Archives for category: Civics

You are probably not in the habit of reading court decisions. They tend to be dense and filled with citations that slow down the reader.

But you must read the decision issued on October 13 by Judge William Smith of the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island. It is brilliant, fascinating, informative. It is a lesson in civics for all of us.

Students in Rhode Island sued the state of Rhode Island and its governor Gina Raimondo because they did not receive education in civics, which (they said) deprived them of the knowledge and skills they needed to participate in our democracy.

Judge Smith reluctantly dismissed their appeal because no federal court (except for one in Michigan) had ruled that Americans have a “right” to education. He laments that this is the case, and he explains in crisp detail why democracy is in danger in the absence of civic education. He clearly wanted to rule in favor of the students. They will appeal but are likely to run into more roadblocks.

Judge Smith notes that the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 ruled that education was fundamental to citizenship, but the Nixon Court in 1973 ruled that education was not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Judge Smith laments that fact but can’t overrule it.

Here is the announcement of the decision from the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College. Michael A. Rebell of the Center is lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

Judge William Smith of the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, issued his long-awaited decision in Cook v. Raimondo on on October 13,2020. This case was filed by a group of Rhode Island public school students and families who seek to establish a right under the U.S. Constitution to an education adequate to prepare them to participate effectively in their constitutional rights to “voting, serving on a jury, understanding economic, social, and political systems sufficiently to make informed choices, and to participate effectively in civic activities.”

Judge Smith granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, but did so in a manner that eloquently set forth the critical importance of the issues the plaintiffs raised:

This is what it all comes down to: we may choose to survive as a country by respecting our Constitution, the laws and norms of political and civic behavior, and by educating our children on civics, the rule of law, and what it really means to be an American, and what America means. Or, we may ignore these things at our and their peril. Unfortunately, this Court cannot, for the reasons explained below, deliver or dictate the solution — but, in denying that relief, I hope I can at least call out the need for it.

The judge added:

This case does not represent a wild-eyed effort to expand the reach of substantive due process, but rather a cry for help from a generation of young people who are destined to inherit a country which we — the generation currently in charge — are not stewarding well. What these young people seem to recognize is that American democracy is in peril. Its survival, and their ability to reap the benefit of living in a country with robust freedoms and rights, a strong economy, and a moral center protected by the rule of law is something that citizens must cherish, protect, and constantly work for. We would do well to pay attention to their plea.

Plaintiffs in Cook v. Raimondo argue that the U.S. Constitution entitles all students to an education that prepares them to participate fully in a democracy. It alleges that the state of Rhode Island is failing to provide tens of thousands of students throughout the state with the necessary basic education and civic-participation skills. The plaintiffs are 14 high school, middle school, elementary school, and preschool students (or parents on behalf of their children) attending public schools in a variety of school districts throughout the state. An ultimate decision on behalf of plaintiffs in this case would establish a constitutional right to education for students throughout the United States.

Judge Smith rejected the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim, writing that, although the U.S. Supreme Court “left the door open just a crack” for reconsideration of its 1973 decision in San Antonio Ind’t Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez that education is not a right the U.S. Constitution,  he interpreted that “crack” to allow the courts to consider only a case that alleges that students are receiving no education  whatsoever or an education that is “totally inadequate.”  He also rejected plaintiffs’ “substantive due process” claim that a right to education for citizenship is “deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions” because “[p]recedent clearly dictates that, while education as a civic ideal is no doubt deeply rooted in our country’s history, there is no right to civics education in the Constitution.”

Judge Smith’s opinion squarely recognized the federal court’s authority to review the students’ claim on the merits, namely whether a constitutional right to civics education represented the “quantum of education” that might be necessary for students to be prepared for the “meaningful exercise” of their constitutional rights. While Judge Smith found, to his regret, that he was unable to connect the legal dots to support this claim, his opinion articulates what is at stake for our country and our Constitution, leaving the plaintiffs a road map to present their appeal to the First Circuit. 

Plaintiffs have stated that they will appeal this decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Michael A. Rebell, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said:

Judge Smith has written the most eloquent and forceful justification I’ve ever read for why America may not “survive as a county” if our students don’t obtain a civic education adequate to allow them to meet the challenges jeopardizing our democracy. The final paragraph to his opinion reads:

Plaintiffs should be commended for bringing this case. It highlights a deep flaw in our national education priorities and policies. The Court cannot provide the remedy Plaintiffs seek, but in denying that relief, the Court adds its voice to Plaintiffs’ in calling attention to their plea. Hopefully, others who have the power to address this need will respond appropriately.

Rebell, and the students and families he represents, believe a strong stance by the court will be necessary to ensure the policymakers and school leaders who have the power to address these issues actually do so. Rebell said, “Judge Smith acknowledged that the U.S.  Supreme Court in Rodriguez left the door open “a crack” for reconsideration aspects of that decision; we hope to convince the Court of Appeals that this open door does, in fact, permit the courts to rule on the critical issues raised by our case.”

Judge Smith’s full decision is linked here.

I urge you to read the decision.

Trump wants to restore “patriotic history” and has vowed to creat a “1776 Commission” to carry out his wishes. Historians, history teachers, and everyone who cares about accurate teaching of history and academic freedom are alarmed.

Kevin Kumashiro has drafted a petition. If you agree with it, please consider adding your name.

Friends–I’m writing to folks who lead or are closely connected to a number of educational organizations/associations/centers/unions. I haven’t had a chance to update the website yet, but in just the first few hours since the first announcement went out, we already have 300+ signers, and we’ve only just begun to publicize! Individuals AND ORGANIZATIONS can endorse, so I wanted to make sure you saw this and that I reached out to you first to:

(a) invite your organization to endorse (T4SJ already endorsed, thanks!), and

(b) ask you to please help to spread the word to your members and comrades.

The announcement is below, which includes the URL to the sign-on form. I hope to push out to the media the full statement (with all the endorsements) in the coming days. Let me know if you have questions, and thanks for considering and helping,
Kevin

*

Dear Friend, Colleagues, Comrades: A coalition of organizations and a team of educators and scholars invite all educators, educational scholars, and educational organizations in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States to join us in endorsing this important new statement:

“Educating for Democracy Demands Educating Against White Supremacy:
A Statement by U.S. Educators and Educational Scholars”

To view and endorse the statement: https://forms.gle/PcSRzSSvTbDp69V36

From the Introduction: “The battle over what story about the United States gets taught in schools and who gets to tell that story is what has made education, particularly history curriculum, one of the main sites of ideological struggle. Today, as has happened repeatedly before, those who insist on teaching only a white supremacist rendition of U.S. history claim that curricula about the historical and systemic nature of race and racism are based on lies, biased, divisive, and un- or anti-American—but research soundly rejects such claims.”

From the conclusion: “Our country cannot become more just and democratic without illuminating, addressing, and healing from its long legacies of injustices, including imperialism, colonialism, and racism. As educators and educational scholars who specialize in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States, we reject the renewed calls to deny or ignore the legacies and systems of racism that have long defined and shaped U.S. schools and society and that continue to do so. Our job is to teach toward democracy by teaching the truth, and we proudly work collectively and in solidarity with the communities most impacted by injustice to do so.”

All educators, educational scholars, and educational organizations in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States are invited to join us in endorsing this statement. Read the full statement and add your endorsement here: https://forms.gle/PcSRzSSvTbDp69V36

Please forward to other educators, scholars, and organizations who may wish to join us. Thank you!
-In Solidarity-
***
Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D.
https://www.kevinkumashiro.com
Movement building for equity and justice in education
***

The National Center for Education Statistics released NAEP scores in history and geography, which declined, and in civics, which were flat.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went into her customary rant against public schools, but the real culprit is a failed federal policy of high-stakes testing narrowly focused on reading and math. If DeVos were able to produce data to demonstrate that scores on the same tests were rising for the same demographic groups in charter schools and voucher schools, she might be able to make an intelligent point, but all she has is her ideological hatred of public schools.

After nearly 20 years of federal policies of high-stakes testing, punitive accountability, and federal funding of school choice, the results are in. The “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the federally-endorsed (Gates-funded) Common Core, have had no benefit for American students.

Enough!

When the ESSA comes up for reauthorization, it should be revised. The standardized testing mandate should be eliminated. The original name—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—should replace the fanciful and delusional title (NCLB, ESSA), since we now know that the promise of “no child left behind” was fake, as was the claim that “every student succeeds” by complying with federally mandated testing.

Restore also the original purpose of the act in 1965: EQUITY. That is, financial help for the schools that enroll the poorest children, so they can have small classes, experienced teachers, a full curriculum including the arts and recess, a school nurse, a library and librarian, a psychologist and social worker.

Here is the report from Politico Morning Education:

MANY STUDENTS ARE STRUGGLING’: Average scores for eighth-graders on the Nation’s Report Card declined in U.S. history and geography between 2014 and 2018 while scores in civics remained flat, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The results follow disappointing scores for math and reading released in October.

— “The results provided here indicate that many students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, the historical significance of events, and the need to grasp and apply core geographic concepts,” stated Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, which runs the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as The Nation’s Report Card.

— The digitally based assessments were administered from January to March 2018 to a nationally representative sample of eighth-graders from about 780 schools. The results are available at nationsreportcard.gov. They will be discussed at a livestreamed event, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in a statement, said “America’s antiquated approach to education is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional. We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America

Open the link to find links to the NAEP reports.

Johann Neem is the author of Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America, in which he describes the creation of public education between the American Revolution and the Civil War and recognizes public schools as an essential building block of a robust democracy.

Neem’s family came to America from India when he was a. Dry young child. They settled in California and lived in a diverse, multiethnic America. He went to public schools, to college, to graduate school, and eventually became a historian of education.

He lived what was then considered the American Dream. But now he fears it is disappearing for reasons he explain in this essay.

He begins:

I arrived—as we all do—in the midst of history. I was not yet three, and my parents had migrated to San Francisco from Mumbai to start a new life. They had been sponsored by my dad’s sister, whose husband, an engineer, had come over to work for Bechtel. We were, in other words, part of the first wave of immigrants to crash into a changing America in the wake of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Our arrival—among those of the numbers of Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans who came to the country—was largely unexpected. It was not what most Americans had anticipated when the law was passed during the civil rights era. But it was what brought me here, to a new country.

Mine was an American childhood. We were middle class and lived on a cul-de-sac whose residents were diverse in many of the usual American ways. There were Japanese-Americans and Catholics and Protestants. There were people without college degrees, and others with graduate degrees. There were Republicans and Democrats. There were immigrants from Germany, and of course we were from India. But most of us kids went to public school together, and our parents would take turns carpooling us. Gathering on the court, we rode bikes, played football on our muddy lawn (I was never much good at sports), and pretended to be motorcycle officers Ponch and Jon from the TV series CHiPs. Together, we made up games and celebrated birthdays. We grew up knowing about our differences but caring about what we shared. What bound us together was America, although I’m not sure I would have been able to say that. Perhaps I didn’t have to.

I imagined that I could become anybody. I had no awareness then that this belief was the result of more than two centuries of activism on the part of African Americans, feminists, and their allies to earn equality within the American nation-state. It was California. The American Dream was alive. Of course, that dream had been deferred for so many Americans for too long. But after 1965, it was hoped, those obstacles would be behind us. Immigrants would be welcome. African Americans would be equal. And despite the thus-far unsuccessful effort to enact the Equal Rights Amendment, I grew up in a world that took for granted that women too could be whomever they wanted to be.

There was a kind of amnesia. Maybe that’s not the right word. We were new. So maybe it was that I just didn’t know the history, and my parents had experienced a different history. Whatever it was, America was, for us, a blank slate. But it was not fully blank. It had rituals and traditions for us to learn, such as giving gifts and spending time with family and friends on Christmas or having barbecues on the Fourth of July. We gathered with neighbors to hunt Easter eggs. It had norms, like saying “thank you” for any kind of service, a sign of the respect each American owed fellow Americans for their contributions to society. It had a creed, too—that the United States promised all people a better, freer, more prosperous life…

I lived in a world where we could all be American, not because of our cultural differences but because of what we could share. This shared culture—this sense of being a people—is a precondition to sustaining the universal ideals of American democracy. We like to pretend that principles are enough, but abstract ideas are thin gruel for flesh-and-blood human beings. We are not disembodied reasoners. We belong to groups. We have emotions. Culture connects us to our country and to one another. But that culture depends on shared rituals and experiences. Today, we are so afraid of offense that we risk privatizing the very culture we once could share together…

As I studied American history, I came to appreciate the struggles so many Americans had undertaken, often in the face of brutal violence, to create the California my parents and I had entered in 1976. As a professor, I want my students to know of these struggles, of the wrenching realities of slavery and Jim Crow, of the violence unleashed against labor unions, of why a human being could be beaten and left tied to a fence to die for being gay. These stories have to be told if we are to confront the truth about our past, which continues to shape the way many Americans experience the present.

But some felt threatened by these new stories. They worried that they represented the end of America because they dethroned many idols. Jefferson did look different from the perspective of an enslaved person or a Native American than he did from that of a white farmer in western New York State or Virginia. The culture wars reflected Americans’ disagreements over which perspectives mattered most, and how to fit them together into a coherent story about ourselves as a people…

I am outside two worlds—both defined by race. On the left, race seems to be everywhere, as something to celebrate but also to divide. On the right, whiteness represents a reracialized vision of America that denies black voters access to the polls, engages in race-baiting that targets immigrants of color, and insults people of non-Christian faiths. It authorizes a president who suggests that we should deal with the problem of illegal border crossings by shooting migrants in the legs.20 I see myself distorted through both sets of eyes. But neither defines me. I don’t want to be white. I am proud of my Indian heritage. I am an American.

This sense of who I am makes immigrants like me carriers of an American Dream that is being lost. I still believe in the Dream. Most white Americans are not white nationalists, and, because I work on a college campus, I hope that I exaggerate the divisive features of multiculturalism and whiteness studies. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area at a particular moment in its history, I know from experience that diversity does not necessarily lead to fragmentation. Living in a diverse society depends on tolerance and mutual respect, and, I learned, both a willingness to share and to participate in American culture.

I don’t do justice to this thoughtful and provocative essay by citing disconnected excerpts. Neem analyzes the tensions created by too much pressure from the academic left, focused on identity politics, and the counter-response from conservative and radicalized whites, who assert their white identity and proclaim their grievances, with the encouragement of a president who loves divisiveness.

Read it.

 

Darrell M. West of the Brookings Institution explains the history of the electoral college and why this antique process for choosing the president should be abolished. 

He begins:

The framers of the Constitution set up the Electoral College for a number of different reasons. According to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper Number 68, the body was a compromise at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia between large and small states. Many of the latter worried that states such
as Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia would dominate the presidency so they devised an institution where each state had Electoral College votes in proportion to the number of its senators and House members. The former advantaged small states since each state had two senators regardless of its size, while the latter aided large states because the number of House members was based on the state’s population.
In addition, there was considerable discussion regarding whether Congress or state legislatures should choose the chief executive. Those wanting a stronger national government tended
to favor Congress, while states’ rights adherents preferred state legislatures. In the end, there was a compromise establishing an independent group chosen by the states with the power to choose the president.
But delegates also had an anti-majoritarian concern in mind. At a time when many people were not well-educated, they wanted a body of wise men (women lacked the franchise) who would deliberate over leading contenders and choose the best man for the presidency. They explicitly rejected a popular vote for president because they did not trust voters to make a wise choice.

In most elections, the Electoral College has operated smoothly. State voters have cast their ballots and the presidential candidate with the most votes in a particular state has received all the Electoral College votes of that state, except for Maine and Nebraska which allocate votes at the congressional district level within their states.

But there have been several contested elections. The 1800 election deadlocked because presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson received the same number of Electoral College votes as
his vice presidential candidate Aaron Burr. At that time, the ballot did not distinguish between Electoral College votes for president and vice president. On the 36th ballot, the House chose Jefferson as the new president. Congress later amended the Constitution to prevent that ballot confusion from happening again.

You will find this to be an interesting account.

There have been a few elections where the popular vote and the electoral vote differed. In recent years, there were two. Al Gore beat George W. Bush by half a million votes while losing the election. Hillary Clinton won nearly three million votes more than Trump, who won the electoral college.

What kind of democracy elects the loser of the popular vote as its leader?

This is a very provocative post by Teacher Ken Bernstein, who blogs at Daily Kos.

Ken has been teaching government for decades. When he muses about Trump, it’s worth reading.

 

Andrea Gabor wrote this article for Bloomberg News.

Andrea Gabor, a former editor at Business Week and U.S. News & World Report, is the Bloomberg chair of business journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York and the author of “After the Education Wars: How Smart Schools Upend the Business of Reform.”

The College Board, which administers college entrance exams to high school students, is trying to use its advanced placement courses and tests for high-achieving students to get American schools to take civics seriously again.

That’s a welcome development after years of neglect by both schools and policymakers. Even better, last year’s redesign of its AP U.S. government and politics course — the first since it was introduced in 1986 — goes well beyond requiring basic knowledge of, say, how a bill becomes law, and seeks to get students engaged with civic life. While the academic part of the AP U.S. government course explores the diverse forces that shape everything from legislation to Supreme Court precedents, students also are required to put their knowledge into action by working on a civics project, even one that takes sides in today’s partisan political battles.

The new U.S. government AP is part of a nationwide push — both inside and outside schools — for high-school students to engage in civic debate and action. Last year, Massachusetts became the first state to require schools to coordinate student-led civics projects, though that state’s high school projects must be nonpartisan.

A civics revival is long overdue. As of 2018, only eight states required students to take a yearlong civics and government class, and only 19 required students to take a civics exam to graduate. Even the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the nation’s report card, dropped its 4th- and 12th-grade civics and American history exam, in 2014. The ostensible reason was to save money, but the NAEP then adopted a new technology and engineering literacy test a year later.

Indeed, civics fell victim to the narrowing of curricula under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and to the standardized testing regimen that focused on math, science and English. Worried about economic competition from China, neither Democrats nor Republicans anticipated the recent populist and authoritarian threat to Western democracies that civics education is meant to forestall.

The reality is, schools need to do both: prepare students for a global economy and to be engaged citizens in a democracy.

Putting action at the core of civics education may seem counterintuitive at a time when basic knowledge of the three branches of the U.S. government is in short supply and especially considering that college students’ activism has often been seen as controversial — think of the sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in the South during the civil rights era and the protests against the Vietnam War.

Yet the benefit of getting high-school students working on civics projects of their own choosing — even partisan ones — goes beyond tapping into the innate desire of teenagers to change the world. Having students work on new legislation or lobby their city council representatives can promote a deep understanding of local, state and federal government and provide the basis for future political engagement.

That’s especially true for immigrants and members of minority groups. Studies conducted nearly 50 years apart — including one by the American Enterprise Institute — show that civics education is especially effective both in teaching poor students and immigrants about government and in increasing their sense of political empowerment.

Students already are demonstrating the power of action civics. In Chicago, high schoolers lobbied Illinois legislators to change harsh disciplinary practices that often pushed minority students out of school and into the criminal justice system, and were instrumental in helping to draft a new school-discipline law in 2016. In New York City, minority student activists are suing the education department for equal access to athletic facilities and school teams. And schools across the country are experimenting with efforts to let students determine school spending priorities on extras such as building a greenhouse or funding a music club.

The Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, Florida, may provide the best argument for a civics approach that encompasses both knowledge and action. Their gun-control advocacy since the 2018 shootings there, which killed 17 students and school staffers, was inspired by research they were already doing for both their AP government class and a district-wide debate program.

Educators also are developing ways to measure the educational value of such projects. In New HampshireNew York City and Oakland, they have developed assessments that treat the projects like mini dissertations and often require a written report as well as an oral presentation. The AP’s civics projects, however, will count only toward a course grade and not its college-level U.S. government test; that’s in large part because most college government courses do not require projects, according to the College Board.

The biggest challenge may be to scale the efforts at action civics. Only about 281,000 public-school students take the AP U.S. government course — last year, about 30 percent of these students were African-American or Latino and 23 percent were low-income; indeed, the College Board has come under criticism recently for failing to make its tests more accessible to minority students.

States and districts also will need to resist pressures from both the political left and the right that could dilute the push for more robust civics. The movement to require ethnic studies must not be allowed to erode time and attention devoted to civics. And states that require high-school graduates to pass the U.S. citizenship test must resist the lure of a rote multiple-choice approach to civics.

Instead, embracing a meaningful civics project as part of a broader U.S. government and history curriculum may be the best way to help kids make the connection between what they learn about the nation’s political institutions and a future they can affect.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:

Andrea Gabor at Andrea.Gabor@baruch.cuny.edu

 

The Gülen charter schools are one of the biggest chains in the U.S. They have about 160 or more schools. They usually claim they have no connection to Imam Fethullah Gülen, but they can be identified by the unusual number of Turkish teachers in the school, many using H1B visas; by the preponderance of Turkish men on their board of directors; by their inclusion of Turkish language in their curriculum; and by their preference to award contracts to Turkish-owned contractors, even when those firms were not the low bidder.

The Gulen schools call themselves by different names, but they are all somehow connected to a reclusive imam who lives in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

I don’t know whether the Gülen schools are good or bad schools, I just think it odd to outsource what are supposed to be American public schools to foreign nationals.

The conservative journal EdNext, funded largely by the conservative Hoover Institution, defends the Gülen charters and critiques those who would dare to criticize them. 

Should we outsource community public schools to Saudi Arabia? to Russia? to China? to North Korea? to Brazil?

Where would EdNext draw the line? Or do they think there should be no line at all? Why should America have public schools?

American public schools are supposed to teach civics, democratic values, and history. Can we turn that over to teachers who have never studied American history or civics? Is it a good idea to outsource our public schools? According to EdNext, yes.

For anyone who wants to learn more about the Gulen charter school movement, I recommend Mark Hall’s film, “Killing Ed” and parent activist Sharon Higgins’ investigative reporting about the Gulen schools. 

Some Gulen schools have been investigated by the FBI. Here is a 2012 report in the New York Times that EdNext won’t mention.

The writer was Stephanie Saul.

A group of three publicly financed charter schools in Georgia run by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Turkish imam, have come under scrutiny after they defaulted on bonds and an audit found that the schools improperly granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to businesses and groups, many of them with ties to the Gulen movement.

The audit, released Tuesday by the Fulton County Schools near Atlanta, found the schools made purchases like T-shirts, teacher training and video production services from organizations with connections to school officials or Gulen followers. Those included more than $500,000 in contracts since January 2010 with the Grace Institute, a foundation whose board has included school leaders. In some cases the awards skirted bidding requirements, the audit said.

“I would just question how those vendors were selected when price in many instances wasn’t part of the decision making,” said the Fulton County superintendent, Robert Avossa, who criticized the schools for conflicts of interest. “And those are public dollars.”

Gulen followers run more than 120 charter schools nationwide, making the loosely affiliated network one of the nation’s largest public charter school operators. Despite clear connections, the schools generally deny any affiliation with the Gulen movement, a powerful religious and political force in Turkey whose leader, Mr. Gulen, views establishing schools as part of his mission. While some of the charter schools have been praised for their academic performance, their business practices have raised questions.

The New York Times reported last year that the group’s 36 Texas schools had granted millions of dollars in construction and renovation contracts to firms run by Turkish-Americans with ties to the movement, in some cases bypassing lower bids from firms with no connections to the movement. The Texas schools also awarded deals for cafeteria food, after-school programs and teacher training to organizations affiliated with Gulen followers.

The Georgia audit, posted to the Fulton County Schools Web site Tuesday evening, focused on the Fulton Science Academy Middle School in Alpharetta, Ga., a 500-student school that was recently denied a renewal of its public charter. The school, which had received $32 million in public funds over the past 10 years, said it would operate as a private school. While the audit does not lay out all of the relationships between contractors and the movement, a chart shows connections between the people running the schools, some of the vendors and Gulen-connected groups.

Dr. Avossa said that the audit’s findings had raised concerns about the group’s two other public charter schools in his district: Fulton Science Academy High School and Fulton Sunshine Academy, an elementary school.

He said a full audit would be conducted of those schools “to gauge whether similar wrongdoing is taking place.”

The three schools have enrolled 1,200 students representing a cross section of students in the Fulton County district.

Wells Fargo Bank, trustee of a $19 million bond issue by the schools, told investors on May 15 that the three schools were in default on those bonds. The bank said the default was caused by the group’s failure to disclose in its bond offering last year that its middle school charter renewal might have been in jeopardy. “The failure to disclose the ongoing concerns with Fulton Science Academy’s charter renewal petition constituted an omission of material facts in the public statement,” Wells Fargo said.

A default gives the bondholders the right to demand immediate payment, possibly requiring a liquidation of some school assets. The bonds are trading at about 70 percent of face value.

Concerns about governance and transparency were partly behind the district’s rejection of the Fulton Science Academy Middle School’s demand for a 10-year charter renewal. The school was named a “blue-ribbon” school last year by the federal government for its performance and appealed unsuccessfully to the state.

Kenan Sener, the school’s principal, said that the audit contained significant inaccuracies and that the school would issue a statement on Wednesday, after fully reviewing the document.

Nationwide, the charter schools have pursued an aggressive expansion plan, much of it financed by public bond issues, with the Texas schools borrowing more than $200 million through bond offerings.

In Texas, the group’s spending has been the focus of investigations by the State Legislature and the Texas Education Agency. The federal Department of Education is also investigating the Texas schools, apparently focusing on allegations of discrimination against Hispanic special education students in enrollment. The schools have denied wrongdoing.

One criticism of the schools involves their reliance on teachers imported from Turkey while teacher unemployment in the United States remains high. The audit said the Fulton Science Academy Middle School had paid $75,000 in immigration-related expenses for such employees.

Although the schools are inspired by Mr. Gulen and teach Turkish language and culture, they do not teach religion.

 

Ed Berger, retired teacher, lives in Arizona and fights for the return of honest government.

He writes:

Arizona Government Does Not Match The Decency And Will Of Its People

We live in Arizona. We are decent, law abiding, citizens. So why is Arizona considered one of the most corrupt states in America? Why is Arizona often the example of how Democracy can be subverted? Why is our state out of sync with its population? What is wrong? Arizona government does not match the values of our citizens.
What can we do to make our elected representatives reflect the decency and will of the people? We must vote to remove those who corrupt the democratic process and their elected positions by accepting Dark Money.

Let’s examine a recent Senate/House vote. House Bill 2153 was passed into law over the objections of community leaders and citizens of all political parties and went into effect April 2, 2018. It prohibits any local government requirement to identify contributors to local political campaigns. Seventeen Senate members and thirty-three House members approved this measure and Governor Ducey signed it into law. This runs counter to initiatives by many communities acting in the public interest to expose Dark Money and its’ use to buy and place representatives and government leaders. They want to stop the covert, negative and destructive methods of oligarchs that bypass the citizen’s right to elect representatives they have vetted and chosen.

This is a current example of how the will of the people was ignored. To clean AZ government, we can study how representatives voted on key issues like this one, share their deeds, and get the bad ones gone. What We The People now have is a list of the seventeen senators and thirty-three house members who sold us out.

Prescott is still reeling from the effect of Dark Money in recent elections. In the race for District #1, few know that DeVos money (Dark Money) went to support a candidate this community rejected. With access to DeVos money and the use of gerrymandering, the citizen’s candidate was undermined and defeated. His opponent won and now owes DeVos bigtime. The recent mayoral election in Prescott is another example of how democracy is subverted by money and power. Those elected to represent us in the legislature are too often there because they owe allegiance to those who want our government to serve them, and not the people.

When one is aware of this fact, we can begin to understand how tens of millions of our taxpayer dollars have not only been mismanaged but have gone into the pockets of privatizers and profiteers. For many years, our legislature has passed and supported laws that do not allow accounting or transparency for how taxpayer public dollars are spent by charter schools. They have also done away with conflict of interest rules that would make it a criminal offence for legislators to use public money and position for personal gain. In addition, they have done away with democratically elected schools boards in favor of private corporate boards to oversee charter schools. Real public schools have elected school boards. But those who control the legislature have eliminated the tools of transparency and accountability that protect our investment in public education from being siphoned off from the needs of children and into the pockets of privateers.

This has been done to our state. Captive and bought members of the legislature have created uncounted millionaires by directing our money to friends, family, and those they support ideologically. This has been done out of pure greed. Ideologically it is done to starve and damage our public schools because they are “government schools” and have not yet been privatized for profit, not for kids. These are our schools, the ones over 80% of AZ citizens want to support and improve.

These are two on the many examples of the subversion of the democratic process. Yavapai County is reported to be a Republican stronghold. Some say people here always voted a straight “R” ticket. That may have been true years ago. Today Yavapai County is not Republican or Democrat or Independent. The citizens of this county have learned that the state government is not GOP, but rather a Koch, Goldwater Institute, APS, ALEC assembly of people who often describe themselves a Libertarians, which roughly translated means, ‘We have the right to rape, rip, and run if it serves us. We have the right to access for our personal gain the taxes citizens pay. We believe in privatizing all public resources, including prisons, schools and government functions.’ If one votes a straight “R” ticket what they are getting is a “Koch” ticket. Times have changed and now the legislature and governor are owned by forces that serve only themselves. Too often our politicians dance with the ones who ‘brung’ them.

So how do we win back the respect of other Americans and our decency as a people?

#1 We identify the legislators and political leaders that are owned by outside forces. We do this by examining their voting records and red tag all who have voted for laws that restrict financial accountability, shield members from conflicts of interest, and favor those who profit from privatizing prisons, schools, and public services.

#2 We share our information, educate our friends and neighbors, and support candidates that, regardless of political party affiliation, represent us and our community.

#3 We vote after vetting the candidates.

 

 

 

Here are some sound, sensible wishes for students by Nancy Bailey. 

101 of them. Each one five words or less.

Imagine a world where children went to school eagerly, happily, ready to learn.

Start with this:

 

Provide children plenty of recess.

Pay attention to child development.

Cherish play for children.

Encourage teens to socialize.

Lower class sizes.

Bring back the arts.

Provide all students art instruction.

Give students credentialed art teachers.

Let children dance.

Sing-along with students.

Teach students to play instruments.

Display student art in schools.

Bring back school plays.

Showcase student writing.

End high-stakes testing.

Teach better civics.

Bring back Home Economics.

Help teens balance a checkbook.

Teach students self-care.

Provide school nurses.

Help students learn money management.

Provide 12th grade career information.

Develop good career-technical education.

Give students with disabilities services.

Make IEPs relevant and personal.

Address dyslexia.

Show students how to adapt.

Help students find alternatives.

Find student strengths.

Provide teachers special education preparation.

Value parents in educational decisions.

Quit pushing school choice.

Stop throwing money at charters.

That’s only 1/3 of Nancy’s wishes.

Read the rest and add your own.