrant measures — we were heralded as America’s model city of the future.

Now, GOP state lawmakers stand in solidarity with inconceivable intrusion in our communities by a governor with runaway ambition.

Simply put, both versions of the same proposal, House Bill 1617 and Senate Bill 1718, are a slap to the face of our immigrant families — and native-born Americans who have welcomed immigrants into their lives, whether through friendship or marriage.

Families of mixed immigration status, people who straddle two worlds, are a Florida trademark. But if bills pass both chambers, these Floridians could potentially become criminals in the eyes of the law.

If signed by the governor, the new and possibly unconstitutional law would criminalize hosting immigrants in your home and driving them to school, work or anywhere else.

Doing so would be paramount to harboring a fugitive and abetting them. Who and how authorities get to decide who is here illegally or who isn’t is tough to tell.

And neither DeSantis nor the state decides immigration matters. The bill also mandates random raids on businesses to check employees’ immigration status, again not the purview of state government, and forces hospitals to ask patients for their immigration status.

All of these proposals, which should have been dead on arrival when filed, have passed two House and Senate committees.

The consequences of this bill are far reaching for people living in big Florida cities, such as Hialeah — which has the largest concentration of immigrants in the country — and obviously, other Miami-Dade and Broward cities. The same is true for other immigrant hubs, such as Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville, where immigrant advocates held protests recently.

“This bill will negatively impact not only tens of thousands of mixed-status families living in Florida but will also impact thousands of businesses across the state,“ former Miami congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell told me.

“Immigrants have been the backbone of Florida’s economy from the agricultural sector to the hospitality industry. Will Gov. DeSantis raid every business in the state to enforce this law?”

Perhaps not the businesses of his donors, but he will target those of random Hispanics and other minority groups. It’s a political game for the governor with his sights on the presidency.

To win the Republican primary, DeSantis has to outdo former President Trump’s immigrant loathing. Who could have imagined that even possible?

But here’s DeSantis vying to prove to the base that he’s the baddest boy on the extremist Republican right-wing block. And he will boast on the campaign trail, as he likes to say: “Florida delivers results.”

To accomplish his legislative goals, DeSantis misrepresents the nation’s true immigration picture.

He attacks the Biden administration falsely claiming the president is allowing an “open border” when Biden is turning away, repatriating and deporting immigrants at a rate immigration advocates have denounced as “Trump-like.”

But perhaps worse than a Christian nationalist governor’s xenophobia, ethically speaking, is the fact that these bills that hurt immigrant communities are moving along with “yea” votes from Republican Cuban Americans from Miami-Dade. Have they lost all sense of decency?

To see senators with the last names of García and Rodríguez, the children of Cuban exiles, voting to do harm to other immigrants is beyond shameful. Sen. Ana Maria Rodríguez, who chairs the Miami-Dade Delegation, voted to pass the bill out of the Rules Committee.

It’s incomprehensible that she represents Doral, the city known as “Doralzuela” for its huge Venezuelan community.

But, for this generation — as Cuban-American Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez also has demonstrated with her support of DeSantis’ deceitful transport of immigrants to other states — it’s OK to reject one’s heritage. It’s the price of admission to the 1950s-styled Tallahassee club of powerful white men and compliant women.

Maybe Rodríguez’s inner child doesn’t remember how our parents housed with pride and warmth the latest newcomer from Cuba — whether the arrival came visa in hand through the Freedom Flights or aboard a packed shrimper, and without papers, on the Mariel boatlift.

But I remember when the first Hispanic caucus went to Tallahassee for one purpose: to represent us. Now the heirs jauntily walk in the shoes of an immigrant hater and do his bidding without regard to the impact on our communities? They’re weak legislators riding coattails that are a bad fit for immigrant South Florida.

Read more at:

The Washington Post revealed the organization promoting the dilution of child labor laws. Iowa and Arkansas, both solid red states, were first to remove protections for children to meet the needs of employers.

To learn more about the gutting of child labor law in Iowa, watch this chilling video, thanks to reader Greg B.

Remember, the GOP is the party that loves the unborn but disdains the born. They value life in the womb but not actual children.

Investigative reporter Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post wrote:

When Iowa lawmakers voted last week to roll back certain child labor protections, they blended into a growing movement driven largely by a conservative advocacy group.
At 4:52 a.m., Tuesday, the state’s Senate approved a bill to allow children as young as 14 to work night shifts and 15 year-olds on assembly lines. The measure, which still must pass the Iowa House, is among several the Foundation for Government Accountability is maneuvering through state legislatures.
The Florida-based think tank and its lobbying arm, the Opportunity Solutions Project, have found remarkable success among Republicans to relax regulations that prevent children from working long hours in dangerous conditions. And they are gaining traction at a time the Biden administration is scrambling to enforce existing labor protections for children.
The FGA achieved its biggest victory in March, playing a central role in designing a new Arkansas law to eliminate work permits and age verification for workers younger than 16. Its sponsor, state Rep. Rebecca Burkes (R), said in a hearing that the legislation “came to me from the Foundation [for] Government Accountability.”
“As a practical matter, this is likely to make it even harder for the state to enforce our own child labor laws,” said Annie B. Smith, director of the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Human Trafficking Clinic. “Not knowing where young kids are working makes it harder for [state departments] to do proactive investigations and visit workplaces where they know that employment is happening to make sure that kids are safe.”

That law passed so swiftly and was met with such public outcry that Arkansas officials quickly approved a second measure increasing penalties on violators of the child labor codes the state had just weakened.
In Missouri, where another child labor bill has gained significant GOP support, the FGA helped a lawmaker draft and revise the legislation, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.
The FGA for years has worked systematically to shape policy at the state level, fighting to advance conservative causes such as restricting access to anti-poverty programs and blocking Medicaid expansion.

But in February, the White House announced a crackdown on child labor violators in response to what activists have described as a surge in youths — many of them undocumented immigrants — working at meat packing plants, construction sites, auto factories and other dangerous job sites.
The administration’s top labor lawyer called the proposed state child labor laws “irresponsible,” and said it could make it easier for employers to hire children for dangerous work.
“Federal and state entities should be working together to increase accountability and ramp up enforcement — not make it easier to illegally hire children to do what are often dangerous jobs,” Labor Solicitor Seema Nanda said. “No child should be working in dangerous workplaces in this country, full stop.”
Congress in 1938 passed the Fair Labor Standards Act to stop companies from using cheap child labor to do dangerous work, a practice that exploded during the Great Depression….

On the surface, the FGA frames its child worker bills as part of a larger debate surrounding parental rights, including in education and child care. But the state-by-state campaigns, the group’s leader said, help the FGA create openings to deconstruct larger government regulations.
Since 2016, the FGA’s Opportunity Solutions Project has hired 115 lobbyists across the country with a presence in 22 states, according to the nonpartisan political watchdog group Open Secrets.
“The reason these rather unpopular policies succeed is because they come in under the radar screen,” said David Campbell, professor of American democracy at the University of Notre Dame. “Typically, these things get passed because they are often introduced in a very quiet way or by groups inching little by little through grass-roots efforts.”
Minnesota and Ohio have introduced proposals this year allowing teens to work more hours or in more dangerous occupations, such as construction. A bill in Georgia would prohibit the state government from requiring a minor to obtain a work permit.

The FGA-backed measures maintain existing child labor safety protections “while removing the permission slip that inserts government in between parents and their teenager’s desire to work,” Nick Stehle, the foundation’s vice president, said in a statement.
“Frankly, every state, including Missouri, should follow Arkansas’s lead to allow parents and their teenagers to have the conversation about work and make that decision themselves,” said Stehle, who is also a visiting fellow at the Opportunity Solutions Project.
The FGA declined to make Stehle and other representatives available for interviews.
It’s one of several conservative groups that have long taken aim at all manner of government regulations or social safety net programs. The FGA is funded by a broad swath of ultraconservative and Republican donors — such as the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation and 85 Fund, a nonprofit connected to political operative Leonard Leo — who have similarly supported other conservative policy groups.
The youth hiring or employment bills, as they are often titled, represent growing momentum among conservatives who contend that parents and not government policy should determine whether and where 14- and 15-year-olds should work.
“When you say that a bill will allow kids to work more or under dangerous conditions, it sounds wildly unpopular,” Campbell said. “You have to make the case that, no, this is really about parental rights, a very carefully chosen term that’s really hard to disagree with….”

Supporters of the child worker proposals say they reduce red tape around the hiring process for minors. A spokeswoman for Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a rising Republican star, said her state’s law relieved parents of “obsolete” and “arbitrary burdens.”
“The main push for this reform didn’t come from big business,” Stehle, the FGA vice president, wrote in an essay for Fox. “It came from families like mine, who want more of the freedom that lets our children flourish…”

Tarren Bragdon, a former Maine state legislator, founded the FGA in 2011 with a focus on cutting social safety net and anti-poverty programs. It quickly tapped into conservative political fundraising networks and grew from $50,000 in seed funding to $4 million in revenue by its fourth year, according to tax filings and the group’s promotional materials.

In 2020, the most recent year for which the FGA and its funders’ full financial disclosures are available, more than 70 percent of its $10.6 million in revenue came from 14 conservative groups.

The FGA joined the State Policy Network, a confederation of conservative state-level think tanks that practice what leaders call the “Ikea model” of advocacy, its president said during the group’s 2013 conference. Affiliates such as the FGA display prefabricated policy projects for state officials, then provide the tools — including research and lobbying support — to push proposals through legislative and administrative processes.
In 2021, for example, Arkansas legislators passed 48 measures backed by the FGA, according to the foundation’s end-of-year report. It identified Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa among its five “super states” where it planned to increase its advocacy presence.
In 2022, the FGA claimed 144 “state policy reform wins,” including 45 related to unemployment and welfare, across a slew of states.
“Success in the states is critical for achieving national change, as it often opens the door to federal regulatory reform,” Bragdon wrote in the group’s 2021 report. “Once enough states successfully implement a reform, we can use the momentum and proven results to build pressure for regulatory change.”
Yet even legislators who support the FGA’s policies expanding child labor have found their limits.
Missouri’s bill was amended to require a parental permission form for children aged 14 to 16 who want to take a job. The original legislation, edited by the FGA, did not contain any such provision.

In Cleveland, Texas, about 40 miles from Houston, five family members were killed. Their neighbor liked to fire his gun outside, and he was shooting at 11 p.m. A family member asked if he could stop shooting because the baby was sleeping.

The neighbor went into the home next door and killed five people, including an 8-year-old.

The suspect was the victims’ neighbor and went to their home Friday night after they asked him to stop shooting an AR-15-style weapon in his front yard because of the noise, Capers [the sheriff] said.

Oropeza frequently shot the gun in his yard, Capers said, and allegedly became angry when the neighbors said their baby was trying to sleep around or after 11 p.m. Authorities saw video footage of Oropeza walking up to the victims’ front door before going inside…

Vianey Balderas, who lives across the street from the family, said she first heard some gunshots when a few people were outside. About 20 minutes later, Balderas heard about five more gunshots, then another 10, she told The Washington Post.

“When I heard those gunshots, I didn’t think anything of it because in this neighborhood everyone has guns. Every weekend you hear gunshots,” she said in an interview in Spanish. “People shoot in their backyards, after they drink alcohol, men take out guns at house parties and shoot the ground.”

All five victims were shot in the head, he said. Two of the women who were killed were found lying on top of the surviving young children in a bedroom, “trying to protect them,” Capers told The Post by phone from the scene.

Just another day in a land where everyone has the right to own a gun, in a state where no one is required to get a permit.

Stephen Ruis asks the question that is the title of this post. I appreciated this post because I often get tweets that claim the Bible as the source of the right to bear arms. Lots of people think that God wrote the Constitution or at least the Second Amendment. I think of Jesus as an exponent of peace, love, forgiveness, redemption, and non-violence. I can’t imagine him blessing an AR-15. Or blessing someone who uses an assault rifle to slaughter innocents.

Ruis answers on his blog:

If there was ever a reason to oppose Christian nationalism, it is the confounding of Constitutional rights with what are supposed to be god-given rights.

Arm yourself. Exercise your God-given rights. Carry everywhere you go. (anonymous gun rights supporter)

Where in the Bible does it say that we have a god-given right to bear arms? In the Old Testament, the Hebrews were bearing arms all of the time but that was at the order of their leaders, so that was military service, not walking around the neighborhood rights.

New Testament fanboys go to incredible lengths to disavow Jesus telling his supporters to sell what they have to buy a sword (Luke 22). Since this doesn’t appear in the other three canonical gospels, it gets only one vote out of four for being an honest quotation. In any case, there are many other citations disavowing violence by Jesus.

Open the link to read the rest of his post.

Jennifer Rubin is a columnist for the Washington Post. Originally, she was hired to express conservative views. Her column was called “Right Turn.” But when Trump was elected, she flipped. She realized that the Republican Party had lost its principles and stood for nothing other than slavishly obeying Trump’s whims and passing tax cuts for the 1%.

In this column, she calls out Senator Dick Durbin for acquiescing to the obsolete tradition of allowing one home-state Senator to block the President’s nomination to a federal judgeship. Democrats play by the unwritten rules, but Republicans ignore them. Democrats allowed Trump to nominate totally unqualified federal judges and joined in confirming them (e.g., the zealous anti-abortion extremist in Amarillo, Texas, who recently slapped a national ban on the main abortion pill because he disapproved of the Federal Drug Administration’s rigorous approval process).

But Republicans withhold their approval of well-qualified judicial nominees. And now, with Senator Dianne Feinstein home on sick leave, the Judiciary Committee is not approving any of President Biden’s nominees and will not give their approval to Senator Feinstein’s request to be removed temporarily from the committee.

Rubin wrote recently:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) seems spectacularly ill-suited for an era when democracy is at risk, when Republicans observe no rules of decorum and when the federal judiciary’s credibility is crumbling.

Far too restrained and deferential, Durbin has refused to alter practices such as the “blue slip,” which allows home-state senators to nix the president’s judicial nominees, although he has beseeched Republicans not to abuse the practice. Durbin also hasn’t yet conducted hearings on the disastrous effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and related abortion bans, nor has he held hearings on a mandatory ethics code for judges — although he has promised hearings on revelations about Justice Clarence Thomas’s failure to disclose luxurious travel gifts and real estate sales. Then again, Senate Democrats as a whole haven’t pushed Durbin, so one cannot blame him alone for his timidity.

Caroline Fredrickson and Alan Neff recently wrote about blue slips for Just Security:

“The blue slip is an opaque — and inherently obstructionist — Senate tradition that allows a single Senator in any State to block a presidential nominee to the District Courts in their electoral patch merely by withholding their consent to consideration of the nominee in Committee. Like the filibuster, the blue slip allows Senators to halt Senate action without ever having to explain themselves to their Senate colleagues, their constituents, or the public, even if it means more criminal and civil cases languish unresolved on federal trial-court dockets for longer periods.”

Durbin could end this practice at any time, removing another abuse of minority-party power in the Senate. It’s one that has been spectacularly abused by Republicans, who have pushed through grossly unqualified, unfit nominees nominated by Republican presidents and yet nixed perfectly acceptable judges nominated by Democratic presidents…

Last week, Carl Hulse wrote for the New York Times:

“Then last week, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Republican of Mississippi, served notice to the Judiciary Committee that she would not allow the nomination of Scott Colom, a candidate for a court vacancy in the state, to move forward, citing his past political support from the left, among other reasons. Her stance endangered the confirmation of Mr. Colom, a popular Black Democratic state prosecutor who had the backing of Roger Wicker, the other Republican senator from the state, as well as leading Mississippi Republicans including two former governors, Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant.”

Durbin had previously promised he would respect blue slips unless the decision to withhold the blue slip was based not on the nominee’s qualifications but on race, gender or sexual orientation.

Apparently, this didn’t qualify in his eyes.

Durbin’s appeals to shameless Republicans have accomplished nothing. Instead, he has allowed Republicans to run amok. Is it any surprise that when they were asked to approve the request from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to be removed from the committee, they balked? Plainly, they know they have nothing to fear from Durbin.

Committee Democrats can, if they choose, push Durbin to end the blue slip practice. They also could demand a hearing on Supreme Court ethics, on book banning, and on the effects of Dobbs and abortion bans. They might even hold hearings on corruption in the prior administration or on domestic terrorism. They could hold hearings on nationwide injunctions and single judge divisions, which allowed for Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk’s abysmal ruling on the abortion drug mifepristone.

All these would be appropriate uses of oversight power — unlike House Republicans’ stunts. They’ve done none of that.

Voters, court reformers, progressive advocacy groups, donors and even Vice President Harris — a former committee member who is strenuously working to keep the plight of women denied abortions in the news — could all apply pressure. Democrats cannot attend to the threats to democracy if they play by Marquess of Queensberry rules and apply to Republicans’ nonexistent good faith.

The voters elected a Democratic Senate and Democratic president; they have a right to expect swift confirmation of qualified nominees when democracy remains vulnerable. Voters have a right to expect Senate investigations into questionable actions at the Supreme Court and elsewhere.

Durbin and his fellow Democrats need to learn to play hardball.

It is well known that the idea of vouchers was launched in response to the Brown decision of 1954. Southern states wanted to avoid desegregating their schools, so they created voucher laws so that white students would not be forced to go to school with Black students. (A useful history is Steve Suitts’ Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement.) Some “credit” libertarian Milton Friedman as the godfather of the voucher movement, but his 1955 essay advocating vouchers would have disappeared into the mists of time without the legislation passed across the South.

The voucher idea was stigmatized for many years because of its association with segregation. But it was revived in 1990 by a scholarly book by John Chubb and Terry Moe called Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools, in which they theorized that vouchers were actually a panacea. (Their word.)

We now know they were wrong. As multiple studies have reported, student academic performance is worse in voucher schools than in public schools. we also know that most vouchers are used by students who were already enrolled in private and religious schools, so vouchers are an expensive subsidy for families that like the subsidy but don’t need it.

So, why is there continued advocacy for vouchers? why do voucher advocates say that “all families should have the same choice as the rich” when the value of vouchers don’t pay for elite schools attended by the rich? Why are they sold as salvation for children when they are not?

Peter Greene sees a nefarious goal behind the voucher movement. He originally wrote this post two years ago, but recently reposted it because it was prescient.

The purpose of vouchers is to abandon public schools. As choice prevails, the community sees no reason to tax itself for private choices. Bond issues will lose. Parents whose children are no longer in school will not pay taxes for other people’s children. People without children will think, “that’s not my responsibility.” People will not want to pay for religious schools for those of a different faith. Schooling will become a personal responsibility, not a civic responsibility.

Peter writes:

We need to find another way to talk about vouchers.

As the GOP mounts a multi-state initiative to implement vouchers or super-voucher education savings accounts in many states across the country, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we’ve been looking at the voucher movement through the wrong lens (which is to day, the lens that voucheristas have promoted).

Vouchers are not about freeing or empowering parents. They are about empowering private interests to chomp away at the giant mountain of education money in this country. They are about dismantling any sort of oversight and accountability; it’s striking how many of these voucher bills/laws very specifically forbid the state to interfere with the vendors in any way, shape or form.

Think of voucher programs this way.

The state announces, “We are dismantling the public education system. You are on your own. You will have to shop for your child’s education, piece by piece, in a marketplace bound by very little oversight and very few guardrails. In this new education ecosystem, you will have to pay your own way. To take some of the sting out of this, we’ll give you a small pocketful of money to help defray expenses. Good luck.”

It’s not a voucher system. It’s a pay your own way system. It’s a you’re on your own system. The voucher is not the point of the system; it’s simply a small payment to keep you from noticing that you’ve just been cut loose.

Freedom and empowerment will come, as always, in direct proportion to the amount of money you have to spend.

The voucher amount will dwindle. That amount is based on what the public school system spends to educate a child, and taxpayers will shrink that amount going forward as the schools themselves shrink to holding facilities for students who can’t find a private vendor to accept them, or whose parents can’t afford what the voucher won’t cover. And remember, we’ve seen this movie before– after Brown v. Board of Education, white families in some states moved their children into private segregation academies, and then they cut public school taxes (because why keep paying taxes on the system that your child no longer used).

Vouchers are the tail, not the dog. They are the public-facing image of privatization– and not just privatization of the “delivery” of education. Voucherization is also about privatizing the responsibility for educating children, about telling parents that education is their problem, not the community’s.

We need another term for discussing this family of policies; “voucher” doesn’t begin to capture what’s truly at stake. I can imagine a world in which charter schools are a viable, even useful part of a robust pubic education system; it’s not at all the world we currently live in, but I can imagine it. But the system that voucher proponents want is absolutely incompatible with a functioning public education system. And it has nothing to do with freedom.

Chalkbeat NY reports that Mayor Eric Adams (whose campaign was heavily funded by charter-loving billionaires) intends to cut $960 million from the budget for the city’s public schools.

The city’s education department budget would drop by nearly $960 million next school year under a more detailed budget proposal released by Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday, though city officials did not offer specifics about the impact on individual campuses.

Two-thirds of that cut, or $652 million, is the result of Adams’ decision to reduce the city’s contribution to the education department. Another $297 million is from a drop in federal funding, which is drying up as pandemic relief programs end.

Part of the city’s cut is tied to a mandate from the mayor earlier this month calling on city agencies to cut spending, including at the education department. That raised questions about whether schools would take a hit, but on Wednesday, Adams vowed that this specific cost-saving measure “will not take a dime from classrooms.”

Instead, that reduction — totaling $325 million — will largely come from recalculations on how much the city spends in fringe benefits, such as health insurance for teachers. (Officials emphasized this would not result in a loss of benefits or other services.)

“We had to make tough choices in this budget,” Adams said Wednesday. “We had to negotiate competing needs. We realize that not everyone will be happy but that is okay because that is how you get stuff done.”

The education department’s operating budget would total about $30.5 billion next year under the mayor’s plan, down by about 3%.

Note that a large part of the savings will be funded by changes (cuts) in teachers’ health insurance.

Since the city will soon have to comply with a state law requiring class size reduction, it’s not clear how the city will pay for the additional costs of smaller classes. It is a very valuable reform, but it’s costly.

The city will also bear the cost of 14 new charters. Currently the 275 charters in the city are a heavy expense, since the city must pay their rent, even if they locate in private space. In some cases, such as Success Academy, the charter owns the space and still charges the city exorbitant rent.

The charter lobby in New York is well funded by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and Paul Tudor Jones as a long list of Wall Street hedge funders. These elites want the state and New York City to open unlimited numbers of charter schools, despite their impact on public schools, attended by nearly 90% of students. New York City has a cap of 275 charters.

But that’s not enough for the billionaires. Governor Kathy Hochul is attentive to their needs because they supply campaign cash.

The legislature rejected her proposal to lift the caps, but she succeeded in inflicting 14 “zombie charters” on NYC. A zombie charter is one that opened but failed.

At a time of budget cuts, this decision will put more stress on the city’s public schools.

The United Federation of Teachers reacted:

Contact: UFT Press Office | press@uft.orgDick Riley | C: 917.880.5728

Alison Gendar | C: 718.490.2964

Melissa Khan | C: 646-901-1501

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Thursday, April 27, 2023

UFT Statement on the State Charter Deal


“The Senate and the Assembly did the right thing by rejecting the governor’s plan to lift the New York charter cap. Unfortunately, the governor listened to the demands of a handful of billionaires and revived 14 zombie charters for New York City — even though New York City has nearly 40,000 unused charter seats. Now it’s time for the governor to listen to New York parents who want accountability and transparency from the charter sector and an end to loopholes that benefit corporate charters at the expense of our public schools.”