Archives for category: Democrats

Carol Burris wrote the following post. Marla Kilfoyle provided assistance. They asked me to add that there are dozens more exceptionally well qualified people who should be considered for this important post: they are career educators who believe in public education, not closing schools or privatization.

The media has been filled with speculation regarding Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education. Given the attention that position received with Betsy De Vos at the helm, that is not a surprise. 

In 2008, Linda Darling Hammond was pushed aside by DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) for Arne Duncan, with disastrous consequences for our public schools. Race to the Top was a disaster. New Orleans’ parents now have no choice but unstable charter schools. Too many of Chicago’s children no longer have a neighborhood school from the Race to the Top era when it was believed that you improved a school by closing it.

But the troubling, ineffective policies of the past have not gone away. Their banner is still being carried by deep-pocketed ed reformers who believe the best way to improve a school is to close it or turn it over to a private charter board. 

Recently, DFER named its three preferred candidates for the U.S. Secretary of Education. DFER is a political action committee (PAC) associated with Education Reform Now, which, as Mercedes Schneider has shown, has ties to Betsy De Vos. DFER congratulated Betsy DeVos and her commitment to charter schools when Donald Trump appointed her.  They are pro-testing and anti-union. DFER is no friend to public schools.

The DFER candidates belong to Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, an organization that promotes Bush/Duncan education reform, as Jan Resseger describes here. “Chiefs for Change,” you support school choice, even if it drains resources from the public schools in your district, of which you are the steward. In their recent letter to President BidenChiefs for Change specifically asked for a continuance of the Federal Charter School Program, which has wasted approximately one billion dollars on charters that either never open or open and close. They also asked for the continuance of accountability systems (translate close schools based on test results) even as the pandemic rages.

We must chart a new course. We cannot afford to take a chance on another Secretary of Education who believes in the DFER/Chiefs for Change playbook. 

We don’t have to settle. The bench of pro-public education talent is deep. Here are just a few of the outstanding leaders that come to mind who could lead the U.S. Department of Education. Marla Kilfoyle and I came up with the following list. There are many more. 

Tony Thurmond is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California. Tony deeply believes in public schools. Prior to becoming his state’s education leader, he was a public school educator, social worker, and a public school parent. His personal story is both moving and compelling. 

Betty Rosa dedicated most of her adult life to the students of New York City.  She began her career as a bi-lingual paraprofessional in NYC schools, became a teacher, assistant principal, principal, superintendent, state chancellor, and now New York State’s interim commissioner. 

Other outstanding superintendents include Joylynn Pruitt -Adams, the Superintendent of Oak Park and River Forest in Illinois, who is relentlessly determined to provide an excellent education to the district’s Black and Latinx high school students by eliminating low track classes, Mike Matsuda, Superintendent of Anaheim High School District and Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego.  

Two remarkable teachers with legislative experience who are strong advocates for public schools and public school students are former Teacher of the Year Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and former Arkansas state senator Joyce Elliot

There is also outstanding talent in our public colleges. There are teachers and leaders like University of Kentucky College of Education Dean, Julian Vasquez Heilig, who would use research to inform policy decisions.  

These are but a few of the dedicated public school advocates who would lead the Department in a new direction away from test and punish policies and school privatization. They are talented and experienced leaders who are dedicated to improving and keeping our public schools public and who realize that you don’t improve schools by shutting them down. Any DFER endorsed member of Chiefs for Change is steeped in the failed school reform movement and will further public school privatization through choice. They had their chance. That time has passed. 

 

 

The Biden campaign released the names of those who will serve on transition teams. Our reader, retired arts educator Laura Chapman, reviewed the members of the education transition team. According to the campaign (cited in Valerie Strauss’s article), the transition team will identify DeVos regulations that should be reversed, but the team will not set policy or staff. Chapman, like many readers of this blog, believes that President Obama’s Race to the Top was profoundly wrong because of its overemphasis on standardized testing (a fact acknowledged even by President Obama) and its advocacy for charter schools and evaluation of teachers by the test scores of their students. Biden promised a new vision and fresh policies for K-12 education, not more of the same failed policies.

Chapman writes:

Biden-Harris Transition teams are selected to review specific agencies. Volunteers are listed only by their “most recent employment.” Those serving in education are “volunteers” and not required to indicate “sources of funding.”

I have looked into the biographies of Biden’s 20 experts in education – entries from LinkedIn, their current organizations, and less often Wikipedia. 

Of these
15 have no documented Pre-k to12 teaching experience.
14 held positions in Obama’s administration with nine of these in the US Department of Education (USDE). Two worked at USDE before Obama.
10 are lawyers.
7 have supported charter schools, here indicated by*
Also lurking here are Billionaire supporters of failed educational reforms. 

LEADER: Linda Darling-Hammond.* CEO Learning Policy Institute. See Wikipedia. Of interest: She developed the EdTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment) used in 40 states and 750 teacher education programs and the Smarter Balanced Assessment aligned with the Common Core, still used in some states, including California. Early in her career, she co-founded a preschool/day care center and Early College High charter school serving low-income students of color in East Palo Alto, California. The school had multiple connections with Stanford University where Linda Darling-Hammond taught. A version of this concept still exists in East Palo Alto Academy where some academic programs are connected with Stanford University. Linda Darling-Hammond is the subject of video interviews conducted in her home by Amrein-Beardsley. I recommend them. Be sure to scan down for the first video /inside-the-academy/linda-darling-hammond This archive also has video interviews with Diane Ravitch, Howard Gardner, Elliot Eisner and others.

UNION CONNECTIONS: American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.
–Donna Harris-Aikens. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Senior Director of Education Policy and Practice NEA (14 years). Prior work at NEA on ESEA. Former Policy Manager for Service Employees International Union.
–Beth Antunez, No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Deputy Director, Government Relations for AFT. Previously ATF Assistant Director for educational issues especially community school initiatives.
–Shital Shah, No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Manager of Philanthropic Engagement at AFT. Other AFT positions for 18 years, most of these in community engagement. Other youth and public heath work, including Peace Corps in Honduras.
–Marla Ucelli-Kashyap. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Assistant to the AFT President for Educational Issues. Former Director of District Redesign and Leadership at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and senior program officer at the Rockefeller Foundation. Member, Advisory Council for “Education Reimagined,” devoted to “Personalized learning that is competency-based and has a wide range of learning environments and adult roles.” https://education-reimagined.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Vision_Website.pdf

UNION and OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SERVICE
–Robert Kim. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. John Jay College of Criminal Justice; writer and consultant on legal, policy, and civil rights issues in education. Senior Title IX EEO investigator. Former Obama Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach, USDE. Senior Policy Analyst, NEA. Co-author, “Education and the Law, 5th ed.” (West Academic Publishing, 2019) and “Legal Issues in Education: Rights and Responsibilities in U.S. Public Schools Today” (2017). Early legal service for ACLU, and Legal Aid.
–Ruthanne Buck. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. A Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretaries of Education John King and Arne Duncan for educator outreach and engagement. Previously Assistant to AFT President for Special Projects and National Field Director at AFT. Led major field and political operations on progressive issues, agencies and candidates.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION (* indicates some connection to charter schools)
–Ary Amerikaner, Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Vice President for P-12 Policy, Practice, and Research at the Education Trust. Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education. The Education Trust operates four offices coast to coast and makes recommendations for federal and state policy. These recommendations have treated ESSA as a civil rights mandate to be followed, with no testing waivers. The Trust wants to expand Civil Rights Data Collection reports on school crime and discipline, also AP courses (for the College Board?). The Trust wants to see the present ban on a “student unit record system” lifted. That would please Bill Gates and allow federal data-collection on individual students in any post-secondary program–including their SS numbers, income tax records and more. See https://dianeravitch.net/2017/01/07/stop-our-government-wants-to-create-a-national-database-about-everyone-including-your-children/ and https://edtrust.org/press-release/opportunities-to-advance-educational-equity-during-the-next-administration/.
–James Kvaal,* Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. President, The Institute for College Access & Success, a non-profit treating issues of student debt. Obama’s White House Deputy Director of Domestic Policy and Deputy Under Secretary USDE. Prior work as consultant for Achieving the Dream (a network of community colleges), America Achieves (Common Core), Annie E. Casey Foundation (Read by Grade Three), College Board (David Coleman), the Harvard Government Performance Lab, Results for America and others. The Institute for College Access & Success has six senior fellows from the Obama administration and lists 220 “partners” devoted to evidence-based policies and “what works.” Partners include Teach for America, Teach Plus, The New Teacher Center, charter school franchises (KIPP, IDEA, Green Dot, and YesPrep). Billionaires fund the Institute: Arnold Ventures (John D. and Laura Arnold hedge funds), the Ballmer Group (a nonprofit co-founded by former CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer), the S.D. Bechtel, Jr Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (funded expansion of Green Dot charter schools), William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Schmidt Futures (former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s philanthropy)
–Emma Vadehra.Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Senior fellow, The Century Foundation, also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the charter-friendly Center For American Progress. Executive Director of Next100, a Century Foundation incubator for next generation policy leaders. Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary in USDE’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, Policy Development. Also Chief of Staff for Obama’s USDE serving John B. King Jr. and Arne Duncan. Former Chief of Staff at Uncommon Schools, a charter school management organization.
–Keia Cole. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Head of Digital Experience at MassMutual, an insurance company. Obama’s Associate General Counsel and Chief of Staff to Deputy Secretary of USDE. Responsible for providing strategic direction for USDE’s financial, technology, human capital, and risk management operations. First work at Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking Division, specialist in financial analysis of media and communications companies. For less than a year she was an Education Pioneers Fellow at KIPP San Jose Collegiate charter school, not as a teacher.
–Roberto Rodriguez.* No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. President and CEO of Teach Plus, operates in 11 states to supply charter school teachers. Obama’s Deputy Assistant to the President for Education. Claims credit for contributions to ESSA, STEM, higher education standards. Rodriguez claims credit for bipartisan work on No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, among other major bills. Advisor on education for Unidos US, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. Serves on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Excellent Education, The Achievement Network (promoter of charter schools), the Bainum Family Foundation and Strive Together’s data-mongering Cradle to Career Network.
–Kristina Ishmael. In Nebraska, she taught ELL students for two years and Kindergarten and 2nd Grade for four years. Director of Primary and Secondary Education at Open Education Global (less than a year), in charge of adoptions of Open Educational Resources world-wide. Open Education fellow in Obama’s USDE Office of Educational Technology (2016-2017). Former manager of the Teaching, Learning, & Tech team at New America. Digital learning specialist for the Nebraska Department of Education for four years.
–Lindsay Dworkin. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Director, Policy Development and State Government Relations at Alliance for Excellent Education. Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Outreach USDE (2016-2017). Legal work in Delaware for the former Governor and State Treasurer of Delaware Jack Markell. The Alliance (All4Ed) advocates for evidence-based instructional practices, and college and career pathways in 40 states and specific federal educational policies. A major Alliance project, Future Ready Schools, is active in 30 states pushing for digital access to “anytime, anywhere, personalized learning.” Superintendents in over 3400 districts have signed the Bill Gates inspired “pledge” at https://dashboard.futurereadyschools.org/pledge/
–Paul Monteiro, Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Assistant Vice President of External Affairs, Howard University. Previously Chief of Staff for Howard University’s President. Former Acting Director of the Community Relations Service, Obama’s Department of Justice (one year, 4 months), National Director of AmeriCorps VISTA. Public Engagement Advisor to White House on Arab Americans, faith communities, anti-poverty groups, and gun safety organizations. Deputy Director of Religious Affairs for Presidential Inauguration Committee including the National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral. Two year appointee, Board of Education Prince George County Public Schools. Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland for three years.

USDE WORK prior to OBAMA
-Norma Cantu. University of Texas at Austin, Chair Department of Educational Administration, former US Assistant Secretary of Education 1993-2001. (Position misidentified on Biden’s list)

OTHER
–Jessica Cardichon. Lawyer. An upper elementary teacher in NYC for nearly seven years. Director of Learning Policy Institute’s DC office. Leads the Institute’s federal legislative and regulatory strategy. Co-leads LPI’s teams on state policy, member of LPI’s teams on Educator Quality, Deeper Learning, Equitable Resources and Access and Early Childhood Education. Authored reports on the Federal role in school discipline, and taking advantage of ESSA’s policies. Education Counsel to Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senior Director for Federal Policy and Advocacy, Alliance for Excellent Education.
–Jim Brown.* Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Former Chief of Staff for Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey and Pennsylvania Secretary of General Services. At U.S. House of Representatives, served as Staff Director and General Counsel for the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs (now the Committee on Financial Services). Jim is co-founder of a company that manages over $800 million in venture capital. He is a trustee of Immaculata University, the Gesu Catholic School (K-12) and Young Scholars Charter School in Philadelphia. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation.
–Margaret R (Peggy) McLeod. In her native Puerto Rico, she taught in two Montessori schools and owned a center that provided afterschool services to students with disabilities. Served as ESL teacher in DC. Currently Deputy Vice President of Education and Workforce Development, National Council of La Raza. Previously Executive Director, Student services, Alexandria (VA) City Public Schools. Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, District of Columbia (DC), also in DC, the Title III director, Office of Bilingual Education, Title VII coordinator, and bilingual program developer. A member of the National Board of Education Sciences since 2010.
—Pedro A. Rivera. Extent of classroom experience not found. President of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA since August 2020. Former five-year Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania aiding the adoption of a funding formula for basic education; a performance measure for schools (Future Ready PA Index), and a school improvement strategy. Former Executive Director for the School District of Philadelphia, former Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, PA, classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal.  
https://buildbackbetter.com/the-transition/agency-review-teams/ 

Jennifer Rubin is a columnist for the Washington Post. I believe she was chosen to express a conservative view but she was quickly repelled by Trump and Trumpism. In this column, she explains how a Democratic Congress can protect progressive policies—by doing their job.

The prospect of Republican senators marching lock-step to confirm a justice — picked precisely because of her hostility to the Affordable Care Act and legal abortion — should help Democrats boost their already commanding position in Senate races. Only by retaking the Senate can a Democratic-led Congress prevent conservative rule by the judiciary.

Come to think of it, wasn’t an overly powerful Supreme Court something Republicans used to worry about? Back when Roe v. Wade was decided, they argued that the political branches of government should determine such issues; now they seek refuge in an uber-conservative Supreme Court out of step with a large majority of Americans on everything from guns to abortion to health care.

If Democrats do go on to win the White House and have comfortable majorities in both chambers, they can begin to defang a Supreme Court that has been stocked with rigid ideologues. Much has been made of the Democratic threat of “court packing” (was it “court stripping” when Republicans decided that eight justices were enough rather than consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland?); however, the threat of adding justices to the bench may have its intended effect in curbing the court’s quest to overturn decades of precedent. It is the last card to be played, not the first.

Instead, the first step Congress should take is — get ready! — to legislate. It can pass a federal statute (likely to require the demise of the filibuster if it cannot be accomplished in a reconciliation bill) to codify Roe (which draws more than 60 percent support) and, if lawmakers see fit, stripping out the Hyde Amendment that limits federally funded abortions to cases of rape, incest or cases in which the life of the mother is at risk. In other words, the federal government can decide not only to protect the right to seek an abortion but also to make abortions more accessible to poor women. We can argue whether that is a good or bad policy, but no one can argue that Congress has no prerogative to address the issue. Nor can anyone say that Congress can’t, say, pass a Defense of All Marriages Act, which would secure same-sex marriages.

Congress can also “fix” the Affordable Care Act, which it intends to expand anyway, should the Supreme Court strike the law down on the basis that the tax justification that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. used to uphold the law vanished when the individual mandate fell out.

Call this the Ruth Bader Ginsburg approach. When the Supreme Court refused to extend the statute of limitations in wage discrimination lawsuits, her dissent in Ledbetter v. Goodyearinvited Congress to amend the statue. It did. Much of the anti-democratic, precedent-busting work of a hyperpartisan Supreme Court can be undone by a unified Congress and White House.

Congress can also use its constitutional power to limit the jurisdiction of the court’s appellate power and to limit the terms of justices. If the Supreme Court is to be a partisan outfit, then give it less to do and make each seat less valuable.

Conservatives are rushing through a rock-ribbed conservative with little regard for precedent for one reason: They are watching their electoral majority slip away — and, “worse,” they know their prospects of a comeback are diminishing, given that the electorate is looking more and more like America and that voting is not being suppressed. A court that zigzags its way through the Constitution depending on the policy preferences of the presidents who appointed them is not a court that will engender respect. It is one that needs to be cut down to size.

As Politico explains in this article, the odds of stopping another Trump appointment to the Supreme Court are slim to none.

Republicans have 53 Senate members. Democrats 47.

It would require four Republicans to vote no. If only three vote no, there will be a tie, and VP Pence will cast a tie-breaker in favor.

There has been speculation that Collins and McSally might vote no if the vote is held before the election. Murkowski of Alaska has said she thought it was inappropriate to confirm a new justice right before the election. That’s a possible three.

James Hohmann has a fascinating article in the Washington Post. He writes that Republicans will forge ahead with a nominee and won’t care f they are called hypocrites for saying the opposite in 2016, when they refused to give a hearing to Obama’s appointee Merrick Garland, ten months before the election.

He says the Senate would likely vote after the election, during the lame duck session.

He says Trump called McConnell and said he would appoint a woman, a conservative to be sure. Trump called McConnell on his flight back to Washington from a rally in Minnesota to say he likes Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit, two people briefed on the discussion tell Seung Min Kim….

Barrett, only 48, was confirmed to her post in late 2017 on an almost party-line vote. The only two Democrats who defected were Sens. Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who was defeated the next year. As a devout and outspoken Roman Catholic (she has seven children), she has left little doubt in her public comments and jurisprudence about her deeply-held hostility to reproductive rights. “Your legal career is but a means to an end, and … that end is building the kingdom of God,” Barrett said in a 2006 speech to graduates of Notre Dame, where she attended law school.

He added that the Supreme Court battle would energize the right and enable Trump to change the subject away from the pandemic.

He also said that if the Democrats win, the left will pressure them to expand the Court and “pack” them.

The Green Party will not be on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The state’s Supreme Court removed the party because of deficiencies in its application. This follows a similar decision a few days ago in Wisconsin. This is good news for Democrats, bad news for Republicans. In 2016, Jill Stein received over one million votes, which tipped key states to Trump.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters.
The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules.


It’s the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.
The decision is a blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.


In Wisconsin, the Green Party effort to get on the ballot was boosted by help from some Republicans and a prominent law firm that does work for the GOP.


In 2016, President Trump won both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, collected in each state.

Mike Rose blogs once every few weeks. One day I will copy his excellent model. But this season it is hard to cut back, in view of the pandemic, the uncertainty about keeping our students and staff safe, and the most consequential national election of many, many years. Those who know Mike Rose’s work usually become Mike Rose Fan Boys or Fan Girls 

I am grateful that he shared his latest post, in which he offers advice to Joe Biden and Kemala Harris. 

In this post, Mike captures the anxiety that so many of us feel about the polls. Biden is leading in all of them but we remember what happened in 2016. Trump is like a monster who lurks behind every door and in every dark alley, ready to spring at a moment’s notice to swallow our democracy.

Rose is worried about the so-called “enthusiasm gap.” Trump supporters remain fervently loyal. Biden-Harris voters express a commitment that is rational but not as intense. Will that matter on November 3?

Rose offers advice:

Be more than “not-Trump.”

Educate the public, starting with what Trump wants to do to health care. He is a consummate liar and many of his own followers have no understanding of his malign plans for the future.

Get out and meet with large crowds, safely.

When you visit towns and cities, highlight the good work happening in those places.

He adds:

You are both skilled retail politicians, a talent constrained by COVID, because, unlike Trump, you believe in the basics of public health. There is a great challenge before you, and I hope all the bright campaign people around you are focused on it: How to integrate the potency of human encounters on the campaign trail with the communication possibilities of virtual technology. Unfortunately, you have to solve this problem while the campaign is in high gear, steer the boat while building it. But if you can do it, you will make history – and reclaim what remains of our democracy.

 

Mercedes Schneider has written an indispensable post about standardized testing: She noticed that the annual testing mandated by the federal government is beloved by those who are farthest from the classroom and have nothing to do with teaching and learning.

Perhaps she is responding to the recent report that Betsy DeVos will not allow waivers from the mandated testing next year, since the tests are so vital, and her announcement was cheered by the Center for American Progress (a neoliberal think tank), Education Trust (led by former Secretary of Education John King), the Council of Chief State School Officers, Senator Patty Murray (ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee), and Rep. Bobby Scott (chair of the House Education Committee).

Schneider writes:

This is what standardized testing has been in public schools across America ever since No Child Left Behind (NCLB):

It’s like some president-backed, bipartisan Congress decided that we need to measure student physical health based on student weight. Of course, student physical health is by far too complex a concept to be captured by student weight, but let’s just put that reality aside in favor of the appearance of being able to pack a huge, complex package into a matchbox by getting those kids on the scale and putting the onus on teachers and schools to make students weight what the state (answering to the federal government in exchange for funding) decides those students should weigh.

Now, it is ridiculous on its face to hold teachers and schools responsible for student weight– which is why no bathroom scale company will guarantee that their scales are meant to be used to determine anything beyond the weight of the person standing on the scale. However, that president-backed, bipartisan Congress has decided that schools and teachers must ensure that their students achieve some predetermined optimal weight.

So. Weight-prep programs are instituted for students at risk of not achieving their state-determined optimal weights, the point of which is to drill students in scale-optimizing strategies (i.e., where to stand on the scale in order to make the weight appear higher or lower; how to push down on the scale to “weigh more”). In order to make time in the school day for these at-risk weighers to be drilled and redrilled, they must miss lunch, group sports, and playtime, but what is important to the school and to the teacher is achieving the optimal weight number so that we can tout that number, tag the student as physically healthy, keep our jobs, and collect federal dollars.

Surely we also congratulate the hungry and lethargic student for achieving that state-determined weight number. And if anyone points out that the student is hungry and lethargic, supporters of the process ignore the child and tout the number.

Be it noted that the annual standardized testing mandated by NCLB has led to cheating scandals, narrowing of the curriculum, and teaching to the test. For the past decade, there has been no change in NAEP scores.

NCLB failed. Why not admit it and move forward? Why continue to inhale the stale fumes of past policies that failed?

Why won’t prominent Democrats stop embracing NCLB and develop a vision of their own that actually helps students and teachers?

Almost every reviewer of the Democratic National Convention agreed that this was the most moving speech of all.

Thirteen-year-old Brayden Harrington met Joe Biden at a town hall in New Hampshire. When Biden learned that the boy stutters, he asked to meet privately afterwards. He told him how he had overcome his stutter and gave him some helpful,advice. Above all, he gave him hope and the confidence to speak to a national audience. His speech was filmed on a cell phone at home in New Hampshire.

Do you think the Trump Convention will have a video of Trump performing a random act of kindness?

Harold Meyerson, editor of The American Prospect and a prominent spokesman for the American left, explains here what he liked and did not like about the second day of the Democratic National (virtual) Convention.

I loved Bernie Sanders’ speech on the first night. I loved the roll call on the second night. In a usual convention, the roll call is a succession of politicians making political statements and announcing their state’s votes in a huge hall where people are milling around and no one is listening. This year, almost every state represented itself in an iconic setting, and the speakers were mostly regular people, not big-name politicians. The speaker in Kansas was a farmer in his fields, worried about the future. The speaker in Arizona was a teacher wearing a Red for Ed T-shirt, talking about the need to fund our schools. You really got a sense of the wonderful breadth and diversity of our country by watching the roll call. It was actually thrilling.

Meyerson wrote:

Unconventional: The Democrats, Day Two

If the first night of this year’s Democratic National Sort-Of Convention was all about Donald Trump’s disgraceful and aberrant presidency, night two was all about Joe Biden’s rooted normality.

Those roots were white working class—now a term almost interchangeable with Trump’s base, and tinged with assumptions of white tribalism and racism. Not so the Biden version of white working class-ness, however, and this more benign identity was a theme that was artfully woven through the night’s session.

The theme also expanded to include Biden’s embrace of the universal working class, with Joe talking with and sharing the concerns of a cross section of Americans fearful of losing their health insurance, which yet may prove his most potent point of contrast with Trump and the Republicans come November (as it was for Democrats in 2018). But looking at Hillary Clinton’s devastating and decisive failure to carry Bidenland in 2016—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, home of a multiracial working class, of which the white section largely voted for Trump—Biden’s advisers made the obvious but still smart decision to plunk him down where he came from. On Tuesday night, he was the kid from Scranton who’s suffered more than his share of tragedy but always kept on punching (or as Jill Biden said, squaring his shoulders and going out to meet the world).

And it wasn’t just Biden. The roll call of the states, which was far better than its convention-hall predecessors, not only because of the visuals but because it wasn’t dominated by bloviating mid-level pols, featured more than a smattering of working-class Americans. There was the woman who worked in a Nebraska meatpacking plant who noted that she and her co-workers weren’t afforded paid sick leave, and asserted, “We’re human beings; we’re not robots; we’re not disposable.” There was the Missouri bricklayer and the Ohio worker wearing his IBEW union T-shirt who flatly declared, “Under Trump, working people end up getting screwed.”

The roll-call participants were anything but monochromatic; those from Maryland positioned themselves by an oversized bust of Frederick Douglass. But the contrast with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 convention couldn’t have been clearer. I remember noting it at the time but failed to realize how it portended her coming defeat, but that convention lacked any speakers who were working-class whites. Clinton’s convention showcased Democratic social liberalism; Biden’s, so far, has showcased a more class-based economic liberalism.

Yes, Monday’s session affirmed its support for Black Lives Matter, but both nights have highlighted the economic contrasts with contemporary Republicanism, of which Trump is merely the reductio ad absurdum. And it emphasized the access-to-health-care contrast, which runs along the race and class lines, and in a time of pandemic is the kind of contrast that can decide an election.

The foreign-policy section, with notables rightly pointing out that Trump’s policy, to the limited extent he has one, basically amounts to his expressions of admiration for leaders even more thuggish than he, was obligatory, but isn’t going to change many votes. What will change or solidify some votes is the image of Biden as a normal, decent, hard-working guy—three qualities no one has ever invoked to describe Donald Trump. What will change or solidify some votes is the knowledge that Biden respects and works within established democratic norms, as Trump does not. And these are all among the reasons that not only Republicans but also Bernie leftists are going to vote for Biden, because the left knows its vision depends on a functioning, and flourishing, democracy…

I’m fine with the airtime given to Republicans; I just wish there were more given to the left pole of the front. The millennials and Gen Zers who are transforming the Democratic Party into a more social democratic party have been underrepresented at this convention, and the 17 youngish keynoters who whizzed through the speed-dating version of a keynote address on Tuesday night lacked the time to establish their own generation’s politics, or, in fact, whether they actually identified with it. (As none of the keynoters had endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, there’s some question as to just how representative they are.) So the task of representing the new left fell to AOC and a dying Ady Barkan, but there are lots more where those two stalwarts come from, if the Biden folks just go looking. (The ever remarkable Barkan managed to endorse Medicare for All without actually saying the words.)

That said, the thematic emphasis the convention has put on matters of race and class is not only smart positioning but lays down markers that the young left and their elders should endeavor to hold Biden to, should he be elected. Biden’s long career has been marked by draconian crime legislation, solicitude to banks, and other normal political stances of the Reagan years, but Biden understands that those days are done, and the party’s ascendant left must ensure that they’re dead and buried. The Normal Joe persona is a valuable asset in this doctrinal transformation; it recasts the party’s newfound (or newly re-found) progressivism as Normal Joe’s concern for the average guy and gal.

I must close with my favorite moment of the night, a combination of convention hokum, the roll call’s remote locations, and, yes, average folks’ normality. It came when the roll call reached Rhode Island, and we were transported to a shot of two guys standing by the seashore, one of them holding a plate or dish of something tan with something red on top of it. The speaker, as is the custom, extolled the state and its Democratic governor and its favorite products, among which he mentioned calamari. At which point it became clear that what the other guy was holding was a platter of fried calamari topped with dip.

How better to symbolize a convention yearning for normality, marketing its nominee as Mr. Normal, than to promise us a bright future filled with fried calamari?

~ HAROLD MEYERSON

The American Prospect, Inc., 1225 I Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005, United States

The Biden and Sanders campaigns created a “Unity Task Force” to make recommendations on important issues.

Here is their report with recommendations. It is 110 pages.

There is much to like in the report, proposing an agenda to reverse four years of savage attacks by Trump on the environment, on the rule of law, on government itself.

The education portion aPears on pp. 22-27.

It contains welcome pledges of increased funding, more equitable funding, universal early childhood education, a commitment to racial integration of schools, a commitment to making higher education affordable (including tuition-free community colleges), debt relief for college graduates, and other worthy goals and policies.

On the two issues where Democrats found themselves committed to Republican strategies, the panel has a mixed record.

It took a clear stand against the high-stakes standardized testing that is a legacy of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law of 2001-2002:

The evidence from nearly two decades of education reforms that hinge on standardized test scores shows clearly that high-stakes annual testing has not led to enough improvement in outcomes for students or for schools, and can lead to discrimination against students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, and English language learners. Democrats will work to end the use of such high-stakes tests and encourage states to develop evidence-based approaches to student assessment that rely on multiple and holistic measures that better represent student achievement.

That’s a step forward, especially since so many high-profile DemocratIc Senators voted to retain high-stakes testing when NCLB turned into the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. So, we can celebrate the fact that the Unity Task Force is prepared to discard the Bush policy based on the non-existent “Texas Miracle.”

The other issue that has been a huge burden for public schools is the Republican claim that competition improves public schools. This faulty idea has spurred the development of privately managed charter schools and vouchers. Charters have a flimsy record. Those that get high test scores are known for their low enrollments of students with disabilities and English language learners, as well as their harsh discipline policies (no excuses). Many Republicans love charters because they are a stepping stone to vouchers. They wean people away from public schools and encourage parents to think of themselves as consumers, not citizens. Thanks to private management, charters have been plagued by multiple scandals involving waste, fraud abuse, and bloated administrative overhead. The teacher turnover rate at charters is very large in some high-performing charters, as much as 50% every year. The virtual charter industry is a disaster that has been associated with multimillion dollar embezzlement.

The Network for Public Education published two reports documenting the failure of the federal Charter Schools Program, which hands out $440 million every year to open new charters and expand existing ones. I have referred to the CSP as Betsy DeVos’s personal slush fund because she has given huge grants to corporate charter chains like KIPP and IDEA. THE NPE reports (Asleep at the Wheel and Still Asleep at the Wheel) demonstrate that nearly 40% of the charters funded by the CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening. During the campaign, Senator Sanders called for elimination of the federal a Charter Schools Program.

Five facts stand out about charter schools:

1. On average, they don’t get better results than public schools.
2. They drain resources and the students they choose from public schools that take everyone, including the kids the charters don’t want.
3. About 90% of charters are non-union, by design.
4. Charters are amply funded by billionaires like the Walton family, Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, Reed Hastings, and Michael Bloomberg.
5. If charters helped solve the problems of American education, then Detroit would be one of the outstanding districts in the nation, instead it is one of the nation’s lowest performing districts.

Why should the federal government spend $440 million every year on new charters and on expanding corporate charter chains?

Given that background, you can understand why I think the Unity Task Force statement on charters is watery pablum.

Here it is in its entirety:

Charter schools were originally intended to be publicly funded schools with increased flexibility in program design and operations. Democrats believe that education is a public good and should not be saddled with a private profit motive, which is why we will ban for-profit private charter businesses from receiving federal funding. And we recognize the need for more stringent guardrails to ensure charter schools are good stewards of federal education funds. We support measures to increase accountability for charter schools, including by requiring all charter schools to meet the same standards of transparency as traditional public schools, including with regard to civil rights protections, racial equity, admissions practices, disciplinary procedures, and school finances. We will call for conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students. And Democrats oppose private school vouchers and other policies that divert taxpayer-funded resources away from the public school system.

Nothing is said here that would displease the hedge fund managers and billionaires who support charters. Even Betsy DeVos must be smiling to see the Biden-Sanders task force endorse school choice, which was birthed by southern governors resisting the Brown decision. It’s very sad to see a task force of Democratic leaders giving their blessing to the southern strategy. (Read Steve Suitts’ new book on that sordid history: “Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Legacy.”)

Taking a stand against “for-profit charters” is piffle. Arizona is the only state that allows for-profit charters. Nothing is said in this statement about banning for-profit management corporations, which manage large numbers of “nonprofit” charters all over the country.

And notice that the task force says nothing about terminating the federal Charter Schools Program, as Sanders recommended, guaranteeing that the government will continue to spend $440 million (or more) to open more non-union charters to compete with public schools. Excluding “for-profit charters” from the federal CSP is good news for KIPP, IDEA, and other “nonprofit” corporate charter chains that are bankrupting local public schools. This recommendation was made with full knowledge of the long-run failure of this program.

Of course, I will vote for Joe Biden, despite this weak-kneed capitulation to the Republican-dominated charter lobbyists. But I won’t hide my disappointment.

The failure of the task force to challenge the charter industry and stand up for public schools as the foundation stone of our democracy is troubling and is an embarrassment to the Biden campaign.