Archives for category: Cruelty

Robert Shepherd writes comments on the blog frequently, and he also writes his own blog. He is a recently retired teacher in Florida who spent decades as a writer, editor, and developer of curriculum and assessments in the education publishing industry.

Since he has often expresssed his views of the current occupant of the White House, I invited him to assemble a Trump glossary.

He did.

Some people respond to crises with focused, quiet intensity. Not our 73-year-old President in the orange clown makeup. He can’t stop tweeting and blabbering randomly and profusely. And what does he tweet and blab about? Well, he suggests holding events at his resorts, he attacks perceived enemies, and he praises himself. And then on Memorial Day, while others are laying a wreath on the grave of Uncle Javier who died in Vietnam, Trump accuses a journalist of murder and goes golfing.

This demonstrated lack of concern for others (for victims and survivors of natural disasters and war and disease, for example) shows that Donald Trump doesn’t give a microbe on a nit on a rat’s tushy about anything but Donald Trump. Obviously, he cares only about money (sorry, Evangelicals, his only God is Mammon) and about himself.

But hey, Trump’s a romantic figure, a man in love. This must be his appeal. And when he speaks, in his toddler English, about the love of his life, Donald Trump, you can be certain that he will use terms like “a winner,” “the greatest,” “the best,” and so on. He will tell you about his “great genes” and his uncle who was “a super genius [which is a lot better than an ordinary genius] at MIT.”

OK, over the years, I’ve had my disagreements with the man to whom I variously refer as Moscow’s Asset Governing America (MAGA); Don the Con; IQ 45; The Don, Cheeto “Little Fingers” Trumpbalone; Vlad’s Agent Orange; the Iota; our Child-Man in the Promised Land; our Vandal in Chief; Dog-Whistle Don; The Man with No Plan and the Tan in the Can; President Pinocchio; Trump on the Stump with His Chumps; Jabba the Trump; Don the Demented; King Con; Donnie DoLittle; the Stabul Jenius; Scrotus Potus; The Mornavirus trumpinski orangii; Ethelorange the Unready; our First Part-time President, now become, in his nonresponse to the pandemic, Donnie Death. However, I do agree with him that in descriptions of Trump, SUPERLATIVES ARE IN ORDER.

The British writer Nate White wisely observed, in a post that Diane Ravitch shared on her indispensable blog, that Donald Trump’s “faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws.” Trump is a one-person compendium of human vices and failings. In this respect, truly, HE HAS NO EQUAL. And so I offer here an ABECEDARIUM of adjectives, each of which demonstrably describes the occupant of the now Offal Office in the now Whiter House, the fellow who has shamed us before the world, made us a laughing stock, and led the now Repugnican Party in an unprecedented Limbo Dance (“how low, how low, how low can we go?).

Trump is. . . .

abhorrent, amoral, anti-democratic, arrogant, authoritarian, autocratic, avaricious, backward, base, benighted, bloated, blubbering, blundering, bogus, bombastic, boorish, bullying, bungling, cheap, childish, clownish, clueless, common, confused, conniving, corrupt, cowardly, crass, creepy, cretinous, criminal, crowing, crude, cruel, dangerous, delusional, demagogic, depraved, devious, dim, disgraceful, dishonest, disloyal, disreputable, dissembling, dog-whistling, doltish, dull, elitist, embarrassing, erratic, fascist, foolish, gauche, gluttonous, greedy, grudging, hate-filled, hateful, haughty, heedless, homophobic, humorless, hypocritical, idiotic, ignoble, ignominious, ignorant, immature, inarticulate, indolent, inept, inferior, insane, intemperate, irresponsible, kakistocratic, kleptocratic, laughable, loathsome, loud-mouthed, low-life, lying, mendacious, meretricious, monstrous, moronic, narcissistic, needy, oafish, odious, orange, outrageous, pampered, pandering, perverse, petty, predatory, puffed-up, racist, repulsive, rude, sanctimonious, semi-literate, senile, senseless, sexist, shady, shameless, sheltered, slimy, sluglike, sniveling, squeamish, stupid, swaggering, tacky, thick, thin-skinned, thuggish, toadying, transphobic, trashy, treasonous, twisted, ugly, unappealing, uncultured, uninformed, unprincipled, unread, unrefined, vain, venal, vicious, vile, and vulgar.

Aside from those peccadilloes (we all have our faults, don’t we?), I have no problem with the guy.

How cruel can Betsy DeVos and Steven Mnuchin be? As people of great wealth and privilege, they have not a thought for those who have been impoverished by the pandemic.

Both have been sued in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of student debtors whose tax refunds they sought to garnish.

Jessica Corbett writes in Common Dreams:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the federal departments they run were hit with a class-action lawsuit Friday for illegal seizures of thousands of student borrowers’ tax refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 40 million Americans jobless and familes across the country struggling to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.

The suit (pdf)—filed by Student Defense and Democracy Forward in the U.S. District Court for D.C.—accuses the Education and Treasury departments of violating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act from late March, which halted all involuntary collection of federal student loans, including tax refund offsets, until the end of September.

“Secretaries DeVos and Mnuchin have inflicted needless financial pain on student borrowers and their families by failing to stop the illegal seizures of their tax refunds,” Democracy Forward senior counsel Jeffrey Dubner said in a statement.

“The turmoil caused by the ongoing pandemic is no excuse for breaking the law,” Dubner added. “Our class-action suit seeks to hold the administration accountable so that student borrowers can stay on their feet during this crisis.”

Stan Karp has written a brilliant critique of federal policy and Betsy DeVos’s audacious and vicious assault on our nation’s public schools and their students. Don’t believe those who say that Congress has blocked her most horrendous actions. She has used her authority and exceeded the intent of Congress to advance her single-minded and narrow-minded pursuit of privatization. When Congress tries to blunt or control her actions, she simply ignores Congress. She is out of control. She treats members of Congress like her household help.

Karp reviews the failures of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Then he shows how the pandemic has given DeVos the tools to wreak havoc on our public schools, which enroll the vast majority of children.

He writes:

The emergency CARES Act, passed without a single dissenting vote and signed in March, was the first of several massive pieces of federal legislation rushed through Congress in response to the pandemic. While the CARES Act didn’t include the same kind of signature federal initiative that RTTT represented for Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, it did give Duncan’s successor, the wildly unpopular, right-wing billionaire Betsy DeVos, extraordinary powers in a host of important policy areas.

There will be additional federal action affecting schools in the months ahead, including attempts to address the financial tsunami that is already engulfing school budgets. But even a cursory comparison between the federal response in 2009 and the initial response to the current crisis provides some clues about the extended emergency ahead for public education.

The CARES Act included $13.5 billion for K–12 schools, $14 billion for higher education, and another $3 billion that governors can split between the two as part of $31 billion in “stabilization aid” for state budgets. But while the total $2.2 trillion legislative package was several times larger than the $800 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, the initial amounts provided for education in the CARES Act were much smaller.

The Recovery Act sent $54 billion in education aid to states primarily for K–12 programs and the implementation of RTTT. Moreover, as noted by Education Week, the “2009 stimulus didn’t just shore up education budgets; its unprecedented windfall of education aid also helped the Obama administration put financial muscle behind its priorities. Those priorities focused on areas like standards and accountability.” To promote those policies, the funds came with prescriptive regulations about their use, including provisions that drove an expansion of charters, standardized testing, and test-based teacher evaluation. States and school districts desperate for federal dollars had to commit to this agenda to receive RTTT’s “competitive grants.”

“The CARES Act doesn’t take the same approach,” Education Week’s analysis concluded. “It’s hard to see discrete elements of a Trump education policy agenda driving current coronavirus aid — although U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated last week she wants to change that.”

DeVos Given Tools of Destruction

The CARES Act gives DeVos multiple tools to do so. It gives the secretary of education authority to waive many requirements outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the omnibus federal education legislation that replaced NCLB. The first — and undoubtedly most popular — use of this authority came when all 50 states sought and received in a matter of weeks a waiver to suspend federally required annual standardized testing for the current school year. The educational irrelevance of these tests and their existence as an obstacle to serving the real needs of students was one of the first lessons of the pandemic.

But DeVos’ new authority has much more sinister potential. The CARES Act gives her the power to waive Title I funding regulations, which govern the largest federal education program supporting children from low-income families. It also allows her to suspend Title II rules defining professional development and Title IV requirements to “provide students with a well-rounded education” including the arts, mental health services, and training on trauma-informed practices — all crucially important in the current crisis. The CARES Act specifically allows schools to shift money from these areas to purchase “digital devices.” By early April, 28 states had received waivers to reallocate ESSA spending.

In the guidelines for distributing the first pot of CARES funding, the $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, DeVos blocked any use of funds to support DACA recipients or international students. She also said any monies awarded to teacher unions to provide services defined in the CARES Act would be “inconsistent with statutory requirements,” although last year she authorized church and religious groups to receive federal funds to provide similar services.

DeVos has a long and notorious record of using agency guidance and regulatory action to undermine equity. One of her first acts after being confirmed as secretary was to support the repeal of protections for transgender students, including their right to choose restrooms. She was sued for rolling back protections against predatory lenders at for-profit colleges and threatened with jail by a federal judge for “intentionally flouting” a court order to stop collection proceedings for such loans. DeVos rescinded sexual assault guidance issued under Title IX, a move the National Women’s Law Center said would have a “devastating” impact, and in May released new guidance that weakened protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault. She proposed allowing schools to use federal “student enrichment funds” to purchase guns and used a school safety commission formed in the wake of the Parkland school shootings to recommend repeal of regulations on school discipline practices that were rooted in civil rights concerns. Similarly, DeVos tried to rescind Obama-era rules that required districts to track racial disparities in special education classification rates, an effort a federal judge blocked as “arbitrary and capricious.” In April, DeVos relaxed oversight and accreditation rules for higher education online programs at a time when the pandemic was massively expanding the scale of such programs.

Trump and DeVos on Feb 14, 2017 in Washington D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool
Beyond putting her very rich thumb on the wrong side of the scales of justice, DeVos is now in position to be a key gatekeeper for a new and crushing era of austerity for school budgets. To access the CARES Act’s stabilization funds, states must nominally commit to maintaining recent levels of education funding for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. But DeVos can waive that requirement and no doubt will. Already, she has issued guidelines for distributing CARES Act funds that drive more dollars to private schools and wealthier students by circumventing requirements to allocate the funds according to more progressive Title I formulas.

DeVos undermines equity. She flouts the Will of Congress. She seeks to dismantle civil rights protections.

Unlike Trump, she is not incompetent. She is not stupid. She is very clever. She is diabolical. Trump will never fire her because she sows chaos as surely as he does, but without bluster and braggadocio.

If you need a reason to vote for Joe Biden, think about Betsy DeVos.

In 2013, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Cuba with my partner and two friends. The Obama administration had relaxed restrictions on travel, and we visited as part of a people-to-people program. Our group flew to Miami, then boarded an American Airlines charter jet that brought us in less than an hour to Jose Marti airport in Havana. Many of our fellow passengers were a Cubans carrying large packages of appliances and other hard-to-get goods to their relatives in Cuba.

We traveled with our travel agent, a native Cuban who had fled the island as a child in 1960 (part of the so-called ”Peter Pan” exodus of Cuban children) and was now an American citizen living in New York City. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the center of Havana, where there were few Americans but many European and South American tourists. We visited museums, the homes of artists, and wonderful small restaurants. The Cuban people we met were friendly, welcoming and looking forward to better times, when the decades-long embargo would finally end. My overall impression was that the embargo had impoverished Cuba and cemented the Castro regime, and that the end of the embargo would stimulate small businesses and breathe life into a stagnant economy. In other words, our policy goals for Cuba—to end the dictatorship and revive a market economy—had utterly failed, but would be advanced by ending the embargo.

Cuba is a beautiful and very poor nation. We were lucky to have gone when we did, because Trump has reversed the limited lifting of the embargo by the Obama administration and made the embargo as punitive as possible.

Commonweal published an article By a Cuban scholar describing the effects of the renewed sanctions. Its main effect seems to be further impoverishing the Cuban people. Trump was pandering to Republican Cuban voters in Florida.

After 60 years of embargo and sanctions, don’t you think that it would be clear by now that the punishment has failed to achieve its aim of regime change and serves only to hurt the Cuban people? If we really wanted to free Cuba, we would open relations and encourage commerce and tourism, as we did with Vietnam and Cambodia, which now have booming economies, or did have before the pandemic.

Steven Singer warns that public schools are facing deep cuts in state funding due to revenue losses caused by the pandemic.

Hey, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, just the time to start mobilizing against cuts that could cause the layoff of nearly 300,000 teachers.

That means larger class sizes, fewer electives, cuts to the arts, to everything that is not tested.

Don’t expect Trump to stand up for teachers. He said famously in 2016 that he “loves the uneducated.” He wants more of them. They are the ones who march around with their weapons demanding freedom from public health measures to protect lives.

A society that is unwilling to invest in its children is sacrificing its future.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a hard, cruel woman. We all knew she is a billionaire. What was not yet clear is that she is utterly heartless. She drew up a list of students who would not get any federal assistance during the pandemic, although Congress did not authorize her to exclude anyone.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2020

Contact:
Madeleine Russak: 202-224-5398 (Murray)
Will Serio: 202-225-3661 (DeLauro)

Murray, DeLauro Urge DeVos to Reverse Unauthorized Guidance Excluding 7.5 Million Students From Emergency Financial Aid

Murray, DeLauro: “The extreme eligibility restrictions… were added by the Department without any directive from Congress and without any statutory basis”

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to reverse her harmful and unauthorized guidance that will restrict more than 7.5 million students from accessing sorely needed emergency financial aid provided under the under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). In a letter, the lawmakers stressed that the barriers created by the U.S. Department of Education do not exist in the law and will prevent aid from reaching students that Congress intended to support.

“Secretary DeVos pushing DACA recipients, undocumented students and other vulnerable students out of needed relief from the CARES Act is cruel. This virus doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the students who are impacted, and our response absolutely shouldn’t either,” said Senator Murray. “It is completely unacceptable that despite such dire need for assistance among students during this unprecedented time, Secretary DeVos has restricted emergency financial aid without any authorization. This is absolutely not what Congress intended, and Secretary DeVos must reverse this guidance immediately.”

“Secretary DeVos’s latest guidance unfairly restricts emergency financial relief for millions of students at institutions of higher education who need it most,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The Department’s interpretation of the CARES Act has no basis in the text of the law nor Congressional intent. Students are struggling to make ends meet and keep food on the table just like countless people across the country right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary DeVos should be making it easier for them to access this critical aid, not harder. I urge her to reverse course.”

The 7.5 million students that could be barred from funding under the restrictive guidance includes undocumented students, DACA recipients, students who have not filled out the FAFSA, students in adult basic education and dual enrollment programs who do not have a high school diploma, and more. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education unnecessarily prohibited students from using emergency financial aid for charges from their institutions even with their permission. This means that students relying on campuses’ limited food and housing services during this crisis—such as students experiencing homelessness and former foster youth—will face additional barriers to meeting these costs.

“The extreme eligibility restrictions, which were added by the Department without any directive from Congress and without any statutory basis, represent an unconscionable response to the virus that does not discriminate against which students are impacted by it,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

Read the full letter below and HERE.

May 1, 2020

The Honorable Betsy DeVos
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We urge you to reverse your harmful and unauthorized guidance that significantly restricts the flexibility for emergency financial aid to students provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Public Law No. 116-136. The federal resources provided in the CARES Act are critical to institutions of higher education (“institutions”) and students dealing with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Unfortunately, your decision could deny CARES Act relief to more than 7.5 million students in higher education.

Of the $12.6 billion allocated by formula under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) of the CARES Act, no less than 50 percent was designated for emergency financial aid to support students’ cost of attendance. Students across the country are facing severe disruptions of their programs of study. They are under incredible financial strain and need additional support to continue their education while protecting their health and caring for their families.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) released guidance 12 days after announcing emergency financial aid allocations under the CARES Act that imposed new and unwarranted restrictions limiting which students can receive funding. The barriers created by the Department do not exist in the CARES Act, will prevent emergency financial aid from reaching many students with financial need that Congress intended to support, and add substantial burden to implementation of the law.

First, the Department asserts that all emergency financial aid recipients under the CARES Act must be eligible for assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). This limitation excludes students who do not meet academic progress standards, students who have not registered for the Selective Service, students with some types of drug convictions, certain students in adult basic education and dual enrollment programs who do not have a high school diploma, international students, and students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, including all Dreamers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, and other undocumented students.

The Department’s requirement that emergency financial aid recipients have “demonstrated eligibility to participate in programs under Section 484 of the HEA” also effectively requires that students fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There is no other reliable or efficient way for an institution to determine and verify the extensive eligibility requirements of Title IV. A significant number of students enrolled in higher education—particularly low-income students—have not filled out the FAFSA. It is unreasonable to ask current students who are working to finish their terms to fill out a detailed form to receive emergency financial aid. According to the most recent estimates of FAFSA filing rates for 2015-16 from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, more than 7.5 million undergraduate and graduate students do not file a FAFSA. Thus, the Department’s unjustified decision to restrict emergency financial aid grants to Title IV eligible students will deny support to a vast number of working families.

The Department’s decision to restrict eligibility for emergency financial aid based on Title IV of the HEA is also plainly inconsistent with prior Department documentation. In the official “Certification and Agreement” form that institutions must sign to receive funding, the Department clearly states that, “The Secretary does not consider these individual emergency financial aid grants to constitute Federal financial aid under Title IV of the HEA.” It is unclear how the Department can impose federal financial aid requirements on funds it does not consider to be federal financial aid. The Department also emphasized in a cover letter to institutions the flexibility of emergency financial aid and discretion to institutions afforded under the CARES Act, stating that “the only statutory requirement is that the funds be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus…” The Department’s subsequent guidance significantly limited this flexibility.

The Department’s inconsistency continues with its consideration of the 90/10 rule under Title IV of the HEA. While the Department managed to apply federal financial aid requirements based on the HEA to students, it chose to exempt funds under the CARES Act from counting as revenues considered in determining whether for-profit institutions meet the requirement to derive not less than ten percent of revenues from non-federal financial aid sources. The guidance indicates that “Funds paid directly to institutions by the Department through the HEERF will not be included as revenue for 90/10 purposes.” Once again, the Department has chosen to interpret the law selectively in a manner that harms vulnerable students and supports for-profit institutions.

Like the Department’s initial guidance documents, the CARES Act imposes no restrictions on student eligibility for emergency aid and makes no reference to the eligibility requirements associated with Title IV of the HEA. When we drafted emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress did not place limitations on which students could or should get emergency aid—we simply directed the Secretary and institutions to make funds available to students. The extreme eligibility restrictions, which were added by the Department without any directive from Congress and without any statutory basis, represent an unconscionable response to the virus that does not discriminate against which students are impacted by it.

Additionally, the Department’s prohibition on allowing students to directly apply emergency financial aid to relevant institutional charges may disproportionately impact vulnerable students. The CARES Act clearly makes funding available to satisfy the cost of attendance, which includes tuition, fees, and institutionally-provided food, and housing. Many students rely on their institutions to meet basic needs. For example, a number of campuses that have restricted campus operations during COVID-19 still operate limited food and housing facilities for students—such as homeless students, former foster youth, and others with no “home” to return to. While we appreciate that the Department has appropriately prohibited institutions from using emergency financial aid dollars to reimburse themselves for operational expenses (in accordance with Section 18004(c) of the CARES Act), there is no reason to create obstacles for students who may not have access to a bank account and who may want to proactively elect to apply emergency grant aid to cover the cost of institutionally-provided services. The Department should allow and encourage institutions to disburse emergency financial aid as quickly, equitably, and seamlessly as possible. It is unreasonable that a student could not satisfy new institutional charges incurred after March 27, 2020, if they provide authorization to the institution to apply their emergency aid funds to such amounts.

Finally, the Department declared that “students who were enrolled exclusively in an online program on March 13, 2020… are not eligible for emergency financial aid grants.” The CARES Act does not state that individual students who were enrolled exclusively online could not receive emergency financial aid. Such decisions were intentionally left up to each institution so that campuses could make decisions that fit the unique needs of each student. The Department was again inconsistent with its guidance, as it afforded institutions discretion in the case of incarcerated students (as Congress intended) yet not with students enrolled exclusively online. Instead, the Department’s decision to prohibit support for fully-online students, and restrict the flexibility afforded by the CARES Act, will add additional burden to students and institutions.

We are deeply disappointed with your unauthorized decision to restrict eligibility for emergency financial aid to students during this difficult time for our country and in violation of Congressional intent. Accordingly, we urge you to reverse your decision to limit students’ access to emergency financial aid and block students from using funds for institutional charges. During this national emergency, it is essential to provide resources that meet the diverse needs of all our students and institutions of higher education. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate

Ranking Member, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, U.S. Senate

CONGRESSWOMAN ROSA L. DELAURO
Chair, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives

Blogger “Like a Renegade” observes that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is indifferent to the presence of COVID 19 in the prison population.

The blogger reminds the governor that prisoners interact with a large number of staff who then go out into the general population and may spread the disease.

She also points out that most inmates are in jail for a term, or for a death sentence.

The virus is no respecter of boundaries. It can be carried by cafeteria workers, guards, medical staff, police, or inmates on work release. She suggests that the indifferent, inhumane Governor Hutchinson pay attention.

Governor Hutchinson is one of those conservatives who is pro-life so long as it’s unborn.

In this powerful post, NBCT teacher Stuart Egan describes the calculated attack on democracy and social justice in North Carolina.

The state was once considered one of the most enlightened in the South. It is now one of the most regressive, taken down by the Tea Party, by a legislature dominated by ALEC, and by politicians determined to destroy opportunity for people of color and poor people.

Egan provides a timeline of North Carolina’s descent, which accelerated after the Tea Party capture of the General Assembly in 2010. Behind the scenes, big money pushed ALEC bills.

Egan writes:

That timeline is filled with actions that are calculated, highly crafted, delicately executed, and driven by dogma deliberately done to hurt public education and communities that rely on public schools. Each occurred before the May 16th, 2018 march in Raleigh.

Citizens United, you may remember, allowed for corporations and other entities to donate to political candidates. It gave rise to PACs and SUPERPACs. It’s why you now see an incredible amount of money in political races donated by people who have a vested interest in a race or candidate but cannot vote in that race.

HB17 was the legislation produced in a special session in December of 2016 right before Roy Cooper took office. It was a power grab that granted the incoming state superintendent, Mark Johnson, the most power any state super had ever had. Johnson might be the most unqualified person to ever hold the job. What ensued was a lawsuit between Johnson and the State Board of Education that lasted for 18 months. Ultimately, it cemented Johnson’s role as a puppet and led to DPI’s reorganization and reduction of personnel.

The Innovative School District is an educational reform that allows the state to select “poor” performing schools to be taken over by an out-of-state entity. In three years, it has only one school under its umbrella, but has gone through multiple leaders.

And then there was the Voter ID law, racially driven gerrymandered political maps, and the abolishment of automatically paycheck deductions for groups like NCAE. (Yes, the Voter ID law and the gerrymandered districting has been overruled, but we still as a state have not had an election cycle since both were overturned.)

It used to not be this way, but after the Great Recession of 2008 and the rise of a new wing of the Republican Party, a noticeable shift occurred in North Carolina politics. Decades ago, public education was championed by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Think of governors like Holshousher and Martin and you will see a commitment to funding public education like NC saw with Sanford, Hunt, and Easley. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.

That unification is not there anymore. And it wasn’t caused by public education or its advocates. It was planted, fed, fostered, and championed by those who came to power after the Great Recession. These are not Eisenhower Republicans or Reagan Republicans; they are ALEC Republicans whose sole purpose is to politicize all things and try and privatize as many public goods as possible. And on a state level, nothing is more of a public good than public schools.

They have been very adept at combining racial and social issues with public education to make it hard not only to compartmentalize each through legislation, but easy to exploit how much social and racial issues are tied to public education without people thinking they are interlinked. Laws and mandates like HB2, the Voter ID Law, the gerrymandered districts, and the attempted judicial system overhaul have as much to do with the health of public schools as any other factor.

When you keep people from being able to vote, you affect public education. When you keep people below the poverty line, you affect public education. When you gerrymander districts along racial lines, you affect public education. You cannot separate them exclusively. And we have lawmakers in power who know that very well. It’s why when you advocate for public schools, you must be aware of social and racial issues and be willing to fight along those lines.

Public school advocacy that was “successful” before 2008 will not work as effectively in 2020. No ALEC aligned politician who is in a right to work state that outlaws collective bargaining is going to “work with” advocacy groups like NCAE.

For NCAE and other groups to truly advocate for public schools, they must fight for issues outside of school rooms that affect the very students, teachers, and staff who come into those school rooms.

By every measure, North Carolina has regressed and opposed equity and democracy.

For example, “Now name the only state in the country with the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated voucher and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth. North Carolina.“

The legislators who have passed regressive laws are not interested in dialogue or reason. They knew exactly what they were doing. They don’t negotiate. They don’t listen. They must be voted out of office.

In this editorial, Harold Meyerson plumbs the depths of meanness in the Senate’s majority party. It would be better for the unemployed if more of them were quarantined and unable to vote:

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect
MARCH 26, 2020

Meyerson on TAP

The Senate’s OTHER Vote Last Night—Along Party Lines. As every news-following American knows, the Senate voted unanimously last night to pass a $2.2 trillion stimulus package for our rapidly shrinking economy. But hardly any news-following American knows about the vote that immediately preceded that—on the amendment that four Republican senators introduced to greatly reduce unemployment insurance payments.

The senators’ objection to the agreed-upon UI fix in the stimulus bill was itself widely reported. Because unemployment insurance levels in many states with right-wing governments are so low, Democrats insisted upon the federal government topping off UI payments with an additional $600 a week to the unemployed for a four-month period. Four conservative senators objected on the grounds that that might create incomes for the unemployed that exceeded their pay when on the job. Not surprisingly, two of those senators were South Carolinians Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. South Carolina, it should be noted, is one of the six states that have never passed a minimum-wage law, and one of the two states (the other is North Carolina) that always place first or second in having the lowest rate of unionized workers—invariably, below 3 percent. In short, it’s no great achievement to make more money off the job than on the job in the senators’ home state, precisely because South Carolina’s historic denigration of workers creates so many poverty-wage jobs. Graham and Scott were like the kids who kill their parents and plead for mercy because they’re orphans.

But here’s the kicker: Surely, the objections of these two troglodytes and their two co-sponsors (Florida’s Rick Scott and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse) were just idiosyncratic social meanness, right?

Wrong. The vote on their amendment was 48-48; the only Republican to join the chamber’s 47 Democrats in voting no was Maine’s Susan Collins. (Fortunately, the Democrats, as part of the agreement on the stimulus bill, had insisted that the amendment require 60 votes to pass.)

If there’s a clearer expression of Republicans’ concern for their fellow Americans who lose their jobs in the pandemic crisis, I sure don’t know it. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON