Archives for category: Corruption

Perhaps you thought the voucher fight was over in Arizona in 2018 when voters rejected vouchers by a decisive margin of 65-35%.

But no, the clear and overwhelming decision of the state’s voters did not deter the Christofascists who are determined to destroy public schools by transferring funding away from them to any form of non public schooling, be it religious, private, homeschooling or a business run by a fraudster.

Governor Doug Ducey signed a law creating a universal voucher plan on July 6. The new law will subtract $1 billion from the state’s public schools.

SOS Arizona is once again leading the fight against universal vouchers, led by Governor Ducey and championed by the Republican legislators. The dark money behind the voucher campaign comes from the usual suspects: the Koch machine and the Betsy DeVos combine.

If Save Our Schools Arizona and its supporters can secure 118,823 valid signatures before September 24, the voucher expansion law will be placed on hold until November 2024, when voters get a chance to express their views, as they did in 2018.

The stakes could not be higher – this is a referendum to decide the future of education in Arizona and across the nation.

You can see more about the SOS Arizona signature drive here: teamsosarizona.com.

Beth Lewis, the director of SOS Arizona, wrote to provide the context for the battle over vouchers:

Universal voucher expansion is the KEY issue driving right-wing politics in the US, and hardly anyone is talking about the well-moneyed, dangerous forces driving it. The AZ legislature’s myopic focus on pushing private school voucher expansion over any other piece of legislation for the past 6 years is enough to tell us that — not to mention the massive focus FOX News has placed on vouchers since the bill’s passage here in Arizona. Recently, Christopher Rufo admitted he created the CRT furor in order to advance universal vouchers.

We desperately need folks to plug in – people all over the state can get petitions at our hubs: teamsosarizona.com or sign up to volunteer: bit.ly/SVEvolunteer.

As you know, we are truly the tip of the spear when it comes to privatization. Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children is mobilizing (somewhat ineffectively) against our efforts, and the battle lines are drawn. It is evident that universal voucher expansion will become a pattern across the US, as Republican Governors are all declaring that every red state should adopt this policy. We have seen the dangers of private school vouchers first-hand here in Arizona, and our public school system has been starved in order to give credence to those who wish to privatize our public education system.

Charlie Kirk is partnering with an incredibly rightwing Evangelical church (Dream City Church) to open Turning Point Academies across Arizona. Here is the June article from Newsweek describing their plans to proliferate campuses across AZ and then the nation. It is no coincidence this plan was announced the same month the AZ state legislature passed universal vouchers.

Kirk recently spoke at Freedom Night hosted by Dream City Church, and this expose in the AZ Republic shows the hateful ideology against LGBTQ and trans youth Kirk and the Church spread. It’s terrifying – and infuriating to think this is where our taxpayer dollars are headed.

It is abundantly clear that special interests who favor extremist Christian Nationalism are driving the bus on these issues – and it makes sense. Private school vouchers are the perfect solution for building a long-term, endlessly replenishing base of voters who also favor Christian Nationalism.

We only have 42 more days to collect the signatures to put this bill on the 2024 ballot. We expect massive legal battles, as dark money will pour in and the usual suspects will challenge every signature. We are confident we will push back successfully and get the measure on the ballot – we must, as goes Arizona, so goes the nation.

You can help these fearless, intrepid volunteers by sending a contribution to: sosarizona.org/donate.

The New York Times revealed a shocking conspiracy among Republican state treasurers to thwart efforts to improve the environment. They have combined to punish banks that oppose climate change. Fighting climate change, they believe, is “woke.” They don’t care about the extreme droughts, storms, floods, and other climate catastrophes affecting their states and the nation. They want to protect the fossil fuel industry, not their children and communities.

The investigative report was written by David Gelles based on a review of thousands of documents.

Nearly two dozen Republican state treasurers around the country are working to thwart climate action on state and federal levels, fighting regulations that would make clear the economic risks posed by a warming world, lobbying against climate-minded nominees to key federal posts and using the tax dollars they control to punish companies that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past year, treasurers in nearly half the United States have been coordinating tactics and talking points, meeting in private and cheering each other in public as part of a well-funded campaign to protect the fossil fuel companies that bolster their local economies.

Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, announced that several major banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo — would be barred from government contracts with his state because they are reducing their investments in coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Mr. Moore and the treasurers of Louisiana and Arkansas have pulled more than $700 million out of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, over objections that the firm is too focused on environmental issues. At the same time, the treasurers of Utah and Idaho are pressuring the private sector to drop climate action and other causes they label as “woke.”

And treasurers from Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma joined a larger campaign to thwart the nominations of federal regulators who wanted to require that banks, funds and companies disclose the financial risks posed by a warming planet.

At the nexus of these efforts is the State Financial Officers Foundation, a little-known nonprofit organization based in Shawnee, Kan., that once focused on cybersecurity, borrowing costs and managing debt loads, among other routine issues.

Then President Biden took office, promising to speed the country’s transition away from oil, gas and coal, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet.

The foundation began pushing Republican state treasurers, who are mostly elected officials and who are responsible for managing their state’s finances, to use their power to promote oil and gas interests and to stymie Mr. Biden’s climate agenda, records show.

I was thinking of titling this post “Libertarian Crackpots Take Charge of School Funding in New Hampshire” but decided to bite my tongue.

Garry Rayno, a writer for InDepthNH.org, reports that the Koch-funded plan to defund public schools in New Hampshire is a “success.” Not because most parents want to put their children in private or religious schools, but because the overwhelming majority of students using the new education freedom accounts are already enrolled in nonpublic schools. Thus, public funds are now underwriting private education. At some point, the public schools will shrink to be just one among many choices even though the people of New Hampshire never voted to abandon their community public schools. This is a theft of public dollars for private use.

By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org 

The new education freedom account program is a success judging by the number of students participating in the first year.

More students are expected to participate in the second year and state education officials predict it will continue to grow into the future.

One of the most expansive school choice programs in the country, it was sold as a way for students and parents to find the best educational avenues to fit their student’s individual learning needs.

That would be wonderful and would fulfill the education department’s long-standing goal of individualized student pathways, but that is not what happened for a majority of students.

Instead the program has increased the state’s education spending while few students changed their learning environment.

The vast majority of students — around 85 percent — participating in the first year, did not attend public schools the year before. Instead they were in private or religious schools, or home schooled, or too young for school.

That does not change the learning environment for that 85 percent of students.

What did change under the program was the parents’ financial obligations, which were reduced thanks to the influx of state taxpayers’ money.

Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, a program advocate, told lawmakers the first year of freedom accounts would cost the state’s Education Trust Fund about $300,000 and the second year about $3.2 million. Instead the cost was close to $9 million this year.

Why the increase? Edelblut’s estimates were for students leaving traditional public schools to participate in alternative programs, not for those already in other programs applying for state help to cover the costs of private and religious schools, or home schooling.

Essentially most of the state money flowed through the parents to private and religious schools and for homeschooling costs all previously paid for by the parents or religious institutions.

When the program was first debated this term, the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Assistant’s office estimated the state’s exposure could be as high as $70 million if all the students in private or religious schools applied for grants.

The program provides grants to parents of students who earn no more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level or about $80,000 a year for a family of four.

You only have to qualify once, so if the next year your family makes $125,000, you still qualify and if you double that the next year, you still qualify.

Grants range from about $4,500 to $8,000 per student with the average the first year a little under $5,000 per student.

The money can be spent in any number of ways, for tuition, books and instructional programs, supplies, computers, individual instruction on a musical instrument, etc.

The money to pay for the freedom accounts comes from the Education Trust Fund established more than 20 years ago when the state overhauled its funding system after the Claremont II Supreme Court decision saying the then current system of relying on local property taxes with widely varying rates to pay for public education was unconstitutional because it violated the proportional and reasonable clause of the state constitution.

For most of its early years, the trust fund ran a deficit and state general fund money had to be added to meet the state’s education aid obligations.

In recent years the fund has had a surplus including this biennium. The state budget passed last year estimates a $54.4 million surplus at the end of last fiscal year June 30 and a $21 million surplus at the end of the 2023 fiscal year.

The surplus at the end of last fiscal year is much larger than that as the overall state revenue surplus is more than $400 million, but most of that has already been spent through legislation this year such as the $100 million settlement fund for the children abused at the Youth Detention Center.

The law establishing the freedom accounts has a provision if the education fund does not have enough money to cover the cost of the grants, the needed money will be withdrawn from general fund revenue without any action needed from the legislature or the governor.

Such a provision is extremely rare as lawmakers like to be able to determine how general funds are spent.

The number of students participating in the program the first year would probably not be so large if not for the American for Prosperity, an “education organization” funded by the Koch network and other like thinking libertarians who have longed advocated that public education tax money also pay for private and religious schools, homeschooling and charter schools.

The New Hampshire affiliate had a campaign ready to go when the freedom account legislation passed as part of the budget package last year. The group helped parents enroll their students in the program, many who were in private or religious schools or home schooled.

Last week the same organization held an “education fair” for parents to meet representatives of some of the organizations and groups approved to other alternative education programs under the freedom account program.

The fair was promoted by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut who tweeted a photo from the fair, and the department had a booth there to promote its 603 Moment campaign on social media.

Others touting the fair included members of the House freedom caucus and others in the free state/libertarian wing of the GOP.

The fair is intended to help grow the program, meaning more state money will be drawn from the Education Trust Fund and ultimately the state’s general fund.

This is a well planned operation that only required the state to agree to a school choice program with few guardrails to begin taking the state down the road to greater educational “freedom” and less traditional public education.

The Koch network has recently developed a proposal to “reform” public education with one of its officials calling public education the “low hanging fruit.”

The reform would look a lot like what the freedom account program looks like and would shift resources as it does away from traditional public education to alternative pathways.

As the freedom account program grows, observers of the legislature know what will happen eventually.

As more and more education trust fund money is allocated, there will be pressure to reduce the amount of money going to traditional public education and, depending on which party is in control, to charter schools.

That is how public education becomes the low hanging fruit.

The education commissioner and others talk about the achievement gap between students from well off areas and minority students and those from low-income families.

Edelblut maintains that gap has not changed in 50 years despite numerous efforts on the federal and state level and says that is why education needs to change.

He downplays what the recent education funding commission made the centerpiece of its work, that the achievement gap is due to the resources available to students.

Students from property poor communities perform below students from property wealthy communities.

The economic disparity gap between students from property wealthy and property poor communities is larger now than it was when the Claremont lawsuit was filed 30 years ago.

Proponents of alternative education programs say it is not about spending more money, and the education funding commission said the same thing.

But the commission said the resources needed to be distributed differently, while the advocates for freedom accounts say it is about finding the right fit for a student.

Those advocates are saying the issue is not economic disparity.

Ultimately their goal is to make government smaller and they can accomplish that by disrupting traditional public education with lower cost, less regulated alternative programs.

Eventually traditional education will be small enough to be just one more alternative pathway for students among many.

That is why public education is the low-hanging fruit and freedom accounts are just the beginning.

Robert Hubbell blogs about the frightening new face of the GOP and an important reason for the surprising victory of reproductive rights forces in Kansas.

He writes:

The GOP is rapidly embracing autocracy and white Christian nationalism as its rallying cry. That rightward drift is anxiety-producing and creates the understandable urge to look away. We cannot do so. However painful or revolting it is to watch the descent of the GOP into madness and hate, if we hope to defeat the anti-democratic forces animating the Republican Party, we must be clear-eyed about the threat the party poses to American democracy.

We must be explicit in naming and describing the threat. We must identify and defeat every foot-solider and sympathizer who promotes or excuses tyranny and white nationalism. If we do so, we will preserve democracy. We can win. We will win. But only if we fight from a position firmly rooted in reality. From that vantage, let’s look at the GOP’s latest flirtations with white nationalism and despotism.

The influential and ultraconservative Conservative Political Action Conference is holding its latest meeting in Dallas, Texas. (Where else?) CPAC’s two keynote speakers are Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump. Both are wannabe dictators, though Orbán has made more progress towards that goal than Trump.

Orbán promotes an ugly brand of politics based on hate and racial superiority (for whites, of course). He has recently saidthat Hungarians “do not want to become peoples of mixed race,” causing one of his cabinet members to resign, saying Orbán’s remarks were “a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels.” He blames much of the world’s troubles on George Soros—an attack line that is a dog-whistle for antisemites. Indeed, he went so far at the CPAC conference to claim that “a Christian politician cannot be racist” because . . . well, because they are Christian. And like the Nazis, Orbán has led a national crusade of discrimination against LGBTQ people.

In most of the world, an audience would recoil in horror at remarks that explicitly invoked the Nazi ideologies of antisemitism, racial superiority, and discrimination against LGBTQ people. Not at the CPAC convention in Texas. Orbán received multiple standing ovations as he delivered remarks that could have easily been delivered in Nazi Germany in 1935. See The Independent, Fresh from furor over ‘Nazi’ speech, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban welcomed by American conservatives.

Notably, no Republican politician has condemned Orbán’s remarks. Instead, they are lining up to speak at CPAC. Other speakers comfortable sharing the podium with a “Nazi-curious” dictator include Trump, Ted Cruz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, and Sean Hannity. No surprises there.

The despotic yearnings of CPAC are not an aberration. They have become part of the GOP DNA. Charles M. Blow addresses this trend in his column in the NYTimes on Thursday: Opinion | The Republican Party Is the Anti-Democracy Party. Blow notes that The Heritage Foundation (self-described as “the most influential conservative group in America) is actively promoting the idea that “America is not a democracy,” but a “republic.”

While that statement is a truism (there are no pure democracies in the world), The Heritage Foundation uses the term “republic” to mean “white nationalist patriarchy.” Strong words, I know, but here is what The Heritage Foundation wrote in 2020:

America is threatened by an egalitarianism that undermines the social, familial, religious, and economic distinctions and inequalities that undergird our political liberty.

That passage deserves re-reading. The Heritage Foundation claims that America is threatened by “egalitarianism.” What?! Egalitarianism is defined as “the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.” So, the Heritage Foundation is against “equal rights and opportunities for all??

Yes, it is! The Heritage Foundation goes on to say that “inequalities undergird ourpolitical liberty.” Re-read the preceding phrase—twice! It is breathtaking. In that phrase, “our” can only refer to the privileged, white elite that has ruled America since its founding. For The Heritage Foundation, “our political liberty” is based on “inequality.” Unbelievable.

So, the two leading Republican advocacy groups are actively promoting a white, Christian nationalism that is antithetical to the declaration that created America: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . .

If we can get past the grievance mentality that Trump manipulates to his advantage, the positions embraced by CPAC and The Heritage Foundation are repugnant to most Americans. We need only articulate that truth in a way that resonates with their inherent belief in the American promise of equality. If we can do that, we have a fighting chance to turn the GOP’s message of hate against its most ardent promoters. The victory in Kansas points the way. Read on!

Messaging in Kansas.

With the benefit of 48 hours hindsight, it is becoming clear that a critical component of the victory in Kansas was messaging (a fact noted by dozens of readers in Comments and emails today). Charlie Sykes does an excellent job of reviewing the commentary on this issue in his Morning Shots newsletter. From WaPo,

Abortion rights supporters used conservative-sounding language about government mandates and personal freedom in their pitch to voters, and made a point of reaching out to independents, Libertarians and moderate Republicans.

And check out this television ad that describes the anti-abortion effort as an attempt to impose “a strict government mandate” that was “a slippery slope that would put more of your individual rights at risk.”

Messaging wasn’t the only reason that reproductive choice won in Kansas on Tuesday, but it was undoubtedly one of the reasons that a majority of persuadable Independents and some Republicans voted “No” on the anti-choice measure.

It will not require an advertising genius to draft ads demonstrating that the ugly ideologies of CPAC and The Heritage Group are antithetical to America’s founding ideals.

We can do that. We did it. In Kansas.

Carol Burris knows every detail of the U.S. Department of Education’s new regulations for charter schools. She has studied them closely and written about what they mean. They are a reasonable effort to create accountability for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars a year on charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program began in 1994 as a $4 million annual fund to start new charter schools. In the nearly three decades since then, the program has grown (in response to the powerful charter lobby) to $440 million a year. The program, until now, has been unregulated. It has been riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse. As two well-documented reports (see here and here) by the Network for Public Education demonstrated, a large number of charters received federal funding but never opened or closed soon after opening. While the original intent of the program was to jumpstart small, teacher-led or mom-and-pop charters, the program grew into a slush fund for big charter chains, grifters, and slick, for-profit entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Department of Education wisely decided it was time to set some rules. Federal funding comes with rules.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg knows none of this context. He recently wrote (or one of his aides wrote) an uninformed article in the Washington Post about the Department’s new regulations for the Federal Charter School Program. He falsely claimed that the regulations were a “victory” for the charter industry, even though the charter industry fought the regulations vigorously. Bloomberg’s article was a lame attempt to put a happy face on a major defeat for the charter lobbyists.

Carol Burris responded:

Michael Bloomberg embarrassed himself with his recent op-ed published in the Washington Post entitled “Charter School Change is a Victory for Children.” It would appear that given the efforts and funding that his organization put into blocking Charter School Program reforms, he now feels the need to take an unearned victory lap.

Bloomberg begins his op-ed by thanking the Biden Administration for listening to parents and editorialists—like himself. After participating in the month-long hate fest that claimed the President was “at war with charter schools,” he and his allies at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools are likely eager to creep out of the doghouse.

In addition to its heated rhetoric insulting the President and telling Secretary Cardona to back off, the charter lobby deliberately spread misinformation regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s then-proposed Charter School Program reforms. They falsely claimed that over-enrollment in district schools and cooperation with a public school district were prerequisites to obtaining CSP funding. Bloomberg used his influence to write op-eds that parroted the campaign of misinformation.

As I explained here in the Washington Post Answer Sheet, neither claim was valid. Now, Bloomberg once again twists the truth with three additional false narratives in his recent op-ed.

The first is as follows.

“The Department of Education’s original proposal could have prevented public charter schools with long wait lists from expanding or replicating if the district schools were under-enrolled.”

This was inaccurate when he first wrote it and is still untrue. Under-enrollment was an example of one of the ways charter schools could demonstrate need. Waiting lists, special missions, and other ways to show need were always allowed. This was clarified by the Department long before the final regulations were published.

The second false claim in his op-ed is:

“It [proposed regulations] would have prioritized funding for public charter schools that enter into formal contracts with district schools, making charters dependent on the good will and good faith of schools that may see them as competitors.”

Mr. Bloomberg better check again.

Priority 2 (charter/district cooperation) is still in the regulations as an invitational priority this year. Invitational is one of three levels of priority. The proposed regulations never stated which level priority 2 would have. The priority, by being retained, also opens the door for priority 2 to become a higher priority in the coming years.

And finally:

“And it would have restricted public charters from receiving early implementation funding that can be crucial to the process of opening a school. The proposal was amended to prevent those outcomes.”

The amendment he refers to (see below) was a change without distinction. Those implementation funds cannot be used; therefore, the original restriction, for all intents and purposes, is still intact.

This is the minor change between the proposed and final regulations, as explained by the Department here.

“We amended Assurance (f) to remove the requirement that applicants provide an assurance that they will not “use or provide” implementation funds for a charter school until after the eligible applicant has received an approved charter and secured a facility so that applicants are required only to provide an assurance that they will not “use” implementation funds prior to receiving an approved charter and securing a facility.”

If the schools cannot use the funds, whether or not they are “provided” is irrelevant.

I do not know who penned this op-ed for Mr. Bloomberg. But I do know this. His buddies at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, likely with his financial support, spent a king’s ransom trying to get the U.S. Department of Education to scrap or delay the regulations. In the process, they alienated members of Congress, especially powerful House Appropriations Chair Rosa De Lauro, as well as members of the Department. Their campaign was relentless, nasty, and very expensive.

But in the world of Michael Bloomberg, the truth is flexible, and he can use the influence derived from his fortune to put in print whatever “truth” suits his purpose.

However, those of us who have followed this carefully know the deal. As charter devotee, Jeanne Allen tweeted to the National Alliance’s Nina Rees, who was also trying to claim victory, “You should probably read thoroughly the final CSP #charterschool rules. All 135 pages. Not only did nothing really change, but the explanations make it worse than it was to start.”

Mimi Swartz writes in Texas Monthly that the Dobbs decision banning abortion has unleashed a broad assault on freedom in Texas. And it will get much, much worse as long as Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Ken Paxton remain in office.

I guess you could say that Texas giveth and Texas taketh away. For those too young to recall, the abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade was won in 1973 by two attorneys from the state, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. But from virtually the moment abortion became legal in all fifty states, some lawmakers here, and their supporters who opposed abortion rights, started chipping away at it. Half a century later, our Legislature had passed some of the most restrictive laws in the nation—and that was before Roe fell. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken Roeaway, with a 6–3 majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, some Texas leaders seem eager to exploit the opportunities that the ruling offers for further rollbacks of reproductive and sexual freedoms. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office released employees from work early on the day of the decision to celebrate, declaring June 24 a new, annual agency holiday “to commemorate the sanctity of life.”

What could come next? Just about everything is on the table. Criminal penalties? They’ll be much stiffer, not just for those who aid Texans in getting abortions, but possibly for abortion-seekers themselves. Abortion pills? They were banned from sale for those more than seven weeks pregnant during last year’s legislative session. Enforcement mechanisms, however, are unclear. Most such medications arrive by mail from other states and countries, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that states “may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” suggesting that court battles lie ahead. Limits on contraception? You betcha. The same privacy rights that the Supreme Court overturned in the Dobbscase underlie what we have for decades considered the right to contraception and private sex acts between consenting adults—and, more recently, same-sex marriage. Indeed, just as the 2022 Texas GOP platform embraces “the humanity of the preborn child,” it also calls homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Paxton told an interviewer he was “willing and able” to defend a Texas law—which was overturned by the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision—that bans gay sex.

Texas statutes that predate Roe but were never overturned by the Legislature are now in effect, prohibiting all abortions except “for the purpose of saving the life of the mother.” A miscarriage could now be a death sentence for those whose doctors are averse to litigation or, worse—under the “trigger law” that takes effect thirty days after the Court’s ruling—to arrest on felony charges and a possible prison sentence, along with fines starting at $100,000. “It is kind of astounding that we are at a point where Roe will be overturned, but that won’t be enough,” said Democratic state representative Donna Howard, chair of the Texas Women’s Health Caucus. “The concern is that there will be those who will not only want to criminalize those who are seeking abortion but will use this as an opportunity to roll back access to contraceptives and other advancements that were made that the underlying privacy protection of Roe also supports.” While the law does not prohibit someone from ending their own pregnancy, a South Texas woman, Lizelle Herrera, was arrested and jailed earlier this year for ending hers, and the charges were dropped only after the case became a national controversy.

Unless you subscribe to The Texas Monthly as I do, you can’t read any more. Sadly, the rightwing fascists now running state government are flexing their muscles to stamp out the freedom of anyone they don’t like. Maybe everyone should subscribe to the Texas Monthly to see how low our nation can fall when mean-spirited bigots take control. It’s hard to believe that the same state elected the great Ann Richards as its governor. She was a strong, full-bore Texas liberal, who hated racism, sexism, and everything else that Greg Abbott represents.

John Merrow sees a common thread in the educational philosophies of Hitler, Stalin, Castro and most red state governors: They want to control the beliefs of students. They want them to believe what they are told. They do not want them to think for themselves. They want to indoctrinate students. They “weaponize schools” by using them for thought control.

This is an important article. It shows how governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis are not interested in freedom of thought but in censorship. He and his confreres are moving us ever closer to fascism.

Merrow begins:

“Whoever has the youth has the future.” Adolf Hitler

“Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” Josef Stalin

“Revolution and education are the same thing.” Fidel Castro

Like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin is following a well-trod path, using Russia’s 40,000 schools to train all Russian children to believe what they are told and follow orders. Here in some American states, public schools are also being weaponized, but in different ways….

Here in the United States, public education and public school teachers are squarely in the sights of some Republican politicians. Instead of echoing Putin or Hitler, they are waving the flag of “Parents’ Rights.”

Among the Republicans waging what should properly be called a war against public education are Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Bill Lee of Tennessee, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Greg Abbott of Texas, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Brad Little in Idaho, Eric Holcomb in Indiana, and Kim Reynolds of Iowa.

They are eagerly copying Glenn Youngkin, the conservative who was elected Virginia’s governor in 2021 largely because he presented himself as a staunch defender of parents and their children–and by extension the entire community–against ‘indoctrination’ by leftist teachers who, Youngkin said, were making white children feel guilty about being white.

So-called “Critical Race Theory” is not taught in public schools, but that’s not stopping the politicians from using it as a whipping boy. Florida’s DeSantis put it this way: “Florida’s education system exists to create opportunity for our children. Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools.” And Florida has now banned a number of math textbooks, accusing the publishers of trying to indoctrinate children with Critical Race Theory.

A blogger who’s particularly upset, Michael McCaffrey, put it this way:

“Indoctrinating children with CRT is akin to systemic child abuse, as it steals innocence, twists minds, and crushes spirits. Parents must move heaven and earth to protect their children, and they can start by coming together and rooting out CRT from their schools by any and all legal means necessary.”

In the name of “defeating” CRT, Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee has invited Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian institution based in Michigan, to create 50 charter schools in Tennessee with public funds, including $32 million for facilities. As the New York Times reported, Governor Lee believes these schools will develop “informed patriotism” in Tennessee’s children.

It’s not just CRT. Republican politicians are also campaigning against transgender athletes, transgender bathrooms, mental health counseling, any discussion of sexuality, and the “right” of parents to examine and veto school curriculums. While I have written about these issues here, it’s important to remember that less than 2% of students identify as transgender or gender-fluid…

It’s not difficult to connect the dots: Republicans are attacking public schools, accusing them of ‘grooming’ their children to be gay, of making white children ashamed of their race, of undermining American patriotism and pride, and more. One goal is to persuade more parents to home-school their children, or enroll them in non-union Charter Schools, or use vouchers to pay non-public school tuition. Public school enrollment will drop, teachers will be laid off, teacher union revenue will decline, and less money will flow to Democrats.

But it seems to me that their real target is not parents but potential voters who do not have any connection with public education. Remember that in most communities about 75% of households do not have school-age children; many of these folks are older, and older people vote! If Republicans can convince these potential voters that schools cannot be trusted, they will win.

And Republicans seem to be winning. Teacher morale is low, and teachers are leaving the field in droves. Florida and California will have significant teacher shortages this fall, and one state, New Mexico, had to call in the National Guard to serve as substitutes. Enrollment is declining at institutions that train their replacements, and student enrollment in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles public schools dropped for the second consecutive year.

I began by contrasting the approach of dictators like Putin, Hitler and Stalin with the strategies being employed by Republican politicians. However, there are also disturbing similarities. Florida’s DeSantis, now polling strongly for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, recently signed legislation requiring public high schools to devote 45 minutes to teaching students about “the victims of Communism.”

Florida has also passed two bills limiting classroom conversations about race and racism and restricting younger students’ access to lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, but Florida is not alone. The newspaper Education Week reports that fifteen states have passed similar legislation over the past year, and 26 others have introduced bills attempting to restrict these lessons.

Forbidding discussion of Topic X and mandating discussion of Topic Y:  That’s exactly what Mao, Hitler, Stalin, and Castro did, and it’s precisely what Putin is now doing.  

Please post your thoughts here: https://themerrowreport.com/2022/07/29/weaponizing-public-schools/

In the past few years, we have seen the rise of something called the “parental rights” movement. This movement consists of angry white parents, mostly women, like “Moms for Liberty” and “Parents Defending Freedom,” who insist that they as parents have the “right” to decide what their children are taught in school and what books they read. They strenuously object to teaching about race and racism, which they say makes their children “uncomfortable.” They believe that teachers are “grooming” their children to be gay or transgender by teaching them about gender or sexuality. Of course, if the last were true, almost everyone would now be transgender, since most students have taken a sex-ed course at some point, focused mainly on health.

In response to the outcry from these groups, a number of states, led by Florida and Virginia, have passed laws they describe as “parental rights” laws, which ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” because they make students “uncomfortable.” The most “divisive” concept of all is “critical race theory,” which states ban. Since legislators don’t know what critical race theory is, their laws are meant to remove any teaching about race and racism from the curriculum.

Bottom line: only white parents have parental rights.

But what about Black parents? Do they have rights? Apparently not.

What about other parents who do not identify with angry white parents? Don’t their children have the right to learn an accurate history of the state, the U.S., and the world?

Why do Moms for Liberty get to define what all parents want?

Shouldn’t Black children learn about the history of race and racism?

Why shouldn’t all students learn accurate history, even if it makes them “uncomfortable”?

Why should a small subset of far-right fringe white parents get the power to censor what everyone else is taught and is allowed to read?

These “parental rights” laws are a paper-thin veneer for censorship, gag orders, lies and propaganda. They are the product of arrogant racists who can’t be bothered to hide their venomous racism.

They prefer ignorance to knowledge. They should not be allowed to impose their hateful ideology on others.

Florida is led by a Republican governor and legislature determined to crush public schools. The state is overrun by unregulated voucher schools, where teachers and principals need no certification. Some of these openly discriminate and indoctrinate. The Orlando Sentinel ran a series about the voucher schools called “schools without rules.”

Florida has a thriving charter industry, many of them operated by for-profit corporations.

Now the state has passed a new law making it easier to open new charter schools and suck money out of the public schools.

As this rampant privatization continues, Governor DeSantis keeps up a barrage of attacks on public schools and their teachers, accusing them of “indoctrinating” their students with anti-racist views and “grooming” children to be transgender.

Please watch CNN at 11 PM tonight EST for a rerun of their powerful program about two Texas billionaires who want to replace public schools with religious schools.

The program is: DEEP IN THE POCKETS OF TEXAS.

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