Archives for category: Education Reform

I planned to post this as a comment but it grew into a full-blown post. One of our daily readers, named Joe, voted for Bernie in the primaries but then supported Hillary in the general election. He wrote a comment a few hours ago urging other readers to stop criticizing and demonizing Hillary and to recognize the present danger to our nation.

 

I responded to Joe as follows:

 

Thanks, Joe. I too am tired of people continuing to kick Hillary. What’s the point? There’s no doubt in my mind that Comey handed the election to Trump. I recently read an article that said the FBI is known internally as Trumplandia. His intervention 11 days before the election was unprecedented and highly prejudicial to her campaign.

 

This <a href=”http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12/08/what-james-comey-did/”>article</a&gt; sums up my view: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12/08/what-james-comey-did/

 

I don’t understand the deep-seated hatred that some people have for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I think they unconsciously imbibed 25 years of Republican attacks on her. She is a good person. She would have sought out people of distinction for her cabinet, not extremists, ideologues, and retreads.

 

I was prepared to support either Bernie or Hillary. After she won the primaries, I supported her, like you.

 

Yes, she did win the primaries. She collected 400 delegates more than Bernie, without the superdelegates. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/primary-calendar-and-results.html?_r=0

 

She won 3.7 million <a href=”https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_presidential_primaries,_2016″>votes more than Bernie</a>.

 

Yet some of his most fervent supporters still say the primaries were rigged and Bernie was cheated.

 

That is not true. A difference of 3.7 million votes is not a close call.

 

The detractors have become nihilistic, and now insist that Hillary and Trump No different. They can believe whatever they want, but this is ridiculous. Trump is ignorant of governance and policy. He has skipped most of the daily intelligence briefings that he is supposed to receive. His co-author says he doesn’t read. He blatantly lies (in his rally yesterday, he claimed he had won in a landslide, even though Hillary is ahead 2.5 million in the popular vote). Mitt Romney was right when he said during the primaries that Trump was a con man and a fraud. Worse, Trump has given new life to the “Alt-right” (neo-Nazis) with his disparaging comments about every group that is not white, Christian, and able-bodied.

 

Hillary, by contrast, is a woman of dignity and intellect. Unlike Trump, she was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She is well-educated. She went to public schools before going to Wellesley. She is experienced and knowledgeable. She would not have embarrassed the nation.

 

She lost. It’s one for the history books.

 

And now the half of the nation that didn’t vote for Trump must hope and pray that he doesn’t harm the economy, that he doesn’t withdraw the safety net that protects our most vulnerable citizens, that he is not able to privatize public education, and that his hawkish national security team doesn’t embroil us in another war.

 

Lets look forward and fight to save our public schools, to defend the social safety net, to defend health insurance for those who need it, and to keep our nation to its ideals and promise. There will be another election in two years, and another one in four years. We must organize and be prepared. Our time will come. And when it does, we will drain the swamp of lobbyists, conflicts of interest, nepotism, cranks, zealots, extremists, rightwing anarchists, and neo-Nazis.

 

 

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Trump plans tax cuts for everyone but the biggest cuts go to those in the 1%. To see the graphs, buy today’s WSJ.

 
“Nearly half the benefits of the plan, and a higher proportion of savings, would go to the top 1%
Steven Mnuchin, the likely next Treasury secretary, this week said rich U.S. taxpayers won’t get “an absolute tax cut” under President-elect Donald Trump. But that is not what Mr. Trump says in his taxation plan. In fact, under his approach the wealthy would receive an average tax cut of about $215,000 per household, experts say.
“In Mr. Trump’s plan, Americans in different income ranges would divide up several hundred billion dollars of revenue cuts for 2017. As a result, Americans would, on average, receive a lower tax bill for 2017 compared with current law.
“The way to think of the plan is this: The overall tax pie will shrink, and as it shrinks, the amounts owed by various taxpayers will shift, too. So while everyone will pay less, their relative contributions may change.
“The top 1% will benefit, as they would contribute a smaller percentage of total tax revenue under Mr. Trump than they do now. The group, which consists of about 1.1 million households and earns 17% of total income, would owe 25% of federal taxes for 2017 under Trump’s plan compared with 28.7% under current law.
“Mr. Mnuchin said these high-income households won’t get an “absolute” cut, because reductions for high earners “will be offset by less deductions.” Notably, Mr. Trump’s tax plan currently limits “itemized” deductions on Schedule A, such as those for mortgage interest, charitable donations, and state taxes, to a maximum of $200,000 per couple and half that for singles.
“But these limits don’t fully offset the effects of income- and estate-tax cuts for high earners proposed by Mr. Trump, according to experts.
“Trump’s current plan doesn’t identify sufficient offsets for high earners to pay for their rate reductions,” says Eugene Steuerle, a economist with the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington who as a member of Ronald Reagan’s administration helped formulate the major tax reform of 1986.
“According to the Tax Policy Center’s analysis, nearly half the benefits of Mr. Trump’s tax plan would go to the top 1%, households earning more than about $700,000 annually.
“Compared with the highest earners, the share of total taxes of the next-highest income group—those earning between $143,100 and $699,000—would rise to 41.2% under the Trump proposals from 39.4% under current law. Their average tax cut would be about $6,900. For the lowest income group—those earning less than $24,800—the average tax cut would be $110.
“The uneven benefits of the Trump plan reflect the difficult nature of tax changes for policy makers who, like Mr. Mnuchin, say they don’t want to benefit the wealthy disproportionately.
“Cutting tax rates for the middle class not only costs a great deal of revenue, it also lowers taxes for high earners because they benefit as well,” says Roberton Williams, an economist with the Tax Policy Center.
Another complication is that tax breaks for individuals are unevenly distributed. For example, high earners are often more able than lower earners to reap long-term capital-gain income, which is now taxed at a top rate of 23.8%. Under current law, 78% of long-term gains go to those in the top 1%.”

Politico reports on the new chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee:

FOXX IN THE HOUSE: Virginia Foxx wants to dismantle the Education Department and erase Barack Obama’s education legacy – and she’s poised to become one of the Hill’s power players with the authority to do that. The 73-year-old GOP lawmaker and former community college president is poised to assume the leadership of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and she wants to veer far away from what she regards as Obama’s wrongheaded approach. “I’m going to push to diminish the role of the federal government in everything it’s in that isn’t in the Constitution,” Foxx said in an interview in her district in North Carolina. “That’s education, health care. All the things that the federal government does that it should not be doing. I’m happy to diminish its role.”

– Foxx’s small-government views are rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains in a slice of Appalachia where she grew up without power and running water and began working as a weaver to help support her family at age 12 – experiences that convinced her it’s an individual’s hard work, and not federal programs, that lead to success. She is a strong supporter of school choice as President-elect Donald Trump pushes his $20 billion school choice plan emphasizing vouchers. Foxx would love to dismantle the federal Education Department, but is realistic enough to acknowledge that that is probably unlikely in the near term. “I definitely don’t think the Department of Education has any business doing all the things that it’s doing,” she said, “but I don’t think you do it overnight. I think you have to devolve it over time.”

– Foxx remembers a time when community members like her father went “into the wilds” to gather plants to sell in New York to make ends meet. Her district is more prosperous now because of tourism, but it’s still deeply conservative with an occasional Confederate flag flying in the wind. As she walked down the main street of West Jefferson, N.C., one recent day to line up for the annual Christmas parade, she greeted many people by name who cheerfully congratulated her – and the president-elect – on Election Day wins.

Politico also reports that Arne Duncan will join Bill Bennett and Rod Paige at Jeb Bush’s education reform conference, where they will no doubt agree on the progress they have made in promoting charters and school choice and testing.

Joshua Leibner is a National Board Certified Teacher in Los Angeles. He wrote this post.

The elephant in the room of School Reform, is, the Elephant.

When Republican Donald Trump announced his choice of Betsy DeVos to serve as his Education Secretary, The California Charter Schools Association wrote: [We] congratulate Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education. Mrs. DeVos has long demonstrated a commitment to providing families with improved public school options and we look forward to working with the administration on proposals allowing all students in California to access their right to a high quality public education.

If you have one ounce of Progressivism in your blood, that mealy-mouthed congratulations would create a lethal dose of moral leukemia. This disgusting endorsement of DeVos, a person who is one of the most hateful, gay demolishing, anti-child, free market embracing, Big Business darling, reveals clearly to Californians who CCSA is and who they put their faith in.

I’ll leave it to other columns to specifically go through all her contemptible sins in the world of education. Those yucky particulars are not the concern of this column: Betsy DeVos as emblematic of the entire Reform Education movement is my focus.

DeVos is the rich and ignorant School Reform Education Secretary that the entire School Reform movement and CCSA have pined for. Yes, they also got the President they implicitly yearned for–but more importantly, they now have the education ideology that is their entire raison d’etre and central to their cause.

In President-Elect Donald Trump (and especially in Vice President Mike Pence), they see the opportunity to have their public policy way on the federal level and translate it to local jurisdictions nationwide.

The bottom line here in California? Our Democrat candidates can no longer accept CCSA money pretending that this organization doesn’t represent America’s most heinous politics.

To be clear, there is zero degrees of separation between CCSA and the Koch Brothers.

The one great truth that Donald Trump did reveal was in the first GOP debate. There he honestly said that he “bought” politicians because he was a businessman and that’s what he is supposed to do.

CCSA is a business. A huge multi-billion dollar business.

CCSA plays both sides of the fence. It has bought the Democrats for Education Reform as well as a veritable Who’s Who of the most evil Republicans in the game today.

CCSA knows full well the disgusting, hateful, chauvinistic, anti-women, anti-immigrant, pro-life, pro-unregulated firearms, pro-rich corporate giveaways platforms of MANY of the people who support their and give it its lifeblood. They have endorsed some terrible Republicans who make life miserable for so many Californians in other economic, judicial and quality-of-life portions of their lives.

CCSA and its dark money allies give to Reform candidates across our state.

If the Democrats insist that Trump repudiate the Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacist groups who have embraced his cause, the Democrats of California need to strongly repudiate the vile money, support and influence of CCSA. They are not fascists, but their ties to the Right and those who seek to fundamentally reshape America to regressive ends, should give concerned liberals pause.

Mike Pence is a hero to School Reformers. Pence’s home state of Indiana, is not only fraught with the dark perils of School Reform in hyper-drive, but a place where women, gays and minorities fear for their safety and liberties.

CCSA’s mouth piece in California, Campbell Brown’s The 74, is where many in the Republican Party have found a happy home. The LA School Report is owned by them and its former owner “liberal” multi-millionaire Jamie Alter-Lynton has happily partnered with Republicans who are anathema to Civil Rights, gay rights and economic justice proponents. Worse, they are proud of their associations with these politicians as long as they vote on the one issue they care about most: Education Reform. They cozy up to some of the most loathsome politicians in America.

Thus we get Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVos is seen as a messiah that will push through their agenda nationwide.

What does the Charter School and Ed Reform Movement share much in common with the current President Elect and many Republicans? Forgive my bluntness, but they love the Jerk Autocrat.

Look at the type of preening, aggressive narcissists whom the GOP admires: Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. These are men who take particular delight in their tough, bad-ass, in-you-face bravado.

To be fair, the movement also loves tough-talkin’ Reform Democratic Jerks like Rahm Emanuel who qualifies as a Republican on the Arrogance Scale. School Reform, like the GOP, adore these personalities. Flexi-Democrat and uber-autocrat, Michelle Rhee, interviewed for the Ed Secretary position with Trump, and offered her support and enthusiastic endorsement of DeVos as well. The very first person’s name floated was New York’s Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz, the Big Stick swinging Charter operator, who also has sung DeVos’s virtues.

The fealty to the wealthy, entrepreneur class is a hallmark of Education Reform. Billionaire DeVos contributed almost $10 million to Trump and is rewarded with her dream assignment. THIS is precisely business as usual and anyone who believes that Trump is going to combat the system that has rewarded him so handsomely is waiting for Godot. The billionaires used a rigged Republican/Wall Street tax system they fueled to reap untold fortunes exploiting a system that exploits the rest of society—and after a lifetime of plundering that system, live long enough to receive the holy civic term “philanthropist” from the impoverished public sector.

Here in LA, we have these autocratic personalities like Eli Broad (and in fact, his whole Broad Academy Superintendent philosophy is basically how to be a CEO Asses in the schools). Eli Broad and Donald Trump, knew how to game a system for themselves and pay off people of both parties to further their personal fortunes. In both cases, “Moral Politics” and “Ethics” were not high priorities in each of their wealth gathering operations.

Broad’s star pupil here was former LAUSD Superintendent, John Deasy, who never missed a chance to assert his authority, relishing despicable delight in exercising his bullying personality.

In contrast, these rich people have no fear of speaking their truth to labor, to unions and the teaching profession. These rich American titans claim the moral authority to speak on the behalf of the working class and the communities of color. Their grand designs for re-working education continues to favor a certain class and color of people, while never displaying a modicum of humility in their engineering.

Betsy DeVos is the epitome of the wealthy’s hubris and their oligarchic approach to education.

Trump’s selection of DeVos was as if Hollywood contacted Central Casting to provide CCSA with a person who would accurately mirror their Portrait of Dorian Gray. Her portrait is indeed reprehensible. DeVos’s beliefs of white privilege, class entitlement, stomach-churning religious imperative, grand American Exceptionalism/racist “manifest destiny” imperatives are the backbone of the charter school industrial complex.

Michelle Rhee who actually interviewed for the Ed Secretary position with Trump, offered her support and endorsement of DeVos as well.

Most Democratic candidates are quick to protect undocumented Latino children or claim that gay rights is sacrosanct here–not particularly tough positions for a Democrat in California. There are many CCSA Democrat candidates who espouse education policies that are cooked in the putrid stew of Right Wing economic and pedagogical philosophy. Predictably, they would not be happy about GOP’s barbaric social agenda, but CCSA would have any problem if any assortment of nightmarish GOP politicians controlled American education: Scott Walker? Jeb Bush? Sam Brownback? Rick Scott? Bobby Jindal? Mike Pence (they got their wish here).

In matters of education, CCSA and the Right are simpatico.

The CCSA throws enormous amount of money backing candidates across our state. Look who gratefully and self-righteously takes their money “in the name of the kids”. Think about what other positions the Ed Reform Money is supporting through their chosen candidates across the nation. Many of these politicians have a view of America and justice that is the antithesis to what Progressives demand.

It is disingenuous to believe yourself “liberal” and embrace the ideology of CCSA. There is no separation between them and who else supports them.

Again, this debate among Democrats is a long time coming. In California, where we are basically a One Party state, corporate money and influence goes to a certain sort of centrist Democrat who will back their policies. These are the Democrats who don’t care about what other policies their proponents support-or refuse to see the connection between their Education cause and the other rest of the Right’s Agenda for America.

Follow that money.

Follow that money.

Follow that money.

CCSA contributions to the Corporate Democrats in California (on the state and local level)…but elsewhere, out of the confines of our Blue World, it’s CCSA’s sister organizations that are supporting whatever Right Wing monster runs the unfortunates in other states.

If you think Donald Trump and Mike Pence are wrong about everything else in America, but got it dead right on what America’s students require, then you really can compartmentalize as delusionally as the folks who take CCSA money.

People who think of themselves as Progressives don’t have that luxury.

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) issued a statement congratulating Betsy DeVos on her selection by Donald Trump to be Secretary of Education. The statement expressed the hope that Trump might “disavow” his hateful rhetoric. Note that the DFER statement does not mention vouchers, which is DeVos’ most cherished goal, nor does it acknowledge that DeVos paid out $1.5 million to Michigan legislators to block ANY oversight of charter schools. Nor does it refer to Michigan’s for-profit charters, which are 80% of all charters in the state. Nor does it make any mention of public schools, which enroll 94% of all public school children (excluding those in religious and independent schools, which are about 10% of the total).

 

The reformers are in a pickle. They can’t claim fealty to Trump, because they pretend to be Democrats. But Trump has embraced the reformer agenda, lock, stock and barrel. This statement is one way of handling their dilemma: embrace DeVos–a figure who finances the far-right and wants completely unregulated, unaccountable choice, and simultaneously chide Trump for his hateful rhetoric. Pretend to be Democrats while saluting her. Search for any gift she ever made to a real civil rights group to offset the tens of millions the DeVos has invested in rightwing groups that are hostile to equity. Let’s watch to see what other “reformers” come up with, now that Trump and DeVos are the new face of “reform” and do not hide their desire to jettison public schools.

 

 

New York, NY – In response to President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to the post of Secretary of Education, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) President Shavar Jeffries released the following statement:

 

“DFER congratulates Betsy DeVos on her appointment as Secretary of Education, and we applaud Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools.

 

“However, DFER remains deeply concerned by much of the President-elect’s education agenda, which proposes to cut money from Title I and to eliminate the federal role on accountability. These moves would undermine progress made under the Obama administration to ensure all children have access to good schools. In addition, our children are threatened by many of the President-elect’s proposals, such as kicking 20 million families off of healthcare, deporting millions of Dreamers, and accelerating stop-and-frisk practices. We hope that Mrs. Devos will be a voice that opposes policies that would harm our children, both in the schoolhouse and the families and communities in which our children live.

 

“Finally, regardless of one’s politics, Trump’s bigoted and offensive rhetoric has assaulted our racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, causing millions of American children to perceive that they are less than full members of our communities. We hope Mrs. DeVos will push the President-elect to disavow such rhetoric.”

 

 

You might find this interesting. 

 

Jay Mathews has been writing for the Washington Post for many years. He is a big fan of charter schools. He wrote a book about KIPP. He admires Teach for America. Despite our differences, Jay is a genuinely nice guy who likes to exchange ideas and he listens. He sent me some questions, and I responded to him. He gave me an opportunity to review what he wrote.

 

Basically, I want a moratorium on new charters until certain requirements for transparency and accountability are met. I agree with the NAACP. I would like to see existing charters conform to the same standards of transparency and accountability as public schools. I would like them to stop cherry-picking students they want and pushing out the ones they don’t want. I would like to see a flat ban on for-profit charters and for-profit management organizations. I would like to see for-profit virtual charters shut down altogether.

 

With the incoming Trump administration, any charter reform is off the table. Betsy DeVos spent over $1 million to block legislation in Michigan to require charter accountability. Under her guidance, 80% of the charters in Michigan operate for-profit. There will be neither accountability nor transparency. There will be no effort to stop for-profit entrepreneurs. Profiteers will get free rein. Graft and fraud will get the green light. Taxpayer dollars will be squandered by chain-store corporations. Children will not be better educated, and many will be subjected to abusive disciplinary practices. If there are responsible voices in the charter industry, they should insist on cleaning up their own house. Otherwise, the scandals will  multiply.

 

 

You probably never heard of Rebekah Mercer. I never had. She is a billionaire who is one of the influential figures inside the Trump transition. Read about her here. The working people who believed in Trump are in for some very unpleasant surprises. A new oligarchy is taking shape. It will be mean. Hard.

 

“Mercer’s influence in Trump’s transition effort — detailed here for the first time — calls into question Trump’s campaign trail boasts that his own fortune, which he used to partly fund his campaign, would make him independent from deep-pocketed donors and special interests he railed against on the campaign trail. And the entanglement of connections between Trump’s aides and Mercer’s big-money political operation has prompted complaints from campaign finance watchdog groups, and grumbling from Republican operatives who contend that Mercer has too much control over Trump’s GOP.

 

“It would be difficult to overstate Rebekah’s influence in Trump world right now,” said one GOP fundraiser who has worked with Mercer and people in the campaign. “She is a force of nature. She is aggressive, and she makes her point known.”

“Mercer has a coveted seat on the Trump transition team’s 16-member executive committee. Her work, which she does mostly from home, includes collaborating with conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society — to which she has steered a combined $4.7 million or more — to recruit appointees for positions at the undersecretary level and below, according to a transition team source.”

 

 

I am not in the region but this Nevada initiative looks like it is spawning a lot of backscratching arrangements for consultants and evaluators

 

http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/education/state-board-examiners-oks-contract-research-firm-evaluate-success-school-reforms

 
When I poke around on local news reports, I see that “Opportunity 180” is focussed on charters for Clark Co Nevada. A trip to the “Opportunity 180” website shows that outfit is part of the national network of “Education Cities,” but with three “local” foundations supporting the charter initiative.

 
Surprise. Surprise. Surprise. There is the Broad Foundation, not exactly local. If you want to see where else this intended capture of public schools is being engineered, go to the Education Cities Website http://education-cities.org/who-we-are/

 
There you will find the 31 “city-based organizations” in 24 cities where nonprofit organizations seek control of public schools. For Las Vegas, Nevada, 180 Opportunity is listed. The bottom line, evident in the funds for 180 from the Broad Foundation, is that this is a national movement.

 
Education Cities are cities where unelected nonprofits, foundations, and civic groups are organized for the purposes of controlling the governance of public education, substituting their judgment for policies and practices forwarded by professionals in education, elected school boards, and citizens whose tax dollars are invested in public schools.

 
The national work of Education Cites is supported by the Broad Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. http://education-cities.org/who-we-are/our-contributors/.

 

Here are the cities and the local groups that want the power to govern your schools.

 

Arizona, Phoenix, New Schools for Phoenix
California, Los Angeles—Great Public Schools Now
California, Oakland—Educate 78 & Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership Center & Rogers Family Foundation
California, Richmond—Chamberlin Family Foundation
California, San Jose—Innovate Public Schools
Colorado, Denver—Gates Family Foundation Donnell-Kay Foundation
District of Columbia— Education Forward DC & CityBridge Foundation
Delaware, Wilmington—Rodel Foundation of Delaware
Illinois, Chicago—New Schools for Chicago, Chicago Public Education Fund
Indiana, Indianapolis—The Mind Trust
Louisiana, Baton Rouge—New Schools for Baton Rouge
Louisiana, New Orleans—New Schools for New Orleans
Massachusetts, Boston—Boston Schools Fund & Empower Schools
Michigan, Detroit—Excellent Schools Detroit & The Skillman Foundation
Minnesota Minneapolis—Minnesota Comeback
Missouri Kansas City—Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Nevada Las Vegas—Opportunity 180
New York, Rochester—E3 Rochester
Ohio, Cincinnati—Accelerate Great Schools
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia—Philadelphia School Partnership
Rhode Island, Providence—Rhode Island Mayoral Academies
Tennessee Memphis—Hyde Family Foundations
Tennessee, Nashville—Project Renaissance
Wisconsin, Milwaukee—Schools That Can Milwaukee

 
This is an example of philanthrogovernance by stealth, except for customer friendly branding of initiatives including words such as forward, accelerate, great, new, innovate, empower, now, and so on.

 
Be aware that United Way organizations are being co-opted as providers of choice for any wrap-around services needed in this new and privatized “ecosystem” of schooling.

The Washington Post reports that propaganda experts have concluded that Russian operatives were behind many of the “fake news” stories that depicted Hillary Clinton in a negative light. The Russian government was eager to be helpful to Donald Trump.

 

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

 

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

 

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

 

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign…

 

The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.

 

PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

 

Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were “useful idiots” — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.

 

The Russian campaign during this election season, researchers from both groups say, worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with “buzzy” content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.

 

Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports, the researchers say. On other occasions, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online, causing news algorithms to identify them as “trending” topics that sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.

 

The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience. Some of the first and most alarming tweets after Clinton fell ill at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York, for example, came from Russian botnets and trolls, researchers found. (She was treated for pneumonia and returned to the campaign trail a few days later.)
This followed a spate of other misleading stories in August about Clinton’s supposedly troubled health. The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.

 

This propaganda machinery also helped push the phony story that an anti-Trump protester was paid thousands of dollars to participate in demonstrations, an allegation initially made by a self-described satirist and later repeated publicly by the Trump campaign. Researchers from both groups traced a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia — to Russian propaganda efforts.

 

The final weeks of the campaign featured a heavy dose of stories about supposed election irregularities, allegations of vote-rigging and the potential for Election Day violence should Clinton win, researchers said.

 

“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign. . . . It worked.”

 

So Vladimir Putin selected the President of the United States. Scary stuff.

 

One correction for the story above (from me): The term “useful idiots” was coined during the early Soviet era to describe starry-eyed liberals who naively supported the Soviet Union because they believed Soviet propaganda, and ignored or didn’t know what they did to crush dissent and murder or exile their opposition.

 

This story is extraordinary because in the past century, Republicans were hardline anti-Communists. Now, the Russians favor the Republicans and the president-elect looks on former KGB agent Putin as a good friend. Joe McCarthy must be rolling in his grave.

Dawn Neely Randall, a teacher in Ohio, sent me this true story.

*************

After dismissal during my hallway monitoring, I saw a 4th-grade boy who hadn’t gone out the exit door, but had instead stayed back without anyone around and had his hand in a big bowl of plastic silverware packets.

I couldn’t imagine what he had been up to, but figured it would involve slingshotting something across the room somewhere/sometime.

My voice startled him: “What are you doing?”

4th-grader: Nothing.

Me: Well, you’re doing something. You were supposed to be outside by now. What’s going on?

4th-grader: Just grabbing about three or four spoons.

Me: Did you get permission to come back and get them?

4th-grader: (Deer in headlights) No.

Me: May I ask why you’re taking them, then?

4th-grader: (Eyes puddling up with tears)

Me: It’s okay. I’m just wondering why you would come all the way back here by yourself to get spoons.

4th-grader: Because we don’t have any at home.

And legislators are going to expect a child who doesn’t have a spoon to score as well on mandated tests as a child who has his own laptop.