Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Garry Rayno of InDepthNH reports on opposition to the funding of New Hampshire’s expansive voucher plan, which has never been submitted to a public referendum. A lawsuit has been filed to block the use of public school funds for unaccountable vouchers. The voucher program, serving mostly kids who already attend students in private and religious schools, is far more expensive that its sponsor low-ball projections.

CONCORD — A bill to expand the uses for the state’s Education Trust Fund ran into opposition Friday as opponents said it would give the new Education Freedom Account program a blank check without accountability.

The prime sponsor of House Bill 440, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, said the bill simply “cleans up and codifies” what is in legislation elsewhere in statutes and comes at the Department of Education’s request. He noted the current trust fund statute does not address money for kindergarten or leases for charter schools.

“This bill clarifies (sections of law),” Cordelli said, “so there is a full picture of what comes out of the Education Trust Fund.”

However, those testifying in opposition at a public hearing Friday before the House Education Committee, said the bill is not a “housekeeping measure” but an attempt to divert millions of dollars to the Education Freedom Account program from public schools without sufficient accountability.

“The program was funded for two years as a pilot program and now you are giving it a blank check,” said David Trumble. “Why take a huge gamble. You built a program with no foundation for it and now you want to build a tall skyscraper on it.”

HB 440 would allow the Education Trust Fund to be used to pay for Education Freedom Account grants to parents and for phase-out grants to school districts losing students to the program.

The bill also changes the funding for the state’s portion for charter school leases from the general fund to the Education Trust Fund.

The Department of Education would be able to use 1 percent of the money in the Education Trust Fund to administer the EFA program, under the bill.

The Legislative Budget Assistant was not able to determine the cost of the changes in the bill because the department had not responded at the time of the bill’s printing, but noted the 1 percent going to the department would be $10.6 million in the current fiscal year, and $11 million in fiscal year 2024 and $11 million in fiscal year 2025.

The use of the fund for the EFA program is being challenged in court as the plaintiffs claim the program uses money earmarked for public education for private programs.

The suit challenging the funding for what has been described as the most expansive voucher program in the country, claims money raised by the Lottery Commission, and money from the Education Trust Fund may only be used for adequate education grants to school districts, citing the law creating the fund in 1999.

The suit, brought by Deb Howes as a citizen taxpayer, who is also president of AFT (American Federation of Teachers)-New Hampshire, seeks an injunction blocking the state from using any more of the Trust Fund Money to fund the EFA program.

Speaking at the public hearing, Howes reiterated her opposition to the bill, saying it is not a housekeeping measure.

“If money is coming out of (the Education Trust Fund),” she said, “does not mean it should be coming out of it.”

Public school and district tax money is not limitless, Howes said, noting it is all coming out of taxpayers pockets.

“When you run short of money,” Howes said, “you are going to shortchange the 160,000 kids in public schools.”

Please open the link to read the rest of the article.

John Thompson, a retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma, has written frequently about events in his state for this blog. Here, he describes the political coercion that determined right-wingers are promoting in Oklahoma and calling it “choice.” From his description, some Republican legislators are worried about “liberal indoctrination,” transgender students using the “wrong” bathroom, litter boxes for children who think they are cats (this seems to be a QAnon idea), and the danger of “social-emotional learning.” Apparently students in Oklahoma have no social or emotional issues.

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s newly elected, extreme rightwing Secretary of Education, first says that “the state should have the ‘most comprehensive school choice in the country.’” Secondly, Walters pushes the rightwing Michigan-based Hillsdale College curriculum; he doesn’t want to allow schools to choose to retain research-based curriculums that he identifies as “liberal indoctrination.” As Clark Frailey, executive director of Pastors for Oklahoma Kids, says, Walters seems to be pushing for “Christian Dominionism,” which is “based on the philosophy that Christianity is at the core of America’s foundation and all institutions need to align with that viewpoint. If people won’t convert, then a government religion must be forced upon them.”

Two voucher programs for private schools and homeschools have been filed. The most interesting one is Sen. Shane Jett’s Oklahoma Parent Empowerment Act for Kids (PEAK). Even extremely conservative Republicans legislators worry that vouchers would undermine the finances of their rural schools. Jett seems to be offering a carrot and a stick to those vulnerable constituencies. He would impose vouchers only in counties with a population of more than 10,000 people. But, vouchers would be offered in counties with fewer than 10,000 residents if they are served by a “trigger district.”

The Oklahoman then reports:

Jett defined a “trigger district” as a public school system that allows or tolerates House Bill 1775 violations, use of school bathrooms according to gender identity, anthropomorphic behavior known as “furries,” disparagement of the oil and gas industry, lesson plans promoting social-emotional learning and animal rights activism, among other topics.

In other words, the bill would coerce schools into “choosing” to comply with the entire extremist agenda. But that begs the question about how educators would choose to deal with today’s threats to public education. Republican Sen. Adam Pugh’s newly revealed plan for school improvement was based on meetings with 200 public school superintendents; every college president in Oklahoma; and “hundreds, if not thousands” teachers and parents and advocacy groups.  Based on these listening sessions, Pugh did not propose vouchers.

Pugh’s plan would raise teacher pay so the minimum starting salary was $40,000, “with graduated raises to the minimum salary schedule based on longevity.” The estimated cost would be $241 million, which is less than the cost of Sen. Julie Daniels’ voucher bill ($275 million). They would  also create an “Oklahoma Teacher Corps” and a teacher mentoring system;  provide certain teachers at least 12 weeks of maternity leave; update the school funding formula, and pass Pugh’s seven other constructive reforms. 

As Pugh explained, “I hope this plan will demonstrate to teachers that we’re serious about the work that you do, and we appreciate how you pour your heart and your soul into educating kids, as we need you to stay in the classroom, and we need more of you.”

But, the Stillwater News Press offers an equally important response:

While that offers us a bit of a sigh of relief, Oklahomans should be aware that the push [to] move taxpayer money into private schools isn’t going anywhere. It’s a well-funded campaign and the state’s administrators and board members have been handpicked to make that a top priority.

I’m afraid I agree with the Stillwater News. Pugh’s bills raise hope. But Oklahoma Republicans will continue to coerce schools into compliance with their extremist privatization and Christian Dominionism ideologies – and call it “choice.”

On the other hand, more Republicans sound like they are getting fed up by Walters and his minions. This week, the Secretary of Education was supposed to present a budget to a legislative subcommittee for planning purposes, but a letter obtained by the Tulsa World shows that Walters seems to be prioritizing “ridding public education of ‘liberal indoctrination.’” Walters’ “spokesman” said he “has requested additional information on diversity, equity, inclusion programs (DEI) to fully understand the extent of indoctrination happening in higher education.”

The letter said:

Please provide a full outline and review of every dollar that has been spent over the last 10 years on diversity, equity, inclusion. Additionally, I want an overview of your staffing and the colleges underneath your oversight as the Chancellor of Oklahoma Higher Regents within every DEI program … and expenditures,” Walters wrote on letterhead of the Office of the Secretary of Education. “Lastly, please provide a copy of the materials that are being used in any of these programs.”

Neither has Walters followed legislative norms for presenting a public education budget. As Nondoc reported, Walters said he instituted a hiring freeze and a spending freeze for the State Department of Education when he took office and all related decisions require his approval. And, in addition to demanding vouchers, he has insisted on any teacher pay raise being performance-based. Above all, Walters said he would be bringing a completely different budget than the one his predecessor drafted. 

Republican Toni Hasenbeck (R-Elgin) responded saying, “district superintendents had expressed concern for ‘the next four years’” because of Walters’ campaign comments. Rep. Dell Kerbs, (R-Shawnee) commented, “I don’t need elevator speeches. I need details.” Subcommittee Chairman Mark McBride (R-Moore) understood the argument that performance pay could be a part of teacher pay, but he said that Walters’ plan went too far. And then he tried to get Walters back to the normative procedures which the subcommittee follows for helping craft funding priorities.

McBride “interrupted Walters,” and asked, “Are you saying the budget will totally change — you’re presenting a budget that’s not going to be the same budget, and you’re going to totally change it?”

Nondoc reported that “McBride seemed confused and paused for a moment.” When Walters tried to change the subject, [McBride] interrupted him and asked why Walters was presenting a budget that would not exist in a week. Walters again changed the subject and, as Nondoc reported, “McBride interrupted him again, asking him to stay on topic presenting monetary figures rather than discussing policy and slipping into “campaign rhetoric.” McBride said, “With all due respect, I need the performance review for last year. That’s what you’re here to present.” Then, after that interruption, Walters stopped his presentation.

 After the meeting, Matt Langston, Walters’s “spokesman” (a paid GOP consultant based in Texas) said, “Not one person in Oklahoma is surprised that Democrats are unhappy with the political theater that was orchestrated today.” According to Langston:

They do not want transparency, accountability or even basic reform because they are used to playing in the shadows. Union bosses, whining and liberal tears will not stop education reform, and the superintendent is looking forward to next week’s actual budget hearing.

Stay tuned! When Walters reveals his budget, chaos and vitriol will increase, and we’ll see whether Walters really believes he can implement his promise or “suggestion,” that “received some pushback from lawmakers in 2022,” a ten-year plan to reject all federal spending on education

This is one of Peter Greene’s finest posts. He explains the real reason that Republicans have fallen in love with vouchers. They want to eliminate public schools and in time shift the financial burden of schools to parents, not taxpayers. One of the loudest voucher advocates, who got his doctorate from the University of Walton….the University of Arkansas’s so-called Department of Educational Reform, where they teach the doctrine of school choice, posted a photograph of himself and a woman whom I assume was his wife at a funeral, celebrating the death of public schools. When we go high, they go low.

Greene writes:

The new wave of voucher bills being rammed through red state legislatures all demonstrate a truth about school voucher policies– vouchers are not about choice. They’re about peeling people away from the public school system in order to defund and dismantle that system.

What makes me think so? Here it is. Sometimes it’s not about what people say, but about what they don’t say.

If the concern were really and truly choice for every student, then voucher fans would be addressing some of the real obstacles to school choice.This door doesn’t lead where they told you it would.

For one, they would be addressing discriminatory and exclusionary policies. Yet when have we ever heard a voucher supporter say, “These discriminatory policies have to stop. LGBTQ+ students deserve just as much school choice as any other students.”

The closest thing we ever get is “Well, then they can start an LGBTQ-friendly school of their own.” Yet when that happens, pro-voucher politicians target that school with terms like “perversion.” And of course in some states, such a school can never happen because talking about LGBTQ students or Black history has been outlawed. And voucher laws are written to hold the private school right to discriminate as it wishes inviolable.

If someone were serious about voucher based choice, they would also address cost. Vouchers are typically far too small to pay for tuition to top schools in the state. If voucher supporters were really interested in making sure that, as Jeb Bush says, “each and every…student can access the education of their choice,” there would be a robust discussion about how to bridge the gap between meager vouchers and expensive schools.

Yet we never hear voucher advocates saying, “We need to find the way to fully fund vouchers so that they provide a real choice to students.” Choice advocates like to point at the inequity of the public system–parent choice is limited by their ability to buy an expensive house in a wealthy neighborhood. But the current crop of voucher programs doesn’t change that a bit–a voucher offers little to change the fact that how much “freedom” you get depends on how wealthy you are.

It has been done. But when Croydon, NH set up a school choice program, a voucher-like system that bore the full cost of sending a student to the school of their choice, local libertarians tried to shut it down because they wanted lower taxes.

Voucher fans love the idea of school choice; they just don’t want to actually pay for it.

If these folks were serious about school choice via vouchers, we would have calls for oversight and accountability. It would make a choice system that much more attractive for parents to know that all the available options have been vetted and screened and will be held to some standards, just like shopping in a grocery store where you can rest easy in near-certainty that whatever you pick, it’s not going to actually poison your family.

And yet not only do voucher fans not call for oversight and accountability, but they actively block it with language that hammers home that nobody can tell vendors what to do or how to do it.

Voucherphiles like to call their system child-centered, but in fact it is vendor-centered, with “protections” for the service providers written into the law, and protections for the students non-existent. Parents are left to navigate an unregulated system of asymmetrical information that favors the businesses– not the families.

Please open the link and finish the post. And while you are at it, subscribe to Peter’s wonderful blog.

Thom Hartmann looks back to the Ronald Reagan presidency to explain how Republicans seized the strategy of tax cuts and spending to counter the Democrats’ winning formula of social welfare spending. Now Republicans are threatening to force the federal government to default on the national debt, which would plunge the global economy into chaos, unless Democrats make deep cuts in social programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Hartmann writes:

The media refers to it as a debate around the debt ceiling, but it’s actually far simpler than that. And entirely political.

Back in November, a few weeks after House Republicans won the election and seized control of that body, I wrote to you warning that the House Republicans would try the same scam that Ronald Reagan first rolled out in the 1980s. I wrapped the article up with the “hope that Democratic politicians and our media will, finally, call the GOP out on Wanniski’s and Reagan’s Two Santa Clauses scam.”

So far, no soap. I haven’t heard a single mention of Two Santas in the mainstream media, and I’ll bet you haven’t, either. That’s the bad news.

The good news — perhaps — is that the scam has lost its sting after working so well for them for 42 years. President Biden and House Democrats are standing firm, saying they have no intention of negotiating around the debt ceiling with terrorists threatening to destroy our economy.

But even if it’s the last gasp of this scam, it appears House Republicans plan to go out with a bang. So let’s quickly review how Two Santas works.

Back in 1976 the Republican Party was a smoking ruin. Nixon had resigned after being busted for lying about his “secret plan to end the Vietnam War,” his involvement in the Watergate burglary, and his taking bribes from Jimmy Hoffa and the Milk Lobby. He only avoided prosecution because Gerald Ford pardoned him. 

His first Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had also resigned to avoid prosecution for taking bribes.

Newspaper and television editorialists were openly speculating the GOP might implode. The Party hadn’t held the House of Representatives for more than two consecutive years since 1930(and wouldn’t until 1994), Jerry Ford had ended the War the year before in a national humiliation, the unemployment rate was over 7 percent, as was inflation after hovering around 11 percent the year before.

The Republican Party had little to offer the American people beyond anti-communism, their mainstay since the 1950s.

Americans knew it was Democrats who’d brought them Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, subsidized college, the right to unionize, antipoverty programs, and sent men to the moon. And they knew Republicans had opposed the “big government spending” associated with every single one of them.

But one man — a Republican strategist and editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal named Jude Wanniski — thought he saw a way out. It was, he argued, a strategy that could eventually bring about a permanent Republican governing majority.

In a WSJ op-ed that year, Wanniski pointed outthat Americans thought of Democrats as the “Party of Santa” and Republicans as, essentially, Scrooge. Republicans, he noted, hadn’t even proposed a tax cut in 22 years!

The solution, Wanniski proposed, was for Republicans to start pushing tax cuts whenever the GOP held the White House. This would establish their Santa bona fides, particularly if Democrats objected. It would flip the script so Democrats would fill the role of Scrooge.

To make it even easier for Republicans to cut taxes, Wanniski invented and publicized a new economic theory called Supply-Side Economics. When taxes went down, he said, government revenue would magically go up!

Four years later, when Reagan came into the White House with the election of 1980, he picked up Wanniski’s strategy and doubled down on it. (In the primary of 1980, he’d even run on it: his primary opponent, George Herbert Walker Bush, derided it as “Voodoo Economics.”)

Reagan not only cut taxes on the rich: he also radically increased government spending, goosing the economy into a sugar high while throwing the nation deeply into debt.

Citing Supply-Side Economics, in eight short years Reagan ran up greater deficits than every president from George Washington to Jerry Ford combined, taking our national debt from around $800 billion all the way up to around $2.6 trillion when he left office.

By 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency, Reagan and Bush’s debt had climbed to over $4.2 trillion, giving Republicans a chance to double down on Two Santas. Bill Clinton would be their test case.

House Republicans loudly demanded that Clinton “do something!” about the national debt, waving the debt ceiling like a cudgel. Over the next eight years they repeatedly wielded the debt ceiling, shutting down the government twice. The battles lifted Newt Gingrich to the speakership. 

Clinton caved, making massive cuts to the social safety net to get a balanced budget, a gut-shot to the Democratic Santa programs.

By the end of the Clinton presidency the formula was set. When Republicans held the White House, they’d spend like drunken Santas and cut taxes to the bone to drive up the national debt.

When Democrats come into the presidency, Republicans would use the debt ceiling to force them to cut their own social programs and shoot the Democratic Santa. 

As I noted last November, when Clinton shot Santa Claus the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as GOP politicians campaigned on a “Republican Santa” platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.

Democrats had controlled the House of Representatives in almost every single year since the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s, but with Newt Gingrich rigorously enforcing Wanniski’s Two Santa Claus strategy, they used the debt ceiling as a weapon.

State after state turned red and the Republican Party rose to take over, in less than a decade, every single lever of power in the federal government from the Supreme Court to the White House.

Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton in 1999Wanniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part:

“We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve… But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the ‘Two Santa Claus Theory’ in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts…”

Ed Crane, then-president of the Koch-funded Libertarian CATO Institute, noted in a memo that year:

“When Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Vin Weber, Connie Mack and the rest discovered Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of the debate over the proper role of government. … That’s why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments.”

Two Santa Clauses had fully seized the GOP mainstream.

Never again would Republicans worry about the debt or deficit when they were in office, and they knew well how to scream hysterically about it and hook in the economically naïve media as soon as Democrats again took power….

Please open the link and read the rest of the article.

Utah’s House passed a voucher bill, even though the state voted against them by 62-38% in 2007. Republicans in Utah are determined to bypass a referendum, as they are in other states, because voters have never passed one. Voters don’t want to defund their public schools.

You can bet that 70-80% of the students who get vouchers are already enrolled in private religious schools. That’s the proportion reported in every state that has vouchers. The small number who ask for vouchers will lose ground academically and eventually return to their local public school. The research is unequivocal: vouchers do NOT improve academic achievement. They are a gift to parents whose kids are already in private schools.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Report an ad

Utah House pushes through controversial voucher bill after suspending rules

HB215 would allow taxpayer funds to be spent on private schooling and home schooling. The largest teachers union in the state is opposed. 

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Riverton, sponsor of HB215, is pictured on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Her bill was approved by the House on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, after less than 24 hours of consideration.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Riverton, sponsor of HB215, is pictured on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Her bill was approved by the House on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, after less than 24 hours of consideration.

By Courtney Tanner

A controversial bill to create a taxpayer-funded, $42 million school voucher program in Utah — the most expansive in state history — was pushed through the House on Friday under suspended rules that allowed lawmakers to approve it without the required wait time.

The Republican-led proposal was approved on a 54-20 vote that came during the final minutes of floor time of the first week of what’s already shaped up to be a fast and wild legislative session.

“This is the beginning of us reinventing public education in Utah,” declared Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, the sponsor of HB215.

The bill sets up what Pierucci has called the “Utah Fits All Scholarship” that would allow students to use public money to attend private schools or be home-schooled. It’s touted as a way to give parents and kids more choice in education.

Pierucci’s proposal also includes an ongoing $6,000 salary and benefits raise for teachers across the state — made contingent on approving the vouchers.

The measure is opposed by the largest teachers union in Utah, which has said educators feel devalued by having their paycheck tied to a voucher program many don’t support and many worry will further hobble Utah’s public schools. Per pupil funding in the state is already among the lowest in the nation, passing only Idaho.

An attempt by Democratic Rep. Angela Romero of Salt Lake City to split the bill into two was voted down Friday by the conservative-majority body. Romero argued that teacher raises shouldn’t be a bargaining chip to pass other policies.

“I think these are two different issues, and they need to be discussed in two different bills,” she said.

Democrats and a few Republicans stood with her, including Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield. He called it “disingenuous” to connect the issues as a way to force support.

But Rep. Douglas Welton, R-Payson, who is a public school teacher, voted in favor of the bill with the raises — even after calling it “one of the biggest bribes.” He said he’d like to see more work done before any final passage of the bill, which will go next to the Senate.

The vote to pass the bill Friday was supported only by Republican lawmakers. All 13 Democrats in the House, along with seven Republicans, voted to oppose. Still, the vote was enough to represent two-thirds of the body. If the bill passes with the same margin in the Senate, it’s secure from both a veto or referendum.

Pierucci has insisted on the two issues of teacher pay and vouchers remaining together as a funding package. She believes it shows that even though the state wants students to be able to explore other education options, it also still supports public school educators; she talked about her own experience growing up attending public schools in Utah.

After the bill passed in committee late Thursday, she made a few changes before it was heard on the House floor Friday morning.

Her amended bill capped the amount allocated each year for the program at $42 million, instead of allowing it to grow with the annual adjustments to the weighted pupil unit amount, or WPU — which has caused problems in other states with similar programs. The WPU here, which is currently set at about $4,000, is what each public school is given by the state for each child enrolled there (not counting additional add-ons for students with disabilities).

But Pierucci didn’t change the amount her scholarship would allocate per student, which has been a source of heartburn. The Utah Fits All Scholarship is an $8,000 award — which is double the WPU set by the state.

Pierucci said she arrived at the figure by combining the roughly $4,000 WPU with the average amount spent by each Utah school district on students, which is about another $4,000. That second portion is collected locally, through property taxes, and is subject to local control and decision making on how to spend it.

Some have argued that isn’t a fair setup and values the scholarship students more than those who elect for public schools. And for every student who leaves a public school to enroll elsewhere, they said, the school no longer gets their WPU and essentially loses funding and state support.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said she doesn’t believe the bill supports low-income families, as Pierucci has argued.

Pierucci says students in households living below the poverty line will be prioritized for the scholarship.

But Hollins said many of those families wouldn’t be able to use it anyway because they don’t have the transportation to go to a private school and wouldn’t be able to pay the difference between the scholarship and private school tuition. The average tuition at a private school in Utah is roughly $11,000 a year.

“It doesn’t give every student equal access,” Hollins said, noting people in her district are choosing between paying for the bus to go to work, buying new shoes and keeping the lights on.

Others said they were worried about sending public dollars to private institutions that have no requirements by the state to hire licensed teachers or to teach a set curriculum. Most of the schools are religious. And there’s no obligation for private schools to help students with disabilities.

“Because it’s public money it should go to public schools,” which are held publicly accountable, said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, a former public school teacher.

The biggest concern raised by the largely Democratic opposition, though, was the rush to vote on the bill. The rules in the House typically require a bill to be on the calendar for 24 hours before a vote, giving lawmakers a chance to read through it before debate. It was only 19 hours after the bill passed in committee that the full House voted on it Friday, after suspending the rules.

The most recent draft with Pierucci’s amendments “was numbered at 10:00 this morning, introduced and debated under suspension of the rules at 11:15, and passed at about 12:30. For no good reason,” wrote Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, on Twitter after the vote.

He added: “Voting by an informed body and public could just as easily have been done Monday morning. #abuseofpower”

Pierucci and others, though, said it was largely the same bill with a few small changes that she’d been working on this week — and had tried to pass last year but failed.

The other changes she made include allowing a student to attend public school part time and then get a partial scholarship to get private tutoring or do home schooling for the remainder.

Rep. Karen Peterson, R-Clinton, said she liked that addition, suggesting it opened up the scholarship to more students living in rural areas that might not have access to a nearby private school (most of those are concentrated on the Wasatch Front).

The other change was what Pierucci is calling an added “accountability measure.” In the original bill, the test scores of students leaving public schools for private schools was not allowed to be tracked. Opponents wanted that provision to be able to study the success of the program.

In the version passed Friday, students on the scholarship have the option to take an assessment at the end of the year or submit a portfolio of their work in school to the scholarship administrator as proof of their education. Peterson believes that will help see if the vouchers “move the needle.” Others said it wasn’t strong enough.

Peterson said the bill supports the Republican values of creating choices and a competitive market for schools. And she likes the “guardrails,” too, for the administrator that will oversee the program.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, agreed, adding that in recent years he’s talked to parents with concerns about the books being taught in public schools — which he ran legislation on last year. And he didn’t like that schools required masking at times during the pandemic and feels parents should have a choice outside of that.

Pierucci said her impetus has been the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said proved to her that not all students thrive in public schools.

“The last couple of years,” she said, “have highlighted that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every child.”

author

Linda Lyon is a retired naval officer and past president of the Arizona School Boards Asociatuon, as well as her local school board. Her blog is called Restore Reason, and she writes here about the struggle to save public schools from antagonists who prefer to save money and who are antagonistic to anything that serves the public good.

She writes:

Those of you’ve who’ve been around awhile will remember lobbyist Grover Norquist, who founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985. This was during the Reagan years, when government was seen as a drag on the free market. Norquist is probably best known for this quote in 2001: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub”

It has been obvious for many years that Arizona Republican lawmakers want to drown our district schools since the budget for K-12 education makes up almost 44% of the state budget. But then, the predominant responsibilities of the AZ state government are to provide for the public safety and public education, so…it stands to figure that education would comprise a large portion of the budget.

If you’ve listened to the AZ Republican lawmaker talking points over the last few years, you’d tend to believe that public education has been showered with funding. The truth however is quite another story. In fact, adjusting for inflation, K-12 funding per public school student hasn’t increased in 21 years and leaves us still 48th in the nation. In 2001, districts were provided $8,824 per student and now, only $8,770. The high-water mark in 2007 of $10,182 per student was under Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano. This was actually $1,412 more than in 2022.

You see, pretty much all the GOP has been doing over the last few years is to reinstate funding they took away to begin with. And to add insult to injury, they’ve been chipping away at the amount available to district schools by continuous expansion of privatization options.

Guess you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the battle over vouchers (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) during the past decade. ESAs were enacted in 2011 and GOP lawmakers have been steadily expanding these vouchers over the years. In 2022, (I’m really cutting to the chase here), they were finally successful in enacting a universal expansion. Not only are students no longer required to have previously attended a district school to qualify for a voucher, but there are no guardrails or cap and no transparency or accountability for private schools. And, only two months into the new law, AZ DOE had received nearly 30,000 filings for the vouchers, totaling an immediate hit to the state fund of $210M. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee only budgeted $33M for the program for the 2022-23 school year, but some now estimate the bill could approach as much as $500M.

Student Tuition Organizations (STOs) are another vehicle to poke holes in the district funding life raft. They allow tax payers to take a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their state taxes when they give to an approved STO which provides scholarship funding to children attending grades K-12 at qualified private schools in Arizona. These STOs basically serve as a pass-through for tax credit donations to private schools while keeping 10 percent for themselves. STOs have also seen tremendous expansion over the years with the individual tax credit amount now at $1,306 which is over six times that which taxpayers can give to district schools. There are also two types of tax credits corporations can take and the combined cap for those is now up to $141M.

Just introduced last week by Representative Livingston, is HB 2014 which seeks to expand the aggregate dollar amount of STO tax credits from $6M in 2021-22 to $10M in 2022-23, to $15M in 2023-24, and to $20M in 2024-25. It also would eliminate the need for recipients of a corporate, low-income scholarship to have attended a district school prior to receiving the scholarship. Keep in mind that removing the requirement to have first attended a district school prior to receiving STO or ESA monies, accommodates students already in private school or being homeschooled, at their parent’s expense. In fact, that was the case for 80% of the filings for the universal expansion last year. And, when a student taking an ESA or STO scholarship was never in a district school, there is zero reduction in cost to that district school and ultimately, taxpayers.

These schemes are chipping away at the foundation of our district (community) schools so that eventually, they can be “drowned in the bathtub”. This is not by accident, but rather, by design. There are those in the Legislature, who do not believe in equal opportunity to learn and thrive, but rather, in survival of the fittest. And, they are hell-bent on deciding who the “fittest” are. Privatizing public education primarily serves those who “have” at the expense of those who “have not”. This continued war on public education will continue to weaken our communities and our democracy as it solidifies power and influence with those at the very top.

Want to fight back? Go to SOSArizona.org.

The AFT commissioned a highly reputable polling form to find out how voters think about the big education issues. The poll was conducted after the election last November. Bottom line: Voters want better, well/resourced public schools; few are interested in the Republican agenda of fighting “wokeness,” censoring books, and choice.

New Polling Reveals GOP/McCarthy Schools Agenda Is Unpopular and at Odds with Parents’ Priorities

Latest Data Show Parents, Voters Reject Culture War Agenda, Support Academic Focus and Safe Schools Instead

WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers today released new national polling that shows voters overwhelmingly reject House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s anti-school, culture war agenda. Instead, voters want to see political leaders prioritize what kids need to succeed in school: strong fundamental academic skills and safe and welcoming school environments. 

“The latest education poll tells us loud and clear: Voters, including parents, oppose McCarthy’s agenda to prioritize political fights in schools and instead support real solutions, like getting our kids and teachers what they need to recover and thrive,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. 

“Rather than reacting to MAGA-driven culture wars, voters overwhelmingly say they want lawmakers to get back to basics: to invest in public schools and get educators the resources they need to create safe and welcoming environments, boost academic skills and pave pathways to career, college and beyond.”

According to Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates: “One key weakness of the culture war agenda is that voters and parents reject the idea that teachers today are pushing a ‘woke’ political agenda in the schools. Most have high confidence in teachers. Voters see the ‘culture war’ as a distraction from what’s important and believe that politicians who are pushing these issues are doing so for their own political benefit.”

Polling conducted by Hart Research Associates from Dec. 12-17, 2022, among 1,502 registered voters nationwide, including 558 public school parents, shows that support for and trust in public schools and teachers remains incredibly strong: 

  • 93 percent of respondents said improving public education is an important priority for government officials.
  • 66 percent said the government spends too little on education; 69 percent want to see more spending.
  • By 29 points, voters said their schools teach appropriate content, with an even greater trust in teachers.
  • Voters who prioritized education supported Democrats by 8 points.
  • Top education priorities for voters include providing:
    • students with strong fundamental academic skills; 
    • opportunities for all children to succeed, including through career and technical education and greater mental health supports, as examples; and 
    • a safe and welcoming environment for kids to learn.
  • According to voters, the most serious problems facing schools include:
    • teacher shortages;
    • inadequate funding; 
    • unsafe schools; and 
    • pandemic learning loss. (And, critically, voters and parents are looking forward to find solutions: by 85 percent to 15 percent, they want Congress to focus on improving schools through greater support, rather than through McCarthy’s investigation agenda.)

“COVID was terrible for everyone,” added Weingarten. “Educators and parents took on the challenges of teaching, learning and reconnecting and are now asking elected officials to focus on the building blocks of student success. Instead, legislators in 45 states have proposed hundreds of laws making that harder—laws seeking to ban books from school libraries; restrict what teachers can say about race, racism, LGBTQIA+ issues and American history; and limit the school activities in which transgender students can participate. Voters are saying that not only are these laws bad policy—they’re also bad politics.”

In state after state in the November midterms, voters elected pro-public education governors and school board candidates and rejected far-right attacks on teachers and vulnerable LGBTQIA+ students. 

The survey’s confidence interval is ±3.0 percentage points.

Click here for toplines, here for the poll memo and here for the poll slides.

https://www.aft.org/press-release/new-polling-reveals-gopmccarthy-schools-agenda-unpopular-and-odds-parents-priorities

Twitter offered severance deals to laid-off employees that many found unacceptable. Hundreds are suing the company.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

After months of waiting, hundreds of Twitter employees laid off by Elon Musk in early November received their separation agreements by email Saturday morning.

The agreements offered one month of severance pay, but with a major catch — employees must sign away their right to ever sue the company, assist anyone in a legal case against the company unless required by law, or speak negatively about Twitter, its management or Elon Musk.

More striking is what the document omitted, said one former engineering manager who was laid off Nov. 4. The separation agreement does not include year-end bonuses, cash contribution for healthcare continuation, additional severance based on tenure, or the cash value of restricted stock units that are typically vested every quarter. These were all part of Twitter’s general severance package prior to Musk’s acquisition of the company in October, according to a previous companywide email….

Twitter, which no longer has a formal communications team, could not be reached for comment.

According to Business Insider, the budget-cutting has gone too far. Bathrooms in the Twitter headquarters are often out of toilet paper. Maintenance staff have been laid off, and bathrooms stink.

A billionaire skimping on toilet paper! That’s no way to run a business or a school.

That stinks!

Jess Piper lives in rural Missouri. She and her husband are farmers with five children. She taught American literature in the local public school. She describes herself as a “woke” progressive. When she added the history of slavery and African American literature to her classes, she said, none of her students (all white) felt embarrassed or uncomfortable. They identified with the abolitionists, not the slaveholders.

She ran for office when she realized that there were no Democrats, and she lost. But she wasn’t discouraged.

I am not a podcast person but I listened to Jess with close attention. On Twitter, she is @piper4Missouri.

You will enjoy listening to her podcast. She has a great voice and a great message.

Nancy MacLean, professor of history at Duke University, and Lisa Graves, board president of the Center for Media and Democracy, warn readers not to be fooled by billionaire Charles Koch’s efforts to rebrand himself as a nice guy who has mellowed, who no longer wants to fund divisive, hateful organizations. A nice guy.

The media fell for it. The new, nice Charles Koch.

MacLean and Graves write: Don’t believe it. Koch won’t stop until democracy is dead.

They write:

Koch, the single most influential billionaire shaping American political life, never changed course. And the head fake he pulled off in 2020 succeeded in securing for his vast donor network—and the hundreds of organizations they underwrite—the freedom to operate, virtually without scrutiny, over the two years since. In that time, far from ceasing their efforts to divide the country, they have ramped them up. Like a snake shedding its skin as it grows, Koch was merely rebranding—yet again after exposure—and grouping his numerous operations under a sunny new name: Stand Together.


In August, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reported that Koch-funded organizations spent over $1.1 billion in the 2020 election cycle. At the same time his book claiming to have changed course was in press, Koch spent almost 50 percent more than the record amount the Koch network had raised in the 2016 cycle: $750 million. Koch did not endorse Trump, though his spending buoyed the top of the ticket and helped maintain a GOP Senate majority to secure Koch-backed policies and judicial nominees embraced by Trump.

One of these organizations, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, claimed it was involved in more than 270 races in the 2020 election, reaching almost 60 million voters with door-knocking, phone calls, postcards, digital ads, and more. AFP also played heavily in the battle for U.S. Senate seats in Georgia, in January 2021—even as Koch was still getting favorable coverage for his supposed withdrawal from divisive electoral politics. AFP Action, the super PAC arm, alone raised and spent $60 million nationwide in that election cycle.

Meanwhile, other key organizing enterprises, think tanks, litigation outfits, campus centers, and more that were previously backed by the Koch network continue operating today, sometimes under new names, and with expanded funding. These include endeavors we consider unethical, only some of which we have the space to highlight here.

Take, for example, Koch’s longest running quest: enchaining democracy by rigging the rules of governance to free corporations from customary oversight and to prevent the will of the vast majority of Americans from securing federal, state, and local policies to improve their lives. With the connivance of Trump, the generalship of Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo, and the well-funded campaigning of Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network, the arch-right billionaire succeeded in capturing a supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court. Koch had told his allied billionaire backers that this was one of his top priorities for the Trump Administration—along with the dramatic tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that he also secured.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, a climate hero and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, exposes how they did it in a recently published book, The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court. The long effort to reshape the judicial system, going back to the notorious Lewis Powell Memo of 1971, culminated in the Trump Administration’s appointment of more than 230 “business-friendly” federal judges, including three Supreme Court Justices, in a project overseen by longtime Koch allies Leo and Donald McGahn, who served as Trump’s legal counsel until 2018. The 6-3 stacked court is already delivering bombshell decisions for the coalition that put it in power, from undermining our options for mitigating devastating climate change and limiting the power of agencies to regulate corporations, to revoking people’s Constitutional freedom to decide whether and when to bear children. The current court term with the Koch-backed faction in control is expected to soon overthrow affirmative action and other hard-won reforms.

The Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) also continues its long campaign to shackle democracy on behalf of its corporate backers. Passing voter ID restrictions that make it harder for Americans to exercise their right to vote became a top ALEC priority after the United States elected its first Black President, Barack Obama. That measure was first voted on at an ALEC task force meeting co-chaired by the National Rifle Association in 2009.

ALEC is one of the nation’s leading promoters of charter schools, vouchers, and anti-union legislation. You can learn more about ALEC by reading Gordon Lafer’s The One Percent Solution.

Please open the link and read the article. Learn about the “new” Charles Koch, same as the old one.

If you are looking for a good read, read Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, which provides the context for understanding the links between the Koch brothers, Milton Friedman, and free-market economics. Suffice it to say that one of their goals was to privatize Social Security. Still working on that.