Archives for category: Biden

Gayle Green is a professor emeritus at Scripps College. In this post, she rages about the stupidity of the Biden testing mandate. In other areas of American life, we learn from our mistakes and move forward. But our policymakers are stuck in the past, so in love with failed ideas that they can’t let go of them.

She writes:

There’s hope in the air, a scent of spring, anticipation of change, democracy may pull through. Why, then, with K-12 public schools, the broken promise, the dismay?

Biden raised hopes when he promised, Dec 16, 2019, that he’d “commit to ending the use of standardized testing in public schools,” saying (rightly) that “teaching to a test underestimates and discounts the things that are most important for students to know.” Yet on Feb 22, his Department of Education did an about-face, announcing, “we need to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on learning …parents need information on how their children are doing.”

How the children are doing? They’re struggling, that’s how, doing their best, and so are teachers and parents. And it’s the least advantaged who are struggling the most, who, in the transition to online teaching, are likeliest to be without access to the internet, whose families are most vulnerable to loss of jobs, health care, lives. Now this? It costs $1.7 billion to administer these tests, but the toll on kids— the tears, terrors, alienation— is incalculable.

Most people have no idea what a blight these exams are, how they’ve stripped K-12 curricula of civics, history, literature, the arts, languages, even the sciences. Since schools live or die on the basis of test scores, what does not get tested does not get taught, and education is reduced to a mindless drill of math and English skills. No wonder kids come out of school wanting never to read another book, knowing nothing about science, the past, how to read their world. No wonder teachers are leaving in droves; the teacher shortage was dire even before the pandemic. When Betsy DeVos waived these tests last spring, teachers were so relieved that some said it had been worth the move online, to have 6-8 weeks liberated for teaching.

The high-stakes standardized testing regime began with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002). The program arrived in a cloud of rhetoric about “access” and “civil rights,” describing itself as “an act to close the achievement gap… so that no child is left behind.” NCLB was, by 2009, an acknowledged failure, but the Obama administration took it over, renaming it Race to the Top, and requiring that states adopt, as a condition for federal funds, the Common Core State Standards, a set of national standards nailed into place in 2010 by the billions and boosterism of Bill Gates. Gates promised that the Core would “unleash powerful market forces,” which it did, and would level the playing field, which it did not.

And how could it? The only thing testing has ever done for the disadvantaged is to communicate a message of failure and lay waste to public schools. What test scores measure is family income; they correlate so closely that there’s a term for it—the zip code effect. When test scores have shown “low performance,” schools have been closed by the hundreds, mainly in low-income, minority neighborhoods, and replaced with privately-run, profit-generating charters.

Despite twenty years of failure, despite the waste of time and money, the standardized testing must go on. More broken promises.

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Ezra Klein of the New York Times interviewed Senator Bernie Sanders for his podcast, “The Ezra Klein Show.”

Listen to “The Ezra Klein Show”:Apple PodcastsPocket CastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsStitcher (How to Listen)

Bernie Sanders didn’t win the 2020 election. But he may have won its aftermath.

If you look back at Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’s careers, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, looks a lot like the proposals Sanders has fought for forever, without much of the compromise or concerns that you used to see from Senator Joe Biden. That’s not to take anything away from Biden. He’s the president. This is his plan. And it is to his credit that he saw what the country needed, what the politics of the moment would support and where his party had moved, and met it with full force.

But Sanders’s two presidential campaigns are part of the reason that the Democratic Party had moved, and the politics of the moment had changed. And so I’ve wondered what Sanders makes of this moment. Is it a triumph? A disappointment? A beginning?

And I’ve wondered about his take on some of the other questions swirling around the Democratic Party: Are liberals alienating people who agree with them on economics by being too censorious on culture? Is there room to work with populist Republicans who might be open to new economic ideas even as they turn against liberal democracy itself?

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” wherever you get your podcasts, or clicking play above. An edited transcript follows:

The 2009 stimulus was 5.6 percent of the G.D.P. in 2008. The Rescue Plan this year is 9.1 percent of last year’s G.D.P. So it’s just much bigger. And the individual policies in it are, in my view, much less compromised. So why are 50 Democrats in 2021 legislating so much more progressively than 59 Democrats did in 2009?

Well, I think that there is a growing understanding that we face unprecedented crises, and we have got to act in an unprecedented way. Members of Congress look around this country, and they see children who don’t have enough food, people facing eviction. People can’t get health care. We have, obviously, the need to crush this terrible pandemic that has taken over 500,000 lives.

And I think the conclusion from the White House and from Congress is, now is the time to do what the American people need us to do. And it turned out to be a $1.9 trillion bill, which, to my mind, was the single most significant piece of legislation for working-class people that has been passed since the 1960s.

Let’s say I’m someone on the left who supported you in 2020. I’m looking at the American Rescue Plan and I see the $15 minimum wage got dropped, paid family leave got dropped. The child tax credit, which is my favorite part of the bill, it’s only temporary. Convince me that I should be excited about this. Why do you think it’s so significant?

I don’t have to convince you. We have already convinced 75 percent of the American people that this is a very good piece of legislation. And I think progressives out there understand that given a fairly conservative Congress, it is hard to do everything that we want to do.

I was bitterly disappointed that we lost the minimum wage in the reconciliation process as a result of a decision from the parliamentarian, which I think was a wrong decision. But we’re not giving up on that. We’re going to come back, and we’re going to do it.

But in this legislation, let us be clear we have gotten for a family of four — a working-class family struggling to put food on the table for their kids — a check of $5,600. Now people who have money may not think that’s a lot of money. But when you are struggling day and night to pay the bills, to worry about eviction, that is going to be a lifesend for millions and millions of people.

We extended unemployment to September with the $300 supplement. We expanded the child tax credit to cut child poverty in America by 50 percent. Now, that’s an issue we have not dealt with for a very long time — the disgrace of the U.S. having one of the highest rates of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth. Well, we did it, and we hope to make it permanent. That is a big deal.

And obviously, we invested heavily in dealing with the pandemic, getting the vaccines out to the people as quickly as possible to save lives. In terms of education, billions of dollars are going to make sure that we open our schools as quickly and as safely as we can. We tripled funding for summer programs so the kids will have the opportunity to make up the academic work that they have lost. Tripled funding for after-school programs so when kids come back next fall, there will be programs the likes of which we have never seen.

So this is not a perfect bill. Congress does not pass perfect bills. But for working-class people, this is the most significant piece of legislation passed since the 1960s. And I’m proud of what we have done.

However, it is clear to me — and I think the American people — that we have more to do. This is an emergency bill that says, in America families should not go hungry. People should not be forced out of their homes.

Now we have to deal with the long-term structural problems facing our country that have long, long been neglected way before the pandemic: rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, address the existential threat of climate change, create many millions of decent-paying jobs, build the millions of units of affordable housing that we need.

In terms of the social issues: fight structural racism, immigration reform, fight against the growing trend of authoritarianism. We’re living in a nation today where 30 percent or 40 percent of the American people have given up on democracy — a worldwide problem. How do we combat that? We got to deal with voter suppression and the effort of Republicans to make it harder and harder for people of color, lower-income people, to vote.

There are a huge number of issues out there. Some of them are existential — they have to be dealt with. And I intend to do everything that I can as chairman of the Budget Committee to make sure that we continue to move forward.

This bill, as you mentioned, passed through budget reconciliation. The things that couldn’t go through budget reconciliation got dropped from it. But a bunch of the different policy measures you just mentioned can’t go through budget reconciliation. You can’t do immigration reform there. You can’t do H. R. 1, the For the People Act, or H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Act.

Well, I’m not so sure.

You’re budget chairman. Tell me why.

I don’t want to bore the American people with the rules of the United States.

Bore me. [LAUGHS]

If you have insomnia, pick up the rule book. You’ll be asleep in about five minutes. It is enormously complicated. It is enormously undemocratic. It is designed to move very, very slowly, which we cannot afford to do, given the crises that we face today.

This is the way I look at it: We have a set of literally unprecedented crises. Ideally, it would be nice that we could work in a bipartisan way with our Republican colleagues — and maybe in some areas, we can. But the major goal is to address these crises. That is what the American people want. And if we can’t do it in a bipartisan way with 60 votes, we’re going to figure out a way that we get it done with 50 votes.

I have never heard a theory under which you could do democracy reform bills like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act or a major immigration reform bill through budget reconciliation. Do you see a way around that? Are you talking about the Democrats changing reconciliation or changing the filibuster?

Well, obviously, I believe that we should do away with the filibuster. I think the filibuster is an impediment to addressing the needs of this country, and especially of working-class people. So I believe that at this moment we should get rid of the filibuster, and I will work as hard as I can to do that.

I’m not going to lay out all of our strategy that we’re working on right now. But what I repeat is that this country faces huge problems. The American people want us to address those problems. And we cannot allow a minority to stop us from going forward.

There’s a lot of coverage, as there always is, about potential friction in the Democratic caucus in the Senate — differences between, say, a Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and others. Do you find the caucus to be united on strategy more, or less than in the past?

Obviously, you’ve got 50 people. And when you have 50 people, the crazy situation is that any one person could prevent us from moving forward. But I think and hope that there is an understanding that despite our differences — and some of these differences are significant — we have got to work with the president of the United States, who I think is prepared to go forward aggressively in a number of issues. We cannot sabotage the needs of the American people.

So any one person really has enormous power. But I would hope that by definition, when you are a member of a caucus, you fight for what your views are within the caucus. But at the end of the day, nobody is going to get everything they want. I did not get everything that I want in the American Rescue Plan. Others did not get everything they wanted.

But at the end of the day, we have got to go forward together because we need to be united. And I think there is a widespread understanding about the importance of that.

Let’s talk about the dynamics between the parties right now. A few months ago, you were working with Senator Josh Hawley on bigger stimulus checks. That was a very effective project. But then Senator Hawley votes against certifying the election. He raised his fist to the mob from the Capitol. How have your relationships with Republicans changed in the aftermath of Jan. 6?

Well, all in all, I don’t want to get into personalities here. But this is what I would say. And I think it’s a very sad state of affairs.

Obviously, in the last many years, only accelerated by Donald Trump, the Republican Party has moved not only very far to the right, but moved in the direction of authoritarianism. You have a president of the United States saying a month before the election that the only way he could lose that election is if it was stolen from him. After he lost the election, he says, obviously, it was stolen. And you have now a very significant majority of Republicans who believe that the election was stolen.

That is where many Republicans are. You got a lot of Republican senators, members of the House, who are refusing even today to say that Joe Biden won a fair and square election. So you’ve got a whole lot of problems. That’s one of the issues that as a nation, as a Democratic Party, we have got to address.

Do you think a byproduct of how the Republican Party has changed is that it puts less emphasis on economic issues than it used to? I was struck by how much more energized Republicans were the week that the American Rescue Plan passed by the debate over Dr. Seuss’s books than by this $1.9 billion spending bill.

Look, the energy in the Republican Party has nothing to do with tax breaks to the rich. Republicans are not going into the streets, the Trump Republicans, saying: We need more tax breaks for the rich, we need more deregulation, we need to end the Affordable Care Act and throw 30 million people off their health care. That’s not what they’re talking about.

What Trump understood is we are living in a very rapidly changing world. And there are many people — most often older white males, but not exclusively — who feel that they’re losing control of the world that they used to dominate. And somebody like Donald Trump says: “We are going to preserve the old way of life, where older white males dominated American society. We’re not going to let them take that away from us.” That is where their energy is.

One of the gratifying things is the American Rescue Plan had a decent amount of Republican support — 35 percent, 40 percent. But among lower-income Republicans, that number was 63 percent.

So I think that our political goal in the coming months and years is to do everything we can to reach out to young people, reach out to people of color, reach out to all people who believe in economic and social justice, but also reach out aggressively to working-class Republicans and tell them we’re going to make sure that you and your children will have a decent standard of living. We’re going to raise the minimum wage for you. We’re going to make it easier for you to join a union. We’re going to make sure that health care in America is a human right. We’re going to make sure that if we do tax breaks, you’re going to get them and not the billionaire class.

I think we have a real opportunity to pick up support in that area. And if we can do that — if you can get 10 percent of Trump’s support and grow our support by addressing the real issues that our people feel are important — you’re going to put together a coalition that is not going to lose a lot of elections.

The Republican strategy right now, to your exact point, is to go to these people and say, the Democrats want to take away things that are culturally important to you. They want to take away your Dr. Seuss books. They want to take away your guns. They want to make it so your kids can’t go to religious school.

How do you talk to voters who are actually worried about those direct questions — who may agree with Democrats on the economic side, but are worried the Democrats are going to take things they culturally care about?

It’s a good question, and no one that I know has a magical answer to it. I do think that addressing economic issues is helpful. It’s not the 100 percent solution. As you know, you’ve got the QAnon people telling their supporters that Democrats — I’m not sure what the latest particular thing is, killed babies and eat their brains or something. Is that the latest thing that we’re supposed to be doing? I don’t know.

But when people who are in trouble suddenly receive a check for $5,600 for a family of four, when their unemployment is extended, when they get health care that they previously did not have, when they’re better able to raise their child, it’s not going to solve all of these cultural problems by a long shot, but it begins maybe to open the door and say, well, you know what? This is good. Trump didn’t do this for us. And maybe these Democrats are not as bad as we thought that they were.

I think it’s going to take a lot of work. These cultural issues, I don’t know how you bridge the gap. You have people who are fervently anti-choice, and I’m not sure that you are going to win many of them over. But I think what we have got to do is do what I’m afraid the Democrats have not always done in the past. And that is treat people with respect.

I come from one of the most rural states in America, and I lived in a town of 200 people for a couple of years. And I think there is not an appreciation of rural America or the values of rural America, the sense of community that exists in rural America. And somehow or another, the intellectual elite does have, in some cases, a contempt for the people who live in rural America. I think we’ve got to change that attitude and start focusing on the needs of people in rural America, treat them with respect, and understand there are areas there are going to be disagreements, but we can’t treat people with contempt.

Do you think there is truth to the critique that liberals have become too censorious and too willing to use their cultural and corporate and political power to censor or suppress ideas and products that offend them?

Look, you have a former president in Trump, who was a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a pathological liar, an authoritarian, somebody who doesn’t believe in the rule of law. This is a bad-news guy. But if you’re asking me, do I feel particularly comfortable that the then-president of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about that.

Now, I don’t know what the answer is. Do you want hate speech and conspiracy theories traveling all over this country? No. Do you want the internet to be used for authoritarian purposes and an insurrection, if you like? No, you don’t. So how do you balance that? I don’t know, but it is an issue that we have got to be thinking about. Because yesterday it was Donald Trump who was banned, and tomorrow, it could be somebody else who has a very different point of view.

I don’t like giving that much power to a handful of high-tech people. But the devil is obviously in the details, and it’s something we’re going to have to think long and hard on.

Do you think Joe Biden is having an easier time selling an ambitious progressive agenda than Barack Obama did, at least to these audiences, partly because he’s an older white man, rather than a young Black man?

I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s not forget that Barack Obama, after four years, was re-elected with a pretty good majority. He was a popular president and a very popular figure today. But I think you can’t look at Biden or Obama without looking into the moment in which they are living. I think in the last number of years since Obama, political consciousness in this country has changed.

I think to a significant degree, the progressive movement has been successful in saying to the American people that are in the richest country in the history of the world, you know what? You’re entitled to health care as a right. You’re entitled to a decent-paying job. Your kid is entitled to go to a public college or university tuition-free. That it is absolutely imperative that we have the courage to take on the fossil-fuel industry and save this planet by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels. That it is a moral issue that we finally deal in a comprehensive way with 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

I think Biden is in a position where this country has moved forward at the grass-roots level in a much more progressive way. It is not an accident that today the House of Representatives is far more progressive than it was when I was there in the House.

And then you had a president who was a moderate Democrat throughout his time in the Senate, who had the courage to look at the moment and say, you know what? The future of American democracy is at stake, tens of millions of people are struggling economically. They’re really in pain. Our kids are hurting. Seniors are hurting. I’ve got to act boldly. And Biden deserves credit for that.

But what I hope very much is that understanding of the need to act bold goes beyond the American Rescue Plan and is the path that Biden continues during his administration.

Let’s talk about those generational differences. You’re no spring chicken, but you were the overwhelming choice of young voters in 2020. How are the politics of younger voters different, and why are they different?

I love the younger generation. I really do. And it’s not just because they supported me. People say, how did you get the support of the younger people? We treated them with respect and we talked about the issues to them in the same way we talked about the issues to every other generation that’s out there. I think you’ve got a couple of factors, though.

No. 1, for a variety of reasons, the younger generation today is the most progressive generation in the modern history of this country. This is the generation that is firmly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-xenophobia — a very compassionate generation that believes in economic and social and environmental justice. So you’ve got that.

And then the second thing you’ve got is, this is a generation of young people that is really hurting economically. This is the first generation in the modern history of this country where, everything being equal, they’re going to have a lower standard of living than their parents. And that’s even before the pandemic, which has made a bad situation worse.

This is a generation where, on average, young workers are making less money than their parents. They’re having a much harder time buying a home or paying the rent. This is a generation stuck with a huge amount of student debt. And I was surprised, when we first raised this issue of student debt back in 2016, how it really caught on.

Because people are saying, you know what? What crime did I commit that I have to be $50,000 or $100,000 in debt? I was told over and over again, get an education. I got an education. I went to a state university. I went to a private school. I went to school for four years, and now I’m stuck with a $50,000, $100,000 debt. I went to graduate school. I went to medical school. I got $300,000 in debt. That’s insane.

I think if you look at the young generation from an idealistic point of view, it’s a generation that has expectations and views that are much more progressive than their parents and grandparents. But it is also a generation that wants the government to address the economic pain that they are feeling.

It was a striking moment when President Biden released a video pretty explicitly backing the workers trying to unionize at Amazon’s Alabama warehouse. What could Congress do to help? What do you want to do to help reverse the decline of unionization in the U.S.?

I’m chairman of the Budget Committee, and we just had a hearing which touched on that issue. We had a young woman from a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., the Amazon plant there, and she was talking about why they need a union. I invited Jeff Bezos to attend the hearing to tell me why a guy who was worth $182 billion thinks he has to spend millions of dollars to fight workers who are trying to form a union to improve their wages and working conditions.

What I have believed for a long time, what Joe Biden believes, is we need to pass legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions. Because if workers are in unions and can negotiate decent contracts, their wages will go up. Their working conditions and their benefits will improve. So we are working hard on that issue, and something I know the House has passed. I want to see it passed here in the Senate as well.

Should Democrats be pushing for something bigger, like sectoral bargaining?

I believe so. I campaigned on that. But I think bottom line is that Democrats got to take a deep breath and to make the determination of whether or not they’re going to become the party of the American working class — a class, by the way, which has suffered really terribly in the last 40 or 50 years, where today, workers are barely in real wages making any more than they did 40 or 50 years ago, despite huge increases in technology and productivity. I think we got to do that.

And I think when we do that — when we have the courage to take on powerful special interests, taking on Wall Street, taking on the drug companies, taking on the health care industry, taking on big campaign contributors who want to maintain the status quo — we are going to be able to transform this country and create an economy and a government that works for all. And I think Democrats are going to have very good political success as well.

The Rescue Plan will be followed up by a big jobs and investment package. What needs to be in that package for it to win your support?

The simple stuff and obvious stuff is, you’ve got an infrastructure which is crumbling and roads and bridges and water systems and wastewater plants. I would add affordable and low-income housing to any discussion of infrastructure. So you’ve got to deal with infrastructure, and when you do that, you can create millions of good-paying jobs.

But obviously, also, you have to deal with the existential threat of climate change. We’ve got to guarantee health care to all people as a right. You got to deal with immigration reform. You’ve got to deal with criminal justice and systemic racism. So those are some of the big, big issues that are out there.

You can listen to the entire conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” wherever you get your podcasts, or clicking play below.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post reviews the Network for Public Education report on for-profit charters, which explains how such money-grabbers function in states where they are supposedly illegal. Arizona is the only state where for-profit charters are legal, yet the report says they operate in 26 states and D.C. In Florida and Michigan, the majority of charters are run by for-profit companies.

Strauss points out that Joe Biden promised to cut off federal funding to for-profit charters. Here is a road map he can use to keep his promise.

She writes:

Now a new report, titled “Chartered For Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain,” details how many for-profit management companies (referred to as EMOs) evade state laws banning for-profit charters.


They set up nonprofit schools and then direct the schools’ business operations to related corporations. For example, it says, one of the largest EMOs, National Heritage Academies, “locks schools in with a ‘sweeps contract’ where virtually all revenue is passed to the for-profit management corporation, NHA, that runs the school.”


“In other cases, the EMO recommends their own related companies for services that include leasing, personnel services, and curriculum,” it says.


The report was produced by the Network for Public Education, an education advocacy group that opposes charter schools. It was written by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former award-winning New York principal, and Darcie Cimarusti, the network’s communications director.


The authors wrote that despite “strict regulations against the disbursement of funds from the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) to charter schools operated by for-profit entities,” they identified more than 440 charter schools operated for profit that received grants totaling approximately $158 million between 2006 and 2017.


They also found that fewer disadvantaged students, proportionally, attend charters run for profit than at traditional public schools.


“Comparing the five cities with the most for-profit charter schools (by the proportion of students attending these schools) revealed that in all but one city — Detroit — for-profit run charters served far fewer students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch,” the report says. “In all cities, for-profit-run schools serve fewer students who receive services” under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.


Charters schools are publicly financed but privately operated. About 6 percent of U.S. schoolchildren attend charter schools, with 44 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico having laws permitting them.


Charter advocates say that these schools offer choices to families who want alternatives to troubled schools in traditional public school districts. Critics say that charter schools take money from public districts that educate most American children and are part of a movement to privatize public education.
This report is the third on federal funding of charter schools that the Network for Public Education has published since 2019. The earlier reports chronicle the waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on charter schools that did not open or were shut down — and revealed that the U.S. Education Department failed to adequately monitor federal grants to these schools. You can learn about the first two reports here and here.


For years, charter schools enjoyed bipartisan support — and were backed by the administrations of presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. But more recently, many Democrats have become skeptical of the charter movement, especially those schools that are operated or managed by for-profit entities — and Biden has vowed to stop federal funding for-profit charters.


But what is a for-profit charter?
“The term ‘for-profit charter school,’ while commonly used, does not accurately describe the vast majority of charters designed to create private profit,” the new report says.


While only one state — Arizona — legally allows for-profit entities to be licensed to operate charter schools, for-profit entities find ways to set up schools in states that only allow nonprofits to operate, it says.
The new report explains that typically, an EMO would find individuals interested in operating a charter school and then help “them create a nonprofit organization and apply for a charter license.”


Then, the board of the nonprofit group “enters into a contract with the for-profit EMO to run the school,” the report says. For-profit owners “maximize their revenue through self-dealing, excessive fees, real estate transactions, and under-serving students who need the most expensive services,” the Network for Public Education says.


Between September 2020 and February 2021, the authors said they identified more than 1,100 charter schools that have contracts with one of 138 for-profit organizations to control the schools’ key — or total — operations, including management, personnel and curriculum...

The report’s authors make recommendations to the U.S. Education Department and states regarding charters that are operated for profit, including:


• The Education Department “should conduct an extensive audit of present and former grantees to ascertain compliance with all regulations that define the for-profit relationship.”

• The federal government “should define a for-profit charter school as a school in which more than 30 percent of all revenue flows directly or indirectly to for-profit vendors.”

• All states should “follow the lead of Ohio by listing the management providers and posting their contracts with charter schools. To that information, the profit status of the EMO should be added.”

• Sweeps contracts should “be outlawed in every state.”• Related corporations of for-profit and nonprofit management companies should “be prohibited from doing business with their managed charter schools.”

• All charters should “be held by the school or campus itself, and not by a nonprofit subsidiary.”• A national database should “be developed that lists all charter EMOs and their corporate status (for-profit or nonprofit), along with their address and the name(s) of the private corporation’s owner(s).”

Politico writes that Senator Bernie Sanders deserves credit for key features of the $1.9 trillion Biden plan and for encouraging Biden not to compromise with moderate Republicans who offered a $900 billion plan.

Politico said:

 Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) played the most dramatic role during the passage of the Covid relief bill into law. But the senator with the greatest imprint on the script itself was his colleague on the opposite end of the Democratic ideological spectrum: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Sanders’ influence on the most ambitious piece of domestic legislation in a generation is evident in several places, particularly the guaranteed income program for children, the massive subsidies for people to buy health care, the sheer size of the $1.9 trillion measure and the centerpiece of it — direct checks to working Americans. 

But the specifics of the law tell only part of the story. The calculus by which the legislation was crafted and passed — a belief that popular bills endure more than bipartisan ones — is quintessentially Sanders. And it raises a thought-provoking question: Has any elected official in American history had such a profound influence on a major political party without ever formally joining it? 

Six years ago, Democrats were in a different place. Austerity politics were still gripping parts of the party. The ambitious agenda items were more social than economic: immigration reform, gun control, police reform after Ferguson. And in a few months time, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee would make serious inroads among the white working class voters who had served as the bedrock for Democrats for decades. 

Within that landscape, Sanders was a throwback: a labor-oriented big-government liberal who seemed like more of a gadfly than a serious player. He was known for passing little-noticed amendments but also found a knack for making well-noticed public spectacles, often as acts of disagreement with the Obama White House on items like domestic surveillance laws and the extension of the Bush tax cuts. As his following picked up, a depiction of him emerged as an ideologue who valued ideological purity over progress and was content to undermine a historic president in the service of it.

That never jibed with reality. Though admittedly stubborn, Sanders voted often for major bills that fell short of his ambitions (Obamacare), cut deals that went against his ideology (VA reform), and made sure his public shows of opposition didn’t actually turn into catastrophes for the Democratic Party. When his legislative white whale (a $15-an-hour minimum wage hike) was nixed by the parliamentarian a few weeks back, he could have insisted that his fallback option be given a vote. He didn’t, calculating that it wasn’t worth jeopardizing or delaying the entire enterprise over the minimum wage. As one Sanders aide described it: “He knows when to throw down and when it’s time to get s— done…”

The Democratic Party today holds razor-thin majorities in both chambers and is helmed by a president who might have been the most moderate of the 20 or so candidates who ran in the primary. And yet every single member — save one in the House — voted for a nearly $2 trillion deficit-financed bill that sends money without strings attached to the poorest Americans, all while embracing a unionization effort targeting the biggest e-commerce giant in the world and entertaining a $4 trillion follow-up bill to revamp American infrastructure that will likely include tax hikes on the rich. If Sanders was just a touch more extroverted, we’d likely see signs of euphoria in Burlington.

Of course, credit (or, if you’re so inclined, blame) isn’t his alone. The enlarged child tax credit has been the project of countless Democrats, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). The bill’s $86 billion bailout for multi-employer pensions was spearheaded by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). And none of it would have been possible without twin Senate wins in Georgia or Biden’s insistence that he needed to go big out the gate. 

But, it’s worth recalling, that Biden easily could have charted a bipartisan approach instead. In early December, Manchin and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced the outlines of a $900 billion relief bill of their own, with a splashy Washington Post op-ed framing it as the logical step toward ideological comity. Five other senators in the Democratic caucus were on board with the idea

Sanders rejected the proposal out of hand. His move sent an early signal to the White House that it would have to scramble for votes even on a center-of-the-road approach. Weeks later, the Georgia election happened, Biden stuck to the script that bigger was better, and the pieces of a $1.9 trillion package — upon which the success of the Demcratic Party now hangs — fell into place.

Sheelah Kolhatkar, a staff writer for The New Yorker, describes the most remarkable part of the Biden COVID rescue plan: its income payments for children. The fate of this experiment depends on electing enough Democrats in 2022 to extend it into the future and convincing Republicans that the program is so popular that they should support it. Now that the legislation has been passed, Biden must work hard to forge a bipartisan coalition to make it permanent.

On Tuesday, March 9th, Amy Castro Baker stood on her front porch and watched as her two teen-age children boarded a bus and went off to school together for the first time in a year. Her sense of relief was profound. Baker, a researcher of economic mobility and an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice, had been through a challenging period familiar to most parents—and especially to working mothers. For the past year, she had balanced the demands of a full-time job with overseeing her kids’ online schooling, while also cooking, cleaning, and running the household as a single parent. “We’re at the point in my home where it’s a choice between what’s higher risk, covid or my kids’ mental health,” Baker said. “I’m not sure I could have handled another month.” These are the kinds of difficulties that the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9-trillion pandemic-relief bill recently passed by Congress, was designed to address. Benefits in the bill could help millions of families who are facing similar challenges and are living under much greater financial precarity.

The bill, which was signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday, offers a variety of benefits intended to address economic hardship caused by the pandemic. No Republicans voted for the legislation, largely based on the argument that the pandemic will end soon and the economy doesn’t need the help. And it’s true that some aspects of the legislation go beyond the demands of the pandemic, addressing economic disparities that existed before covid-19 hit. The bill includes provisions to give one-time, fourteen-hundred-dollar payments to individuals earning fewer than eighty thousand dollars a year, and to increase unemployment insurance by three hundred dollars per week until early September. But it is the plan’s expanded, fully refundable child tax credit—which is worth thirty-six hundred dollars for each child under age six and three thousand dollars for those aged six to seventeen—that has the greatest potential to change the way that the United States addresses poverty.

A typical child tax credit can only be claimed by people earning enough money to pay taxes in the first place, which excludes those with an earned income of fewer than twenty-five hundred dollars—in other words, those in the most dire need. The new child tax credit works differently: starting in July, the federal government will send cash each month, until December, to parents for every child that they have regardless of the family’s employment status, and the remaining balance will be disbursed once families file their taxes next year. “It will actually maintain and lift living standards for millions of women and their children,” Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, told me, adding that she hopes the credit will eventually become a permanent benefit. “There’s also a massive racial-justice angle here, too. This will disproportionately help families of color, and it will disproportionately bring Black kids and Hispanic kids out of poverty. This is groundbreaking.”

In some ways, the credit resembles much debated proposals to set up a universal-basic-income program, which would send cash to families every month to help them get by. Such a program never seemed possible in the United States, but lessons from the 2008 financial crisis, the Trump Presidency, and the pandemic have changed what policymakers are willing to try. “It signals a turn in the way that we approach alleviating poverty and supporting the unpaid care work of women that makes the economy move,” Baker told me.

Valerie Strauss writes about the dramatic effect that the Biden COVID relief plan will have on children. The effects will last only for one year, but Democrats hope to make the family income provision permanent. To do that, they need to retain a majority in 2022 because the GQP doesn’t believe in direct cash benefits to families. They prefer tax cuts for the rich, which might (or might not) incentivize them to create new jobs. That’s trickle-down economics. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it “feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses.”

Valerie Strauss suggests that the plan

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is aimed at helping the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic — but it is another thing, as well: a major federal school reform unlike those we’ve seen in the past few decades.

While the new law is aimed at helping families get back on their feet and helping businesses and schools reopen after a year of turmoil, it includes measures that together have the potential to slash poverty among the 12 million students who live in low-income households.

Biden himself tweeted recently: “No child should grow up in poverty. The American Rescue Plan will expand the child tax credit and cut the child poverty rate in half.”

Outside estimates on its impact have come to the same conclusion, including one from the nonprofit Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which said that two key tax credit provisions could “together lift more children above the poverty line, 5.5 million, than any other economic support program.” An Urban Institute analysis of the plan said the child poverty rate in 2021 will fall by more than 52 percent, largely from changes in tax law and the $1,400 stimulus checks that are part of the relief package.

It should be noted that most of the provisions in this new law will remain in effect only for a year or two — and there is no guarantee what will happen beyond then. But directly aiming to reduce child poverty is exactly what many advocates for children have long said is needed.

Policymakers have been focused for decades on improving public schools with a culture based on standardized testing, the expansion of charter schools and other “school choice” measures, and, in some places, the demonization of teachers. Child poverty, they said, was an excuse for poor performance by adults.

But the testing/choice/big data approach has not closed the achievement gap, and on some measures, it has barely moved.

Critics say research clearly shows that standardized test scores are fundamentally a metric of the state of child poverty in America, not of school quality. Students who live in low-income Zip codes virtually always have lower test scores than those who don’t.

While conditions inside many schools do need to be overhauled — and some teachers need better training — what happens to children outside of school has a far larger effect on their performance than what happens in class, researchers have said.

“On nearly every single outcome that we can assess, public schools have a marginal impact that is really small relative to the impact of families,” said Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and founding director of the university’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning.

Many schools nationwide have attempted to address the out-of-school lives of students, including “community schools” that forge partnerships with local agencies and organizations to provide wraparound services for children.

But federal policy has been focused on other things since 2002′s No Child Left Behind law ushered in an era of standardized-testing accountability systems for schools and districts. While running for president, Biden had said he wants to make education equity a top priority.

Biden’s rescue plan will, among other things, send direct cash payments of $1,400 to more than 85 percent of U.S. households, make health care more affordable and extend unemployment benefits.

It will also make key changes in federal tax law, including with the child tax credit, which until now has largely helped middle- and high-income families. Under the new law, many more low-income families will be eligible for the credit, which will rise from $2,000 to $3,600 per child every year. The money will be sent to families over the course of the year in installments — essentially a guaranteed income.

Biden has said he wants the changes in the child tax credit to be permanent, which would have a lasting effect on the child poverty rate. At this time, they aren’t.

In 2011, writer Sarah Garland said in the Hechinger Report,“Increasingly, educators and experts are questioning the reformers’ tactics and asking whether the single-minded focus on schools has become an excuse to avoid the hard work of addressing poverty.”

The American Rescue Plan seems to be a start.

I said I won’t repost blogs anymore, except for very rare occasions. I intend to stick to my promise.

So don’t consider this a repost. Consider it an introduction.

An ally in Florida sent me two blogs by Billy Townsend.

Here are the ones I read. I subscribed to his blog.

He wrote this blog for the benefit of Jennifer Berkshire, co-author of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door.

He says that Florida is the state that put the nation at risk. He explains why. Great reading.

In this one, he lays out exactly how to get Biden’s attention: prepare to run a primary against him for ignoring/betraying the parents and teachers devoted to public education. Active opposition, he says, will get the wolf away from the schoolhouse door.

In this one, he describes how the voucher schools that Florida wants more of include a large number of segregated and unaccredited schools. How cynical that Florida figured out a clever way to restore segregation by lying to black parents. He asks:

Is it any wonder Florida’s FTC vouchers have a 61 percent 2-year drop out rate?

I have noticed that voucher studies typically overlook or minimize or obscure attrition rates. I remember a voucher study of Milwaukee by pro-voucher academic Patrick Wolf where he noted that voucher schools had higher graduation rates when compared to public schools. In the original study, the attrition rate was 75%. When Mercedes Schneider jumped on that statistic, Wolf said he made a error and lowered the dropout rate to 56%. Of course, 56% is a huge attrition rate too. (See here too and see here as well.)

I wrote this article a few weeks ago. I submitted it to two major newspapers as an opinion piece. The editors at both newspapers said there were no cases in the judicial pipeline, and thus my proposal was impossible. But then on Monday February 22, the Supreme Court made a decision about a Trump challenge to the Pennsylvania balloting, rejecting it with a single sentence. That might have been the chance. Maybe there is another futile legal challenge that would make this plea possible. I offer it to you because I think it makes sense even if the op-ed editors don’t.

            The United States is split almost down the middle, as the last election demonstrated. Families and friends are hopelessly divided, and some people just can’t discuss politics anymore for fear of losing touch with people they care about. Some people blame Donald Trump, some blame Newt Gingrich, some trace the fissures back even farther in time. 

            Whenever it started, the issue today is how we are able to function as a nation when we can’t even agree on basic facts. The political polarization seems likely to last a long time, but at the very least we could heal some of the divisions by establishing one basic fact: Who won the last election. According to polls, most Republicans have been persuaded by former President Trump that the election was stolen from him. To this day, Trump continues to insist he won the election.

            There is only one tribunal where this issue of fact can be resolved to the satisfaction of almost all Americans, and that is the United States Supreme Court. The current composition of the Supreme Court heavily favors Republicans. Six of its nine members were appointed by Republican presidents: Chief Justice John Roberts (appointed by President George W. Bush); Justice Clarence Thomas (appointed by President George H.W. Bush); Justice Stephen Breyer (appointed by President Bill Clinton); Justice Samuel Alito (appointed by President George W. Bush); Justice Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by President Barack Obama); Justice Elena Kagan (appointed by President Barack Obama); Justice Neil Gorsuch (appointed by President Donald Trump); Justice Brett Kavanaugh (appointed by President Trump); and Amy Coney Barrett (appointed by President Trump). 

            Chief Justice John Roberts could lead the Court in deciding to consider one of the many challenges to the Presidential election of 2020. The Supreme Court declined to hear three challenges, and at least sixty cases were decided by state and federal courts. Surely, there must still be one in the pipeline that would allow the Supreme Court to review the evidence and reach a conclusion about whether the election was wrongly decided, whether there was massive voter fraud, and whether voting machines were rigged to favor the Biden-Harris ticket. One of the voting machine companies, Smartmatic, has been accused of “rigging” the vote in multiple states, but it was used only in Los Angeles County. Both Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems have filed massive defamation lawsuits against those who accused them of switching votes from Trump to Biden.

            A careful review by the Supreme Court could take into consideration the lengthy record of litigation in federal district courts and appeals courts where the Trump campaign was unable to produce any evidence for its claims of election fraud. Outside the courtroom, campaign officials made lurid charges of voter fraud, lost ballots, rigged machines, ballot dumps, and votes cast by dead people, but they didn’t repeat those claims in the courtroom because they had no evidence.

            If the nation is ever to heal, there must be a reckoning with the charges that are now poisoning our politics. A sizable portion of the nation does not believe that Joe Biden won the election. A significant part of the Republican Party believes that his presidency is illegitimate. Such claims damage the ability of our political system to function. These claims were the basis of the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that might have led to mass casualties, had it not been for the bravery of an overwhelmed Capitol Police force. Former President Trump has made clear that he will continue to insist that the election was stolen from him. He will not stop undermining his successor.

            Only an institution that has the trust of the majority of the American people, and especially an institution that has the trust of Republicans, can settle this matter to the satisfaction of the vast majority of our citizens. 

            Only the United States Supreme Court have the credibility to review the facts and set the record straight about the 2020 election. 

Joe Biden just signed the most sweeping economic relief package since the New Deal. He has addressed poverty and inequality directly and fearlessly. Trump could boast of a massive tax cut for the rich. Biden can boast of putting money in the pockets of most Americans at a time of dire need. The number of children in poverty, by most estimates, will be cut in half.

A significant and permanent decline in the child poverty rate—currently higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations—will improve the lives of not only children, but families and communities. Children will have better nutrition, better child care, better access to medical care, and more stable lives, as the economic prospects of their families improve.

The plan establishes the benefit for a single year. But if it becomes permanent, as Democrats intend, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class at a time when the volatile modern economy often leaves families moving between those groups. More than 93 percent of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.

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The bill, which is likely to pass the House and be signed by Mr. Biden this week, raises the maximum benefit most families will receive by up to 80 percent per child and extends it to millions of families whose earnings are too low to fully qualify under existing law. Currently, a quarter of children get a partial benefit, and the poorest 10 percent get nothing.

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect calls this “a watershed moment” that could demonstrate to working people that government is on their side. He writes:

With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, people who voted for Donald Trump grasped that the government, under a Democratic president, is sending each of their kids at least $3,000 a year, paying for their health coverage if they lose their jobs, topping up their unemployment compensation, keeping their local governments from cutting services, and a great deal more.

Government, in friendly hands, just might be on the side of the people—in a way that is simple, direct, and not filtered through private profiteers. Imagine that. Reprogram some tax breaks for the very rich that do nothing for anyone else, and government might deliver even more.

All of this public outlay will boost the economy so much that conservatives, who once emphasized the need for fiscal discipline and business tax breaks, are now warning that direct government help to regular people might cause the economy to grow too fast. What a nice problem to have.

Activist government has been demonized for more than a generation. A great many working-class people, who saw government under both parties getting into bed with elites rather than providing practical help, joined in the demonizing. Now, they just may give government and the Democrats a second look.

The New York Times said that the rescue plan’s direct income support for children amounts to “a policy revolution.”

Obscured by other parts of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimuluspackage, which won Senate approval on Saturday, the child benefit has the makings of a policy revolution. Though framed in technocratic terms as an expansion of an existing tax credit, it is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children, akin to children’s allowances that are common in other rich countries.

The plan establishes the benefit for a single year. But if it becomes permanent, as Democrats intend, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class at a time when the volatile modern economy often leaves families moving between those groups. More than 93 percent of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.

The bill…raises the maximum benefit most families will receive by up to 80 percent per child and extends it to millions of families whose earnings are too low to fully qualify under existing law. Currently, a quarter of children get a partial benefit, and the poorest 10 percent get nothing.

Joe Biden has staked his presidency on policies that echo FDR. He is the right leader for the moment. I have and will criticize his education policies. Mandating testing in the middle of a pandemic is thoughtless and cruel. But in confronting a once in a century pandemic and economic peril, his leadership has been peerless. And as Robert Kuttner wrote, Biden may even persuade working people to vote in their own interest and not to be swayed by the endless culture wars (e.g., trans bathrooms, cancel culture, Colin K’s knee) that Republicans use to mask their lack of any economic policy that benefits the vast majority of Americans.


Scores of education deans signed a letter to Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education Committee, in opposition to the recent announcement by the Biden administration that it would not grant waivers to states from the annual testing mandate in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which originated as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. The letter was written before the confirmation of Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The signatures were gathered by Kevin Kumashiro as spokesman for the group.

Dear Chairman Scott,

I am writing as a leader of Education Deans for Justice and Equity (https://educationdeans.org), an alliance of hundreds of education deans across the country with expertise in educational equity and civil rights.

We, in EDJE, are deeply concerned by the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Education that it will not grant state waivers of ESSA mandates for 2021 student testing, as it did in 2020. Two weeks ago, we sent the attached letter to Secretary-Designate Miguel Cardona, signed by over 200 deans and other leaders, that outlines what we believe the research makes clear, namely, that there are fundamental problems with these tests, that the administration and use of these tests widen (not remediate) inequities, and that these problems are exacerbated in the midst of the pandemic.

We agree that we need data to make informed decisions and to address long-standing and emergent challenges, but to do so, we describe the different types of data that are needed and the assessments–other than state testing–that are more appropriate for such purposes. We urge you and Congress to act quickly and forcefully to insist that the Department waive mandates for 2021 student testing, and we are available to work and meet with you in support of this change.

The letter, included in the link below, begins:

As the nation struggles to address the impact of the pandemic on public schools, we urge the U.S. Department of Education to waive federal ESSA student-testing requirements for all states for 2020-2021 (as was done for 2019-2020).
We, Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE), are an alliance of hundreds of deans of schools and colleges of education across the country who draw on our expertise as researchers and leaders to highlight three research findings to support our request.


First, ​problems abound with high-stakes standardized testing of students, particularly regarding validity, reliability, fairness, bias, and cost​. National research centers and organizations have synthesized these findings about standardized testing, including the ​National Educational Policy Center​ and ​FairTest​. For example, some of the ​harmful impacts​ of high-stakes testing include: distorted and less rigorous curriculum; the misuse of test scores, including grade retention, tracking, and teacher evaluation; deficit framing (blaming) of students and their families and ineffective remedial interventions, particularly for communities of color and communities in poverty; and heightened anxiety and shame for teachers and students. Researchers have also spoken specifically about annual state testing, like in ​California​ and Texas​, arguing that such assessments should not be administered, much less be the basis for high-stakes decision making.


Second, ​these problems are amplified during the pandemic.​ The research brief, ​The Shift to Online Education During and Beyond the Pandemic​, describes the “law of amplification” and ways that the shift to online education widens long-standing inequities and injustices in education, particularly for groups already disadvantaged in schools. These challenges with technology, logistics, and safety would unquestionably apply to testing, whether in-person or online. For example, districts that administer computer-based tests in-person are now trying to determine how to recall computers that were loaned to students in order to have enough computers in school, which in effect, means that those students will not have computers for remote learning for weeks. In fact, with the vast changes and differences in curriculum and instruction that resulted from the shift to online education over the past year—that is, the reduction in opportunities to learn, particularly in schools that were already under-resourced—the content validity of the tests is almost certainly compromised, as described by the ​National Education Policy Center​. Furthermore, with so much trauma in the lives of students and families, schools need to invest all they can into quality time with students, supplemental tutoring, and enrichment and wellness programs, not stress-inducing, time-consuming tests that provide narrow data of limited use.