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If Democrats win control of the Senate, Bernie Sanders will hold one of the most powerful positions in Congress:

Sisters and Brothers,

I heard what Paul Ryan said about me: that if the Republicans lose the Senate, I will be the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

That sounds like a very good idea to me. It means that we can establish priorities for working people, and not just the billionaire class.

What would be equally exciting is if the Democrats took back the House, and Congressman Ryan was no longer Speaker. That would mean the clearest possible path to enact our agenda – the most progressive agenda of any party in American history.

In the last day, you have responded tremendously to our call to support four leaders who will help shift the balance of the Senate. More than 20,000 people have contributed more than $900,000 to ten candidates who are inspired by the political revolution.

During our campaign we pushed ourselves to reach goals that many thought impossible. That is why we set a very big, very audacious goal that we didn’t know if we could reach, but that we thought it was very important to try. But you’re about to smash that $1 million goal.

So, we’re going to need a bigger goal.

Let’s raise $2 million before tonight’s final FEC deadline of the campaign for candidates for the House and Senate. Can you start with a $3 contribution between Paul Clements, Catherine Cortez-Masto, Deborah Ross, Zephyr Teachout, Morgan Carroll, Nanette Barragan, and Rick Nolan?

Help us reach $2 million raised for House and Senate candidates


Consider for a moment the power that exists in the U.S. Senate. Right now, the Republican majority is using their power to block any meaningful action on addressing income inequality or climate change. In addition, without a Democratic majority the Senate is refusing to confirm federal judges and, incredibly, has left open a critical seat on the Supreme Court.

With a Democratic majority, we can change all of that. What Paul Ryan is specifically afraid of is the power of the budget committee. That committee defines the spending priorities of the entire government. The work of that committee says how much revenue the government should have, and where its money should go.

I have some thoughts on how the government should allocate its spending. I’m sure you do, too.

The first step to being able to enact our progressive agenda is taking back the Senate. And if we take back the House… well, the sky is the limit for what we can achieve.

Help us reach for our new, audacious goal of raising $2 million for candidates for the House and Senate by midnight tonight. Add a $3 contribution now split between Paul Clements, Catherine Cortez-Masto, Deborah Ross, Zephyr Teachout, Morgan Carroll, Nanette Barragan, and Rick Nolan.

Thank you for all you do.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

In one of the most ethically-challenged actions of former Education Department officials, a group made a bid for the for-profit University of Phoenix, whose fortunes were waning due to regulations and oversight by the prospective new purchasers. The Wall Street Journal cried foul when the deal went public months ago, saying that the same government officials who drove down the UP stock price were taking advantage of the low price for their own gain.

Politico reports that enrollment at UP continues to fall, but the deal is moving ahead:

“WITH SALE ON THE LINE, UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX ENROLLMENT DOWN AGAIN: The parent company of the University of Phoenix reported another sharp drop in enrollment Thursday, while a proposed sale of the for-profit college giant continues to hang in the balance. Apollo Education Group told investors that enrollment at the University of Phoenix was 142,500 as of Aug. 31 – a more than 25 percent decline from a year earlier. New enrollments also fell by nearly 27 percent, to 19,400. A group of private investors with ties to the Obama administration are seeking to buy Apollo. The company had previously warned that if the sale wasn’t completed by early October, its worsening financial condition might sink the deal. But Thursday Apollo Education told investors that it currently meets the minimum financial standards required for the deal to close – and expects to continue meeting those standards going forward. Michael Stratford has more.”

To read the links, read here:

Graduation rates at for-profit institutions are abysmal.

They have been called predators in Cipongressional hearings. They prey on the unwary.

Their defenders and lobbyists are described here.

The city of Chicago averted a teachers’ strike, but charter teachers at the city’s largest chain–UNO–may go on strike.

This is richly ironic, because one of the central goals of the charter industry is to kill teachers’ unions.

93% of charters are non-union. The Walton family of union-haters has promised to spend $1 billion on new charters in the next five years.

Juan Rangel, founder of UNO, resigned in 2013 after revelations of nepotism, conflicts of interest, etc.

Keep your eye on Chicago.

Valerie Strauss writes about a visit by President Obama to a highly selective public school in Washington, D.C. He brought with him his two Education Secretaries, Arne Duncan and John King.

He said he wanted every school to be as great as the school he was visiting, Benjamin Banneker. But there was much he did not mention.

Strauss writes:

“There’s no denying that Banneker is a top-performing school in the nation’s capital, and that 100 percent of its seniors graduate. But it’s unclear if Obama knows that if every school did what Banneker does, the high school graduation rate might plummet. That’s because Banneker is a magnet school where students must apply to get in — but the only entry grades are ninth and tenth. And they must maintain a B- average to stay. Kids who can’t cut it leave, but that attrition isn’t counted against the school’s graduation rate.”

He did not talk about his administration’s preference for charter schools over public schools. He did not acknowledge how Race to the Top had promoted privatization and led to the closure of thousands of public schools, mostly in communities of color. He didn’t talk about Common Core or the $$360 million that Duncan spent to create two testing comsortia aligned to Common Core, nor about the slow collapse of both consortia. He did not mention Dincan’s obsession with “bad teachers” or his mandate for evaluating teachers by test scores, which has generated a widespread teacher shortage.

President Obama is a brilliant man. Why is he so oblivious to the damage caused by Race to the Top, Arne Duncan, and John King?

Some years ago, I visited Constitution Hall in Philadelphia with my then-young children. The guide, a young man, said, “One of the most momentous events in world history happened in this room.” Long pause. He continued: “George Washington decided not to run for re-election. He could have but he didn’t. He could have appointed himself king. He was the most popular man in the new nation. But he stepped aside and there was another election. And he was succeeded by John Adams. Adams didn’t inherit the office. He had to win the election.” He went on to explain how unusual it was to have a peaceful transfer of power in a world of hereditary kings, tribes, and dynasties.

The young man’s reverence for our democracy has remained with me all these years. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election in Florida by 537 votes. The winning candidate, George W. Bush was the big brother of the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. Ralph Nader won nearly 100,000 votes in Florida. Gore had good reason to be angry and feel cheated. But Gore was gracious. He conceded, and he never complained that the system was “rigged.”

[There was one other election where the loser won the popular vote and may have even won the electoral college, in 1876, but a deal was struck that gave the election to Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel J. Tilden. The deal involved an agreement to end Reconstruction, withdraw federal troops from the south, and leave southern blacks to the mercy of southern whites. That was not included in my high school U.S. history textbook in Texas.]

What is remarkable in the election of 2016 is that the Republican nominee is claiming that the entire electoral system is rigged before the election has occurred. He offers no evidence for this belief. There is none. The election system is very decentralized, and besides, most states now have Republican governors. There is no rigging going on. At the conclusion of the third debate, he refused to say whether he would accept the results of the election if he lost. That shocked a lot of people. The next day he said he would accept the results “if he won.” Not good enough.

Donald Trump is trying to discredit the election and the American electoral process because he is behind in the polls. Clearly, he doesn’t understand that a basic rule of democracy is to be dignified and gracious, whether in victory or defeat. Instead, he prefers to sow doubt about the legitimacy of democracy itself. He must have been a horribly spoiled child, raised with a sense of entitlement. Maybe his father fixed all the games he played in so he could always win.

Nothing is so pitiable as a sore loser.

Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that there are signs that Governor Nathan Deal’s attempt to change the state constitution to allow state takeovers of low-scoring schools and turn them over to charter corporations is running into a groundswell of unexpected opposition.

The public is waking up.

The ALEC privatization crowd thought they could dupe the people of Georgia into giving up local control of their schools. The amendment is deceptively worded as a way to “improve” schools when it is a bald-faced power grab by the charter industry. It is one of the ironies of our peculiar time that conservatives and rightwingers now fight to eliminate democracy and life cal control. This makes it easier to turn public money over to corporate charter chains.

This is the deceptive language of the amendment:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No”

Deal calls it the “Opportunity School District,” when he really means the State Takeover District. It is modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District. There is zero evidence that a state takeover district improves test scores (“student performance”).

As Downey explains, the popular resistance is increasingly visible.

Here are one of the four signs that Downey identifies:

“This morning former Atlanta Mayor Andy Young and baseball legend Hank Aaron held a press event urging Georgians to reject the OSD. “We have to defeat this, we have to vote ‘no’ on Amendment 1,” said Aaron. Young took issue with Deal’s description of schools and students as failing. “Self-esteem is the basis of good education,” said Young. “To take that self-esteem away from families, teachers, principals and boards of education locally and turn it over to a corporate-oriented state structure is a sin and a shame and we cannot allow it.”

A great statement by an icon of the civil rights movement.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Indiana) endorsed State Superintendent Glenda Ritz for re-election.

I add my strong support for Ritz, who has shown courage, integrity, and vision on behalf of the children of Indiana, even as Governor Pence and his allies have kept up a relentless attack on public schools and on Ritz personally.

The editorial says:

“In a year [2012] that saw sweeping Republican victories in Indiana, more than 1.3 million Hoosiers chose Democrat Glenda Ritz for state superintendent. No clearer repudiation of the state’s direction in education policy – school choice, high-stakes testing, Common Core, punitive school letter grades – could be found than in the resounding 2012 defeat of Superintendent Tony Bennett, the face of so-called education reform.

“But newly elected Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP-controlled General Assembly and deep-pocketed reform supporters did not get the message. They immediately set to work to diminish Ritz’s authority – at one point establishing a shadow education agency to undermine her work. The state superintendent has spent much of the past four years battling their obstructive efforts, but she delivered on her pledge to challenge the direction Indiana’s public schools were being taken. Today, Ritz remains the best candidate to prevent development of a two-tier system: private schools allowed to choose their own students and public schools left with fewer resources to serve everyone else. She’s best positioned to finally move to a student-centered testing system and to serve as a check on a voucher program with few safeguards.

“Republican Jennifer McCormick, superintendent of Yorktown Community Schools, has a solid record of serving students and public schools. But her promise to put students before politics is diminished by the tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions she’s accepted from the very individuals and interest groups determined to steer money from public schools for private benefit….

“Ritz, a former school media specialist, defends her record, noting improvements in performance at nearly 200 schools targeted for assistance; supporting student success in career and technical education; an increased number of school safety specialists; continuing focus on family literacy; and a strategy to address a growing teacher shortage.

“The reason I speak about outreach so much is because that’s what my job is really about – serving kids in our schools, making sure they get what they need,” she said. “Where people say they have a perception I don’t work with somebody? I work with everybody. That’s the only way I can move things forward.”

“McCormick pledges to improve communication, which she argues is “very splintered, not real timely and not very manageable to try to find what you’re being told.”

“I would argue we don’t have a lot of real leadership at the (Department of Education) to give us the guidance that would be necessary for superintendents and principals and educators,” she said.

“It’s a valid complaint confirmed by other administrators, but it also ignores the full-court defense Ritz has been forced to employ. She would benefit in a second term from appointing an unofficial cabinet of advisers – retired administrators and teachers who can suggest ways to improve procedures for local school districts, particularly in improving the state’s testing program.

“As a district superintendent, McCormick might be better prepared for administrative duties, but she is not prepared for the inevitable political forces. As of Wednesday, she had accepted more than $195,000 – more than two-thirds of her total contributions – from school choice advocates. Some are the same donors who backed Bennett four years ago. The same legislators responsible for laws harmful to public education will return to the Statehouse in January.

“To ensure the votes they cast in 2012 continue to protect Indiana’s public schools and place students first, Hoosiers should choose Ritz once again.”

If you live anywhere near Philadelphia, you should not miss the premiere of the stunning documentary “Backpack Full of Cash.” It is an expose of the corporate education reform movement. It has the potential to inform the public about the billionaire-funded effort to privatize our public schools.

The producers and director are the same team from Stone Lantern Films that created the award-winning PBS series called “School” a decade ago.

“Backpack” is narrated by Matt Damon.

The producers found it far harder to raise funding for this film than for their “School” series. Try to see the film but also consider a contribution to their crowd-sourcing fund. They need our help to tell the story of an unprecedented assault on American public education. They have started a Kickstarter campaign to get your assistance in telling the story of the efforts to privatize public education. Please give whatever you can. This is a very professionally made film and it will help to educate the public about the dangers of corporate education “reform.”




Dear Friends and Supporters, 

We are very happy to announce the world premiere of our 95-minute documentary BACKPACK FULL OF CASH at the Philadelphia Film Festival with screenings to be held on two Saturdays, October 22 and October 29, 2016. BACKPACK producers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow will present the film and participate in a Q&A session after the screenings.

The film examines major threats to public education from the movement for market based reform, including the rapid growth of privately-run charter schools, vouchers and tax credit “scholarships”, cyber charter schools, standardized testing, and the attack on teachers. 


BACKPACK follows students, parents, teachers and activists through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities, giving viewers an inside look at what happens to public schools when scarce taxpayer dollars are shifted into private hands. 

Key participants include children whose lives were upended by the dramatic events that rocked the Philadelphia school district in 2013-14, as well as local leaders including City Council member Helen Gym, Philadelphia’s Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney (former Principal of South Philadelphia High) and School Superintendent William Hite. The film also features interviews with historian Diane Ravitch, policy analyst Linda Darling Hammond, and journalist David Kirp, among other national figures.  One of our goals, as filmmakers, is to emphasize the importance of just, fair public schools that are places of hope for children of all backgrounds.

We are especially happy to be premiering BACKPACK FULL OF CASH  in the city where we spent so much time filming with the support and cooperation of so many wonderful people. Please join us at one of the festival screenings. We hope to see you there.


PFF25 Festival Screenings

Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 5:10PM

Prince Theater, Philadelphia, PA


Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 4:10PM

Prince Theater, Philadelphia, PA 

View the full program guide here.

Purchase your tickets here!

Thank you for supporting our work.  


Sarah Mondale – Stone Lantern Films and Vera Aronow – Turnstone Productions


Marla Kilfoyle is a teacher on Long Island and executive director of the BATS.

In this post, she describes the well-funded effort to privatize public education in New York State.

We have lived with it for so many years that it seems to be just one more issue, although it is an issue that the mainstream media completely ignores. It is the “Sound of Silence,” as she says.

She writes:

“Election season is always a difficult time for many educators and education activist. We begin to look at all the campaign donations that fly to politicians from people, and organizations, that seek to destroy public education. It is the same old players emerging here in N.Y.

“The Waltons, The Koch Brothers, StudentsFirstNY funded by Wall Street Hedge Funders like Paul Singer, Dan Loeb, and John Paul Tudor.

“The NYS Senate Republican Committee are HUGE cheerleaders for the charter movement and have received millions for this election cycle from the folks listed above. For the sake of transparency, our Governor, and a smattering of Democrats, are also cheerleaders for charter expansion and the privatization movement.

“I will have to say that NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, is a bigger cheerleader for privatization than John Flanagan, the Republican majority leader in our Senate. He is also a member of ALEC

“The ALEC education agenda is model legislation that travels around the nation when they need to defund schools, close them, and open up unaccountable charters. They support ending public education for a competitive model of education. The problem with a competitive model is that there are always winners and losers. We should have NO losers when it comes to education in this country….

“Republican Carl Marcellino, who is running against Democrat Jim Gaughran, got not one but two, yes two, $142,590 independent expenditure from StudentsFirstNY (A20133) for media. Republican Elaine Phillips, who is running against Democrat Adam Haber, got a $271,950 independent expenditure from StudentsFirstNY (A20133). Anyone who follows the fight to save public education KNOWS that StudentsFirst has been on the frontlines of the attack on public education and public school teachers. They have been the cheerleaders for Common Core, High-Stakes Testing, School Closures, vouchers, choice, and charter expansion. The sad thing is that Marcellino is on the NYS Education Committee. Call me crazy but shouldn’t that mean he should fight for public education NOT privatization? The larger question is – who will Marcellino and Phillips be accountable to when it comes to education policy? We all know the answer to that question. The Money!

“The PAC that is distributing all this money to StudentsFirstNY – New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany is funded by anti-public education billionaires. The other PAC, New Yorkers for Independent Action, is also supported by billionaires who are anti-public education. This money is being distributed to politicians who will support their destructive agenda for public education in NY.
Bottom line is – we must get to the polls and vote anyone out who takes this money – Republican or Democrat.

“As a public educator, education activist, and mother I will NOT be voting for anyone who takes money from StudentsFirstNY, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany or New Yorkers for Independent Action. Public education is for the public good and we should be funding that equitably, not defunding and destroying it. Public education should not be competitive where you have winners and losers. Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy and is the great equalizer.

“So, why did I title this piece the sound of silence?

“While the NYS Senate Republican Committee is raking in all this cash from anti-public education billionaires, NOT many of them have said a word about Donald Trump’s behavior. To me, silence means acceptance.

“It’s OK to malign immigrants and it’s OK to malign women….

“Oh, and by the way, the NYS Senate Republican Committee thinks it is OK to pay for and distribute anti-semitic flyers. This is a flyer that the Senate Republican Committee distributed about Adam Haber, who is Jewish and running against Republican Elaine Phillips.

“To add insult to injury this was distributed during the week of Yom Kippur.”

Open the link to see the anti-Semitic image that the New York State Republican Committee distributed about Adam Haber. This is the same committee that received millions in contributions from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In this post, Jeff Bryant reviews the current backlash that is blocking the path of the charter industry.

For most of the past 20 years, we have been fed a steady diet of propaganda about charter schools and their magical power to “save poor kids from failing public schools.” The original founders of the charter movement wanted charter schools to collaborate with public schools, to help solve problems that public schools couldn’t solve, and to be partners. They are no longer collaborators or partners; instead they see themselves as competitors, trying to seize “market share” and drive public schools out of business. The founders did not dream that their idea would give birth to an avaricious industry that would generate for-profit schools, schools with draconian discipline, and schools that fought against any accountability.

One thing is now clear: charter schools do not have a secret formula to “save poor kids from failing public schools.” When they accept the same students, they do no better and often do much worse (on standardized tests) as compared to their “failing schools.” Many circumvent this problem by choosing the students they want and excluding those they don’t want. In some states and cities, the charters are failing far worse than the public schools they replaced. Hardly a day goes by without another story of a scandal, financial or academic, in the charter industry. This is not surprising when there is so little oversight, accountability or transparency associated with the charter schools. You need not look far to find examples of nepotism, conflicts of interest, graft, fraud, misappropriation of funds, and self-dealing.

For years, the public has been unaware of what the charter industry was up to. But as the industry became more ambitious, more aggressive, and more avaricious, the public is catching on. That is why Question 2 in Massachusetts, funded by out-of-state billionaires, is in trouble; that is why Amendment 1 in Georgia, which would allow the state to take control of struggling public schools, is in trouble. The billionaires are pumping in more money to deceive the public, but school boards, PTAs, school committees, teachers’ groups, and parents are spreading the word, door to door, without the billionaires’ help.

The loss of taxpayer money on schools of unknown quality is bad enough. What is far worse is allowing the profiteers and free-market ideologues to privatize an essential democratic institution.