Archives for category: Georgia

This insightful article in Esquire is mostly about Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, the guy who was in charge of the election (as Secretary of State) in which he beat Stacey Abrams and refused to step aside to let a nonpartisan person do it. His platform was pro-gun and anti-immigrant.

Kemp belatedly figured out that people who exhibit no symptoms of COVID-19 can transmit the disease.

Jack Holmes writes:

One issue for Republican politics at the moment is that the only criterion that matters for anyone seeking power—absolute fealty to Donald Trump—rarely seems to overlap with competence. “It’s by nature almost impossible for Trump to build an administration of quality,” historian Douglas Brinkley told me what seems a lifetime ago. “It’s not about good governance or ethics or even dead-rock patriotism. It’s about full-bore allegiance to him, to Trump.” This is true of the president’s Cabinet and someone like Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, who predicted in January that the novel coronavirus outbreak would be good for American jobs. 10 million people have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks.

But it’s also true of the new class of Republican governors, who have pledged allegiance to The Leader, but who are also often feckless morons. Exhibit A is one Brian Kemp, governor of Georgia. Mr. Kemp ran for the top job in 2018 while he was secretary of state, meaning he had authority to administer state elections, and he refused to recuse himself from overseeing the gubernatorial election in which he was running. This is known as a conflict of interest….

In his very finite wisdom, Kemp did not put in place statewide mitigation measures like social distancing until Wednesday, when he announced his reversal with a stunning admission.

He didn’t know that asymptomatic people could transmit the virus. He was among the last to know.

Kemp in particular is an emblem of the militant ignorance which is now required to make it in Republican political life. If you actually know things, you will frequently find yourself in disagreement with the president, so it’s best to dunk your head in the sand and, when you occasionally come up for air, bash immigrants. The president was briefed on the full catastrophic possibilities of the COVID-19 pandemic in January—including that China was fudging its numbers on how bad the situation was there—and chose to downplay the problem for the better part of two months in public. A little over a month ago, he said the number of U.S. cases would go from 15 to zero in a miraculous turn of events. Now there are 214,000 cases in the United States—including 7,700 in Florida and nearly 5,000 in Georgia—and the president has suggested his administration will have done a “good job” if 200,000 Americans die. It’s almost like governing is a hard job that requires people with intelligence and skill to do it.

Ed Johnson, a Georgian who puts a high value on intelligence and thoughtful decision making, writes about the conflict among some of his fellow Georgians. Should they listen to God or science? Johnson doesn’t think that one has to choose. God is not in opposition to science. God and science walk together. God wants people to learn about COVID-19 and take care of themselves.

Will they listen?

The Virtual Charter schools of for-profit K12 Inc. have been noted for high attrition, low test scores, low graduation rates, and high profits.

The corporation currently operates a virtual charter school in Georgia which is the largest “school” in the state but of course low-performing. Now it proposes to open another K-12 online charter that will eventually enroll 8,000 students. It will be career-focused, so even children in kindergarten can begin planning their careers.

Fortunately, even the charter advocates in Georgia are having second thoughts.

The staff of the State Charter Schools Commission is recommending the denial of Destinations Career Academy, which, if ultimately approved, would become the second largest public school in the state.

The petition is backed by K12 Inc., a publicly traded corporation with scores of online schools around the country. One of them, Georgia Cyber Academy, is this state’s largest public school. It is at risk of closure due to its history of poor academic performance. The company and the school’s board are embroiled in a contractual dispute following recent board decisions aimed at turning the school around. The board has reduced K12’s role in — and revenue from — the school.

Really, how much dysfunction and profiteering should one state tolerate?

 

Peter Smagorinsky is a Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia. He often contributes to Maureen Downey’s blog at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In this post, he lets his students explain why they were inspired by Stephanie Johns, who teaches at Classic City High School in Athens, Georgia.

As you read about this model teacher, Stephanie Johns, you may realize that experience matters. She has distilled her dedication, love, and concern for her students into a daily practice, which enables her to reach them and teach them.

 

I just finished reading a compelling book about the famed Atlanta Cheating Scandal. It is titled None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators. I found it hard to put down.

It was written by Shani Robinson, one of the teachers convicted in 2015 of racketeering, for changing her students’ answers on a state test, and journalist Anna Simonton. It is Shani’s story, and with Anna’s help, it is a very good read.

Shani was a Teach for America teacher who taught first graders at Dunbar Elementary School in Atlanta. She was one of dozens of teachers and administrators accused of cheating to raise her students’ test scores. Being arrested, charged, threatened, tried, and convicted was an ordeal, which she describes in detail. Throughout this ordeal, she maintained her innocence. She very credibly insists that she never changed her students’ test answers. Her student scores were not counted towards the school’s “AYP” and had no bearing on the school’s rating because first grade scores were not part of the No Child Left Behind dragnet.

She never received a bonus or any other monetary reward. Yet she and other educators were accused and convicted on a racketeering charge (the federal RICO statute that was designed to snare members of the Mafia and other organized criminals). She did not conspire with anyone, she writes, and to this day she insists upon her innocence.

What is especially shocking is her account of the “justice” system. At every step along the way, she and the others who were accused were offered the opportunity to get out of the charges if only they agreed to plead guilty. They got off scot free if they were willing to accuse others. Repeatedly she was told that she had a choice: If you stick with your plea of innocence, you face 20 years in prison; if you confess your criminal behavior, you will get probation, community service, and a nominal fine. Those who were convicted lost their job, their reputations, their careers, and in some cases, their freedom.

Others whom Shani trusted confessed to crimes they had not committed. She insisted upon her innocence and refused to lie to win her freedom. She cannot help comparing the longest trial in Georgia’s history with the cheating scandal in Washington, D.C., where no one was charged and there was no trial or punishment, nor even a credible investigation.

Somehow the whole procedure sounds like a story from the old Soviet Union, but this is American “justice” as practiced in Georgia.

What makes the story even more interesting is the way she connects her personal dilemma with the history of racism and injustice in Georgia and with the manipulation of politics by corporate interests. She notes again and again that the media created a feeding frenzy because of allegations that educators cheated, but were not interested at all in reporting how corporate interests shifted or stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the schools for real estate development or gentrification.

She describes Atlanta’s history as the first city to build public housing, which became home to many thousands of black families, and the first city to tear down all of its public housing, ostensibly to woo middle class families back to the city (and to push out poor black families).

She became disenchanted with Teach for America as she saw its recruits—funded by out-of-state billionaires and trained by TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity– organize a takeover of the Atlanta school board so as to make way for corporate education reform, especially charter schools.

She details the efforts of for-profit Charter Schools USA to open a charter in Atlanta, and the determination of the black community to keep them out.

Hypocrisy?

She writes:

“I tried to keep my cool as I came to terms with the fact that some very bad things had happened in my school district, worked to remain self-assured that my name would be cleared, and attempted to quell my outrage at the naked hypocrisy of some of the public figures who scrambled to condemn educators for ‘cheating the children.’ There were so many ways that children, particularly black children, were being cheated out of a decent life. During the decade that some APS staff members were tampering with tests, most teachers were doing the best they could with few resources for contending with kids who suffered generational trauma stemming from urban renewal, racialized violence, the drug epidemic, mass incarceration, and the obliteration of public housing. Meanwhile, real estate moguls and financiers were finagling ways to line their pockets with the education dollars that should have been going to the classroom.”

The most memorable line in the trial was uttered by the utterly reprehensible Judge Baxter, who said that the cheating scandal was “the sickest thing to ever happen in this town.” Shani wonders if he never gave any thought to slavery, Jim Crow, and the many other attacks on blacks as equally “sick.”

Shani Robinson’s appeal has not yet been heard. She may yet be sent to prison. Her book is a persuasive argument that some of the worst criminals in Atlanta were never tried for their crimes against the children of Atlanta.

 

 

The Georgia State Senate, controlled by Republicans, voted not to create a private school voucher program. 

Critics said the program would eventually cost the state half a billion a year, defunding public schools.

Democrats voted as a bloc against it, joined by key Republicans including Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville.

Public school supporters who opposed the bill were astonished.

The fate of the bill by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, stunned the public school lobby, which had been working overtime against it.

“Pleasantly surprised,” was how Craig Harper, executive director of the 90,000-plus member Professional Association of Georgia Educators put it.

John Zauner, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said the legislation would have “fundamentally” changed school financing.

Are you aware that PRIVATIZATION for PROFIT is well underway in schools, city governments, transportation, etc. in Georgia? People are being elected to office with these ends in mind, are financed by for-profit entities and are soft selling decisions to authorize this movement…

Are you aware of the dire effects of allowing the proliferation of this movement to continue to grow in capacity?

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT SCHOOLS…

JOIN US FOR A FREE SCREENING

This feature-length documentary is a free screening and open to the public. No children please as space is limited.

When

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
7:00 pm – Film Screening
8:30 pm – Q&A Discussion

Where

Porter Sanford Performing Arts & Community Center
3181 Rainbow Drive
Decatur, GA 30034

Join the Georgia Federation of Teachers, JEEPAC and the NAACP DeKalb Chapter for a screening of Backpack Full of Cash.
This documentary narrated by Matt Damon, a Cambridge, MA public school graduate, takes an urgently-needed look at how charter schools, vouchers and the privatization movement are threatening the nation’s public schools. In the wake of the 2016 presidential elections and the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as well as the installation of a pro-charter majority of the Atlanta Public School Board, BACKPACK is timelier than ever. Filmed in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Nashville and other cities, BACKPACK takes viewers through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year, exposing the world of corporate-driven education “reform” where public education — starved of resources — hangs in the balance. Backpack puts a human face on complex social, racial and civic issues confronting educators, students, families, and our communities. Backpack serves as a tool to show how other communities are fighting back against an effort to privatize public education.

The documentary also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey, where poor kids are getting a high quality education without charters or vouchers. BACKPACK FULL OF CASH makes the case for public education as a basic civil right.

The film features genuine heroes like the principals, teachers, activists, parents and most hearteningly, students who are fighting for their education. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, writer David Kirp and policy expert Linda Darling Hammond are among the national thought leaders who provide analysis in the film.

This feature-length documentary is a free event and open to the public.

This is a story about a photograph taken at a small Ku Klux Klan rally in Georgia in 1992.

The photo shows a child in KKK regalia looking at his reflection in a shield held by a police officer, who is African-American. The officer is there to prevent violence. He is protecting the peace and protecting even the members of the KKK.

The photo has been adopted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a pre-eminent CIvil Rights Organization.

Over the years, as you will read, people have debated what the photo says to them.

It reminded me of the song from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” The title “You’ve Got to Be Taught to Hate.” The little boy dressed up as a Klansman didn’t hate the man holding the shield. But he will be taught to hate by those who dressed him.

Please watch this. Oprah speaks and rallies the crowd on behalf of Stacey Abrams. She is excellent.

Then she introduces Stacey, and they talk. I loved the conversation. I loved Stacey Abrams. She is wonderful. She loves to read (she names her favorite books), she loves to write, she loves to watch television (her favorite show is “The Good Place,” which I’m watching). She talked about the terrible condition of health care in Georgia. It has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. Many counties don’t have a hospital. Nine counties don’t have a doctor. Many women who are pregnant don’t see a doctor until the day they give birth. She spoke eloquently about investing in education. Given the audience reaction, I would guess that many were teachers.

I know we are all disgusted with politicians. Watch this show and you will have hope again.

If you live in Georgia, please vote. Please vote for Stacey Abrams. She is inspiring.

I endorse Stacey Abrams for Governor of Georgia, with enthusiasm.

Abrams is running against a rightwing extremist who happens to be Secretary of State and in charge of elections. This guy Kemp is using his position to suppress the votes of African Americans, Hispanics, and other potential voters for Abrams. She has called on him to resign, but of course he won’t.

If you live in Georgia and you want your state to move forward, please vote for Stacey Abrams.