Archives for category: Inequity

Jeremy Mohler is communications director for the nonpartisan organization “In the Public Interest,” which fights the privatization of public goods and services. This article draws a link between policies of privatization and the rise of rightwing populism

He writes:

It’s one sentence in a 1,244-word article, but it made me pause and think deeply.

The article is a guest essay in the New York Times about the rise of Sweden’s far-right political party, which was created out of a neo-Nazi group and resembles the increasingly Trumpian Republican Party with its hatred of immigrants, journalists, and others.

The sentence: “Once one of the most economically equal countries in the world, Sweden has seen the privatization of hospitals, schools and care homes, leading to a notable rise in inequality and a sense of profound loss.”

That makes me wonder: How much has privatization contributed to soaring far-right populism, white nationalism, and fascism in the U.S.?

In Sweden, argues journalist and author Elisabeth Asbrink, high levels of political and economic inequality leaves people looking for answers to why they’re suffering and who is to blame—and far right leaders are happy to provide them.

“It was better in the good old days, [those leaders] say, and people believe them,” Asbrink writes. “Back to red cottages and apple trees, to law and order, to women being women and men being men.”

Sound familiar?

As we have documented, the privatization of public schools, water, and other public goods increases inequality. Government contractors create new fees for things like delinquent tax payments and probation. They lower wages and benefits for workers. Privatization also has helped shred crucial parts of the social safety net, like Medicaid.

Scholars have argued along these lines for some time now. “Neoliberalism creates a failed democracy,” says cultural critic Henry A. Giroux, “and in doing so, opens up the fascists’ use of fear and terror to transform a state of exception into a state of emergency.”

But I think it’s important to highlight the role of privatization—something embraced by both parties for the past 40 or so years.

A Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, recently endorsed private school vouchers, which would take public money from the state’s lowest funded public schools and give it to private schools.

Like privately operated charter schools, private school vouchers might help some students, but they leave most of the others behind in public schools starving for resources.

Conservatives have long pushed for such privatization schemes, and Democrats have too often joined them. Meanwhile, America’s far too many underfunded schools continue to suffer—with policies like charter schools and vouchers only making things worse.

And we wonder why “Make America Great Again” resonates with so many people.

New York City has long had a significant means of sorting and labeling students. When Michael Bloomberg became mayor, he expanded the number of selective middle schools. It’s not clear whether he was trying to lure white parents to stay in the city or whether he was a dyed-in-the-wool believer in test-based meritocracy.

Whatever the case, New York City has large numbers of selective middle schools. The New York City Bar Association, through its Civil Rights and Education and Law committees, issued a call to eliminate selective admissions in middle schools.

For what it’s worth, when I attended public schools in Houston, Texas, many years ago, there were no selective schools. I attended my neighborhood elementary school, junior high school, and high school.

Things have changed. For better or worse?

Contact: Eric Friedman

efriedman@nycbar.org

Eli Cohen

Eecohen@nycbar.org


PERMANENTLY ELIMINATE COMPETITIVE ADMISSIONS TO NEW YORK CITY MIDDLE-SCHOOLS

Chancellor Banks and the New York City Department of Education Should Not Reinstate Screens

New York, September 19, 2022 – The New York City Bar Association (City Bar), through its Civil Rights and Education and the Law Committees,[1] renews its calls for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to eliminate competitive admissions to the City’s public middle schools. We are concerned by reports that DOE is considering reinstating the screens for middle school students and we urge that this practice not be restored.

 

The City Bar first called for the elimination of competitive admissions for the City’s public elementary and middle schools during the de Blasio Administration, arguing that the policy unnecessarily segregates our students, schools and educational programs, leaving some students without the opportunity for enriched learning that all of our children deserve.[2] In support of those conclusions, our letters noted that:

 

 

  • Measures of young children’s ability and behavior through competitive admission screening and testing are unreliable and racially biased.

 

  • Competitive admissions for very young children are pedagogically unsound because research demonstrates that all children derive educational and social benefits from diverse classrooms with students of differing races, economic backgrounds and learning abilities.

 

  • The practice of excluding the majority of certain socioeconomic and racial groups of young children from a large percentage of public institutions, through the use of middle school screens was inequitable, conducive to racial hierarchy and inconsistent with our democratic ideals.[3]

 

It would be deeply problematic to reinstate middle school screens and allow public schools and programs within schools that opt for that process to effectively close their doors to the majority of students. Student-assignment methods for middle school should take into account the characteristics of individual students only for the purpose of achieving balanced and equitable access for all students – not for the disproportionate exclusion of historically disadvantaged groups.

 

For all the reasons outlined in our previous letters, and as was most recently argued in the New York Appleseed’s September 16 letter,[4] the City Bar calls on Schools Chancellor David Banks and DOE to permanently end the use of middle school screens.

 

[1] The Civil Rights Committee addresses issues affecting the civil rights of New Yorkers, especially the rights of marginalized communities. The Education and the Law Committee addresses K-12 and higher education, and legal and policy education issues affecting the city, state, and nation. Both Committees’ memberships include attorneys from state and local government agencies, law firms, not-for-profit organizations, and law-school faculty. Education and the Law members also include K-12 educators and education consultants. Committee members are acting in their respective individual capacities as members of the City Bar, not in their professional or academic roles.

2 “Eliminate Competitive Admissions to NYC Public Elementary & Middle Schools,” New York City Bar Association, May 1, 2019, https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/eliminate-competitive-admissions-to-nyc-public-elementary-and-middle-schools; see also “Letter in Support of Eliminating Competitive Admissions in NYC’s Public Elementary and Middle Schools,” New York City Bar Association, Nov. 1, 2019, https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/letter-in-support-of-eliminating-competitive-admissions-in-nycs-public-elementary-and-middle-schools.

3 Please note that we do not include in these recommendations programs or schools in which facility with a certain language or demonstrated capability in the Arts is a prerequisite.

4 Letter to Chancellor David C. Banks, NYC. Dept. of Education, “Call to Permanently End Middle-School Screens,” NY Appleseed, Sept. 16, 2022, https://www.nyappleseed.org/wp-content/uploads/LetterToChancellorBanks_-End-MS-Screens-Permanently_Sept22.pdf.

 

About the Association

The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has over 23,000 members, is to equip and mobilize a diverse legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world. www.nycbar.org



[1] The Civil Rights Committee addresses issues affecting the civil rights of New Yorkers, especially the rights of marginalized communities. The Education and the Law Committee addresses K-12 and higher education, and legal and policy education issues affecting the city, state, and nation. Both Committees’ memberships include attorneys from state and local government agencies, law firms, not-for-profit organizations, and law-school faculty. Education and the Law members also include K-12 educators and education consultants. Committee members are acting in their respective individual capacities as members of the City Bar, not in their professional or academic roles.

[2] “Eliminate Competitive Admissions to NYC Public Elementary & Middle Schools,” New York City Bar Association, May 1, 2019, https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/eliminate-competitive-admissions-to-nyc-public-elementary-and-middle-schools; see also “Letter in Support of Eliminating Competitive Admissions in NYC’s Public Elementary and Middle Schools,” New York City Bar Association, Nov. 1, 2019, https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/letter-in-support-of-eliminating-competitive-admissions-in-nycs-public-elementary-and-middle-schools.

[3] Please note that we do not include in these recommendations programs or schools in which facility with a certain language or demonstrated capability in the Arts is a prerequisite.

[4] Letter to Chancellor David C. Banks, NYC. Dept. of Education, “Call to Permanently End Middle-School Screens,” NY Appleseed, Sept. 16, 2022, https://www.nyappleseed.org/wp-content/uploads/LetterToChancellorBanks_-End-MS-Screens-Permanently_Sept22.pdf.

_._,_._,_

Jan Resseger is a careful researcher and thoughtful political analyst who lives in Ohio. In this post, she has compiled a list of the far-right groups who influence the Ohio legislature as it wreaks havoc on the public schools that most children attend.

She writes:

Ohio is overrun with far-right advocates pushing the privatization of public education through the expansion of both vouchers and charter schools and with people spreading alarm about public school teaching of divisive subjects. This should not be surprising in our notoriously gerrymandered Republican state legislature. Here are some of the extremist organizations whose lobbyists counsel our legislators, help them draft legislation, and make political donations.

The Buckeye Institute

Sourcewatch describes this Ohio organization: “The Buckeye Institute… is a right-wing advocacy group based in Ohio. It is a member of the $120 million-a-year State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as “think tanks” and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.” Sourcewatch further describes the State Policy Network: “SPN groups operate as the policy, communications, and litigation arm of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), giving the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda a sheen of academic legitimacy and state-based support.”

On Tuesday of last week, The Buckeye Institute released a new report outlining its strategy for helping students “regain lost learning” during the pandemic: “In its new policy report… The Buckeye Institute outlines how empowering parents, funding students first, and enhancing school choice can counteract the ill effects the pandemic had on learning loss for Ohio’s K-12 students.” While The Buckeye Institute claims to focus on individual students in its response to the past two years of COVID disruption, the new report doesn’t mention students at all. There is nothing about giving students extra attention in smaller classes or more enrichments and activities to make school exciting or more counselors and mental health support. Instead the report addresses the more abstract issues of school ownership and governance. In essence universal marketplace school choice via vouchers is the solution: “The report offers four commonsense policy solutions that will improve the K-12 academic experience:

  • “Broad-Based Education Savings Accounts: Create a broad-based ESA initiative to reform Ohio’s education system and its long-standing government-run education monopoly…
  • “Universal Open Enrollment: Make it easier for all families to send students to their school of choice by requiring all Ohio public schools to participate in inter-district open enrollment.
  • “Expanded Tax Credit Scholarships: Increase the maximum tax credit from its current $750 limit to $2,500 to make it easier for grant organizations to offer larger scholarships (vouchers) to more students in need.
  • “Enhanced Spending Transparency: Require all public school districts to operate more transparently by sharing their spending data with parents in Ohio Checkbook.”

The Center for Christian Virtue

The Center for Christian Virtue recently purchased an office building across the street from the Statehouse in Columbus to bring the organization right into the center of power in Ohio. One of the Center for Christian Virtue’s new initiatives is to help locate private religious schools in churches—schools that qualify for tax-funded EdChoice vouchers. For the Statehouse News Bureau, Jo Ingles reports: “A new, private school has been commissioned in Columbus, but it’s not like many others… Inside the walls of the Memorial Baptist Church on the west side of Columbus, classrooms normally used for Sunday church services are being readied for kindergarten through second grade students who have been going to local public schools. That’s according to Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue, a conservative Christian organization. He said seven churches came together to create this new model school. This is a pilot project for the Center for Christian Virtue. And the group said it’s just the first of many that will use church facilities for a private Christian school.” “Children who enroll in the school this year can use state money through Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program to pay for their tuition because they will fit the income or school attendance area guidelines… Other Christian-based schools are now receiving money from the EdChoice Scholarship program.”

Ingles adds that, “Baer’s organization is leading the charge for majority Republicans state lawmakers to adopt a bill, commonly called the “backpack” bill, that would expand the Ed Choice Scholarship even more to allow any student, regardless of income or where they live, to use public money for private schools. ”

For the Ohio Capital Journal, Zurie Pope reports that the Center for Christian Virtue has gone farther than merely supporting HB 290, the Backpack Bill. Members of the Center for Christian Virtue’s staff helped write the language of the bill: “(D)ocuments obtained by the Ohio Capital Journal through a public records request reveal CCV’s involvement in HB 290 has been more extensive than previously known, and included the advice and promotion of outside groups like Heritage Action and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This past February, a legislative aide for McClain (one of the bill’s sponsors) emailed a draft of the bill to CCV legislative liaison Nilani Jawahar and CCV lobbyist and Ohio Christian Education Network Assistant Director Corine Vidales.” The Ohio Capital Journal‘s report also names so-called academic research the drafters of the Backpack Bill considered as they were drafting the bill: “Both studies were created by EdChoice, an Indiana-based think tank that advocates for school choice. Ohio’s private school voucher program is also called EdChoice.” Finally, explains Zurie Pope, of the Ohio Capital Journal, the executive director of the Ohio Christian Education Network, Troy McIntosh, “sent a draft of the bill to Stephanie Kruez, a regional director for Heritage Action, the policy arm of the right-wing think tank, The Heritage Foundation.”

The Thomas Fordham Institute

The Ohio Capital Journal‘s Susan Tebben reports that the Thomas Fordham Institute has joined a lawsuit pushing to overturn reasonable and sensible new rules recently imposed by the U.S. Department of Education to improve oversight of the federal Charter Schools Program. The Fordham Institute functions not only as an Ohio think tank, but also as an approved sponsor of its own Ohio charter schools. Tebben explains: “An Ohio group that supports charter schools has joined in a lawsuit fighting against what they say is ‘hostility’ in rule-making by the U.S. Department of Education. The D.C. and Ohio-based Thomas Fordham Institute, a conservative education policy think tank, spoke as a ‘charter school sponsor’ for the state of Ohio, arguing that rules regulating enrollment and use of charter schools… will ‘disadvantage some or all of the charter schools sponsored by Fordham’… The part of the rule that charter school advocates have a problem with states charter schools would need to prove public schools are over-enrolled, and encourage but don’t require ‘community collaboration’ with fellow school districts.” The lawsuit Fordham joined claims: “The most successful charter schools are those that provide educational alternatives to under-enrolled schools, not those that simply house excess numbers of students.” Ohio’s Fordham Institute is supporting the idea that charter schools should operate in competition, not collaboration, with the public school districts in which they are located. Neither does Fordham worry about the areas in Ohio where too many low quality charter schools with fancy advertising are sucking essential dollars from the public schools that serve the majority of the community’s students.

The Fordham Institute’s Aaron Churchill recently published a detailed set of priorities the Fordham Institute will be advocating this winter when the legislature begins to debate Ohio’s FY 2024-2025 biennial state budget. Churchill explains that Fordham will lobby to expand the charter school funding formula, expand special targeted assistance for charter schools, raise the facilities alliance to cover building costs, and support a credit enhancement to make building restoration and construction more affordable for charter schools. Fordham will also lobby to make EdChoice vouchers available for all students living in families with income up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level and allow brand new private schools to receive publicly funded vouchers from students even in a private school’s first year of operation. To its credit, Fordham will push to make the academic quality of private schools accepting vouchers more transparent by requiring, for the first time, private schools to release standardized test scores. Fordham will also lobby to make interdistrict public school choice universal across all the districts in the state, removing discretion for local school boards to decide whether to participate.

Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative

In the first of an important three-part expose for SALON last spring, Kathryn Joyce outlined the fast-growing initiative of Michigan’s conservative Christian Hillsdale College to disseminate its Classical Academy curriculum—which is Christian as well as classical—nationwide by encouraging charter schools to incorporate its model curriculum: “Hillsdale is not just a central player, but a ready-made solution for conservatives who seek to reclaim an educational system they believe was ceded decades ago to liberal interests. The college has become a leading force in promoting a conservative and overtly Christian reading of American history and the U.S. Constitution. It opposes progressive education reforms in general and contemporary scholarship on inequality in particular… Across the nation, conservative officials from state leaders to insurgent school board embers are clamoring to implement Hillsdale’s proudly anti-woke lesson plans, including the ‘patriotic education’ premises of its recently released 1776 Curriculum, or add to its growing network of affiliated classical charter schools.”

The NY Times‘ Stephanie Saul explains the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative’s name: “Hillsdale’s charter school operation… began in 2010 with a grant from the Chicago-based Barney Family Foundation, endowed by Stephen M. Barney, a financial industry executive.  Saul continues: “The Hillsdale charter schools are neither owned nor managed by Hillsdale. Instead, the schools enter agreements to use the Hillsdale curriculum and the college provides training for faculty and staff, as well as other assistance—all free of charge.”

The number of Hillsdale Classical Charter Schools is growing in Ohio.  I currently count four either in operation already or getting set to open: the Cincinnati Classical Academy; the Northwest Ohio Classical Academy in Toledo; the Heart of Ohio Classical Academy in Columbus; and the Southeast Ohio Classical Academy in Athens.  Another Hillsdale Classical Academy is a private school, the Columbus Classical Academy, which, I’m sure, accepts vouchers which have been permitted for religious schools since 2002 under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons Harris.

Four of these schools, however, are charter schools—which Ohio considers public schools. As schools with an explicitly Christian curriculum, these charter schools, deemed public by Ohio law, raise obvious questions about church-state separation. After the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carson v. Makin, a Maine school voucher decision which affirmed the constitutionality of publicly funding schools that explicitly teach religion, perhaps these Ohio Hillsdale charter schools will ultimately be tested with further litigation.

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.

The Houston Chronicle reports that a participant in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol is likely to be elected to the Texas State Board of Education. She has pledged to fight “critical race theory” (i.e. teaching about racism) and to support charter schools.

Underscoring Texas lawmakers’ rightward lurch on education issues in recent years, the candidate likely to replace a moderate Republican on the State Board of Education in a district outside Houston is a right-wing activist who participated in protests at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

After winning the primary in March, the front-runner in the District 7 race is Julie Pickren, a former trustee for Alvin Independent School District. Pickren was voted off that board last year after her participation in the protest at the U.S. Capitol was revealed — the basis of a campaign against her by the Brazoria County NAACP.

Pickren is a former delegate to the GOP’s national and state conventions, her LinkedIn says, and on Facebook she blamed antifa, rather than Trump supporters, for violence during the Capitol riot, a claim that other Republicans have made without proof. She declined a request for an interview….

Republicans have moved further to the right on education issues in Texas over the past 18 months. Earlier this summer, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his support for private school vouchers and endorsed a “Parental Bill of Rights” to give parents more power over what and how their kids are taught in schools. Last year, the Legislature passed and Abbott signed a slew of conservative bills relating to education, including restrictions on how social studies can be taught and on transgender children playing school sports.

At the local level, school board politics have become increasingly heated, with often angry discussions over diversity and equity policies in the schools. Parent groups have organized PACs in opposition to what they view as progressive activism in education, raising substantial amounts of money to reshape local school boards around the state.

Next year’s State Board of Education is set to be more conservative, with Robinson leaving as well as two other Republicans who lost their March primaries to opponents supported by right-wing PACs. There are currently nine Republicans and six Democrats serving on the board.

The board’s core responsibilities include writing Texas’ public school curriculums, managing the permanent fund that backs debt taken out by schools, and deciding whether to allow new charter schools in the state; Pickren has said she supports adding more of them.

Moderate pushed out

The District 7 seat opened up last year, when the Legislature during redistricting moved incumbent Matt Robinson into a different district so he couldn’t run for re-election. Robinson, a doctor from Friendswood, has said he feels Republican political leaders in the state did this intentionally because they did not believe he was sufficiently supportive of charter schools and other conservative policy goals.

In a rare move in today’s increasingly polarized politics, Robinson is endorsing the Democrat in the race, Galveston ISD teacher Dan Hochman, to be his successor.

Why?

“Because he’s running against Julie Pickren. And she will be bad for public education,” Robinson said.

In lists of the most important issues to her campaign, Pickren has named ridding public schools of critical race theory, an academic theory that critics use as a catchall term to describe diversity and equity initiatives as well as discussion of systemic or historical racism. Pickren is also supportive of “parents rights” initiatives such as those espoused by Abbott.

“She is leading a fight, an assault on public education that’s going on right now. It’s not among all Republicans, but it’s among a good number and she’s kind of leading that fight. And the idea that critical race theory is going on in most schools and most districts, which is entirely false. So her overall approach is, in my view, anti-public education,” Robinson said…

Soul of public education

Hochman acknowledged that he’s facing an uphill climb in the race, as the district leans conservative. Pickren’s campaign has spent about $40,000 so far, while Hochman’s has spent about $10,000. Hochman said his campaign bank account currently had less than $100 in it…

“It really, truly is a fight for the soul of public education in the state of Texas, which is failing right now,” Hochman said of the race. Hochman added that he would oppose expansion of charter schools.

“I’m up against a woman who is clearly anti-public education. She’s being funded by the far right, whose agenda has been publicly clear that they want to dismantle public education and replace it with private schools and charter schools so they can push through a far-right Christian agenda in schooling. And that’s not like a conspiracy, that’s been pretty much out in the open.”

edward.mckinley@chron.com

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.”

I am tired of rightwing politicians distorting our language to suit their bigoted ideology.

They have the nerve, for example, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 and said he hoped for the day when his children would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Dr. King was projecting a vision of a world without racism, when people would see each other as friends, neighbors, and fellow human beings.

But rightwing politicians twist his words to insist that we should ignore racism right now, stop teaching about it, and pretend it does not exist. They use his words to justify prohibitions on teaching about or discussing the racism in the here and now. They use his appeal for an unrealized future to blind us to a cruel present.

I propose that we make a conscientious effort to reclaim the plain meaning of words.

One of the hot-button words that has been appropriated by rightwing politicians is “woke.” They are trying to turn it into a shameful word. I looked up the definition of WOKE. It means being aware of injustice and inequality, specifically when referring to racism. I strive to be aware of injustice and inequality and racial discrimination and to do whatever I can to change things for the better. Shouldn’t we all do that?

My acronym for WOKE is “Wide Open to Knowledge and Enlightenment.”

What would you say about someone who is not WOKE? They are “asleep,” “unconscious,” “indifferent.” They are “Mind Closed, Mouth Open.”

Yes, I am WOKE. I want Dr. King’s dream someday to be true. It is not true now.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida believes it is terrible to be woke. He demeans those he says are woke. He claims that the woke are politically correct and are intimidated by organized efforts to reduce racism in schools and the workplace. He thinks that being woke is so dreadful that it must be made illegal.

He urged the Florida legislature to pass “anti-woke” legislation in March. And they did. The so-called STOP WOKE” Act means “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act.”

This legislation is intended specifically to silence discussions and study of racism. It bans the teaching of critical race theory in schools and colleges and bans diversity training in the workplace.

Governor DeSantis doesn’t want people to be opposed to injustice and inequality. He doesn’t want them to be opposed to racism. Such awareness makes some people feel uncomfortable, he says. We should teach nothing that makes anyone uncomfortable.

Who is uncomfortable when racism is discussed? In my experience, the people who don’t want any discussion of racism are either racist or are embarrassed by their acts of racism in the past.

To protect the tender sensibilities of white people, we must avoid any discussion that makes them or their children uncomfortable. We must not take the risk that they or their children might feel uncomfortable for terrible things that happened long ago. So don’t talk about them. Don’t read books that discuss slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, or segregation. Don’t mention the distant past or the wrongs of the present. Don’t dare to talk about discrimination against black people, or the passage of laws that impair their right to vote, or the persistence of racially segregated schools.

Not only is it wrong to be woke, in the eyes of those who prefer to stifle all recognition of racial discrimination, it is absolutely forbidden for teachers or professors to examine the causes of racism and its persistence today in our laws and policies. Making a conscientious effort to understand the causes of racism and to seek remedies is called “critical race theory” (CRT).

The attacks on critical race theory are intended to intimidate teachers and to prevent students from learning about racism, past or present.

In states that have banned the teaching of critical race theory, the legislators can’t define CRT, so they make it illegal to teach “divisive concepts” or anything that makes some students “uncomfortable.”

When a white supremacist massacred ten Black people in Buffalo, New York, teachers in anti-CRT states were not sure if they were allowed to teach about what happened. Would they lose their jobs if they taught the truth?

The states that prohibit the teaching of critical race theory are banning the teaching of honest history, for fear that someone might be uncomfortable when they learn the facts about what was done to Black people in our history. Some states have explicitly banned Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The 1619 Project,” because it might make some white people uncomfortable. I may be wrong, but I can’t recall a state that ever passed a law censoring a single book. This book is obviously very powerful and very frightening to those who feel the need to ban it. It cannot be refuted by the DeSantis faction so it must be banned.

The same states that want to ban honest teaching about racism are also banning books about gender identity and sexuality. The legislatures in Republican states think that the schools are filled with pedophiles. The rightwing zealots claim that teachers are “grooming” their students to become gay or transgender. They pass laws like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teaching about gender identity and sexuality in grades K-3 (where gender identity and sexuality are not taught) and tolerate only “age-appropriate” discussion of gender identity and sexuality in other grades.

Like the STOP WOKE law, the “Don’t Say Gay” law is vague, which makes teachers fearful of teaching anything related to gender or sexuality. If schools can’t teach about gender identity, then they cannot teach about married couples of any gender. If you take them literally, you should not refer to Moms and Dads, men and women. Dare we teach young children about heterosexuality? Apparently not, if you follow the letter of the law.

The groups that are behind these attacks are familiar to us. They are Moms for Liberty, Moms for America, Parents Defending Freedom, and a bevy of other groups funded by rightwing billionaires.

Not coincidentally, these are the same groups that are fighting to pass funding for charter schools and vouchers.

What is their motive? They want to destroy not only freedom of thought but public schools.

Recently, I watched the far-right provocateur Chris Rufo give a speech at Hillsdale College. He called on his audience to act in a speech titled “Laying Siege to the Institutions.” (Please watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8Hh0GqoJcE). Rufo claims credit for making CRT a national issue. He boasts that a few years ago, CRT had virtually no public recognition. Thanks to his lies and distortions, most people have heard of it and some think it is a radical, Marxist plot to destroy America by turning race against race. Because he says so.

This is absurd.

For the past four decades, CRT was known as a law school study of the origins of systemic racism and the extent to which it is embedded in our laws and institutions. Its founder was Derrick Bell of Harvard Law School. He was a friend of mine. He was not a Marxist or a radical. He was a great American who wanted America to live up to its promises. Unlike Rufo, he didn’t believe in gag orders and bans. He believed in study, scholarship, debate and discussion.

Chris Rufo offers one solution to all the problems he sees: school choice.

To him, the public school is the most dangerous of all institutions, because it teaches equality, justice, and critical thinking. It teaches students to respect others. It teaches them to abhor racism and other forms of bigotry. It teaches students about American history without censoring the unpleasant and horrifying parts. The laws passed to ban CRT and to gag teachers have one purpose: Teach lies, not honest history.

Here is what I suggest.

Fight censorship.

Fight privatization of our public assets.

Read without fear.

Read “The 1619 Project,” which will open your minds. Read critiques of “The 1619 Project” by reputable scholars, not by rightwing ideologues.

Think about it. Discuss and debate the issues.

Say gay.

Stand up to the craven politicians who attack your freedoms.

Vote against them when you have the chance.

Fearlessly defend the freedom to read, the freedom to teach, and the freedom to learn.

Work towards the day when we treat each other with respect.

Wake up.

In New York State, a court determined that the state’s congressional districts were gerrymandered in favor of Democrats. The special master appointed by the court drew new districts that dilutes the black vote and negatively affects Congressman Jamaal Bowman, one of the state’s most progressive members of Congress. The redistricting might lead to a primary between Bowman and Rep. Mondaire Jones, who is also Black. That would mean the loss of a Black member of Congress. The redistricting is weighted towards helping Republican candidates.

The New York Times writes that the new map is likely to create seats for Republicans.

The new lines even cast the future of several long-tenured, powerful Democratic incumbents in doubt, forcing several to potentially run against one another.

The most striking example came from New York City, where Mr. Cervas’s proposal pushed Representatives Jerrold Nadler, a stalwart Upper West Side liberal, and Carolyn Maloney of the Upper East Side into the same district, setting up a potentially explosive primary fight in the heart of Manhattan. Both lawmakers are in their 70s, have been in Congress for close to 30 years and lead powerful House committees.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a favorite to become the party’s next leader, was one of a handful of incumbent lawmakers who, under the new map, would no longer reside in the districts they represent. In one case, the new lines put Representative Brian Higgins mere steps outside his greater Buffalo district.

Taken together, the proposed changes have broad national implications, effectively handing Republicans the upper hand in a national fight for control of the House, and rattling the top echelons of House Democratic leadership…

In a blistering statement, Mr. Jeffries accused the court of ignoring the input of communities of color, diluting the power of Black voters and pitting Black incumbents against each other in “a tactic that would make Jim Crow blush.”

One of my friends, Jamaal Bowman, has been imperiled by the redistricting. His office issued this statement:

For Immediate Release
Date: May 17, 2022
Contact
press@bowmanforcongress.com


STATEMENT: Rep. Jamaal Bowman Responds to Proposed District Map that Decreases the NY-16 Black Voter Population by 17%
 

YONKERS, NY – Yesterday a court filing unveiled the newly redrawn congressional districts in New York City. The new maps, which were drawn by court-appointed Special Master Jonathan Cervas but are not yet final, change the 16th Congressional District to remove much of the Bronx, decreasing the Black voter population by about 17%. In response, Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) released this statement:

“The whole point of redistricting is to create congressional districts that keep communities of interest together. Unfortunately, the map created by the special master splits NY-16’s historically low-income Bronx communities into three congressional districts and decreases the Black voter population by 17%. This occurred despite an outpouring of testimony urging redistricting officials to protect the Black vote by keeping the northeast Bronx with lower Westchester together. The proposal shows that Co-Op City is mapped into NY-14, Williamsbridge and Baychester into NY-15 and Edenwald kept in NY-16. The map data shows that this directly resulted in the Black voter population declining by 17%. Co-Op City, Williamsbrige, and Edenwald are strong communities of interest that must remain together as a unity and connected to lower Westchester. The Black voting power in NY-16 cannot be diluted in favor of more compact but less fair maps.

“Edenwald in the Bronx is home to the third-largest public housing community in New York State and one of the largest in the country. The Edenwald community is a vulnerable community that is separated in this proposed map from the other densely populated majority Black communities like Co-Op City, Williamsbridge, and Baychester, whose voting power helps protect these communities’ specific needs around housing, public safety, and poverty alleviation. Similarly, Co-Op city is the largest naturally occurring retirement community in the country predominantly populated by lower-income and Black seniors. By splitting these communities, the map further alienates them and perpetuates the opportunity for further historical neglect by the electoral system. These are communities who have been kept together in maps for decades for good reason and with good intention. Their voting power is directly tied to their lives and they deserve a fair chance at electing representatives that take their unique needs into full consideration.

“Now, I only have one message for NY-16: I will continue fighting for you, and I will fight to continue to represent you. I also hope that voters continue to have their voices heard in every elected official that represents them as I intend to continue and advocate for their needs and the needs of every person in NY-16.”   

About Jamaal Bowman
Congressman Jamaal Bowman was an educator and advocate for public schools for over 20 years and previously served as principal for the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA), a public middle school he founded in 2009 in the Baychester neighborhood of The Bronx. Rep. Bowman is a life-long New Yorker who lives in Yonkers with his wife and children.

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Greg Brozeit notes here an alarming aspect implicit in the Alito draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade. His comment appeared on the blog. Alito and four other radical conservatives demonstrated that precedent and stare decisis mean nothing to them. Despite their assurances under oath to the Senators who interviewed them, the radical justices intend to overturn a right declared by the Supreme Court 49 years earlier. Never in the history of the Supreme Court has a right granted by the Court been overturned. This radical, reckless decision will set off more demonstrations and protests. Recent polls show that only about 20% of the nation believes that abortion should be banned under all circumstances. The rest believe that it should be safe and legal, with certain conditions, such as rape, incest, the life of the mother. The sweep of this unprecedented revocation will leave many people wondering what other prior decisions will be overturned.

Greg Brozeit writes:

Just as CRT is not about education, the Alito Roe draft is not about abortion. It is much bigger. Some of you come oh so close to crossing the rhetorical goal line. The real question is not if or why, but how this becomes a legal mallet that makes no decision “safe.”

If the wording “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” remains intact in the final opinion, it basically creates a precedent that precedent no longer exists. It would effectively be the first mortal wound in the legal doctrine of stare decisis as a check on judicial power. Its goal is to make a mockery out of the idea of judicial review as to render it meaningless. It’s “reasoning” could seep into and dominate all law from civil to maritime to military. And it fits perfectly with ALEC’s strategy to marginalize judicial review with packaged, ready-to-go legislation for lazy, partisan, or stupid (or all of the above) statewide elected legislature or governor.

This was not a legal shot over the bow. It was a direct hit on democracy and left no doubt that the only thing this court wants more is a tailor-made case that will give them stronger legal “reasoning” to be even more draconian. That would be the only reason this language might not be in the final decision handed down. It would be a short-lived “victory” that would be a prelude to something even worse for average and poor Americans.

This is the typical drivel the DNC-driven agenda gives us, focusing on individual policies rather than the real existential threat to democracy the Republican Party poses from local government through the office of the presidency. Now as correct as we may be about the fate of women’s rights and as big as that issue is, this is about much, much basic stakes. The radical right and their few partners on the looney left understand this. Hardly anyone else, it seems, does. Or at the very least, they can’t identify the true threat this enemy is posing. If they do not win now or in the next elections, they will continue to poison and cripple the system until they do. That, it seems, is the best we can hope for now. A slow death with faint hope for a miracle recovery rather than an immediate plunge into fascism.