Archives for category: Hoax

Dana Milbank is a regular contributor to the Washington Post.

He says we should not be afraid of Trump’s efforts to sabotage the election. Yes, we can vote!


President Trump has done everything in his power — and some things outside his power — to sabotage the election.

He has suggested postponing the election and holding a re-vote, warned baselessly about rampant fraud and pushed his supporters to vote twice. The big-time Trump donor now running the post office has impaired mail delivery and sent misinformation to voters about mail-in ballots.
But here’s the good news: It’s not going to work.

Trump has succeeded in sowing confusion about the ability of the United States to hold a free and fair election. His allies in Congress have abetted the sabotage by refusing to give states the funds they need to hold an election during a pandemic while defending against foreign adversaries’ interference. But despite the attempts to incapacitate elections, the United States is on course to give Americans more ways to cast ballots than ever — and more certainty than ever that their ballots will be accurately counted.

“While it’s critical we be clear-eyed about the problems and keep up the pressure to do better, there’s been too much alarmism,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice. “People have the impression that the election is not going to work and they’re going to have problems, which is absolutely not the case for the vast majority of Americans.”

The Brennan Center exists in part to sound the alarm about flaws in the voting system, so it’s worth noting that Weiser says “we’ve watched the election system improve before our eyes” — especially after a pandemic primary season characterized by closed polling places, long lines and chaos.

Among the encouraging signs:

Somewhere between 96 percent and 97 percent of votes cast in this election will have paper backup — assurance against fraud and interference — compared with only about 80 percent in 2016. If there’s a challenge to election results, there will be a paper trail to verify the outcome.

Trump’s attempt to cause chaos by telling his supporters to vote twice? All states have protections against that, and all battleground states (including North Carolina, where Trump has focused his vote-twice effort) have ballot-tracking bar codes on their mail ballots — so voters and election officials will know whether someone has already voted. Their attempts to vote twice may cause delays (particularly in Republican precincts) as people submit provisional ballots, and slow the counting, but there’s a near-zero chance they will succeed in voting twice, Weiser says.

Trump’s attempt to sabotage the post office to prevent mail-in balloting? Almost all states that have vote-by-mail also have multiple options for returning ballots. With a couple of exceptions, battleground states have some combination of drop boxes, early voting locations and election offices that will accept dropped-off ballots.

As for mail-in voting in general, elections officials and lawmakers in Democratic and Republican states alike have vastly expanded the availability, despite Trump’s attempts to discredit this long-standing and reliable method. Thanks to recent changes, all but six states — Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee — now either send ballots automatically or allow voters to request them without needing a special excuse for doing so.

Likewise, all but six states (Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire and parts of North Dakota) now offer some form of early voting (many with expanded locations and hours) so voters can avoid Election Day crowds.

Finally, after primaries plagued by precinct closures and a shortage of poll workers, the Brennan Center now expects the number of Election Day polling places to be close to 2016’s level, even if there’s a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Election officials, nonprofits, corporations and civic-minded volunteers are offsetting the shortage of poll workers and polling places caused by the pandemic. These range from LeBron James’s “More Than a Vote” movement to recruit poll workers to professional sports teams’ contributions of arenas as polling locations to hand-sanitizer donations from Anheuser-Busch.
Want to help? Sign up to be a poll worker at powerthepolls.org, or contact your local election office.

Certainly, there are still hurdles. The biggest problem may be voting misinformation, much of it amplified by the Trump administration. On Saturday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from sending out a mailer that gave incorrect voting information. There’s still some hope Congress will provide states with funds to send out correct information to voters — but Senate Republicans may block even that.

The best thing the rest of us can do is counter misinformation with accurate information, such as The Post’s interactive guide to voting in each state.

Above all, don’t inadvertently reinforce Trump’s vandalism with hand-wringing about voting problems. Yes, Trump is trying to sabotage voting. But the world’s greatest democracy knows how to hold an election.

Jan Resseger reviews here a new book that explains the full-blown triumph of plutocracy. Trump is the culmination, not the cause. Wealth and power are now concentrated, more than ever, in the hands of a small minority, and Trump has persuaded his followers that plutocracy works for them!

She begins:

For ten years Jacob Hacker, the Yale political scientist, and Paul Pierson, the Berkeley political scientist, have been tracking exploding economic inequality in the United States. In this summer’s book, Let Them Eat Tweets, Hacker and Pierson explicitly identify our government as a plutocracy. And they track how politicians (with the help of right-wing media) shape a populist, racist, gun-toting, religious fundamentalist story line to distract the public from a government that exclusively serves the wealthy. In a new article published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Journalism’s Gates Keepers, Tim Schwab examines our plutocracy from a different point of view: How is the mainstream media, the institution most of us look to for objective news, shaped increasingly by philanthropists stepping in to fill the funding gaps as newspapers go broke and news organizations consolidate?

In their 2010 classic, Winner-Take-All Politics, Hacker and Pierson present “three big clues” pointing to the tilt of our economy to winner-take-all: “(1) Hyperconcentration of Income… The first clue is that the gains of the winner-take-all economy, befitting its name, have been extraordinarily concentrated. Though economic gaps have grown across the board, the big action is at the top, especially the very top… (2) Sustained Hyperconcentration… The shift of income toward the top has been sustained increasingly steadily (and, by historical standards, extremely rapidly) since 1980… (3) Limited Benefits for the Nonrich… In an era in which those at the top reaped massive gains, the economy stopped working for middle-and working-class Americans.” Winner-Take-All Politics, pp. 15-19) (emphasis in the original)

Hacker and Pierson’s second book in the recent decade, the 2016 American Amnesia explores America’s loss of faith in government, our massive forgetting about the role of government regulation and balance in a capitalist economy: “(T)he institution that bears the greatest credit often gets short shrift: that combination of government dexterity and market nimbleness known as the mixed economy. The improvement of health, standards of living, and so much else we take for granted occurred when and where government overcame market failures, invested in the advance of science, safeguarded and supported the smooth functioning of markets, and ensured that economic gains became social gains.” (American Amnesia, p. 69)

In their new Let Them Eat Tweets, Hacker and Pierson no longer avoid the label. They now call America a full blown plutocracy: “This is not a book about Donald Trump. Instead, it is about an immense shift that preceded Trump’s rise, has profoundly shaped his political party and its priorities, and poses a threat to our democracy that is certain to outlast his presidency. That shift is the rise of plutocracy—government of, by, and for the rich. Runaway inequality has remade American politics, reorienting power and policy toward corporations and the super-rich (particularly the most conservative among them)… The rise of plutocracy is the story of post-1980 American politics. Over the last forty years, the wealthiest Americans and the biggest financial and corporate interests have amassed wealth on a scale unimaginable to prior generations and without parallel in other western democracies. The richest 0.1 percent of Americans now have roughly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent combined. They have used that wealth—and the connections and influence that come with it—to construct a set of political organizations that are also distinctive in historical and cross-national perspective. What makes them distinctive is not just the scope of their influence, especially on the right and far right. It is also the degree to which the plutocrats, the biggest winners in our winner-take-all economy, pursue aims at odds with the broader interests of American society.” (Let Them Eat Tweets, pp. 1-2)…

But there is another hidden element of the power of plutocrats. Philanthropies led by the wealthy make charitable gifts which subtly shape news reporting itself. And the subject here is not merely Fox and Breitbart and the other right-wing outlets. Tim Schwab’s important report from the Columbia Journalism Review is about one of America’s powerful plutocrats, Bill Gates. Schwab explores, “a larger trend—and ethical issue—with billionaire philanthropists’ bankrolling the news. The Broad Foundation, whose philanthropic agenda includes promoting charter schools, at one point funded part of the LA Times’ reporting on education. Charles Koch has made charitable donations to journalistic institutions such as the Poynter Institute, as well as to news outlets such as the Daily Caller, that support his conservative politics. And the Rockefeller Foundation funds Vox’s Future Perfect, a reporting project that examines the world ‘through the lens of effective altruism’—often looking at philanthropy. As philanthropists increasingly fill in the funding gaps at news organizations—a role that is almost certain to expand in the media downturn following the coronavirus pandemic—an unexamined worry is how this will affect the ways newsrooms report on their benefactors.”

Those of us who have been following public education policy over two decades know that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in policy itself—funding think tanks like the Center on Reinventing Public Education—which brought us “portfolio school reform” charter school expansion—which led to Chicago’s Renaissance 2010— which led to Arne Duncan’s bringing that strategy into federal policy in Race to the Top. We know that the Gates Foundation funded what ended up as an expensive and failed small high schools initiative, and, after that failed—an experiment with evaluating teachers by their students’ standardized test scores—and later experimenting with incentive bonuses for teachers who quickly “produce” higher student scores. We remember that the Gates Foundation brought us the now fading Common Core. And we remember that Arne Duncan filled his department with staff hired directly from the Gates Foundation.

I urge you to read it all. It’s important!

A decade ago, Richard Phelps was assessment director of the District of Columbia Public Schools. His time in that position coincided with the last ten months of Michelle Rhee’s tenure in office. When her patron Adrian Fenty lost the election for Mayor, Rhee left and so did Phelps.

Phelps writes here about what he learned while trying to improve the assessment practices of the DC Public Schools. He posts his overview in two parts, and this is part 1. The second part will appear in the next post.

Rhee asked Phelps to expand the VAM program–the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and to terminate or reward them based on student scores.

Phelps described his visits to schools to meet with teachers. He gathered useful ideas about how to make the assessments more useful to teachers and students.

Soon enough, he learned that the Central Office staff, including Rhee, rejected all the ideas he collected from teachers and imposed their own ideas instead.

He writes:

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics.

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’ Central Office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of Data and Accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon.

Four central office staff outvoted several-hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior Central Office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform.

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid.

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

The Central Office “reformers” boasted of their accomplishments and went on to lucrative careers.

It was all for show, financed by Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, and other philanthropists who believed in the empty promises of “reform.” It was a giant hoax.

Thomas Ultican, who retired last year as a teacher of advanced math and physics in California, has studied school reform in many districts. He concludes that charter schools, created supposedly to improve education, especially for the neediest children, is a failed experiment.

He reviews the origins of the charter school idea and shows how AFT leader Albert Shanker became disillusioned. The premise of charters, he writes, was based on an illusion. Reagan’s “Nation at Risk” report unleashed a long era of handwringing about public school failure, but as he points out, NPR reporter Anya Kamenetz documented that the conclusions of that report were predetermined.

He writes:

Some powerful evidence points in the opposite direction and indicates that the results from US public schools in the 60s and 70s were actually a great success story.

One measuring stick demonstrating that success is Nobel Prize winners. Since 1949, America has had 383 laureates; the second place country, Great Britain, had 132. In the same period, India had 12 laureates and China 8.

Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis report on education achievement gaps states, “The gaps narrowed sharply in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, but then progress stalled.”

The digital revolution and the booming biotech industry were both created by students mostly from the supposedly “soft public schools” of the 60s and 70s.

Ultican then reviews the study by the Network for Public Education of charter school instability and closings.

Broken Promises” looked at cohorts of newly opened charter schools between 1998 and 2017. Ryan Pfleger, Ph.D. led the analysis of charter schools closures utilizing the Department of Education’s Common Core of Data (CCD).

Before 1998, the massive government data base did not uniquely identify charter schools and the last complete data set available for all schools in American was 2017.

Startup charter school cohorts were identified by year and the cohort closure rates were tracked at 3, 5, 10 and 15 years after opening. The overall failure rates discovered were 18% by year-3, 25% by year-5, 40% by year-10 and 50% by year-15.

The NPE team discovered that half of all charter schools in America close their doors within fifteen years.

Many new charters do not survive their first year of operation.

It makes no sense to continue to expand a 30-year “experiment” whose results are so meager.

Maurice Cunningham is a dogged researcher into Dark Money and its role in the pursuit of privatizing public education. Cunningham is a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts. Open the link and read in full.

In his latest post, he reports that Koch money as well as Walton money, Zuckerberg money, Gates money, and Dell money, is supporting the “National Parents Union,” a front for the billionaires.

He writes:

There’s millions of dollars sloshing around Massachusetts Parents United and National Parents Union these days. Some of it is from Charles Koch…

The Koch connection was apparent when Charles Koch put a proxy on the board of National Parents Union. Now we know for sure Koch has money invested in NPU. Others holding stakes in NPU (housed in the same shop as Massachusetts Parents Union and run by the same team) include Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell, Reed Hoffman, John Arnold, Eli Broad, etc.

It’s not just Koch, the Waltons are tossing even more money at NPU.

NPU is also feasting on big bucks from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic arm.

Cunningham reminds us to “follow the noney. Dark Money never sleeps.”

And he adds:

We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Louis Brandeis

Trump is obsessed with the U.S. Postal Service. He is certain that the U.S. mail is his enemy. One of his aides told him that he lost the 2016 popular vote because of mail fraud, and he’s ranted about the USPS ever since. He openly admitted in a recent news conference that he wants to block mail-in voting in hopes of cutting Democratic votes. Trump forced out the career professional who was running USPS and replaced with a donor to his campaign, Louis DeJoy. In the name of “efficiency,” USPS has been removing hundreds of high-speed sorting machines and thousands of mailboxes. At a time when millions of people count on the mails for their prescriptions and Social Security checks, the slowdowns are wreaking havoc. Even Republicans from heavily rural states whose constituents rely on the local post office have remained silent, as Trump orders the dismantling of USPS.

Democrats scheduled a hearing with Trump’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, who gave $2 million to the Trump coffers, but decided to move up the date to August 24. Trump and his wife voted by mail in Florida.


The House Oversight Committee will hold an emergency hearing on mail delays and concerns about potential White House interference in the U.S. Postal Service, inviting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service board of governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan to testify Aug. 24, top Democrats announced on Sunday.

Democrats have alleged that DeJoy, a former Republican National Committee chairman, is taking steps that are causing dysfunction in the mail system and could wreak havoc in the presidential election. The House had earlier not planned a hearing until September.

“The postmaster general and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Oversight Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said in a statement announcing the hearing.

The Postal Service is beset with delays because of policy changes implemented by DeJoy, a former logistics executive and ally of President Trump. DeJoy banned postal workers from making extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery and cracked down on overtime hours. Localities across the country have struggled with USPS backlogs of up to a week, hamstringing local businesses and delaying the arrival of crucial mail items, including prescription medications, Social Security checks and bills.

The Postal Service is in the process of removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines nationwide this month, a process that will eliminate 21.4 million items per hour’s worth of processing capability from the agency’s inventory.

On Thursday and Friday, it began removing public collection boxes in parts of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. The agency said Friday that it would stop mailbox removals, which it said were routine, until after the election.

And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that it would also halt sorting-machine removals.

Meadows also said the White House is open to Congress passing a stand-alone measure to ensure the U.S. Postal Service is adequately funded to manage a surge in mail voting in November.

“The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their votes in a legitimate way whether it’s the post office or anything else,” he said.

Both statements would appear to step back from the president’s comments Thursday when he said he opposed Postal Service funding because he wanted to restrict expanding voting by mail.

Meadows insisted the president is only opposed to states sending ballots directly to all registered voters — not to a more common practice in which states send mail ballots only to registered voters who request them. Trump, however, attacked all forms of mail voting for months before recently dialing back his criticism in particular states, including Florida, where he voted by mail himself this year.

“The president doesn’t have a problem with anybody voting by mail if you would look at it in terms of a no-excuse absentee ballot,” Meadows said. “What he opposes is universal mail-in ballots.”

There are five states that voted nearly entirely by mail before the pandemic and four more that have announced plans to do so since the pandemic hit. Meadows suggested more states will attempt to shift to sending ballots directly to all registered voters between now and the election.

“This is more about states trying to re-create how they get their ballots and they’re trying to do it on a compressed timeline that won’t work,” he said.

Fred Klonsky is a retired teacher in Illinois. Retired teachers in that state, like many others, don’t collect Social Security. Politicians of both parties have tried to cut teachers’ retirement benefits. Should he care that Trump wants to defund Social Security?

He concludes that teachers in Illinois are in the same fight with those who face Trump’s stealth effort to defund Social Security.

Trump’s claim is that his executive order would put more money now into workers paychecks.

Put aside for a moment that due to Trump’s leadership there are nearly 40 million newly unemployed workers who no longer receive a paycheck.

And put aside for a moment that the payments to Social Security will have to be made up at a later date.

The payroll tax essentially funds Social Security and Medicare.

Trump’s order will stop nearly $350 billion in payments to Social Security.

If Trump is reelected and a Republican Congress eliminates the payroll tax permanently, as is the plan, it is estimated that the system will be broke by the end of Trump’s second term.

No more Social Security or Medicare.

David Dayen writes the blog “Unsanitized” for the American Prospect. In this post, he explains what Trump’s executive orders really do. Please open the links to see the many embedded links.

After weeks of unproductive talks with Democrats bending but the White House unyielding, over the weekend Donald Trump issued three memoranda and an executive order that, at this moment, reflect the only additional relief to the American people at a time when fiscal policy was the only thing preventing the economy from ruin.

We’ll get to what’s in these in a minute, but it’s worth noting what’s not there. The Heroes Act, House Democrats’ kitchen sink policy, added up to $3.4 trillion. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who get the vapors at the sight of a deficit so they ought to know, the Trump orders would provide at best $225 billion in near-term funds, and on net, just $13 billion, tops, in new budgetary outlays. Everything in the orders either shuffles existing money around or kicks payments down the road; the new spending just assumes some missed collections.

I’ve read all four documents (here, here, here, and here) and I’d say CRFB is being amazingly generous assuming that anything close to even the meager funding it outlines will actually materialize. Let’s dive in.

Unemployment: the Trump action, if it actually worked, would give unemployed Americans an $400 extra per week retroactive to August 1, down from the $600 that expired in July. Of that sum, $300 would come from a FEMA disaster relief fund, and another $100 would have to be supplied by the states, using relief funds appropriated in the CARES Act. However most of that CARES Act money is already spoken for, and cash-strapped states don’t have a lot of extra money available to contribute. So I’d say it’s unlikely the state share will be included in a majority of states. Unemployed workers themselves will get half of what they previously got.

In addition, there’s only $44 billion available from the FEMA fund for the federal share. About $50 billion was spent on the $600 enhancement in the first two weeks of July, with nearly 30 million people receiving benefits. This is half that and maybe fewer recipients as hiring increases. But at most, this gets you another 5 weeks of support; by the end of August it’ll be done, even though it’s supposed to last until December.

When recipients will actually get anything is unclear; states would have to create an entirely new program through their antiquated unemployment insurance systems. It’s first-come first-served, so early states might get a little more for their residents while states that take months to figure things out could be shut out at the window entirely. And while the unemployed endure the wait, rent and other bills are still due.

Besides all that, it’s plainly unconstitutional, as David Super explains. The Disaster Relief Program being used isn’t intended for this purpose and its ability to deliver unemployment benefits is severely limited. Violating the Anti-Deficiency Act, which this does, carries criminal penalties. But while many will grumble, who exactly will sue to block the unemployed from getting even meager benefits? Treasury Secretary Mnuchin taunted Democrats with exactly this rationale on Sunday.

Payroll taxes: Set aside that people working need far less support than those who don’t. The president cannot change tax law to cancel taxes; he can defer payments. That’s what’s being done here. Any worker making less than $104,000 per year would have payroll taxes deferred from September 1 to the end of the year. They’ll still owe the taxes; they just won’t have to pay them until January.

This is a bureaucratic nightmare for employers, many of whom will likely opt to either keep paying them, or put them in an escrow account. Otherwise, they’d have to garnish a worker’s entire paycheck in January to cover back payroll taxes. My expectation is that this has next to no stimulative effect at all.

Trump says he wants to “terminate” these taxes if re-elected; he would need Congress to agree. It’s a political ploy to bribe the electorate, but if businesses just hang onto the money to avoid future fallout it won’t even work as a bribe. And Democrats are screaming that these taxes fund Social Security and Medicare and cancelling them would hasten a crisis (of course Congress could just, you know, fund Social Security and Medicare, and crisis solved.)

Evictions: This is just vaporware, the order just says that health officials should consider an eviction ban and that the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Treasury Department should see what they can do about helping renters and mortgage borrowers with funds to stay in their homes. That’s it. The federal moratorium only covered a handful of cases anyway; this is more useless than that.

Student loans: Of the four orders this is the most useful, as it extends an existing forbearance for federal student loans. Again, borrowers would still owe the money eventually, but it’s somewhat useful to be relieved of the burden now. What this shows is that the Education Department has a lot of discretion to let these loans go uncollected indefinitely, if they choose, to say nothing of the authority to cancel student loans. Trump is proving the concept.

It was a grave error to hold off on critical priorities until “the next bill,” after all the leverage was squandered. These Pelosi hagiographies are embarrassing in the context of her blowing the chance to secure ongoing relief throughout the pandemic. Whoever replaces Pelosi when she leaves doesn’t have to repeat these mistakes, as long as they learn from them.

I was on Democracy Now today talking about these orders as well as the war on the postal service, and you can watch that at their website.

Peter Goodman is a long-time observer of education politics in New York State and New York City.

In this post, he asks a reasonable question: Why, at a time of fiscal stringency and uncertainty, is the Board of Regents of New York State rubber-stamping the expansion of charter schools?

Charter schools, as he shows, cherry-pick their students to inflate their test scores. Despite state law, their doors are not open to all.

He writes:

If you look at charter school data virtually every charter school enrolls fewer than the “comparable” percentages required in the law. The reason is abundantly clear, students with disabilities and English language learners frequently have lower standardized test scores, impact the charter renewal process and are more costly to educate, i.e., lower class size = more teachers.

The Buffalo charter was out of compliance with state law. Why did the Board of Regents approve a five-year renewal of a charter in Buffalo when the Regent from Buffalo proposed a three-year renewal? Buffalo schools face a large deficit, but its charters are on track to take $108 million out of the city’s public budget.

Why did the Board of Regents approve the renewal of a low-performing charter school in the Bronx?

Goodman writes:

Later in the [Regents’] meeting three New York City charter schools were on the agenda, one of the schools wanted to add high school grades; although there is a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools State Ed staff interpreted the law as allowing grade expansion, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the law and should have not been allowed by the state.

The math scores in the school were in the “far below standard” category, ninety percent of teachers were “teaching out of their certification area,” the state average is eleven percent and the register in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, was sharply reduced, from 71 (6th grade), to 46 (7th grade) and 29 (8th grade): what happened to the kids? In addition the school SWD and ELL students are far below the district averages.

Why did the NYC Department of Education approve the application? Why did the SED approve the application?

The school has a lobbyist who was a college roommate of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. I’m sure that’s only a coincidence. btw, who paid the lobbyist?

In spite of objections from some Regents members the SED lawyer bundled all three schools together instead of decoupling and voting separately.

Regent Cashin made a motion: a moratorium on approval of new charters and the grade expansion of existing charter schools for the remainder of the COVID emergency. She explained that with sharp cuts in district budgets, with districts facing layoffs and disruptions, to transfer money from public schools budgets to charter school budgets was unconscionable. The SED lawyer ruled her motion was “out of order.”

Any member of the Board can make a motion at any time. The Board should vote on whether to place the motion on the agenda. The Board “owns” the motion, not the lawyer, who is not a Board member.

If the lawyer meant the motion was not “germane” he was still wrong. If he was serving as a parliamentarian he gives advice to the chair, he does not participate in the debate, or make determinate decisions.

The whole business had what Goodman called “a noxious aroma,” a polite way of saying that the Regents’ rush to approve charters of dubious quality in the midst of a fiscal crisis stinks to high heaven.

Why incentivize privately run charters to divert funding and the students of their choice from the public schools.

Why are the Regents betraying the state’s public schools?

That noxious aroma is the smell that is released when politics seeps into decisions about school funding. Someone’s friends are being taken care of, at the expense of the public schools.

Our reader Laura Chapman read the Supreme Court decision in the Espinoza case, both the majority decision and the dissents. The majority decision said that if a state offers a scholarship program for private schools, it must include religious schools. The dissenters, Chapman noted, pointed out that the Montana Supreme Court had already invalidated the private scholarship program. So the case was already moot because Montana no longer has a scholarship program for private schools! The Espinoza family will not get $150 (the amount that used to be paid to families that sought help in paying private school tuition) because Montana no longer offers scholarships to private schools, and thus will not be affected by today’s decision!

She wrote:

I downloaded the text of ESPINOZA ET AL. v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE ET AL and read the dissents. Here are a few gems, all noting that the scholarship in question had already been made invalid by Montana’s Supreme Court !!

BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined as to Part I.

I shall assume, for purposes of this opinion, that petitioners’ free exercise claim survived the Montana Supreme Court’s wholesale invalidation of the tax credit program. (This is a feature in all of the dissents. Essentially, the dissenters claim there is no case because the program was made vaporware by the Montana Supreme Court.)
Breyer then begins an extended discussion of “entanglements” of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: and concludes that “The majority’s approach and its conclusion in this case, I fear, risk the kind of entanglement and conflict that the Religion Clauses are intended to prevent. I consequently dissent.

Well, that is the summary, but it is followed by at least 6000 words, as if prepared to show his colleagues that he had considered a lot of precedents that had no direct bearing on the case, these dating back to Madison and Jefferson’s Wall of Separation in Antebellum Virginia, along with hypothetical questions about state funding for charter schools (with a 2003 citation).

GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined.

Recall that the Montana court remedied the state constitutional violation by striking the scholarship program in its entirety. Under that decree, secular and sectarian schools alike are ineligible for benefits, so the decision cannot be said to entail differential treatment based on petitioners’ religion.

Put somewhat differently, petitioners argue that the Free Exercise Clause requires a State to treat institutions and people neutrally when doling out a benefit—and neutrally is how Montana treats them in the wake of the state court’s decision. Accordingly, the Montana Supreme Court’s decision does not place a burden on petitioners’ religious exercise. Petitioners may still send their children to a religious school. And the Montana Supreme Court’s decision does not pressure them to do otherwise.

SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

The majority holds that a Montana scholarship program unlawfully discriminated against religious schools by excluding them from a tax benefit. The threshold problem, however, is that such tax benefits no longer exist for anyone in the State. The Montana Supreme Court invalidated the program on state-law grounds, thereby foreclosing the as-applied challenge petitioners raise here.

Indeed, nothing required the state court to uphold the program or the state legislature to maintain it. The Court nevertheless reframes the case and appears to ask whether a longstanding Montana constitutional provision is facially invalid under the Free Exercise Clause, even though petitioners disavowed bringing such a claim. But by resolving a constitutional question not presented, the Court fails to heed Article III principles older than the Religion Clause it expounds.

Laura Chapman added: I am not a lawyer, but I cannot understand why this case even got on the docket of the US. Supreme Court. It was settled in the Montana Supreme Court, made invalid, struck entirely.