Archives for category: Failure

Jan Resseger looks behind the daily news and ties together fast-moving events in the red states. The sudden proliferation of voucher programs is no accident, she writes, nor is it a response to public demands. It is a carefully crafted, well-funded strategy to defund public schools, to smash teachers’ unions, and to implement a rightwing ideology that does not benefit students or improve education.

She writes:

This week in Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds signed an Education Savings Account, universal voucher program into law. And last week in Utah, the same kind of voucher plan took the first step toward adoption when it was passed by Utah’s House of Representatives.

The Des Moines Register reports on Iowa’s new vouchers. The program will “phase in over three years and eventually allow all Iowa families to use up to $7,598 a year in an ‘education savings account’ for private school tuition. If any money is left over after tuition and fees, families could use the funds for specific educational expenses, including textbooks, tutoring, standardized testing fees, online education programs and vocational and life skills training. The $7,598 per private school student is the same amount of funding the state provides to public school students and is expected to rise in future years… The bill allows the Iowa Department of Education to contract with a third party to administer the education savings accounts, but the state has not yet issued a request for proposals from companies seeking to manage the funds.”

It would appear that the Iowa Legislature tried to calm the fears of the public school community by promising that, “Public school districts would also receive an additional $1,205 in funding for students receiving education savings accounts who live within the public school district’s boundaries.” But despite that promise, a drop in overall public school funding is expected: “By the fourth year, the (Legislative Services) agency estimates public school districts will receive $49.8 million in new per-student funds for private school students within the public district’s boundaries. The agency also expects a net decrease of $46 million in public school funding as a result of more students attending private schools.”

It is hard to keep track of all the states that now have school vouchers or are considering voucher programs and to know which states have the latest flavor of vouchers—Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Most ESA programs, unlike Iowa’s, don’t even require that families use the vouchers at private schools. In most places, ESA’s can be used for educational programs, for educational tools and materials like books and computers, and for homeschooling. In some states families can use the money for so-called micro-schools in which families come together and hire a teacher to work with children in someone’s home.

Why is there so much so much legislative activity about expanding vouchers? Several factors are important to consider, and many of them were the subject of economist Gordon Lafer’s analysis in The One-Percent Solution. Lafer’s book focused on the public policy that flowed from state legislatures after the Tea Party wave election in 2010, but his observations are still on point as we begin 2023. Lafer enumerates all the reasons why far-right ideologues and big corporate moneyed interests seek to undermine and privatize public schools: “At first glance, it may seem odd that corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation for Independent Business, or Americans for Prosperity would care to get involved in an issue as far removed from commercial activity as school reform. In fact, they have each made this a top legislative priority… The campaign to transform public education brings together multiple strands of the agenda… The teachers’ union is the single biggest labor organization in most states—thus for both anti-union ideologues and Republican strategists, undermining teachers’ unions is of central importance. Education is one of the largest components of public budgets, and in many communities the school system is the single largest employer—thus the goals of cutting budgets, enabling new tax cuts for the wealthy, shrinking the government, and lowering wage and benefit standards in the public sector all coalesce around the school system… There are always firms that aim to profit from the privatization of public services, but the sums involved in K-12 education are an order of magnitude larger than any other service, and have generated an intensity of corporate legislative engagement unmatched by any other branch of government. Finally, the notion that one’s kids have a right to a decent education represents the most substantive right to which Americans believe we are entitled, simply by dint of residence… (F)or those interested in lowering citizens’ expectations of what we have a right to demand from government, there is no more central fight than around public education. In all these ways, then, school reform presents something like the perfect crystallization of the corporate legislative agenda.” (The One-Percent Solution, pp 128-129)

It is hard for public school advocates to mobilize nationally against the expansion of vouchers. Voucher battles are fought state by state because public education and the funding of public education is a state-by-state issue. Advocates are likely to focus on public education legislation in their own state and not to pay attention to what’s happening elsewhere. And citizens are not likely to pay much attention to what is happening in the legislature. Once again, Gordon Lafer identifies the problem: “(M)any of the factors that strengthen corporate political influence are magnified in the states. First, far fewer people pay attention to state government, implying wider latitude for well-funded organized interests… Apart from labor unions and a handful of progressive activists, the corporate agenda… encounters little public resistance at the state level because hardly anyone knows about or understands the issues… So, too, corporate lobbies’ financial advantage is magnified in the states. Citizens United marked a sea change in state as well as federal politics.” (The One Percent Solution, pp. 34-36)

Christopher Lubienski, a professor of education policy at Indiana University who has studied the impact of school privatization and the politics around privatizing public schools, recently published a reminder that school privatization is driven by the power of the corporate agenda. Expansion of vouchers has never been an expression of voters’ overall preference: “School choice is continuing to expand across the United states…. But these successes often come in spite of overwhelming voter opposition to school choice programs… According to the pro-voucher organization, the U.S. has over 75 publicly funded private school choice programs, including vouchers, and education savings accounts, as well as another 45 charter school programs. But all of these programs have been implemented by legislators, not the electorate… In fact, voters have been allowed to weigh in on school choice programs only nine times since 2000, and they almost always reject them, often by overwhelming margins. Only twice did school choice programs pass through the ballot box. In 2012, Georgia voters empowered their legislature with the ability to create charter schools. That same year… Washington voters passed a charter school referendum.”

Who are the far-right advocacy groups and think tanks powerfully promoting Education Savings Account vouchers? They include the usual suspects: the American Legislative Exchange Council and a state- by-state group of think tanks that are ALEC’s partners in the State Policy Network, EdChoice, the Goldwater Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Institute for Justice, which provides two model laws—“Education Savings Account Act: Publicly Funded,” and “Education Savings Account Act: Tax-Credit Funded“—so that state legislators can merely adapt a canned statute to their own state’s particular needs. SourceWatch reports corporate funding streams for these and other far-right think tanks that promote vouchers—funding from the Koch Brothers, the Bradley Foundation, and investments from the Donor’s Capital Fund, a powerful investor of corporate dark money since the 2010, U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United.

In the past two years, the campaign to undermine public schooling and promote the expansion of vouchers has developed a new strategy to convince parents that their children in public schools are being brainwashed by critical race theory and surrounded by discussion of gender and sexual orientation. In a new report published by the Network for Public Education this week, political scientist Maurice Cunningham traces the money behind what may appear to be a spontaneous emergence of parents’ groups—Parents Defending Education, Moms for Liberty, and No Left Turn in Education. Cunningham points to clues that these are not local grassroots groups of parents; their websites, for example, betray a big investment in communications. And while, for example, the founders of Parents Defending Education (PDE) claim to be a bunch of working moms, Cunningham explains: “PDE took in $3,178,272 in contributions and grants in 2021… Donor’s Trust, a dark money donor associated with the Koch network donated $20,250 to PDE in 2021. The Achelis & Bodman Foundation which funds voucher and charter school programs and targets public education, contributed $25,000. Searle Freedom Trust, another right-wing donor with ties to Donors Trust, contributed $250,000 in 2021. We don’t know all the names on the checks, but we do know that those checks had to be pretty large, that the attorneys and consultants sit at the hierarchy of right-wing operatives, and that the board members and staffers are connected to the highest levels of conservative donors including the Koch network.”

The same people who are promoting vouchers are working to scare parents with the huge, culture war campaign driven by identifiable funders and a mass of dark money supporting an education marketplace and undermining parents’ confidence in public schools. But as Christopher Lubienski, the scholar who has studied the effect of the privatization of public education reminds us, expanding vouchers has not improved the outcomes for our children: “(R)ecent research is repeatedly showing that… vouchers are not a good investment. Although publicly funded vouchers may be propping up some private schools that might otherwise go out of business, they are not really helping the people they purport to help. In fact… study after study shows that students using vouchers are falling behind where they would have been if they had remained in public schools. Thus, policymakers might think twice about defying voters on initiatives that actually cause harm to children.”

The political theorist Benjamin Barber warns that school choice does not really provide freedom for families: “We are seduced into thinking that the right to choose from a menu is the essence of liberty, but with respect to relevant outcomes the real power, and hence the real freedom, is in the determination of what is on the menu. The powerful are those who set the agenda, not those who choose from the alternatives it offers. We select menu items privately, but we can assure meaningful menu choices only through public decision-making.” (Consumed, p. 139)

At ex-Governor Cuomo’s urging several years ago, the Legislature passed a law requiring the New York City Department of Education to provide free space to charter schools, and if no space was available, to pay their rent in private space. This requirement gave rise to the dreadful practice of “co-location,” in which a new charter school was crammed into an existing public school. The public school typically lost space for class size reduction, performances, special education services, and everything else that was not designated as a classroom. Meanwhile, the charter school got fresh new furniture and the best of everything. There was no collaboration between the schools under the same roof.

A few days ago, charter advocates were stunned when the Department of Education rejected three requests for co-location by the rich and politically powerful Success Academy charter chain. The Wall Street Journal immediately published an editorial blasting Mayor Eric Adams (whose campaign was bankrolled by charter billionaires) and who put charter advocates on the city’s school board. The decision was made by Chancellor David Banks and never reached the pro-charter city board.

For Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy, this was a surprising rejection. She is accustomed to cowing politicians (she has her own PAC) and getting her way.

Charter fans and the pro-charter media blame “the unions,” their usual enemy, but this isn’t correct. Parents and educators in these communities contacted their legislators and won their support. And the legislators and local officials killed the deal.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman stepped up to oppose the co-location in a school that he knew. He wrote a thread on Twitter (@JamaalBowmanNY) that began:

The @NYCSchools proposal to open and co-locate a new @SuccessCharters school in Building X113 is absolutely outrageous. The Panel for Education Policy has to vote against this plan, and I urge my colleagues and neighbors to get loud in opposition. Here’s why: 🧵

As a former educator & principal of a middle school in the same district as X113, I’ve seen up close how the educators there have done a tremendous job serving their students & families. Our community is incredibly grateful for the love they pour into their work every day.

I’ve also seen how charter schools can harm students, educators, and traditional public schools in our communities. We can’t let that happen at X113.

Big charter networks have a history of draining students & funds from traditional public schools, and violating the rights of their students. Last year, Success Academy had to pay out $2.4 million in a federal court settlement for pushing out students with disabilities.

The plan will decrease available space for the existing schools at Building X113 – both district-run public schools – and prevent them from lowering class sizes adequately. Class size matters. We’ve got to demand schools get the resources & physical space to meet student needs.

As many charter school expansions do, this destructive plan will also disproportionately harm students with disabilities. The plan does not include sufficient analysis of what intervention rooms are necessary to provide students with IEPs with the services they need.

Another surprise: the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post got the story right. The story recognized that the pressure to block the co-locations came not from the union but from parents. The Post has been a vocal supporter of charters, and Murdoch himself has contributed to them.

Elected officials helped kill a plan to open three new charter schools in existing public schools or other city-owned buildings — after hearing fierce opposition from local parents.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson — who last week spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new DREAM Charter High School in Mott Haven — suggested Tuesday that her hand was forced against the planned Success Academy in Williamsbridge.

“Parents of School District 11 spoke to us loud & clear. The deep rooted history of disinvestment at the Richard R. Green Campus must be recognized. So much progress has been made,” she tweeted.

A City Hall insider also cited “a lot of pushback” from community members opposed to the new charter schools.

“They vote and they hold folks accountable,” the source said.

Schools Chancellor David Banks’ unexpected withdrawal of the proposal came even though Mayor Eric Adams packed the board in charge of the decision with pro-charter allies.

Writing in Forbes, Peter Greene explains why state takeovers fail. Greene retired as a teacher after 39 years in the classroom. They fail and fail, but state legislatures won’t stop imposing them on struggling school districts that need help. The usual traits of a “failing” school or school district: high poverty, high numbers of limited-English proficient students, high numbers of students with disabilities. Funny, one seldom, if ever, finds a school or district in an affluent white neighborhood that needs to be run by the state.

Greene writes:

Since policy writers and thinky tanks first started pushing the idea of identifying “failing” schools, the search has been on for a way to fix those schools. A popular choice has been the school takeover model, where the state strips the local school district of authority and then waves some sort of magic wand to make things better.

The Obama administration used School Improvement Grants as a tool, offering federal funds to schools that were “failing,” but those funds came with very strict rules about how they could be used. This is a good example of the Takeover By Puppetry model, in which the local officials are left in place, but they are only allowed to make certain government-approved moves or must only implement consultant-approved steps. The SIG program spent in the neighborhood of $7 billion. USED’s own report found that it “had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.”

That report, to which Greene refers, was released in the last day of the Obama administration’s eight-year term. It gave an F to a major part of the failed “Race to the Top.” $7 billion spent, nothing to show for it.

The more direct takeover approach has also been tried. Tennessee formed the Achievement School District; in this model, the state takes control of “failing schools” and lumps them into a state-run district. The initial promise was that schools from the bottom 5% would be catapulted into the top 25%. After a few years, they were not even close to achieving their, so they rewrote the goal. The head of the ASD moved on to another job. Versions of the ASD have been tried in several states and in cities (e.g. Philadelphia) and in almost all cases, they’ve been rolled back or shut down because they cost a lot of money and achieve few worthwhile results.

Greene lists five reasons that state takeovers fail. Open the link to read them all.

1) The Wrong Measure of Failure

How are we going to decide which schools are in need of taking over? The most common answer is by standardized test scores–which is a lousy answer. This bad definition is important because it biases the process in favor of bad solutions. A school may have a hundred problems, but if all we’re focused on is the test scores, too may real problems will be unaddressed. Worse, many important elements of children’s education will be swept aside to make room for more test prep–the exact opposite of what students in struggling schools need. This is like calling AAA because you’re stranded beside the road with three flat tires, a busted radiator, an empty gas tank, and failing brakes–and AAA sends someone to wax the car.

2) The Wrong Diagnosis

Takeover programs focus on school governance. The thesis of a takeover is that the school board, the administration, and probably the teachers, are the root of all the problems at the school. If we just take them out of the way and replace them with shinier people, then everything will just fall into place. Somehow, all these people who work in the district either don’t know how to raise test scores, or they just don’t care. Resources for the district, issues in the community, systemic lack of support for the school, poverty–none of that is on the table. The belief is that when the old bureaucracy (including unions) is swept away and replaced, preferably by a visionary CEO type who will whip the troops into shape, then everything will run so much better. Often the unspoken premise is, “If we could just run these schools like charter schools…” Here’s what Chris Barbic, who was supposed to be the visionary CEO of the Tennessee ASD, said as he was leaving the job:

Let’s just be real: achieving results in neighborhood schools is harder than in a choice environment. I have seen this firsthand at YES Prep and now as the superintendent of the ASD. As a charter school founder, I did my fair share of chest pounding over great results. I’ve learned that getting these same results in a zoned neighborhood school environment is much harder.

I have always been partial to Greene’s third reason: the mystical belief that someone who works for the State Departmenf of Education knows how to fix everything. This is absurd. You would think even the Legislature knows that Superman or Woman is not in a desk job at DOE.

Periodically, the Network for Public Education sponsors a conversation with an important voice in education policy. On January 11, I interviewed Josh Cowen, Professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University.

Josh has been an insider in voucher research for almost 20 years. It’s a small club, and he knows the research and the researchers. Josh came to the conclusion that vouchers have been a disaster for the students who leave public schools, supposedly to be “saved” by them.

But he points out that 70-80% of the students who use vouchers were never enrolled in public schools. Many return to the public schools. The political pressure for vouchers comes from politicians and parents seeking a subsidy for students already attending private and religious schools. The claim that they will help “save kids from failing schools” is a hoax to cover up the real purpose of vouchers: to transfer funds to private and religious schools.

The discussion was oversubscribed. Many people who wanted to watch the zoom were turned away. You can watch the recording here. The link is at the bottom of the page.

The Network for Public Education has released a new report on for-profit charters, which grew during the pandemic years. The report is titled Chartered for Profit II: Pandemic Profiteering. It builds on the findings of a report published by NPE in 2021. For-profit charters not only divert money away from the public schools, which enroll the vast majority of students in every state, but they skim off profits that should have been spent on students and teachers. The report details the nefarious deals that enrich the charter operators. Every citizen who cares about our future should be aware of the facts detailed in this report. We believe readers will be genuinely shocked by the findings in this report, which shows how scammers and grifters have gotten a stronghold in the charter industry, to the detriment of students, teachers, and taxpayers.

Here is the executive summary:

In March of 2021, the Network for Public Education published Chartered for Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain. In this follow-up report on the charter for-profit sector, we chronicle its expansion during the years of the Covid-19 pandemic by reporting growth in the number of schools, the number of for-profit corporations that run them, and student enrollment.

Acccording to our research, the for-profit sector dominated the charter school sector during the pandemic years. As the pandemic wore on – the percentage of charter schools run by for-profits jumped from 15 percent to 16.6 percent of the charter sector. This is a far greater percentage than is reported by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which inexplicably does not report schools run by for-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs) that control only one or two schools. These micro-EMOS comprise nearly half of all for-profit EMOs.

However, the number of schools run for profit underestimates the true growth of for-profit schooling during Covid 19. The percentage of students attending a charter school designed to produce a profit for its management company soared. According to the Common Core of Data of the National Center for Education Statistics, the total student enrollment in charter schools during the second year of the pandemic (the 2021-2022 school year) was 3,676,635. Student enrollment in for-profit-run charter schools jumped to 731,406 that year.

That means that 20 percent of all charter school students, 1 in 5, were enrolled in a charter school managed by a for-profit management corporation by the pandemic’s end.

More disturbing is that 27 percent of the students attending for-profit-run schools were enrolled in low-quality virtual charter schools that teach students either exclusively or primarily online. That was in 2021. During the prior year (2020) the number was even higher.

Those who defend for-profit charter schooling claim it is no different from public schools using vendors for transportation services or to purchase textbooks. However, as this report explains, for-profit chartering is very different from vendors who supply discreet products and services. We detail the various ways in which the owners of EMOs extract profit via a lack of oversight and regulation that fails to protect taxpayers from sweetheart deals, sweeps contracts, and related party transactions designed to enrich EMO owners, their friends and their family members. And we explain how the acquisition of real estate and exploitative lease and purchase agreements drive the expansion of for-profit-run charter schools and, in some cases, put the school at financial risk.

Chartered For-Profit II: Pandemic Profiteering makes a case for substantive state and national reform so that the best interests of students and taxpayers trump financial gain. Like our first report, it provides insight into the most controversial sector of the charter school world—charters operated for financial gain.

Josh Cowen is a researcher at Michigan State University who has studied vouchers for many years.

Recently he began writing about the failure of vouchers. They don’t “save children,” in fact, children fall behind when they use vouchers.

Join us on January 11 for a video conference with NPE President Diane Ravitch. Diane’s guest will be Josh Cowen, Professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University. Diane and Josh’s conversation will be titled School Privatization and the Education Culture Wars: The Year in Review and the Year Ahead.

Dr. Cowen has been studying school choice, teacher labor markets, and other policies for nearly two decades, and works directly with policymakers, stakeholders and media professionals to understand the consequences of various education reforms.

“Josh has drawn connections to the school culture wars, privatization, voting rights denial, and other hot-button issues,” Diane said.


Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a history at New York University who specializes in fascism and authoritarian leaders.

She wrote:

Authoritarianism is about having the power to get away with crime, and waging a genocidal war against another country without othercountries intervening in ways that force a cessation of conflict counts as a big win in the autocrat world. In fact, from the minute they receive intelligence about a planned invasion, autocrats watch carefully to see what happens to transgressors of the international order–and adjust their own plans for aggression accordingly.

Allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of annihilation against Ukraine to continue by not giving Ukraine the arms it needs to definitively repel the Russian invaders increases the risk that other autocrats will ramp up their own imperialist aspirations. Autocrats interpret any ambivalence about shutting down their peers’ territorial expansions as license to proceed with similar aggressive acts.

History is clear about what happens in such cases. Most people are familiar with the folly of the September 1938 British and French-brokered Munich agreement, which allowed the Third Reich to annex the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia six months after it annexed Austria.

Far fewer know about the earlier appeasement that set the stage for Hitler’s actions: Benito Mussolini’s war on League of Nations member Ethiopia, which started in October 1935. This was the biggest military operation since World War I, with Italy’s formidable air force dropping hundreds of tons of illegal chemical weapons on Ethiopians.

The weak sanctions levied on Italy by the League of Nations did not deter Il Duce from continuing to commit war crimes. He declared victory in May 1936, and occupied Ethiopia until the Allies drove the Italians out in 1941. “Was it ever likely to be effective?” Winston Churchill wrote critically of the sanctions in June. “Was it real or sham?” That same month, exiled Emperor Haile Selassie I denounced the war crimes to the League of Nations, but no action was taken against the Fascists.

By then, Mussolini’s admirer Hitler had all the information he needed about the consequences a despot might face for military aggression. In March 1936, while Mussolini’s war entered its sixth month, the Führer remilitarized the Rhineland, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

Twenty-first century autocrats watch their kindred spirits’ fates with equal interest. Since the start of Putin’s war on democratic Ukraine, the world has become far less safe. A few weeks before the Russians invaded, Putin and Chinese head of state Xi Jinping issued a joint statementabout the new “multipolar” era of international relations. The premise of this new era –unrestrained imperialism for Russia and China– has become all too clear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping together in Beijing, Feb. 4, 2022. Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP/via Getty Images

Xi Jinping has since become far more aggressive towards the West. His government has increased its rhetoric about its imperialistic claims on Taiwan. He has consolidated his personal power with a third term, while further puffing up his personality cult in ways not seen among Chinese premiers since Mao Zedong.

Turkey has also ramped up its bellicose and expansionist rhetoric regarding Syria and Greece. It has also persecuted Armenians, through its ally Azerbaijan, in the disputedterritory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Autocrats are transactional beings. You have a deal with an autocrat until you don’t, meaning no one should think that Putin will negotiate with or about Ukraine in good faith. That also holds for their relationships with each other (as Joseph Stalin discovered when Hitler invaded Russia despite signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact).

Even as dictators cheer on lawlessness that goes unpunished by the democratic order, they also circle each other like vultures, looking for signs of weakness that they can exploit. And everyone knows that Putin is more vulnerable as a player in the sphere of influence game with his resources and attention focused on Ukraine. Turkey, along with China, will seek to fill any power vacuum Putin’s weakness opens up in Eurasia and beyond.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s relationship with Putin has always been volatile. In the course of a few months in 2016 they went from almost going to war to being “best friends,” dining on plates that immortalized their friendship. I was skeptical of Erdogan’s early claims that he would be a “peacemaker” and mediator between Russia and Ukraine. Turkey intends to exploit this international crisis to increase its own power and prestige.

Now Serbian President Aleksandr Vucic has become the latest authoritarian to be galvanized by the possibilities created by the prolongation of Putin’s war. He has put his military on high alert, citing rising tensions with the Republic of Kosovo. Serbia does not recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

All of these conflicts have long histories that are independent of the new climate created by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet democratic powers’ acceptance of a continuance of Putin’s war will only further destabilize the international order. It also increases the chances that democratic strongholds such as Taiwan will be targeted for “reunification” –the word of choice for autocrats since the days of Hitler to market their imperialism to their peoples and the world.

That’s why Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was right to state in his speech to U.S. Congress that supporting Ukraine is an investment in global security. He knows that when an autocrat gets away with an imperialist and genocidal war it only increases his megalomania and hubris, making it far more difficult to rein him in later on. It also increases the likelihood that other autocrats will commit their own aggressions toward targeted territories.

And it’s why the warning that economist Anders Aslund issued to his fellow Europeans should be heeded, not least because it builds on historical precedent. As an expert on Putin’s kleptocracy, Aslund knows the value and prestige impunity has among autocrats. “If you don’t deliver enough of arms & funds to Ukraine now,” he tweeted, “you might have to face Russian troops yourselves later on.”

Timothy Snyder, a pre-eminent scholar of fascism, summarized the report of the January 6 Committee:

What did Trump know, and when did he lie about it? How did his Big Lie lead to specific actions to overturn and election and bring down the American system? What did the coup attempt of 2020-2021 look like from within the Trump administration itself?

Thanks to the excellent “Final Report of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol,” we now know the answers to these and many other questions. I provide here just the briefest of summaries of the report’s recounting of the events of November 2020-January 2021.

It is very easy, when a long report is released, to underplay its basic findings. There is a temptation to act as if something is not shocking if we have heard part of it before, as though this were a mark of political sophistication. The American tendency to normalize threats to democracy is also present in retrospect.

What is described in palpable and convincing detail in the Final Report is indeed profoundly shocking: a planned and coordinated attempt by the president of the United States and his allies to carry out regime change in the United States of America on the basis of a Big Lie.

Here is my very brief summary of the factual part of the report, in fifteen quick points. I am deliberately understating here; the evidence, in the Final Reportitself, permits much broader conclusions.

1. Trump knew that he was likely to lose the 3 November 2020 election, and planned in advance to declare victory (to tell a Big Lie) if he lost.

2. On 3 November 2020, Trump knew that he was very unlikely to have won the election of that day, and declared victory anyway. In the days following, aware that he had lost, he continued to declare victory.

3. Over and over again in November, December, and January, Trump publicized specific claims of electoral fraud shortly after being informed that they were false.

4. Aware that his advisors, campaign officials, and cabinet knew his claims of fraud to be false, Trump promoted people, such as Rudolph Giuliani, who would lie for him in public.

5. In the full knowledge that he had lost the election and that his claims of fraud were false, Trump made several deliberate efforts to overturn the election results and thus American democracy.

6. In states he had lost, Trump personally pressured state officials to fraudulently and illegally alter the electoral outcome.

7. Informed that the Department of Justice had investigated and found no evidence of fraud, Trump nevertheless sought to use its powers, via Jeffrey Clark, to intimidate state officials to change electoral outcomes.

8. Knowing that he had lost the electoral college vote, Trump oversaw an effort to create fake slates of electors. These entirely bogus documents were then sent to the vice-president (who refused them).

9. Though aware that it was the vice-president’s role only to count the electoral votes, Trump pressured the vice-president not to do so, on the theory that the vice-president could, in effect, choose the president.

10. Even the person who devised the plan regarding the vice-president, John Eastman, knew it to be illegal.

11. Knowing by January 6th that all that remained was the formality of certifying Biden’s victory, Trump encouraged supporters he knew to be armed and angry to halt this procedure and violently overthrow our form of government.

12. Trump’s call to violence was successful because enough of his supporters believed his lies and understood what he wanted them to do: prevent a peaceful transition of power.

13. At a time when the Capitol was under attack, the vice-president was in flight, and the members of the vice-president’s security detail feared for their lives, Trump urged his supporters on to further violence.

14. After the failed coup attempt, a number of Republican legislators sought presidential pardons, thereby acknowledging their fears that they had acted illegally.

15. Even had Trump believed that he had won the 2020 election, which he did not, his coup attempt would remain a coup attempt, and his crimes would remain crimes.

These are some of the simple facts, as we now know them, two years on.

Two years ago, I wrote a long essay about the January 6 insurrection, entitled “American Abyss.” It could be published right after Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, because I had written it beforehand, as a study of the Big Lie and its consequences. Thanks to the work of some excellent reporters and editors, I could add details from the horrors of the day before the final text went to press in The New York Times Magazine.

Trump’s coup attempt itself was predictable, and I had been predicting it throughout the autumn of 2020. Indeed, since the publication of On Tyrannyin early 2017, I had been trying to make the case that something like this could happen in the United States, and in late 2020 I spent a lot of time saying that it would happen. I like to think that this helped to prepare some of us for the coup attempt when it did come.

Trump is obviously personally responsible. But the techniques he used are not unique to him, and could be perfected by others. The weaknesses he exploited are structural. Now that a coup attempt has taken place, and we know a great deal about how it happened, it is important for us to ask some of the deeper questions about why it could have happened, not least to make sure that nothing similar takes place in the future. In posts to come, I will be interpreting the report, returning to some of the themes I established these last few years, such as the Big Lie.

Josh Cowen, a professor at Michigan State University, has been a voucher researcher for two decades. The more he studied vouchers, the more he realized that they harm children. In this post, he looks at the students who use a voucher, but change their minds and return to public schools.

Cowen writes:

Author: Josh Cowen

We don’t talk enough about children who give up their school vouchers.

One of the many problems with the “Education Freedom” marketing campaign for school privatization—and it’s a problem with the market approach to education more generally—is that schools are anything but products to sample.

Betsy DeVos likes to say that schools shouldn’t be “one size fits all.” She’s conceding more than she knows with that analogy because unlike clothing, or a car you can test drive down at the Ford dealer, there’s a real cost to trying a school on and having it fail to fit.

Study after study has shown how harmful school mobility is for kids, both those who actually move between schools and those whose classrooms are full of peers coming in and out.

As Russell Rumberger, an expert in this area has succinctly summarized:

The research literature suggests that changing schools can harm normal child and adolescent development by disrupting relationships with peers and teachers as well as altering a student’s educational program.”

And in the general population of public school children, we know who’s likely to be more mobile. They’re students of color, students from families with lower levels of income, students with special academic needs, and students with housing insecurity.

No one’s saying student mobility isn’t an issue for public schools, but public educators don’t see student churn as a feature instead of a bug. For example, a key element of the federal McKinney-Vento Act designed to help homeless kids is a set of best practices to help kids stay in one single public school even if they can’t remain in one stable home environment.

States with large-scale voucher programs are beginning to report out statistics for how many users come from public or private schools each year. And by the way these statistics put a lie to the claim from activists that vouchers are needed for families to choose, because we know from states like Arizona, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin that more than 75% of voucher kids were already in private school without taxpayer support.

But now we need more statistics reported on the mirror image: how many new students give up their vouchers each year. Recent numbers from Florida indicate roughly 60% of new voucher users give the voucher up after just a couple of years.

Think about that number as the voucher equivalent of a public school mobility or drop-out rate—both statistics used by critics to help indict public educational quality.

When I was working on an official evaluation of Milwaukee’s voucher program more than a decade ago, I led two reports on exactly these sorts of children. We found that around 15% of kids gave up their vouchers every year. Meaning that, as in Florida, more than half the kids we were studying left private schools over a short period of time!

Who were those kids? They were more likely to be Black, lower scoring on the state exam, and more likely to be enrolled in schools that had lots of other voucher-using kids (i.e. newer schools that popped up to take tax dollars once the program was created, rather than more established private institutions).

What happened when they left? Well actually that was a bit of good news. In still the only study to track kids over time after giving up their vouchers, we found that they enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools and then improved substantially after arriving. The shame of it was they had to lose some academic growth in the voucher program before their parents realized it was a poor fit and fixed the problem.

Sometimes though, kids may even want to stay in their private school but the school itself shuts down and they have to move anyway. Voucher activists pushing an entrepreneurial approach to education don’t talk enough about the consequences of failure. For example, in Milwaukee, 41% of private schools that ever took tax dollars eventually shut down.

Imagine what critics of public schools would be saying right now if public schools had a 41 percent failure rate!

We’re not talking about a local Burger King that shuts down and a family has to drive a few extra blocks to get that Whopper they crave from the next closest franchise. Or has to go to Taco Bell or Arby’s instead. We’re talking about potentially major academic and social setbacks for kids.

Finally, there’s one more reason voucher leavers matter—and it’s a bit technical so bear with me. Social scientists prioritize randomized control designs to estimate impacts of policy interventions. And when randomization isn’t possible, we try to find approaches that come close.

The problem that student exits from voucher programs causes for researchers is they create additional hurdles to estimating accurate impacts of those programs. All of the randomized studies of voucher programs have showed similar exit rates to our study in Wisconsin.

And in at least one study of Louisiana vouchers, the authors had to acknowledge that those exits—precisely the students who as in Wisconsin were not doing well in the program—probably caused any positive estimates of the program to be overstated. There are techniques researchers can use to adjust for that error, but no one agrees on exactly the right approach, so it continues to be a problem.

So to summarize: we need to know a lot more about kids who give up their vouchers. Most importantly because the evidence we do have tells us that school mobility is on balance a setback for kids, and we know kids exiting voucher programs are already more likely to be at some form of risk than those who stay.

But we also need to know because as a practical matter, voucher exits can cause analytical hurdles to studies estimating voucher impacts on learning or on educational attainment.

And what that means is that in the future, if voucher supporters trumpet a new study—credible or otherwise—that purports to show positive impacts over time, the very first question we need to ask is: how many kids left the program because it wasn’t working for them?

Based on the data already available, the answer will be another indictment for voucher programs.

Earlier this year, Florida Governor announced the creation of an “election police” unit, to arrest former felons who voted illegally. The unit arrested 20 people. A Miami judge just dismissed the case against one of them, the third consecutive loss on this count.

A Miami judge has tossed out another voter fraud case brought by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ elections police, the third case to fall apart since the governor announced the arrests.

On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Laura Anne Stuzin reached the same conclusion as another Miami judge did in a different voter’s case, saying that statewide prosecutors didn’t have the ability to bring charges against Ronald Lee Miller.

Because he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1990, Miller, 58, was ineligible to vote. But after his voter registration application was cleared by the Florida Department of State, Miami-Dade’s supervisor of elections issued him a voter ID card, and he voted in November 2020.

Florida’s voting laws are ‘broken,’ felon advocates say following fraud arrests DeSantis held a high-profile news conference in August to tout the arrests of Miller and 19 others who were all ineligible to vote because of past murder or felony sex offense convictions but who had all voted after applying for and receiving voter ID cards. DeSantis oversees the Department of State.

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