Archives for category: Inequality

The New York Times Magazine recently published a startling article about Alabama’s tax system is designed to impoverish the poor and enrich the rich. Written by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, the article documents why Alabama remains a poor state with a high rate of poverty and underfunded public services. If you want to read a road map to how to institutionalize extreme poverty, racism, and underdevelopment, read “Alabama Takes from the Poor and Gives to the Rich.”

The author explains that the state constitution was written in 1904 by a convention controlled by rich landowners. It capped property taxes at a low rate, which meant that any public services had to be paid for by other taxes, fines, and fees. Fines and fees are assessed for almost every interaction with government.

He writes:

In states like Alabama, almost every interaction a person has with the criminal justice system comes with a financial cost. If you’re assigned to a pretrial program to reduce your sentence, each class attended incurs a fee. If you’re on probation, you’ll pay a fee to take your mandatory urine test. If you appear in drug court, you will face more fees, sometimes dozens of times a year. Often, you don’t even have to break the law; you’ll pay fees to pull a public record or apply for a permit. For poor people, this system is a trap, sucking them into a cycle of sometimes unpayable debt that constrains their lives and almost guarantees financial hardship.

While almost every state in the country, both red and blue, levies fines and fees that fall disproportionately on the bottom rung of the income ladder, the situation in Alabama is far more dramatic, thanks to the peculiarities of its Constitution. Over a century ago, wealthy landowners and businessmen rewrote the Constitution to cap taxes permanently. As a result, today, Alabama has one of the cruelest tax systems in the country.

Taxes on most property, for example, are exceptionally low. In 2019, property taxes accounted for just 7 percent of state and local revenue, the lowest among the states. (Even Mississippi, which also has low property taxes, got roughly 12 percent from property taxes. New Jersey, by contrast, got 29 percent.) Strapped for cash, all levels of government look for money anywhere they can get it. And often, that means creating revenue from fines and fees. A 2016 studyshowed that the median assessment for a felony in Alabama doubled between 1995 and 2005, to $2,000.

How did this unjust system take root?

In 1874, less than a decade into Reconstruction, the Democratic Party, representing the landowning, formerly slave-owning class, took over the state government in a rigged election and quickly passed a new Constitution that mandated taxes on property would remain permanently low.

In the next couple of decades, as cotton prices crashed, poor sharecroppers, both white and Black, banded together in a populist movement to unseat the elites who controlled the state. In response, in another set of contested elections, the elites called another constitutional convention to further consolidate their power over the state. “What is it that we want to do?” the convention president, John B. Knox, asked. “Establish white supremacy in this state.” But this time, he said, they wanted to “establish it by law — not by force or fraud.”

People like Knox weren’t just racist; they were virulently classist, too, and hoped to exclude all poor people from the political process. The result of the 1901 Constitution was the mass disenfranchisement and subjugation of poor people — white and Black. The Constitution established the basis for a literacy test, a poll tax and stringent residency requirements. By 1943, according to the Alabama Policy Institute, an estimated 520,000 Black people and 600,000 white people had been disqualified from voting by different aspects of the 1901 Constitution. “In most counties more whites were disenfranchised than registered,” the historian Wayne Flynt writes in his authoritative book “Alabama in the Twentieth Century,” “limiting the vote to a select elite.”

This system of minority rule starved public administration in the name of small government. The result was a “government of, by and for special interests,” writes Mr. Flynt. “The citizens of Alabama did not control their government. Trial lawyers, the Business Council of Alabama, ALFA, A.E.A. and their cohorts did.” And this government went about protecting the property owned by some of the wealthiest families and businesses in the state from any meaningful taxation. In 1920, property taxes accounted for 63 percent of state revenue, but by 1978, it was down to a measly 3.6 percent. In 1992, it was below 2 percent, he writes.

Alabama is an “internal colony,” controlled by out-of-state corporations and an elite, with no interest in change, progress, equality, or justice.

Sounds un-American to me.

Veteran educator Arnold Hillman and his wife Carol retired to South Carolina. But instead of golfing, they devoted themselves to a high-poverty high school and worked directly with the students to encourage them to aspire them to go to college.

Arnold writes here about what he has learned about South Carolina:

As with the beginning of any sports season, odds makers, fans, team owners, managers and coaches and players look forward to the onset of the games. In single person sports like golf, tennis, combat sports such as real wrestling, boxing, UFC, and the martial arts, expectations are even greater.

How do successful teams, individuals and those who are in charge, manage to rise above others? Why are certain teams and individuals levels of expectations so very high? Why is it that former doormats become champions in a few short years?

There are many examples of those kind or turnarounds. How about Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali) destroying the world champion Sonny Liston? How did the 1980 USA hockey team come from obscurity to defeat the greatest teams in the world?. For pitysake, how did the New York Mets go from nothingness to World Series Champs in 1969?

There are so many examples of these kind of things that apply to what is happening in education here in South Carolina. Let’s go back to sports for a moment. Certainly, individuals have their own expectations of how they will succeed. Whether nature or nurture, is always a question. If a group of players on a football team have their own beliefs, and they are not shared by the coach, there will be little success.

Try and explain the success of the New England Patriots and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the case of New England, players wanted to be traded there because of the level of expectations the teams always had of themselves. Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck knew how to win and how to inspire others. Mediocre players who migrated to the Pats soon became integral parts of the success of the team.

Now that Tom Brady is with the Bucs and Bruce Arians, the Coach, there is also an expectation of victories. So, they win the Super Bowl in their first year together. On the other end is the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a super quarterback and a coach who had no level of expectations.

What does this have to do with education in South Carolina? Do we ever wonder why our state is always at the bottom of any ranking list in education? The history is long and continual. Here is a site that will take you a while to read. It is, however, a clear picture of why education has not flourished in our state.

Now that you understand our history, you can see why the level of expectation for our children is so low. Pat Conroy and his “Corridor of Shame,” described the situation in many of our poor and rural school districts. He taught in one of those districts. He understood.

For some reason, it appears that those in charge of education at the state level continue to treat parts of our state in a way that encourages low expectations. Here are some historical reasons why South Carolina’s education system has floundered though the years:

 

“1. A strong tradition brought from England that public support for education should be limited to the poor

2. Education seen as more of the responsibility of the Church than the State

3. Attitudes of those outside the wealthy class that worked against a unified system, including low regard for learning, reluctance to accept charity through free tuition, and the need to keep children in the family labor force

4. The very high cost in the 1700s and 1800s to provide quality schools outside the citiesand coastal areas, population was sparse and transportation poor

5. Strong resistance to local taxation for schools until the late 1800s

6. Interruption of a burgeoning “common school movement” in South Carolina by the CivilWar, and the subsequent disruption of a tax base

7. Increased white resistance to the public school idea following the Reconstruction government’s attempts to open schools to all races

8. An attitude on the part of some 20th century leaders that too much education would damage the state’s cheap labor force

9. The slow growth of state supervision of the schools due to strong sentiments toward local control

10. The financial burden of operating a racially segregated system, and the social and educational impact of combining two unequal systems”

 

(The History of South Carolina Schools

Edited by Virginia B. Bartels

Study commissioned by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement)

(CERRA–SC)

 

These historical happenings still are partially responsible for our current education system. Low test scores in the poor and rural sections of the state confound state leadership. Therefore, they have come to expect these outcomes year after year.

Yet, in travels across the state, SCORS (South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools) has seen how those school districts and their children make huge efforts to improve education. We have worked with these children in one local high school and seen the lack of resources, lack of quality of instruction, and actual lack of teachers in math and sciences.

In many of the rural and poor school districts, there has been “white flight” to private schools, charter schools, religious schools and home schoolings. Once again the wealthier the school district, the higher they are in the rankings of school districts in the state.

So, what is left- a lack of expectations for those left in the public schools. Why, say the talking heads and misunderstanders, aren’t these schools doing better. The system is really stacked against those poor and rural folks. However, are the children really unable to learn or compete, on any level, with the lighthouse districts? You bet they can. I have seen it.

Let me give you some anecdotal evidence. Dr. Vernon (not her real name) was the superintendent of a rural school district in South Carolina. She was, in fact, a product of the public schools in SC. She came from humble beginings and rose to her position as superintendent with some help from people and a great desire to help youngsters like herself.

After 5 years as superintendent, her board changed dramatically. One of her board members said that the students test scores on certain state tests were not true and that she had elevated those test scores. The Department of Education was called in and found none of those charges to be true. Board members could not believe that the children could be this good. By the way the superintendent and board parted ways with much acrimony.

Certainly there was much politics in her leaving. She also sued the board for defamation of character and won. Was all this because the level of expectations for the poor, minority and rural children were unable to improve on their test scores?

Another anecdote centers about a student (and an excellent basketball player) was placed in a prep school outside of Philadelphia. He spent a year there as a post graduate. After the first four weeks of school, he retook the SATs and got 120 more points than he had at his old school. He got an athletic scholarship from a prestigious university.

So what does all that mean? We can tell you from my 61 years in education that there is a blanket on our poor and rural children that leads to a lack of expectations and a lack of will to help these children.

Bob Shepherd, polymath and educator, predicts the truly extraordinary goal of the far-right extremist Supreme Court. It mainly consists of dismantling the federal government’s powers. This was proclaimed by Steve Bannon in 2016 before the Trump election. In this rightwing dream, all federal laws protecting civil rights, women’s rights, climate change, etc. would disappear.

Shepherd writes:

Let me be as clear about this as I can be. My reading of what the Extreme Court has been up to is NOT that it means to do away with the doctrine of stare decisis. No. It means to establish, with Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health and West Virginia v. EPA, in this term, and with Moore v. Harper in the next term a new set of precedents designed to fulfil the conservative goals of a) shrinking the federal government down to a size at which it can be drowned in a bathtub and b) turning over power to state governments, many of which will be de facto theocracies under the new legal order. Dobbs provides a template or boilerplate for eliminating whole bodies of federal law and regulation related to unenumerated rights and with these these agencies and departments that do that regulation and enforcement. WV v. EPA is a template or boilerplate for eliminating government agencies or departments (or parts of these) that promulgate regulations pursuant to Congressional legislation on the basis of an argument that Congress can’t turn such decision-making over to Executive Branch agencies or departments because the Constitution insists that these are legislative matters. The idea, again, is to shrink the power and authority of the federal administrative state in full knowledge the fact that Congress,being divided, will not step into these various roles (will not, for example, agree on real climate change). And again, the effect of that will be, with the federal executive and legislature and courts all out of the picture, to turn all this power back to the states. And, finally, Moore will enable the court to rule that the feds cannot pass legislation to protect voting rights because determination of how voting is to be conducted is entirely up to state legislatures under this extremist reading of the Constitution. Again, the effect will be to eliminate federal power and agencies/departments and turn this all over to the states.

All this is revolutionary and is meant to be. It’s the fulfillment of a dream that conservatives in America have had for a long, long time. They have long believed in state’s rights, in the federal government being a monster not envisioned by the founders. This Extreme Court is simply making good on that.

And, btw, as with the various coup methods undertaken by Trump and his team, this has all been discussed on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast (or whatever he wants to call it). He recently devoted much of a program to this very topic: the ways in which work is underway to completely “dismantle the administrative state.”

Blogger Robert Hubbell brings clarity and reason to the abortion debate. The Court’s decision overturns a precedent that had been in place for 49 years. Both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh pledged to Senators that they would not overturn roe. They lied. What now?

Hubbell writes:

There is much to discuss after the Supreme Court’s brutal ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health, but the most important question is, “What are we going to do about it?” We have several effective paths forward and must pursue all simultaneously.

First, Alito claims he is returning the decision of reproductive freedom “to the people and their state representatives.” Let’s ignore (for the moment) Alito’s smoldering bad faith and thinly veiled contempt for the rights of women. We need to flip state legislatures to repeal antiabortion legislation and capture statewide executive offices that can veto legislation abortion bans. While this path is not an answer in every state, it can make a difference in states where the GOP margin of control is thin.

Second, we must demand that Congress pass legislation codifying Roe. That means gaining a 54-seat majority in the Senate, carving out an exception to the filibuster, and retaining control of the House. Will national legislation be challenged? Sure! Will the Supreme Court invalidate it? Possibly, but it is worth the effort.

Will national legislation be challenged? Sure! Will the Supreme Court invalidate it? Possibly, but it is worth the effort.

Third, we must break the Supreme Court. Democrats should expand the Court to thirteen justices. This path also requires holding the House, gaining a 54-seat majority in the Senate, and carving out an exception to the filibuster. Expanding the Court requires only a majority vote in both chambers of Congress and signing of the bill by the president. Will Republicans expand the Court to nineteen? Maybe. But what Republicans might do in the future shouldn’t deter us now. Will tit-for-tat expansions of the Court undermine its legitimacy? It is far too late for that.

Fourth, reproductive choice must be on the ballot in every race. Republicans have finally achieved what they wanted—no right to abortion and no exceptions for rape or incest. We must make every Republican running for every office in the land own the GOP position on abortion in its ugliest manifestation. The outcome in Dobbs is opposed by a strong majority of Americans and should provide a basis for a sweeping Democratic victory in 2022.

Finally, the right to same-sex marriage, same-sex relations, contraception, and other privacy-based rights must be on the ballot in every race. Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence declared war on those rights and invited reactionary legislatures to pass laws to serve as test cases. We would be foolish to assume that the other members of the reactionary majority will not follow his lead, given a chance.

None of these approaches will be easy or provide a complete answer. Readers have already sent emails that preemptively identify the problems with some of these approaches and dismiss their chances of success. But these are the paths available to us. We can choose to pursue them or do nothing. We must pursue them relentlessly until we have regained control of every branch of government, including the Supreme Court. Only then can we reverse the ruling in Dobbs and preserve other liberties grounded in the same right to privacy that supported reproductive rights for a half-century.

We are the majority, and American democracy presumes majority rule while protecting the rights of the minority. Republicans are attempting to reverse that presumption by seeking to impose permanent minority rule with no protection for the rights of the majority. That cannot stand. It will not stand. But it is up to us to restore the natural balance to democracy. It is not enough that we vote with greater passion or conviction. We must motivate those who did not believe this day would not come or who were not paying attention. We can do that—if we act with greater passion, conviction, and urgency.

The ruling.

Alito’s final decision is a judicial insult. In a single blow, he has demoted American women to second-class citizens. It is filled with venom and contempt in addressing a contentious issue on which people of good faith can disagree. He refers to physicians as abortionists when they seek to save a woman’s life or terminate a pregnancy forced on a teenager by a rapist. He misrepresents, minimizes, and dismisses the burdens and risks of pregnancy. He substitutes his Catholic dogma for judicial analysis.

Alito’s final version of his opinion changed little from the draft leaked last month. As such, it retains the dishonesty and intellectual sophistry of the “deeply rooted tradition” analysis contained in the draft—an analysis that deliberately misrepresents the American tradition relating to abortion. See Aaron Tang in The Los Angeles Times, Op-Ed: The Supreme Court flunks abortion history.

But most ominously, Alito’s “deeply rooted” analysis signals Alito’s intent to attack other privacy-based rights, such as same-sex marriage. Alito dissented in the Court’s decision recognizing same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges. Alito wrote in Obergefell, as follows:

          To prevent five unelected Justices from imposing their personal vision of liberty upon the American people, the Court has held that “liberty” under the Due Process Clause should be understood to protect only those rights that are ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’ s history and tradition.’ And it is beyond dispute that the right to same-sex marriage is not among those rights.

There it is: Alito’s analysis in overruling Roe v. Wade does not stop with reproductive rights. It reaches to same-sex marriage. He said so in his dissent in Obergefell. And Justice Thomas made that explicit in his concurrence in Dobbs:

          In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.

Griswold recognized the right to use contraceptives of choice; Lawrence recognized the right to enter into a same-sex relationships; and Obergefell recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry. Justice Thomas notably omitted a right based on “substantive due process precedents”—the right of members of different “races” to marry, a right first granted in Loving v. Virginia in 1967. If the Court reverses Loving v. Virginia, Thomas’s marriage to Ginny Thomas would be illegal in some states.

For a longer discussion of the threat to other rights, see Mark Joseph Stern in Slate, The Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade puts marriage equality in immediate jeopardy.

It will take weeks to understand the implications of Justice Alito’s decision, but a good place to start is with Ian Millhiser’s analysis in Vox, The Roe v. Wade abortion decision, explained.

Finally, for a discussion of self-inflicted damage to the Court’s legitimacy, see Dahlia Lithwick, in Slate, Roe v. Wade overturned: The Supreme Court will pay for abortion decision.

The corruption and illegitimacy of the Supreme Court.

As currently constituted, the Supreme Court is illegitimate and corrupt. It is illegitimate because two justices appointed by Trump resulted from norm-busting “rules” made up by Mitch McConnell on the fly. Gorsuch sits in a seat stolen from an Obama appointee, and Barrett sits in a seat that belonged to the incoming president.

The Court is corrupt because Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett lied to the Senate about their pre-determined intent to overrule Roe v. Wade. And it is corrupt because Justice Thomas has refused to recuse himself from cases in which his wife assisted in an attempted coup.

The trust of the American public in the Court has plummeted to an all-time low of 25%. It will decline further if the January 6th Committee proves that Ginny Thomas funneled information about Court deliberations to John Eastman. It will fall further if the Committee demonstrates that Justice Thomas knew of and condoned his wife’s insurrectionist activities.

Jennifer Rubin succinctly summarizes the death blow to the Court’s legitimacy in her column in WaPo, The Supreme Court eviscerates abortion rights and its own legitimacy. Per Rubin,

The hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of the court’s right-wing justices lead to the conclusion that they have simply appointed themselves super-legislators free to impose a view of the United States as a White, Christian and male-dominated society despite the values, beliefs and choices of a majority of 330 million modern Americans.

The court’s decision may result in women’s deaths. But it has certainly killed off what is left of the court’s credibility. And for that, there is no solution in sight.

Concluding Thoughts.

On a day like today, it does not feel right to end on an optimistic note. Rather, we should acknowledge the anger, frustration, fear, and grief that tens of millions of women in America are feeling after the ruling. There will be a time to rally and rejoin the fight for the dignity and equality of women—a fight we will win.

But today, we should acknowledge what women have lost and give them the time and space to absorb and recover from a once-in-a-generation shock. As they do, everyone in their lives should let them know we are at their side every step of the way. Walk along in silence and listen. Nothing can be “fixed” today, but we can begin the long journey back in the coming days.

Jan Resseger, now retired, spent her career as an activist for social justice. Her recent essay was reposted by the Network for Public Education. It seemed appropriate to post it on the 68th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision of 1954. In trying to assess the meager progress towards the ideals of Brown—specifically, equality of educational opportunity—she lays some of the blame on No Child Left Behind and the corporate school reform movement,

Jan Resseger attended the recent Network for Public Education conference, where she took inspiration from speaker Jitu Brown, director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. Reposted with permission.

She wrote:

A highlight of the Network for Public Education’s recent national conference was the keynote from Jitu Brown, a gifted and dedicated Chicago community organizer and the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. His remarks made me think about the meaning of the last two decades of corporate school reform and the conditions today in his city and here where I live in greater Cleveland, Ohio. It is a sad story.

Brown reflected on his childhood experience at a West Side Chicago elementary school, a place where he remembers being exposed to a wide range of information and experience including the study of a foreign language. He wondered, “Why did we have good neighborhood schools when I went to school but our kids don’t have them anymore? For children in poor neighborhoods, their education is not better.”

Brown described how No Child Left Behind’s basic drilling and test prep in the two subjects for which NCLB demands testing—math and language arts—eat up up more and more of the school day. We can consult Harvard University expert on testing, Daniel Koretz, for the details about why the testing regime has been particularly hard on children in schools where poverty is concentrated: “Inappropriate test preparation… is more severe in some places than in others. Teachers of high-achieving students have less reason to indulge in bad preparation for high-stakes tests because the majority of their students will score adequately without it—in particular, above the ‘proficient’ cut score that counts for accountability purposes. So one would expect that test preparation would be a more severe problem in schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students, and it is.” (The Testing Charade, pp. 116-117)

Of course, a narrowed curriculum is only one factor in today’s inequity. Derek W. Black and Axton Crolley explain: “(A) 2018 report revealed, school districts enrolling ‘the most students of color receive about $1,800 or 13% less per student’ than districts serving the fewest students of color… Most school funding gaps have a simple explanation: Public school budgets rely heavily on local property taxes. Communities with low property values can tax themselves at much higher rates than others but still fail to generate anywhere near the same level of resources as other communities. In fact, in 46 of 50 states, local school funding schemes drive more resources to middle-income students than poor students.”

Again and again in his recent keynote address, Jitu Brown described the consequences of Chicago’s experiment with corporate accountability-based school reform. Chicago is a city still coping with the effect of the closure of 50 neighborhood schools in June of 2013—part of the collateral damage of the Renaissance 2010 charter school expansion—a portfolio school reform program administered by Arne Duncan to open charter schools and close neighborhood schools deemed “failing,” as measured by standardized test scores. On top of the charter expansion, Chicago instituted student-based-budgeting, which has trapped a number of Chicago public schools in a downward spiral as students experiment with charter schools and as enrollment diminishes, both of which spawn staffing and program cuts and put the school on a path toward closure.

As Jitu Brown reflected on his inspiring elementary school experience a long time ago, I thought about a moving recent article by Carolyn Cooper, a long time resident of Cleveland, Ohio’s East Glenville neighborhood: “I received a stellar education in elementary, junior high, and high school from the… Cleveland Public School system… All of the schools I attended were within walking distance, or only a few miles from my home. And at Iowa-Maple Elementary School, a K-6 school at the time, I was able to join the French Club and study abroad for months in both Paris and Lyon, France… Flash forward to this present day… To fight the closure of both Iowa-Maple and Collinwood High School, a few alumni attended a school facilities meeting held in October 2019 at Glenville High School… Despite our best efforts, Collinwood remained open but Iowa-Maple still closed down… Several generations of my family, as well as the families of other people who lived on my street, were alumni there. I felt it should have remained open because it was a 5-Star school, offering a variety of programs including gifted and advanced courses, special education, preschool offerings, and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).”

In his keynote address last week, Jitu Brown explained: “Justice and opportunity depend on the institutions to which children have access.” Brown’s words brought to my mind another part of Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood less than a mile from Iowa-Maple Elementary School. If you drive along Lakeview Road between Superior and St. Clair Avenues, you see a neighborhood with older homes of a size comfortable for families and scattered newer rental housing built about twenty years ago with support from tax credits. You also see many empty lots where houses were abandoned and later demolished in the years following the 2008 foreclosure crisis. Separated by several blocks, you pass two large weedy tracts of land which were once the sites of two different public elementary schools—abandoned by the school district and boarded up for years before they were demolished. You pass by a convenience store surrounded by cracked asphalt and gravel. Finally you pass a dilapidated, abandoned nursing home which for several years housed the Virtual Schoolhouse, a charter school that advertised on the back of Regional Transit Authority buses until it shut down in 2018.

My children went to school in Cleveland Heights, only a couple of miles from Glenville. Cleveland Heights-University Heights is a mixed income, racially integrated, majority African American, inner-ring suburban school district. Our children can walk to neighborhood public schools that are a great source of community pride. Our community is not wealthy, but we have managed to pass our school levies to support our children with strong academics. We recently passed a bond issue to update and repair our old high school, where my children had the opportunity to play in a symphony orchestra, and play sports in addition to the excellent academic program.

Jitu Brown helped organize and lead the 2015 Dyett Hunger Strike, which forced the Chicago Public Schools to reopen a shuttered South Side Chicago high school. Brown does not believe that charter schools and vouchers are the way to increase opportunity for children in places like Chicago’s South and West Sides and Cleveland’s Glenville and Collinwood neighborhoods. He explains: “When you go to a middle-class white community you don’t see charter schools…. You see effective, K-12 systems of education in their neighborhoods. Our children deserve the same.”

In the powerful final essay in the new book, Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy, Bill Ayers, a retired professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago, agrees with Jitu Brown about what ought to be the promise of public education for every child in America:

“Let’s move forward guided by an unshakable first principle: Public education is a human right and a basic community responsibility… Every child has the right to a free, high-quality education. A decent, generously staffed school facility must be in easy reach for every family… What the most privileged parents have for their public school children right now—small class sizes, fully trained and well compensated teachers, physics and chemistry labs, sports teams, physical education and athletic fields and gymnasiums, after-school and summer programs, generous arts programs that include music, theater, and fine arts—is the baseline for what we want for all children.” (Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy, pp. 314-315) (emphasis in the original)

Jesse Hagopian is an activist teacher in the Seattle Public Schools, a leader in Black Lives Matter at School and editor of the book More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. This article appeared in the Seattle Times:

State Republican Rep. Jim Walsh recently introduced HB 1807 and Republican Rep. Brad Klippert introduced HB 1886 for this legislative session — two bills designed to mandate educators lie to Washington’s students about structural racism and sexism.

This copycat legislation is lifted from a growing number of bills around the country that seek to ban an honest account of history in K-12 education, including many of the long struggles against oppression. These bills especially target the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), the 1619 Project, the Zinn Education Project and Black Lives Matter at School.

It’s fitting that Rep. Klippert’s bill is numbered “1886,” as that was the year a mob of white people in Seattle rounded up more than 200 Chinese people, forced them into wagons, and hauled them to Seattle docks where they were placed on a ships and deported. Though 15 people were tried in court in relation to the riot — including Chief of Police William Murphywho helped the mob round up Chinese people illegally — not a single one was ever convicted of a crime.

It’s similarly appropriate that Rep. Walsh’s bill is numbered “1807” because this bill seeks to return us to the early 19th century — a time when the nation was accelerating the attack on Black people’s rights in the North and colonizing the land of Native Americans. In 1807, New Jersey took away the right to vote for Black people. On April 1, 1807, Ohio outlawedBlack people from testifying in cases with white people. For the next 40 years, white people could act with impunity in filing baseless lawsuits and commit crimes — even violent attacks — against Black people who could not testify to defend themselves or give any evidence against them…

HB 1886 states that educators would be banned from teaching that, “The United States is fundamentally or structurally racist or sexist.” But consider these facts: The average white family has 10 times the amount of wealth of the average Black family.

∙ A Black woman is three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than a white woman.

∙ Black students are more than three times more likely to be suspended from school than white students.

· The median household income for Native Americans was 60% of median white household income. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent estimates reveal inequities have worsened, especially for Native American women.

· At least 44 transgender and gender nonconforming people were violently killed in 2020, with Black transgender women accounting for two-thirds of total recorded deaths since 2013.

· Anti-Asian hate crimes surged over 169% last year.

For teachers who believe in accurate history, there is no real choice here — we will always teach students about the reality of structural racism and other intersecting oppressions. Revealing these facts in the classroom is not about shaming white students — in fact, it is those who deny structural racism who end up leading white children to suspect that they are personally responsible for the racial disparities they see, rather than understanding the way systems can work to perpetuate inequities sometimes regardless of the intentions of the individuals who work in these systems.

The people of Chile are expunging the last traces of the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet. They elected Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old member of the Chilean Congress and a former student activist, as President of Chile. The election was expected to be close but Boric won by a 56-44% margin.

Boric was engaged in national protests over the past decade against inequality. A decade ago, he led protests against Chile’s privatized education system. He will be the youngest person ever elected to the Presidency of Chile. His election is a decisive rejection of the policies of the dictator Pinochet. His rival defended Pinochet and ran on a law-and-order platform and a pledge to cut taxes and social spending.

An Army General, Pinochet seized control of the government by a coup d’etat. He imposed a reign of terror, and thousands of his opponents were murdered, imprisoned, tortured, or disappeared. Pinochet called on Milton Friedman and the libertarian “Chicago Boys” to rewrite Chile’s Constitution. They baked the primacy of the free market and neoliberalism into the new Constitution. Pinochet’s regime cut social benefits, privatized social security and many government functions, reduced benefits, and introduced vouchers and for-profit schools. The economy grew, but so did inequality. Pinochet ruled from 1973-1990.

Protests against the nation’s privatized and deeply unequal education system rocked the nation a decade ago. Many Chileans were barely subsisting because of cuts to social security. More protests broke out in 2019 against the country’s entrenched inequality and corruption. Boric was active in all those protests.

Last year, Chileans expressed their demand for change by voting for a rewrite of the national constitution, the one written by the “Chicago Boys” and implemented by Pinochet.

The BBC reported:

Once the most stable economy in Latin America, Chile has one of the world’s largest income gaps, with 1% of the population owning 25% of the country’s wealth, according to the United Nations.

Mr Boric has promised to address this inequality by expanding social rights and reforming Chile’s pension and healthcare systems, as well as reducing the work week from 45 to 40 hours, and boosting green investment.

“We know there continues to be justice for the rich, and justice for the poor, and we no longer will permit that the poor keep paying the price of Chile’s inequality,” he said.

The president-elect also promised to block a controversial proposed mining project which he said would destroy communities and the national environment.

Chile’s currency, the peso, plunged to a record low against the US dollar after Mr Boric’s victory. Stock markets fell by 10%, with mining stocks performing particularly badly.

Investors are worried stability and profits will suffer as a result of higher taxes and tighter government regulation of business.

In a profile of Gabriel Boric, the BBC described his message:

When Mr Boric won the candidacy of his leftist bloc to run for president, he made a bold pledge. “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” he said. “Do not be afraid of the youth changing this country.”

And so he ran on a platform promising radical reforms to the free-market economic model imposed by former dictator Gen Augusto Pinochet. One that, he says, is the root of the country’s deep inequality, imbalances that came to the surface during protests in 2019 that triggered an official redraft of the constitution.

After a polarising campaign, Mr Boric defeated far-right rival José Antonio Kast in the second round of the presidential election by a surprising large margin, ushering in a new chapter in the country’s political history.

“We are a generation that emerged in public life demanding our rights be respected as rights and not treated like consumer goods or a business,” Mr Boric said in his victory speech to thousands of supporters, most of them young people…

Mr Boric, who says he is an avid reader of poetry and history, describes himself as a moderate socialist. He has abandoned the long hair of his activist days, and jackets now often cover his tattoos on both arms.

He has also softened some of his views while keeping his promises to overhaul the pension system, expand social services including universal health insurance, increase taxes for big companies and wealthy individuals, and create a greener economy.

His resounding win in the run-off vote of the presidential election, after trailing Mr Kast in the first round, came after he secured support beyond his base in the capital, Santiago, and attracted voters in rural areas. A supporter of same-sex marriage and abortion rights, he was also backed by huge numbers of women.

In his victory speech, when he was joined by his girlfriend, he promised to be a “president for all Chileans”, saying: “Today hope trumped fear”.

This part of Capital & Main’s examination of union busting reviews the targeting of academics who study labor by corporate critics. It was written by Jo Constantz.

Many scholars who study the history and economics of organized labor are sympathetic to the union cause. These academics often encounter threats, harassment, and defunding of their research.

It begins:

Throttled by both strong-arm tactics from anti-union interests and a chronic lack of support from universities, the field of labor studies has dwindled in the U.S. in recent years.

Researchers in the field have been the target of legal threats and lawsuits, onerous public records requests and misinformation campaigns from union avoidance consultants, business executives, corporate lawyers and conservative think tanks. It’s one aspect of the business lobby’s relentless war against unions in recent decades, which has seen companies spend more than $340 million a year on consultants to defeat organizing efforts by their employees and helped sink union membership.

Labor studies, an interdisciplinary field in academia that examines workplace issues and worker organizations, reveals working conditions that motivate people to want to join a union. Much of the scholarship has illuminated the central role that labor’s decline has played in exacerbating income inequality. In doing so, the field has aroused the ire of anti-union companies and their allies. The field has never been a major force in academia and many centers have been gradually shuttered due to lack of funding or merged with other departments. Only a handful of universities currently offer a major or minor in labor studies. Faculty are often untenured, vulnerable to layoffs and budget cuts, and they are often not replaced when they retire.

Open the link and read on.

This article in the Capital & Main series was written by Marcus Baram and is titled ”Inside the Secretive World of Union-Busting: Here’s How Much Corporations Pay to Bust Unions.” Subtitle: “U.S. companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year to ensure workers don’t organize.”

It begins:

A handful of workers at the Dollar General In the small Connecticut town of Barkhamsted had grown frustrated last September at being poorly treated by a district manager, amid allegations

The organizing effort involved just six workers (five after one said he was fired for his efforts to unionize) earning $13 an hour — so about $624 a day in total — but the company spent multiples of that to combat the union drive. Dollar General paid Labor Relations Institute, a firm known for its union avoidance consulting, a fee of $2,700 per day for each consultant it brought in, according to filings with the Department of Labor. LRI used five consultants, who reportedly held one-on-one meetings with workers and conducted group sessions to educate them on the risks of joining a union. In the end, the unionization effort failed and the company breathed a sigh of relief. The retail giant posted $33.7 billion in sales and $2.7 billion in profit in 2020, but remains convinced its future earnings might have been hurt if any of its 157,000 workers joined a union.

What do you say when a corporation cares more about profits than the lives of its workers?

In part one of its review of union busting, written by Jo Constantz, Capital & Main examines how employers use technology to defeat unions.

It begins:

During a Zoom call set up by union representatives and employees who had organized a worker organizing committee, “We noticed that managers of the company had busted into the meeting — they had crashed our Zoom call,” recalls Lorena Lopez, a director of organizing with UNITE HERE Local 11. “Workers started to get very nervous and shut down their cameras so they wouldn’t be recognized. I was running the meeting and asked everyone to ID themselves. But the company people refused.” During the meeting, a worker on the cleaning crew had volunteered to be the spokesperson for the group. According to Lopez, this worker was confronted by management the next day and pressured to quit.

“They were spying on us — and it was easy to do via Zoom,” she says. Under a settlement agreement with the NLRB, the company agreed to post flyersinforming employers of their right to unionize and pledged not to ask them about organizing efforts and not to surveil their Zoom meetings. A lawyer for the company did not return requests for comment.

Workplace surveillance, already widespread in the U.S., has become even more prevalent during the pandemic as employers try to enforce public health measures and monitor remote workers. According to research by Gartner, a market research firm, 60% of large employers use workplace monitoring tools, twice as many as before the pandemic. Coworker.org, a labor research nonprofit, recently compiled a database of over 550 of these commercially available products, which it dubs “little tech,” and published a study outlining potential harms and noting the industry’s general lack of regulation.

Open the link and keep reading.