Archives for category: Bias

Peter Greene nails it here, in discussing how Trump and DeVos folded the federal Charter Schools Program into a big, fat block grant that states can spend however they wish. 

For decades, Republicans have been wanting to eliminate social programs by turning them into block grants to the states. Now, as Valerie Strauss reported, charter school advocates are outraged. Brought to the dance and abandoned.

Open the link and see the great image Greene posts to make the point.

I have known for many years that right-wingers went for charters only because they lay the groundwork for vouchers.

I learned that when I worked in rightwing think tanks like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Koret Education Program at the Hoover Institution.

The true right-wingers don’t give a hoot about charter schools except as a way to condition the American public to give up on public schools and place their faith in consumerism.

Charters pave the way for vouchers. They turn citizens, invested in public institutions, into consumers, looking out only for their own child.

Now that the Trump administration has a chance to show what it really cares about, it is vouchers (aka “Education Freedom Scholarships” or some other deceptive name).

DeVos wants every American child in a religious school or some other private school.

Not the kind that costs $25,000-50,000 a year.

The kind that costs $4,800 a year.

The kind that scoffs at the common good.

The kind that employs high-school dropouts as teachers (as in Florida), the kind that decides which children are acceptable and which are not allowed. The kind that kicks out students, staff and families who are gay, knowing that Trump’s rightwing Supreme Court will back them up.

The kind that accepts only “our kind.”

The Trump-DeVos show and the return of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia as acceptable public policy.

To the shock and consternation of charter school advocates, the Trump budget proposal abandons the controversial federal Charter Schools Program, turning it into a state bloc program that turns the money over to the states. 

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools issued a scathing denunciation of the axing of the federal charter school programs, which has enriched the big corporate charter chains.

The Network for Public Education issued two reports on waste, fraud, and abuse in this program, showing that nearly 40% of the federal money was spent on charters that either never opened or closed soon after opening, with waste of nearly $1 billion. See the reports here and here.

Trump and DeVos are backing their chief priority: vouchers, which they prefer to call “education freedom scholarships,” at a proposed cost of $5 billion. They want America’s children to be “rescued” from public schools that hat have been burdened by harmful federal policies like high-stakes testing, and punishments attached to testing. They want them to attend religious schools that are low-cost and have no standards or accountability, and are free to discriminate against students, families, and staff they don’t like.

The erstwhile Center for American Progress lamented the proposal to cut federal spending on charter schools, even though Democratic support for them has substantially declined. Apparently, CAP is the last to know that school choice is a Republican Policy.

Chalkbeat reports:

The Trump administration wants to create a new stream of funding for disadvantaged students that would consolidate current spending on Title I — which gives money to schools serving low-income students — and 28 other programs.

This school year, the department spent $16.3 billion on Title I grants to states and districts and $7.8 billion on the other programs. Under the proposed budget, it would all become a $19.4 billion pot that would be distributed through the Title I formulas — a $4.7 billion cut, if the budget were enacted.

The individual programs on the chopping block include:

  • 21st Century Learning Centers, which supports after-school programs in places like Detroit and New York City ($1.25 billion)
  • Arts in Education ($30 million)
  • English Language Acquisition ($787 million)
  • Homeless Education ($102 million)
  • Neglected and Delinquent, which offers grants to states to educate incarcerated students ($48 million)
  • Magnet Schools, which offers grants some districts use for desegregation ($107 million)
  • Migrant Education ($375 million)
  • Rural Education ($186 million)
  • Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, which is also known as Title II, Part A, which districts can use for teacher training and to reduce class sizes ($2.1 billion)

This move, the budget documents say, would reduce the federal government’s role in education and pave the way for less spending on department staff.

But the proposed elimination of these streams of funding raised alarms among civil rights advocates, who said this would enable states to spend less money on vulnerable groups like students who are English learners, homeless students, students involved in the juvenile justice system, or migrant students.

“History has shown us that … unless the federal government says you must serve migrant children, and here are funds to help you do that, migrant children are lost and forgotten,” said Liz King, the education equity program director at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The purpose of the dedicated pots of money … is to make sure that the most powerless people in our country are not lost.”

Advocates for other programs expressed concern, too. During a question and answer session with education department officials, a member of the National Association for Gifted Children asked why the administration had proposed eliminating a $13 million program that supports gifted education.

Jim Blew, one of DeVos’s assistant secretaries, and a former official at the Walton Family Foundation, said that advocates for these programs should lobby the states to fund their favorite programs.

The University of California’s faculty leaders have recommended  retaining the controversial SAT and ACT as admissions requirements, despite concerns that the standardized tests are rigged against students of low income. Wealthy parents pay huge sums for tutoring their children. Standardized tests by their nature are rigged against disadvantaged students, which has encouraged more than 1,000 colleges and universities to drop them.

But paradoxically, UC leaders believe that these tests help disadvantaged students.

The new yearlong faculty review found that most UC admissions officers offset that bias by considering an applicant’s high school and neighborhood demographics in evaluating the standardized test scores. The review found that less-advantaged applicants were admitted at higher rates for any given test score, a finding that faculty review committee members said surprised them. That process results in increased admission of disadvantaged students, the review found.

The faculty review committee “did not find evidence that UC’s use of test scores played a major role in worsening the effects of disparities already present among applicants and did find evidence that UC’s admissions process helped to make up for the potential adverse effect of score differences between groups.”

This is good news for the SAT/ACT test prep industry, as well as the monolithic testing industry that benefits far more than students.

Leslie Postal and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel identified nearly 160 religious schools that receive state funding but exclude gay students.

Some refuse to enroll students whose parents are gay or hire gay staff.

Discrimination is A-OK at these schools.

This would not be a problem for Betsy DeVos, whose family has contributed to anti-gay organizations for years. It would not be a problem for the current a Supreme Court, which ruled that a baker in Colorado need not sell  a cake to a gay couple if homosexuality offends his religious beliefs.

Postal and Martin wrote:

In the shadow of a nearly 200-foot cross, Central Florida Christian Academy enrolls students who live by the Bible’s commands and abstain from “sexual immorality” — meaning gay children aren’t welcome on the state-supported campus in west Orange County.

Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater denies admission to students if they, or someone in their home, are practicing a “homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity” or “promoting such practices.”

Wade Christian School in Melbourne keeps an “expulsion list,” with a “homosexual act” among the offenses, alongside bringing weapons to campus, distributing drugs and striking a staff member.

In Florida last year, 156 private Christian schools with these types of anti-gay views educated more than 20,800 students with tuition paid for by state scholarships, an Orlando Sentinel investigation found.

Florida’s scholarship programs, often referred to as school vouchers, sent more than $129 million to these religious institutions. That means at least 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome.

Step by step, the Trump administration, Red states, and the Supreme Court are denying any civil rights to gay people.

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports here that a Democratic legislator has proposed a bill that prevents voucher schools from discriminating against students, staff, or families based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, or disability.

Bill Phillis of Ohio has proposed that religious schools that get vouchers should be subject to the same laws and regulations as public schools and should be required to report their finances and take the same state tests as other publicly funded schools.

Will legislators in Ohio and Indiana tolerate any restrictions on voucher schools?

Will they too be required to be accountable in exchange for getting public money?

Or will the public be forced to pay for schools that discriminate and schools that indoctrinate their students into their religious world-view?


The charter industry has lobbied for years to promote the idea that public schools and their teachers and teachers unions are uniquely responsible for denying educational opportunity to children of color. Ever since the propaganda film “Waiting for Superman,” produced by billionaire charter supporter (and rightwing evangelical zealot Philip Anschutz), the charter industry has promoted the claim that supporters of public schools are hostile to children of color while they—funded by billionaires like the Waltons, the Sacklers, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and every Republican governor—claim to be champions of civil rights.

”Malarkey!” says FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).

FAIR offers a “close reading” of media bias against public schools and demonstrates how the charter industry has deceptively labeled any opposition to charters as the work of teachers’ unions, never admitting that supporters of public schools include parents, grandparents, and graduates of public schools, as well as members of the public who understand the importance of public education in a democracy.

After thirty years of charter advocacy, only 6% of American students are enrolled in them.  In the only city that is all-charter, New Orleans, the only choice that is forbidden is a public school. This decision was not the result of a vote by the citizens of New Orleans, but a decision imposed by the white Republicans who control the State Legislature. Southern white Republicans are not typically perceived as concerned about the well-being of children of color.

This is an important speech by Sasha Baron Cohen to a conference of the Anti-Defamation League.

I posted early this morning about this speech but only linked to the written version.

Watch Sasha Baron Cohen give the speech.

It is powerful.


David Currie is a rancher, a pastor, and a member of the board of Pastors for Texas Children. He writes in this post about those who claim that the Bible gives them the right to discriminate against and hate others. He is chair of the Democratic Party in Tom Green County.

He begins:

“Most of you have probably never heard of Rachel Held Evans, but I want you to know about her. In May, at age 37, she died from severe swelling of the brain brought on by an allergic reaction to medication she was taking for an infection. She left behind a husband and two children — a boy age 3 and a girl just under a year old.

”She also left behind millions of us who admired her and were inspired by her grace and courage.

“I followed her writings on Twitter and simply loved the things she wrote. She was a Christian who struggled honestly with the questions of faith. She wrote four books about her faith, especially encouraging others who struggled with making sense of God, the Bible and living the Christian faith.

“She always wrote about God’s grace, and she was courageous in doing so. She challenged those who gave simplistic answers to life’s complex questions. I’ll share a few quotes that especially resonated with me.

“It’s a frightful thing – thinking you have to get God right in order to get God to love you, thinking you’re always one error away from damnation. … The very condition of humanity is to be wrong about God. The moment we figure God out, God ceases to be God. Maybe it’s time to embrace the mystery and let ourselves off the hook.”

“I’ve come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it….

“Writing about Rachel brings to my mind Charles Perry, our state senator, who sponsored SB 17, which I call the “permission to hate in the name of Jesus” bill. It allows people serving the public to refuse service to people whose lives or beliefs conflict with their own “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Of course, what Senator Perry aims to do, in proposing this bill, is to give people the right to discriminate against gay people, or Muslims, or … well, you get the idea. If you don’t like the way someone chooses to live their lives or the way they think, it’s OK to disrespect them and refuse to serve them. Personally, I can’t imagine Jesus being pleased. Seems to me Jesus didn’t treat people this way.

“Rachel wrote: “I thought God wanted to use me to show gay people how to be straight. Instead God used gay people to show me how to be Christian.” Same thing has happened to me. I finally figured out what Dr. Tracy tried to teach me at Howard Payne — that the love of God is unconditional and that my role as a follower of Christ is to love people, not judge them.

“Maybe you disagree with Rachel and me. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to believe as you see fit, but it does not give you the right to discriminate against those who disagree with you. You need to learn the difference between acceptance and approval. You don’t have to approve of the way that others use their freedom in living out their faith and their lives, but you do have to accept their right to do so. It’s the American way….

“During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, there were plenty of people who did not want to serve African-Americans in their restaurants, hotels, or other places of business because of their “sincerely held religious belief” that white people were superior to black people. Sadly, that appears to be the “sincerely held religious belief” of millions in America today who are encouraged by our president and his statements in support of white supremacy and racism.

“What most bothered me about Senator Perry’s bill was his statement about how the Bible doesn’t need interpreting … that it speaks for itself. That just blew my mind, but it is typical of the thinking of Religious Right fundamentalists.

”Take, for example, Psalm 137:9 (NIV): “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” I kind of think that verse (and a few thousand more) might need some interpretation….

“But I am very concerned that many Christian leaders — for example, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Jerry Falwell, Jr.; and political leaders — for example, President Trump, Gov. Abbott, Senator Ted Cruz, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and State Senator Charles Perry, are working to redefine religious liberty as the right of Christians to be mean and hateful in the name of Jesus.

“That is not the meaning of the First Amendment, which guarantees all people in America — not just Christians — the freedom to worship (or not) freely without interference. It does not guarantee them the right to use their “sincerely held religious beliefs” as an excuse for racist and bigoted — or downright evil — actions toward others…

“In 1791, Baptist preacher John Leland defined religious liberty as well as it will ever be defined: “Let every man speak freely without fear — maintain the principles he believes — worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God or twenty Gods; and let the government protect him in so doing.” America was founded on this very sentiment…”





I recently watched the PBS special about the Jewish legacy on Broadway, and I enjoyed every minute.

It is online, and I share it now with you. 

I hope it is still online.

I have always loved Broadway musicals, and many are reprised in this special.

But in addition to the entertainment and the rich cultural history, we see a very contemporary story of immigrants coming to America and becoming quintessentially American. We see Irving Berlin arriving as a five-year-old from Russia, having survived a pogrom, then becoming the composer of “God Bless America,” “Easter Parade,” and “White Christmas,” among the thousands of songs he wrote. We see stories in which composers used their music to teach lessons about racism, intolerance, and bigotry, like “South Pacific,” and the song “You Got to Be Taught to Hate.” Often they told the stories through the experiences of other groups, like “Porgy and Bess” and “West Side Story.”

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I am sending a gift to PBS for remaining a beacon of light in these dark times.


Three students at the University of Mississippi posed with rifles at a memorial to Emmett Till, a Black boy who was murdered by vigilantes in 1955. 

For a long period of time, open racism was underground. Now, thanks to our president, racism is okay again.

The students were suspended by their fraternity. But not by the university. Not yet.