Archives for category: Disruption

The Network for Public Education posts regular features from the perspective of parents about their public schools. Some stories have a happy theme, some don’t. This post was written by Matt Gawkowski, a parent in Colorado who was very happy with the local public school. Then a slate of extremists took control of the local school board and created disruption. Matt became an activist. He had to.

I Never Thought I’d Become a Public School Activist. Then Extremists Took Over the School Board.

Matt Gawlowski

Like so many school districts across the country right now, rural Woodland Park, Colorado is being torn apart by politics. School board meetings are contentious, students are afraid and teachers are threatening to leave. Our community is fracturing.

It hasn’t always been this way. While Woodland Park is a politically conservative place, the schools have always felt isolated from politics. The political affiliation of parents, teachers and school board members didn’t matter because everyone worked together and took pride in the local schools. I was one such proud parent.

When I was asked to join the School Accountability Committee at my daughter’s school many years ago, I jumped at the chance. As a data nerd, I came away feeling deeply impressed by the school’s fiscal responsibility. When I sat in on a presentation by the superintendent at the time about the district budget, the fiscal conservative side of me was similarly dazzled. This was a school district that had its act together, I recall thinking.

Then in the fall of 2021, a group of four candidates who’d promoted themselves as ‘the conservative choice’ were elected to the school board. They quickly moved to transform the district, starting with the adoption of a sharply adversarial tone. In an email, one board member described teachers and their union as ‘the enemy.’ The founder of our local Christian bible college, an uncredited evangelical school that set up shop here several years ago, bragged about taking over the school board and announced that he’d sent a spy into the district to identify “homosexual books.”

And that was just the start. The new board approved a controversial charter school, one that the previous board had rejected, in part because enrollment in our rural district is declining. The rushed process not only violated open meeting laws but saddled the district with enormous consulting and legal fees. The board also terminated the previous superintendent’s contract, once again at great expense to the district, then chose controversial former school board member Ken Witt to serve as interim. Witt briefly served on the school board in Jefferson County but was recalled by voters after he accused the AP US history course of being insufficiently patriotic.

During a raucous meeting, the board voted to hire Witt over widespread opposition from students, parents, teachers and community members. The last member of the original school board, and the lone voice of reason in meetings, resigned. Students led two walkouts to protest and began showing up at board meetings to voice their opposition. The board blamed a teacher for the students’ actions and put her on administrative leave.

We fear that much worse is still to come. Radical curriculum reform (the board recently adopted the conservative American Birthright civics program, even after the state rejected it as too extreme), merit pay for teachers, and an effort to transform Woodland Park into an all-charter district will likely be on the agenda. Already, dozens of teachers have indicated that they’ll be leaving at the end of the school year. I am not opposed to honest, well-planned efforts to improve our district. But this board’s politically motivated actions have created massive disruption in the schools and the community.

My front row view of the battles taking place in my daughter’s school district has turned me into something I never thought I’d become: an activist. I certainly never thought I’d see the day when I’d be called a “hard left union lap dog wanna be thug,” as one director of the school board recently referred to me. In fact, I’m neutral on unions. A former registered Republican who once purchased a book by Rush Limbaugh I like low taxes, balanced budgets, and limited government. The truth is that I’d much rather just go back to being a dad and an introverted engineer, not the guy who is now an expert on submitting open records requests, and is a prominent voice in a Facebook group of similarly minded parents and community members.

I love our public schools and look at the country they have helped mold with pride. When I saw that the teachers and students in our local schools needed parents like me to speak up when they couldn’t, I had no choice but to step up. I hope that my story will inspire folks in communities where similar battles are raging to do the same.

Matt Gawlowski is a longtime parent in the Woodland Park RE-2 school district in Colorado. When not working as a mechanical engineer, you’ll find him outside trail running, backpacking, or skiing, depending on the season. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @EspressoMatt or at

Peter Greene takes a hard look at the real goals of the voucher crowd: to kill public education. Not by offering better choices but by defunding it, step by step.

Doug Mastriano was not out of step with the movement; he was just a bit early.

Mastriano ran for governor of Pennsylvania with the idea that he could end real estate taxes entirely and cut state funding for public schools to $0.00. Just give everyone a tiny voucher and send them on their way. The idea was far enough out there that the campaigntried to back away from it (without entirely disowning it) and even other GOP politicians raised eyebrows and said, “No, not that.”You slice them off at the knees, right here–

The thing is, this is not a new idea. It has been the fondest dream of some choicers all along. Nancy MacLean, professor of history and public policy at Duke University, offered a succinct digest in the Washington Post of what Milton Friedman, granddaddy of the not-overtly-racist wing of the school choice movement, thought about the movement and its ultimate goals.Friedman, too, was interested in far more than school choice. He and his libertarian allies saw vouchers as a temporary first step on the path to school privatization. He didn’t intend for governments to subsidize private education forever. Rather, once the public schools were gone, Friedman envisioned parents eventually shouldering the full cost of private schooling without support from taxpayers. Only in some “charity” cases might governments still provide funding for tuition.

Friedman first articulated this outlook in his 1955 manifesto, but he clung to it for half a century, explaining in 2004, “In my ideal world, government would not be responsible for providing education any more than it is for providing food and clothing.” Four months before his death in 2006, when he spoke to a meeting of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he was especially frank. Addressing how to give parents control of their children’s education, Friedman said, “The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.

You don’t have to set the wayback machine to find folks saying this quiet part out loud. Utah is one of several red states racing to ram through a voucher bill. Here’s Allison Sorenson, executive director of Utah Fits For All, an outfit marketing the voucher plan like crazy; in this clip, she’s explaining that the folks who back Utah’s plan can’t come right out and say they’re going to defund public education entirely, that admitting the goal is to destroy public education would be too politically touchy.

Vouchers are not about choice. Just look at Florida, which has worked to disrupt, defund and dismantle public schools for years, while simultaneously shutting down and limiting what choices schools are allowed to offer. Look at every state’s voucher law; they all enshrine a private “education provider’s” right to deny and discriminate as they wish, thereby denying choice to any students they wish to deny choice to. One of the biggest limiters of school choice is not the public system, but the private system’s unwillingness to open their doors to all these students who, we hear, are just thirsting for choices.

We know what a free market education system looks like–it looks like the US post-secondary education system. Occasional attempts at free-to-all schools are beaten down by racist and classist arguments, along with charges of socialist indoctrination. You get as much choice as you can afford, the private schools only accept (and keep) the students they want, and those who aspire to certain levels of schooling have to sink themselves in debt to get it. Meanwhile, state’s slowly but surely withdraw financial support from the few “public” universities left.

Please open the link and finish his article.

The Chicago mayoral election is February 28. Nine candidates are running. If no candidate wins a majority, there will be a runoff on April 4. You can read about the candidates here.

One of the candidates who is faring well in the polls is Paul Vallas. He is of interest to parents and educators because most of his professional career has been spent as a leader of school districts, although he is not an educator. He introduced a bold experiment in privatization in Philadelphia, which failed. After Vallas left Philly, the district was taken over by the state. He lost his position as superintendent in Bridgeport, Connecticut, because of his lack of credentials. If Vallas should win, the charter crowd would descend on Chicago to reap their rewards.

Julie Vassilatos is the parent of two students who graduated from the Chicago Public Schools in 2017 and 2021. She was outraged that the Chicago Tribune endorsed Vallas. (The tribune is behind a paywall.) She wrote a response to the editorial. The Tribune was impressed by Vallas’ long resume, but Julie writes that he left behind chaos and budget deficits wherever he was in charge of a school district.

She writes:

It’s unclear to me exactly what motivated the members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board to endorse Paul Vallas for mayor in our upcoming election.

Vallas has run for mayor before. In 2018 I wrote about why he was not a good candidate, and these reasons all hold true today. I could simply re-run that piece today on its own and that would be nearly sufficient as a response to the Tribune’s endorsement. (Notably, they didn’t endorse him last time around.) But there are specifics in Sunday’s editorial that require a response, so I will do that here, with the former piece, from my now-disappeared blog “Chicago Public Fools,” appended below.

The Tribune editorial board gave their reasons. But they’re poor reasons at best, and at worst, wrong or disingenuous. Let’s go through their claims.

I. First, the Tribune editorial highlights Vallas’s “expertise in city financing, policing, and public education.” Expertise can mean, I suppose, “someone did a thing, maybe a lot.” But doing it well and successfully should be inherent in the word. “Expertise” in this case is absurdly unsupported by facts. Cities he’s worked in—rapidly, and left rapidly—were left with complicated budget problems, vast deficits, and controversy. He was superintendent of schools in Philadelphia for 5 years (ousted after causing ballooning budget deficits, OR he resigned in order to gallop to New Orleans, you pick), New Orleans for 4 (he left in order to run unsuccessfully for Cook County Board President), and Bridgeport, CT for 2 (ousted because he did not meet the job qualification of being an educator, OR he resigned to run unsuccessfully with IL gubernatorial candidate Pat Quinn, you pick). A quick recap of each stint:

In Philadelphia

Vallas’s record here is complicated. From The Notebook in 2007:

One thing is certain – Paul Vallas certainly shook up the Philadelphia School District.

Full of energy and confident that he could solve any problem, Vallas’s five-year tenure was a whirlwind of bold initiatives and dramatic changes in policy.

At the same time, he is leaving a district in tumult, with the same deep financial problems that he inherited – running a large deficit, and still without stable, reliable funding that meets the extraordinary needs of the city’s students.

His legacy here has much to do with the Broad Institute’s brand of “reformers.” Recapping the history of “reform” in Philadelphia, Thomas Ultican writes of Vallas in 2018’s “Philadelphia Story: Another School Choice Failure”:

He also opened the door for billionaire Eli Broad to infest Philadelphia with administrators trained at his unaccredited Broad Academy.

Broad believes that leaders of school district need financial and business management skills but require little or no experience in education. He also says that the best way to reform education is through competition and market forces.

Vallas is an example of the kind of school leader Broad sought to foster. He was someone who had little to no experience in education but understood finance.

We have some experience of the Broad Academy here in Chicago. You remember. Barbara Byrd-Bennett was a Broadie. [She was convicted of taking kickbacks and sent to prison.]

In New Orleans:

Even those who accept the rising test scores narrative know there are vast problems in New Orleans post Vallas, as recounted in a 2015 New York Times article. “The rhetoric of reform often fails to match reality.” Privatization here, as elsewhere, hurts the most disadvantaged students.

“We don’t want to replicate a lot of the things that took place to get here,” said Andre Perry, who was one of the few black charter-school leaders in the city. “There were some pretty nefarious things done in the pursuit of academic gain,” Mr. Perry acknowledged, including “suspensions, pushouts, skimming, counseling out, and not handling special needs kids well.”

Privatization, writes teacher, scholar, and author Mercedes Schneider, was not a better way to run schools. Schneider has researched and written substantially on this topic, speaking of expertise; if you have any interest in the long-term effects of school privatization, do yourself a favor and learn from her.

Has Vallas’s brand of reform been sustainable in New Orleans? In a 2008 piece in, a principal presciently considered this question:

Cheryllyn Branche, the principal of Bannecker Elementary School, wonders about sustainability. ‘I have a vested interest in this community. No matter what, it will always be home,’ she said. ‘If we don’t have people who have a commitment to this place in the long term, it won’t come back.’

‘Sometimes I want to ask him, “What happens when you are gone?”’

In Bridgeport CT:

Vallas was hired shortly after the state takeover of Bridgeport, CT public schools, subject to his fulfilling CT law that he be trained as an educator. A special condition was created just for him, non-trained-educator that he was: that he complete an educational leadership program. Instead of doing this he took a single independent study course that was later deemed not to fulfill the special condition. The whole thing ended in a tangled lawsuit, explained in this 2013 piece in the Stamford (CT) Advocate:

[I]t is a case study about the arrogance and abuse of power that have become the hallmark of the so-called reform movement.

The Vallas saga is the story of how an infamous reformer broke the law — a law written expressly for him — and how senior officials put personal and political connections above the law and welfare of Bridgeport’s children.

The court ruled against Vallas, but later reversed the decision in an appeal; Vallas had already left to join Pat Quinn’s IL campaign for governor. His short tenure in Bridgeport was largely colored by this controversy.

It’s clear that the expertise the Tribune touts, based largely on his school district leadership, is fraught with complications and possibly wildly overrated. The parts that worry me in this history include the rapid fire breaking and destruction coupled with simultaneous rapid spending and rapid budget slashing. The failure to listen to constituents. The repeated disadvantaging of already-disadvantaged children.

I know reformers like Vallas do not see that the upshot of their work turns out to be racist. But oddly, districts subjected to the Vallas type of reform somehow get a whole lot whiter—from administrators, through teachers, and on down to students. Saying “choice is the civil rights issue of our time” over and over like a magic spell does not make it true. School choice has never, and will never, increase equity in a school district. School choice originates in the racist response to Brown v. Board of Education and the creation of schools not subject to federal oversight. Today choice is instrumental in breaking down democracy in our communities. [These claims were the subject of my blog that ran for 7 years; though I want to go on and on about this, we’ve got to keep moving or I’ll never get through this post!]

Just on a practical level, Vallas’s plans for keeping schools open on nights and weekends baffle me. How does he propose to pay for all that staffing? Our schools don’t even have libraries. They have hardly any extracurriculars. Some of them are lacking in utter basics. What is he talking about? I can’t even imagine the epic Godzilla versus Mothra battles that would ensue between him and the CTU over this.

No, Chicago Tribune. No. No to someone who is a serial privatizer. No to someone who set corporate ed reform in motion in Chicago decades ago. No to someone who blows things up and leaves. No to someone who’s left increased racial inequity in his wake. We don’t need a mayor who has this kind of proven track record on education.

II. Next, the Tribune loves that Vallas “has the ear of rank and file police officers on the street.”What they mean by this is that he is very cozy—one could say uncomfortably cozy—with FOP president and disgraced cop John Catanzara. Last month the FOP endorsed Vallas; this week Vallas spoke at an FOP event for retired police officers alongside Catanzara; and he recently accepted a $5K donation from a retired policeman involved in the Laquan McDonald murder. When WBEZ reported on that connection, his campaign acknowledged that, and rather than returning the money, they gave $10K to Parents for Peace and Justice.

His public safety plan is full of dog whistles, like so: “Our city has been surrendered to a rogue element who act with seeming impunity in treating unsuspecting, innocent people as prey.” Kicking CPD Superintendent David Brown to the curb is Job One. Bypassing Kim Foxx when necessary is key. And adding thousands of police officers is a priority, so that CPD is staffed “like it was under Rahm Emanuel.” Said new cops would be recruited from military bases (?!), the fire department, retirees, and private security forces; residency requirements would be waived (but wait, didn’t he say having cops from the local community was best?). Every CTA station would be staffed with cops. In a just and good world, these are not inherently problematic proposals. In the world we live in, with out of control, hostile, already overly militarized cops, these ideas would implement a semi-privatized dystopian police state with watchful cops on every corner trying to snatch the city back from the rogue element. Of course rank and file cops like these ideas.

The Tribune is hopeful that Vallas would use the trust of the police “to improve police conduct.” Again with the saying it/wishing it connection. I think the next mayor needs more concrete proposals about improving police conduct than we see in Vallas’s plan.

III. In discussing some of Vallas’s challengers, the Tribune is “troubled by [their] associations”
(in this case, Chuy Garcia’s connection to Madigan). But how can the editorial board overlook Vallas’s own troubling associations? Let me detail a few.

He spoke at an Awake IL event this past summer. Days later, after he was roundly criticized for joining forces with the group, he walked back his connection with them, assuring folks that he, himself, is not in any way homophobic or racist. It would have taken a 5 second internet search to see that Awake IL has a history of being unhinged about covid restrictions, threatens trans people regularly, refers to the governor as a “groomer,” was instrumental in the vandalism of UpRising Bakery, and is connected to the Proud Boys. But Vallas didn’t make a 5 second internet search when he was invited to serve on a panel that Awake IL leader Shannon Adcock called “the Continental Congress of school choice.”

He received a $7.5K donation from disgraced former CPS Board of Ed member Deborah Quazzo, whose notoriety derives chiefly but not solely from the large profits she secured as a result of contracts obtained while serving on the Board of Ed. Her husband threw in another $10K for good measure. Interestingly, in his last at-bat for mayor, Vallas received a much smaller donation from Quazzo, then returned it after he was asked about it by WBEZ. Time heals all wounds, apparently. Vallas now says, 4 years ago there were allegations being made about her that didn’t seem great, and his campaign was wary. Now he thinks “nothing came of those investigations” into what Quazzo did on the Board, and besides, “She has a reputation for being very active in school reform.” (Again, a 5 second internet search would yield the CPS Inspector General’s report on all matters Quazzo. Allegations sustained.)

I’ve already mentioned the deeply problematic John Catenzara. At least the $5K donation of the Laquan McDonald-involved cop, Richard Hagen, did cause a twinge of conscience.

Disgraced Barbara Byrd-Bennett partner in crime Gary Solomon was also an associate of Vallas’s—for years. Solomon went with Vallas to Philadelphia, then New Orleans. “In a series of letters to Louisiana officials who oversaw the New Orleans district, Vallas vouched for Synesi Associates,” Gary Solomon’s education consulting firm. “Synesi landed two no-bid contracts worth nearly $893,000 in New Orleans during Vallas’ time running the Recovery School District from 2007 to 2011, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.” Solomon’s prison term for his involvement in the Barbara Byrd-Bennett kickback scandal ended early because of covid. He’ll be released from home confinement in October.

Vallas owes one of his jobs to yet another shady connection, former governor Bruce Rauner, who set him up as Chief Administrative Officer of Chicago State University, in hopes of turning it around. This scenario didn’t end well—CSU cut ties with Vallas when he announced his run for mayor in the middle of his tenure. “I find it unfortunate that he would attempt to use Chicago State University as a platform to run for the mayor of the city of Chicago,” [Board Vice President Nicholas] Gowen said. “It is not the role of Mr. Vallas to try to use Chicago State University to try to bolster his bona fides to the black community.”

IV. The Tribune touts the need for “turnaround specialists” like Vallas and hopes others join him. But what is this? Do we want this? What does a turnaround actually do beyond slash-and-burn destruction of communities and gentrification outcomes that turn out looking quite racist? Educator and author Larry Cuban asks if turnaround “experts” are what struggling school districts (and presumably by extension, cities) really require.

Vallas is (or was) the premier “turnaround specialist.” Whether, indeed, Vallas turned around Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans is contested. Supporters point to more charter schools, fresh faces in the classroom, new buildings, and slowly rising test scores; critics point to abysmal graduation rates for black and Latino students, enormous budget deficits, and implementation failures.

“Turnarounds” as a school strategy have been notorious, and notoriously ineffective. On the school level, a turnaround means every staff member of a school is fired, down to the last lunch lady, and replaced with new staff members. These supposedly higher quality (and perplexingly, usually way whiter) staff members are supposed to fix everything. Break it all fast. Rebuild it fast. Voila! It is fixed. On the district level, it means replacing traditional public schools with charters, lots of firing, much slashing of budgets. Poof! District is fixed, and it is a miracle! Until said turnaround experts leave town with the district and city holding the bag—and the bag is usually empty.

What in the world does a “turnaround expert” do in charge of a whole city? What parts are going to be dismantled? What parts remade? What parts gentrified? What budgets slashed and burned?

I can’t picture it. More significantly, Vallas hasn’t really articulated it.

The Tribune lauds Vallas for his expertise in education—which is questionable—and his rapport with CPD—which is dubious. It overlooks some super sketchy connections and wants to bring down the cursed turnaround upon Chicago. You know, and I know, that Paul Vallas is not the mayor we Chicagoans need—not in 2019 and not now.

If you want to read the author’s appraisal of Vallas in 2018, when he captured a little more than 5% of the vote, open the link. It follows this post.

John Thompson sees some hopeful signs that educators and legistors—especially Republican legislators—are willing to speak out against the attacks on public schools. Perhaps they saw the recent poll that showed that 75% of the public is opposed to vouchers. Perhaps they read in one of my books that merit pay has repeatedly failed and that it discourages collaboration and teamwork.

He writes:

Oklahoma schools have faced a long history of ideology-driven attacks that produced a “culture of compliance” where educators learned to keep their heads low, and avoid being targets. The two biggest exceptions were the1990 teacher rally at the Capitol and the passage of HB 1017’s funding increases, and the 2018 teacher walkout. But today’s MAGA-driven assaults have put previous threats on steroids, seeking to cripple or destroy public education and other public services. After this year’s reelection of Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Ryan Walters, a worst case scenario seemed to be unfolding. It now looks like brazen falsehoods being spread by corporate powers such as the Koch brothers and ALEC, and local MAGAs have energized a diverse, bipartisan coalition of truth tellers.

Frankly, I’ve never seen so many education supporters opening up like they have this February. And as the legislature convened, more and more allies of public education have begun to say what’s on their minds.

In his latest tantrum, Ryan Walters further spurred the pushback by threating the accreditation of the Oklahoma City and Putnam City school systems for making “a pornographic book called ‘Let’s Talk About It’” available to students. Both districts deny they have the book. Walters’ source was a rightwing social media account, “Libs of TikTok.”

The Tulsa World’s Ginnie Graham challenged Walters’ attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), writing, “DEI is not a euphemism for race, affirmative action or critical race theory. It is not a liberal indoctrination to make white people feel shame. It is neither Marxism nor socialism.” Graham also explains that only 26% of Oklahomans have a bachelors degree, but within five years, “two-thirds of the top 100 critical professions will require a college degree.” And as Chancellor Allison Garrett explains, DEI is an essential tool for meeting that challenge.

The head of the Oklahoma City Public School Foundation, Mary Melon-Tully, editorialized in the Oklahoman, “A lot of the headlines and media attention have been focused on these divisive bills.” She then wrote in support of pro-education Republicans’ bills, like those of Sen. Adam Pugh and Rep. Rhonda Baker who have focused on “a multi-level pay raise,” paid maternity leave, creation of an Oklahoma Teacher Corps, mentoring, changes to the A-F report card, STEM preparedness, updating the funding formula, and better accountability for virtual and in-person charter schools, as well as “funding literacy instructional teams,” career-readiness, modernizing state graduation requirements, modifying the computer science curriculum, and “adding definition for English Language Learners.”

Similarly, Dr. Pam Deering wrote in the Oklahoman that it’s time to stop being “dominated by divisive culture war talking points,” [and] “focus on the true issues at hand.” Dr. Deering gave an overview of successes in schools, such as Lawton’s Life Ready Center, northwest Oklahoma’s High Plains Technology Center and Technical Applications Programs, Oklahoma City’s STEM academy, Norman’s Oklahoma Aviation Academy, and Sand Spring’s hybrid and virtual programs.”

Then the Stillwater News Press editorialized:

It would be nice to see the focus go to pumping more of that money into public schools, the ones that can’t refuse a child based on disability or who their parents are or how bad they are at basketball.

It would be good if the money wasn’t eventually going to be funneled to a for-profit lobbyist.

It would be great if the focus was on hiring and retention of dedicated teachers and staff.

As Walters pushes for pay-for-performance, the press has displayed a candor that previously would have usually been seen as too risky to articulate bluntly. For instance, the Enid News reported on the thoughts of Erika Wright, founder of the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, who said, that the “politicizing a pay scale and a pay raise for teachers that are college-educated that are educating our children is ridiculous.” … “That is just an effort to add more divisiveness and inflammatory rhetoric.”

Bixby’s School Superintendent Rob Miller’s Tulsa World editorial was even blunter. He described teacher merit pay as “one of the more persistent and seemingly indestructible zombie ideas related to education.” It’s been “tried again and again since the 1920s.” And it’s only been 12 years since “the $12 billion merit pay experiment failed once more.” He also cited W. Edwards Deming, who “argued that merit pay ‘nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, and nourishes rivalry and politics.’”

Our last pay-for-performance experiment, as was predicted, started by corrupting school data. Now, Miller adds, the teachers “who are supposed to reap the rewards” … “know that merit pay undermines collaboration and teamwork. They understand that it would corrupt the culture of their school.”

And it is especially encouraging that bipartisan collection of legislators, and Republicans like Sen. Dave Rader, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Rep. Jeff Boatman, are making such thoughtful arguments against Walters’ and Stitt’s plans. The Tulsa World reports, Sen. Rader says “the state’s tax structure is being reviewed but that he feels no great urgency to make sudden, drastic changes. The state “is in a good position,” he said, with “a nice surplus and a relatively low tax burden.”

Moreover, Rep. Boatman “said there are ways to return value to taxpayers besides just cutting taxes.” He said, “Sure, there’s going to be some tax cuts,” but “there’s going to be some things we invest in through agencies and through services we do as a state. We can give money back that way.” Then Boatman suggested using some of the reserves to fund “some pretty incredible” community projects.

Finally, the Tulsa World’s Carmen Foreman reports, “House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, recently reiterated his opposition to school vouchers.” But she also reports, “House Republicans are expected to unveil an education plan that would expand school choice options in Oklahoma without vouchers.”

And, as Oklahoma Watch’s Jennifer Palmer explains, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board “is set to consider a Catholic charter school this week in what is viewed as a national test case for publicly-funded religious education.”

Given Oklahoma’s Republican majority, and the unconscionable number of Republicans who have remained largely silent regarding the assaults on democracy and public institutions during the Trump era, our future requires more conservatives and Republicans to embrace the wisdom and values of their colleagues and other supporters who are making a stand for our schools. The future remains uncertain, it’s looking more likely that the legislature will come together and at least stop the most destructive rightwing campaigns.

During President Biden’s State of the Union address, he said that Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare, and the Republican side of the chamber erupted in jeers and shouts of “liar!” Two of those loudly jeering—Senators Rick Scott of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah—had explicitly made those proposals. Biden then masterfully got the Republican caucuses in both Houses to declare their support for both big entitlement programs.

Michael Hiltzik, business columnist for the Los Angeles, sets the record straight about the Republican stance on Social Security.

From left, U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Mike Lee jeer.

From left, GOP Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah jeer during the State of the Union address when President Biden accused Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security. Both senators have proposed exactly that.

(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP/Getty Images)

Hiltzik writes:

President Biden has congressional Republicans all asquirm as he conducts a post-State of the Union speech national tour.

Why? Because Biden has doubled down — or as Fox News has it, “tripled down” — on his assertion during the speech that the GOP has been planning to cut Social Security.

Not so, they say. Never happened. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) were even caught on camera during the speech wearing “Who, me?” expressions of injured innocence.

It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it out by the roots.

— Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), during his 2010 campaign for the Senate

Unfortunately for them, we have the evidence, as does Biden. Cutting Social Security along with Medicare has been part of the Republican platform for decades.

As I’ve reported before, they often hide their intentions behind a scrim of impenetrable jargon, plainly hoping that Americans won’t do the necessary math to penetrate their subterfuge.

Let’s take a jaunt through the GOP approach to Social Security and Medicare.

Start with their description of these programs as “entitlements,” which they’ve tried to turn into a dirty word. The truth is that they are entitlements, in the sense that most Americans have been paying into these programs for all their working lives, mostly through the payroll tax. So, yes, they’re “entitled” to receive benefits in return.

Republicans, including former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have consistently blamed the federal debt on “entitlements” — never mind that their 2017 tax cut for the wealthy has blown a multitrillion-dollar hole in the budget.

They know they’re on thin ice with the public when they talk about benefit cuts, which is why Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) once recommended discussing their ideas only “behind closed doors.”

Now we can turn to the specifics of Lee’s and Scott’s plans. In widely circulated videos from Lee’s first successful Senate campaign in 2010 he can be seen and heard stating as follows: “It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it out by the roots.” He said that was why he was running for the Senate, and added, “Medicare and Medicaid are of the same sort. They need to be pulled up.”

As for Scott, his 12-point “Rescue America” plan, issued last year, included a proposal to sunset all federal legislation after five years. “If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” The implications for Social Security and Medicare, which were created by federal legislation, were unmistakable — so much so that the proposal made Republican officeholders’ skin crawl.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to reporters during a visit to the Manning Farms, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Waukee, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Column: Mike Pence, would-be president, has a plan to kill Social Security. It will cost you

McConnell disavowed the proposal on the spot and has continued to do so, telling a home-state radio host after the Biden speech that the sunset provision is “not a Republican plan.That was the Rick Scott plan.”

That said, it’s a priceless foil for Biden. When Republicans brayed during his speech that he was lying about it, he offered to make Scott’s manifesto available to anyone who called his office for it. At one of his subsequent appearances, a copy of Scott’s plan was placed on every seat.

The GOP can’t easily wriggle away from its intentions. Let’s examine the fiscal 2023 budget proposal issued by the Republican Study Committee, a key policy body, last June under the title “Blueprint to Save America.”

This plan would increase the Social Security full retirement age, which today is 66 or 67 (depending on one’s year of birth), to 70 by 2040. According to Kathleen Romig, the Social Security expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this would translate into a 20% cut in lifetime benefits compared with current law.

As I’ve reported before, raising the full retirement age is a Trojan horse that would affect all retirees across the board, but harm Black workers, lower-income workers and those in physically demanding jobs the most.

It would create particular hardships for those choosing to retire early and collect their benefits prior to their full retirement age.

Doing so exacts a lifetime reduction in monthly benefits, based on a formula aimed at equalizing the lifetime benefit among those who retire early, those who wait until their full retirement age, and those who defer collecting until that age (they receive a bump-up in benefits for every year they delay, topping out at age 70).

Raising the full retirement age to 70, Romig calculates, would mean that retirees who start collecting at the minimum age of 62 would receive only 57% of their full benefit….

The Republican Study Committee also would make it harder for disabled workers to qualify for benefits, and would lengthen the period before those who are disabled and younger than 65 qualify for Medicare to five years from two. This falls into the category of balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable members of society.

As for Medicare, the Republican Study Committee proposes raising the eligibility age, currently 65, so it matches the Social Security retirement age. It also would transfer many more Medicare accounts to private insurance. The committee claims this would save money.

The rest of his incisive analysis is behind a paywall, unfortunately. He demonstrates beyond doubt that Republicans have wanted for years to put these big programs on the chopping block, which are lifelines for senior citizens. They have no objections, however, to cutting the taxes of the wealthiest. That was Trump’s biggest accomplishment: tax cuts for those with the most.

Michael Podhorzer is a keen political analyst who the assistant to the president for strategic research for the AFL-CIO, a federation of 55 labor unions representing 12.5 million members. His observations in this post are well worth reading.

His insightful article begins:

When, in the Dobbs decision, Samuel Alito declared that Roe v. Wade had been “wrongly decided,” he succinctly stated the credo of a resurgent revanchist coalition that believes the Twentieth Century was wrongly decided. Over the last two decades, the Supreme Court has been instrumental in advancing this coalition’s agenda, which is to dismantle the New Deal order and reverse the civil and social rights gains made since the postwar period.

The execution of this agenda has been nothing short of a slow-motion coup against our freedoms. The Supreme Court has not only transformed itself into a democratically unaccountable lawmaking body; it has used this illegitimate power to create a one-way ratchet that makes the rest of our system less democratically accountable. Yet no matter how many times the Court tightens this ratchet, our political and opinion leaders keep asking whether the Court risks losing its legitimacy if it keeps this up – not what we should do now that legitimacy is a distant memory at best.

We hear of “conservative” judges, yet not one of the six Republican-appointed justices demonstrate fealty to any consistent set of principles beyond giving more power to the gatekeepers who put them on the Court. Instead, we must call them the Federalist Society justices. All six are current or former members of the Federalist Society, an enterprise sponsored by right wing billionaires and corporations whose intention was capture of the legal system – and capture it they did. They knew this capture would be necessary in order to implement their agenda, since they couldn’t count on the majority of Americans to vote against their own rights and freedoms.

The campaign to repeal and replace the 20th century is an extremely well-funded enterprise, organized by people who have never made any secret of their plans. None of this is happening by accident.

Yet for the most part, media coverage of SCOTUS continues to focus on the details of the individual cases on the docket: the arguments each side is putting forth, the likelihood that certain justices will find those arguments persuasive, and what a “win” for either side could look like. In the context of our current crisis, however, doing this is like narrating each segment of a bullet’s trajectory without naming the assassin or his target.

In this post, we’ll take a few steps back from that “what did the bullet do today” perspective.

  1. The Coalition Against the Twentieth Century – This section identifies the antagonists, outlines how they came together through the Southern Strategy, and shows how two historical accidents – the 2000 presidential elections and the 2010 midterms – enabled the massive power grabs that have brought us to our current crisis.
  2. The Originalist Con – This section reveals just how blatant and unprincipled the Federalist Society Majority has been in its execution of the coalition’s agenda.
  3. The Federalist Society Majority Juggernaut – This section lays out the enormous progress the Federalist Society Majority has already made to overturn the “wrongly decided” 20th century. This has included giving MAGA state legislatures new license to curtail voting rights and gerrymander themselves impregnable majorities that closely resemble the region’s one-party authoritarian rule during the Jim Crow era.
  4. No Longer Legitimate? We conclude with a look at how the Court’s “crisis of legitimacy” is actually a crisis for American democracy as a whole.

The Coalition Against the Twentieth Century

This revanchist coalition has two factions, which have come together through the Federalist Society to capture the nation’s legal system. One faction, which I call the MAGA industrial complex, is a symbiotic combination of white grievance media (e.g. Fox, Breitbart), white Evangelical churches and their political expressions dedicated to white Christian nationalism, as well as supremacist militias and the NRA.

When most of us hear “Make America Great Again,” we think of voters in their MAGA caps being stoked on by white grievance entrepreneurs like Trump and Tucker Carlson. We should instead be thinking of the elites and institutions that helped make MAGA one of America’s most successful political movementsto date. We know, for instance, that the white Christian nationalist movement was built not around a moral concern for fetal life, but around panic over the court-ordered revocation of tax-exempt status for religious schools—particularly Bob Jones University, as well as the private religious “segregation academies” that were founded in response to Brown v. Board of Education.¹

The other faction in the coalition against the 20th century consists of the plutocrats and rapacious capitalists whose efforts long predate Trump and MAGA. Their efforts were largely unsuccessful until the 1960’s. Until then, the Republican Party, which was the party of business, nonetheless acquiesced to the New Deal order. This sentiment was famously expressed by President Eisenhower:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

The Southern Strategy

And then … in 1964 that “splinter” of “Texas oil millionaires” and “conservative” activists wrested the Republican presidential nomination for Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was trounced by 23 points. But rather than dispatching the Goldwater forces to the dustbin of history, this defeat simply convinced many that they would have to give ground on their ambition of electing anyone as “pure” as Goldwater. They were ready when, in 1968, Nixon reversed his position on civil rights, becoming the candidate that fused segregationists’ racist agenda with the traditional Republican business agenda. Nixon’s narrow victory in 1968 was deceptive. George Wallace siphoned off 14 percent of the most extremist voters, and combining Wallace’s and Nixon’s vote share reveals that there was a substantial majority consisting of Democrats (the backlash to the Civil and Voting Rights Acts) and traditional Republican voters. Kevin Phillips best laid out this blueprint in his book The Emerging Republican Majority.

We generally think of the success of the Southern Strategy depending on the direct appeals of national Republicans to southern segregationist Democrats, with those voters changing their party affiliation without changing any of their values. The following map makes vivid something that has gone remarkably unnoticed. As Robert Jones and others have documented, from even before the Civil War, Christian churches played a critical role providing the “moral” basis for white supremacy. In this period, southern Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches continued to provide essential organizational scaffolding for preserving those attitudes and the salience of “social” issues in the region.

Map of U.S. showing regions shaded by religious denomination

Source: American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips

The Tea Party & the Takeover of the Republican Party

Until the election of Barack Obama, Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders placated the reactionary, nativist, white Christian faction of the party by nominating right-wing judges and embracing the dog whistles and symbolism of white Christian identity, while making little or no progress reversing the civil rights gains of the 1960’s. Indeed, as late as 2006, the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized with nearly unanimous congressional support, with Bush claiming credit. This White House press releaseannouncing Bush’s signing would be unimaginable coming from any MAGA Republican now.

We very much remember the 2000 election for its razor thin margin and the Supreme Court brazenly intervening to stop the count and select Bush. But we have all but forgotten that the reason the race was as close as it was can be attributed to Bush’s consolidation of the white Evangelical establishment, and with it, Bible Belt voters that made the race that close in the first place.² While Clinton won the Bible Belt by a hair in 1996, Gore lost it by 12 points – and more consequentially, he lost the electoral votes in 7 Bible Belt states Clinton had won.³ And Kerry would lose the region by an even larger margin, 16 points. Bush stressed his own born again experience and did much for the white Christian establishment, including his “faith based” initiatives.

In response to Obama’s victory – and McCain and the Republican establishment’s immediate acceptance of his legitimacy – the nativist faction formed the Tea Party and focused on developing a political strategy to purge the Republican Party of “RINOs.” The last straw for this faction was Romney’s nomination and defeat. They revolted against the business wing’s “Autopsy” report, which in 2013 urged the GOP to moderate on immigration policies and dampen its racial rhetoric to stay competitive in an increasingly diverse electorate. Trump rushed into that political vacuum, smearing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers. Crucially, unlike Goldwater, who faced a uniformly hostile and demeaning national media, Trump now had the advantage of the extensive right-wing media system that had since been established, which proved essential to his nomination and victory.

Please continue reading this deeply informed post about the underlying trends that have shaped the present moment in American politics.

Mimi Swartz, a writer for the Texas Monthly, explored the background, the funders, and the consequences of the well-coordinated campaign to privatize public schools—by defaming them and discrediting those who run for local school board seats. She focuses on the travails of one dedicated school board member, Joanna Day in Dripping Springs, Texas, who contended with insults and threats in her life.

The following is a small part of a long article, which I encourage you to read in full:

The motivations for these attacks are myriad and sometimes opaque, but many opponents of public education share a common goal: privatizing public schools, in the same way activists have pushed, with varying results, for privatization of public utilities and the prison system. Proponents of school privatization now speak of public schools as “dropout factories” and insist that “school choice” should be available to all. They profess a deep faith in vouchers, which would allow parents to send their children not just to the public schools of their choice but to religious and other private schools, at taxpayers’ expense.

But if privatizing public education is today cloaked in talk of expanded liberty, entrepreneurial competition, and improved schools for those who need them most, its history tells a different story. In 1956, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, a group of segregationist legislators in Texas, with support from retiring governor Allan Shivers, began concocting work-arounds for parents appalled by the prospect of racial integration of public schools. One idea: state-subsidized tuition at private schools. That never came to pass, but it was Texas’s first flirtation with vouchers.

Privatization proponents have since switched up their rhetoric, pitching vouchers as an opportunity for poor urban families to save their children from underperforming neighborhood schools. That hasn’t worked out either. In various experiments across the nation, funding for vouchers hasn’t come close to covering tuition costs at high-quality private schools, and many kids, deprived of the most basic tools, haven’t been able to meet the standards for admission.

School funding in Texas is based largely on attendance—as the saying goes, the money follows the child. Considerable evidence suggests that vouchers would siphon money from underfunded public schools and subsidize well-to-do parents who can already afford private tuition. Critics frequently cite a program in Milwaukee, where four out of ten private schools created for voucher students from 1991 to 2015 failed.

“I don’t think that vouchers serve any useful purpose at all,” said Scott McClelland, a retired president of H-E-B who now chairs Good Reason Houston, an education nonprofit. Ninety-one percent of Texas students attend public schools. “There isn’t enough capacity in the private school network to make a meaningful difference in their ability to serve economically disadvantaged students in any meaningful numbers, and it will divert funding away from public schools.”

In Texas, an unusual alliance of Democratic and rural Republican leaders has for decades held firm against voucher campaigns. The latter, of course, are all too aware that private schools aren’t available for most in their communities and that public schools employ many of their constituents. But the spread of far-right politics and the disruption of public schools during the pandemic created an opening for activists to sow discontent and, worse, chaos. “If they can make the public afraid of their public school, they will be more likely to support privatizing initiatives. Then that puts us back to where we used to be with segregation of public schools,” says former Granbury school board member Chris Tackett, who, with his wife Mendi, has become an outspoken advocate for public education and a relentless investigator of the attempts to undermine it.

They have their work cut out for them. In the past, just a few right-wing legislators pushed for privatization and were routinely ignored. After all, the state constitution spelled out “the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” But as times have changed, so has the interpretation of that guarantee.

Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s former Education Secretary, set up shop in Dallas with her American Federation for Children to push against “government schools” in favor of “school choice.” Political PACs such as Patriot Mobile Action, an arm of a Christian wireless provider in North Texas, continue pouring millions into school board races and book bans to promote more religious education. Patriot has joined other recently formed PACs with inspirational names such as Defend Texas Liberty and Texans for Excellent Education, all of which supposedly support better public schools but are actually part of the privatization push. But by far the most powerful opponents of public schools in the state are West Texas oil billionaires Tim Dunn and the brothers Farris and Dan Wilks. Their vast political donations have made them the de facto owners of many Republican members of the Texas Legislature through organizations such as the now dissolved Empower Texans and the more recent Defend Texas Liberty, which the trio uses to promote restrictions on reproductive rights, voter access, and same-sex marriage. Almost as influential is the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where Dunn is vice board chair.

A November 2021 TPPF fund-raising letter, sent to supporters in advance of the Eighty-eighth Legislature convening, argued that “public education is GROUND ZERO” in the fight for freedom. “The policy team and board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) believe it is now or never,” it read, signaling that the long-standing and robust alliance against vouchers was unusually vulnerable. “The time is ripe to set Texas children free from enforced indoctrination and Big Government cronyism in our public schools.” The letter went on to herald a $1.2 million “Set the Captives Free” campaign to lobby legislators to save Texas schoolchildren from “Marxist and sexual indoctrination” funded by “far-Left elites for decades.”

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, generously backed by Dunn, the Wilks brothers, and their organizations, has long been a proponent of privatizing public education (and of starving it through reductions in property taxes). He has made vouchers a primary legislative goal of the current session. Mayes Middleton, of Wallisville, a Republican state senator and former chair of the TPPF-aligned Texas House Freedom Caucus, filed a bill to create the “Texas Parental Empowerment Program,” proposing education savings accounts that are essentially a form of vouchers. Representative Matt Shaheen, of Plano, who is a member of the Texas Freedom Caucus, has introduced a measure that would guarantee state tax credits for those who donate to school-assistance programs—such as scholarships for kids wishing to go to private schools.

Governor Greg Abbott, knowing all too well the political headwinds that vouchers have faced, has long been wary of publicly supporting them, so he has undermined public schools in other ways. While campaigning early last year, he promised to amend the Texas constitution with a “parental bill of rights,” even though most, if not all, of those rights already existed. By then, “parental rights” had become a dog whistle to animate opponents of public education. (As the Texas Tribune put it: “Gov. Greg Abbott taps into parent anger to fuel reelection campaign.”)

During the recent intensifying crisis on the border, Abbott publicly floated a challenge to the state’s constitutional obligation to give all Texas children, including undocumented ones, a publicly funded education—a step his Republican predecessor, Rick Perry, had denounced years earlier as heartless. Then last spring, Abbott made headlines with his first full-throated public endorsement of a voucher program.

So here we are, with distrust in public schools advancing as fast as the latest COVID-19 variant. The forces behind the spread of this vitriol are no mystery. Those who would destroy public schools have learned to apply three simple stratagems: destabilize, divide, and, if that doesn’t work, open the floodgates of fear

Ohio has poured taxpayer dollars into charter schools, even though public schools consistently outperform charter schools. Ohio has poured more than $1 billion into virtual charters, even though the biggest of them (ECOT, or The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) had the lowest graduation rate in the nation and declared bankruptcy rather than pay back $67 million to the state for large numbers of phantom students. But despite its dismal statistics, it collected $1 billion over its 20 years in business. Vouchers were evaluated by a researcher chosen by a pro-choice think tank, and the report said that voucher students were falling behind.

Given this long history of school choice failure, wouldn’t you think the state would step back and evaluate its commitment to failure?

Of course not. The GOP dominated Legislature wants to expand vouchers.

Why does the Ohio GOP invest in failure?

Morgan Trau of News5Cleveland explains:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill to expand the school voucher system and provide more money to home-schoolers has been proposed in Ohio as the Department of Education is investigating a Nazi home-schooling scandal. This is not the first Holocaust education issue the state has had in one year.

Ohio’s public schools have been pushing for consistent funding for decades.

William Philis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, has spent his career fighting against the voucher system.

“We don’t have a constitutional system and they’re exacerbating the unconstitutionality of the system by draining money out of the public school system,” Philis said.

A new bill introduced to the state Senate will continue to leave public schools behind in favor of supporting private schools, he added.

Senate Bill 11 is expected to use taxpayer money to give $5,500 to elementary and middle school students and $7,500 to high schoolers so they can attend any public, community or charted nonpublic school. Ashtabula Republican Sen. Sandra O’Brien introduced the bill because, “Ohio should act now to put parents, not government, in control of their children’s education,” she said in sponsor testimony Tuesday.

Eric Frank, president of School Choice Ohio, believes the legislation allows children to get the best education possible.

“Primarily, what those do is they target scholarships to families that either live in what we typically refer to as under-performing public school areas, not necessarily districts, but buildings within districts and also low-income families,” Frank said.

The bill would expand the current EdChoice Scholarship to give universal eligibility to all students in the state of Ohio.

There are two sections of the current program:

  • EdChoice Expansion, which the state reported had 17,152 students participating in fiscal year 2021, requires income verification. Eighty-five percent of these students were below the 200% poverty rate.
  • Standard EdChoice, which the state reported has 33,129 student in FY 2021, does not require income verification. More than 75% of the students utilizing this program were not low-income qualified.

Of the total 50,281 students, 25,180 are low-income qualified, with 25,101 that are not. This means that half of the students utilizing taxpayer money to go to a private or charter school are not designated as “needing government assistance.”

This is not to say that people who aren’t in that designation don’t struggle to have to pay the full price of the tuition — but it just means it is unknown if they do struggle to pay or not.

“Most people are really happy with their public schools,” Frank added. “But families that aren’t, they should have another option.”

Philis strongly disagreed.

“I’d say that’s pure poppycock,” Philis said. “I don’t get a voucher for a backyard swimming pool because I don’t want to go to the public pool.”

Even if a student takes a voucher, private schools choose who will be admitted, the advocate said.

“What we’re doing in Ohio right now is that we’re funding segregation,” he stated. “We are funding, with taxpayer money, White Flight.”

The Fair School Funding Plan (FSFP), was somewhat attempted to be put into place for fiscal year 2021-22. It was supposed to change how the state delegates funding for school districts.

Starting in the 2021 FY, lawmakers added hundreds of millions of state dollars in both direct funding and tax credits to subsidize families sending their children to private and charter schools. Critics, like Ohio Education Association, said this makes taxpayers pay for these for-profit schools and diverts money away from public education, which desperately needs it.

The bill would also expand the home-school tax credit from $250 to $2,000, which raises concerns.

Ohio’s Nazi Education Problem

The Ohio Dept. of Education is investigating a family in Upper Sandusky after it was revealed that their home-school program was allegedly a Nazi propaganda school, where children were taught how to love Hitler and become a “wonderful Nazi.”

Logan and Katja Lawrence were the alleged creators of the “Dissident Homeschool” group which had 2,500 members on its Telegram channel when they were exposed in a late January article from VICE News.

“We need to ensure that home-schooling is not an opportunity for parents to systemically teach their children hatred,” state Sen. Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati) said. “Senate Bill 1, which is pending in Education Committee, weakens home-schooling requirements. The legislature must protect our children from instruction fueled by racism and intolerance.”

News 5 asked Sen. President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) if there should be oversight over the home-school program, which he said “absolutely,” but there are specific rules and regulations.

“I hope we’re long past the point in our society where we take the actions of one person or a small group of people and paint the entire group as though somehow they’re participating in that,” Huffman responded.

The Department of Education should be figuring out what is going on, he added.

“I hope, frankly, that people will not try to take some political advantage or policy advantage… basically trying to decide that a couple of sociopaths somewhere in Ohio who are doing strange things that… somehow should affect the policy of the rest of the state is anathema to me,” the GOP leader said (anathema means something that a person hates).

Democrats have already been jumping at making sure a situation like this does not happen again.

There are only two Jewish members in the Ohio House — Democratic Reps. Casey Weinstein of Hudson and Dani Isaacsohn of Cincinnati.

Weinstein consistently tweets about antisemitism, including a recent post advocating for more home-schooling regulations. Republican state Rep. Riordan McClain, who represents the area in which the alleged Nazi-group resides, responded to him.

“Let’s not take freedom away from all for the terrible ideas of a few,” McClain said. “I can tell you as a home-educating parent from Upper, I’ve never heard of these people.”

In a statement to the press, McClain condemned the Nazi-based teachings and “racial hatred.” He, however, acknowledged that “differing opinions exist in a free society and our job as community members is to have robust ongoing debates.”

“Get the public system out of the way, give the parents the money — we’re going to have a school that involves the Ku Klux Klan mentality,” Philis said.

Frank argued back.

“There are 50,000 families in Ohio that are home-schooling their kids,” Frank said. “And my guess is 99.9% of them probably do a good job and they are their kids, and so it’s their right.”

News 5 continues to search to find out if the Lawrence family has received any funding from the state.

This is not the first time Ohio has dealt with a Holocaust-related scandal in the past year.

Back in March of 2022, News 5 aired an exclusive report about comments made by one of the primary sponsors of a bill to ban schools from teaching “divisive topics” — H.B. 327. The report stemmed from an interview exchange between state Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula) and News 5 Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau.

During the interview, Fowler Arthur was asked about the financial aspect of the bill. While attempting to talk about funding, she brought up the Holocaust, saying that students needed to hear the massacre from the perspective of the “German soldiers.”

After the exclusive story went international, the original divisive concepts bill had been renamed the “both sides bill” or the “both sides of the Holocaust bill.”

Former Speaker of the Ohio House Bob Cupp (R-Lima) responded to a question about the lawmaker’s comments on the Holocaust, saying they were “inappropriate remarks, they were uninformed remarks.”

The bill swiftly died, despite Fowler Arthur’s repeated efforts to bring it back to life, a records request by News 5 showed. Also in the records were dozens of angry emails to the lawmaker.

She was previously on the state Board of Education but has never participated in the public education system as a student or a parent. She was home-schooled and did not attend college.

In the new General Assembly, the lawmaker will have more power than she has ever had. News 5 shared in January that Fowler Arthur will be the primary and secondary Education Committee’s vice chair.

“I think that in terms of the committee makeup, is it concerning to me that that individual has been given a leadership position on an education committee? Absolutely,” Minority House Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) told News 5 in a one-on-one interview.

Luckily, Russo said, the vice chair shouldn’t have a huge role in leading the direction of a committee.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.

Michael Podhorzer is a keen political analyst who works as political director of the AFL-CIO. His observations in this post are well worth reading.

We are living in a perilous that demonstrates the need for tenure and unions. With so many astroturf parent groups making spurious charges against public schools and their teachers, who will dare to stand up to bullies? In New Hampshire, it’s the president of the state AFTDeb Howes.

Deb Howes

AFT-NH Statement on Bill on ‘Obscene Materials’ in K-12 and Higher Education Classes, Public Libraries

CONCORD, N.H.—The following is a statement from AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes on HB 514, a bill to provide a procedure for people to complain about so-called obscene materials in K-12 and higher education classes and public libraries but that does not even clearly define what would be considered obscene:

“For all intents and purposes, this legislation about the dissemination of obscene materials is a book ban bill. Incredibly, the bill’s sponsors don’t even have the guts to clearly define what would be considered obscene, so it’s really meant to intimidate teachers and deprive students—both school-aged and adults—of books that one person who files a complaint deems objectionable. It practically begs parents or guardians to complain about a particular book to their local school board in the case of public schools, opening the way to a chaotic free-for-all. For public universities, public libraries and museums, it adds the Department of Education to the agencies that can initiate legal hearings to find material ‘obscene’ after receiving anonymous citizen complaints. Higher education faculty actually could be arrested, charged and indicted if they are found to be using a book that is judged to be obscene, whatever that means.

“This is disgusting and meant to censor students’ education and deprive them of quality books. Book bans have no place in New Hampshire K-12, public libraries or higher education classes. We will fight vigorously to ensure that our students have the books they need to receive a well-rounded, honest education. We also will stand firm for the right to access the whole world of ideas through public libraries and universities.”

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