Archives for category: Injustice

These are the worst of times.

Police brutality in Minneapolis murdered a black man who allegedly used a fake $20 bill. Petty crimes are adjudicated in a court of law. Police do not have the authority or right to use lethal force when confronting an unarmed person. After a long string of similar incidents where black people were unjustly murdered, the killing of George Floyd ignited protests across the nation. Some of the protests turned violent, and fires were burning in widely scattered cities in the midst of confrontations between police and protestors.

Racism is America’s deepest, most intractable sin.

The explosion of protest is unlikely to lead to any productive change until the racists in the White House are ousted and replaced by people who are determined to fight racism. We currently have a government of old white men who have used their words and deeds to stoke the fires that are now burning. Trump has no credibility to calm the situation or to offer solace or to promise meaningful change. He has spent many years expressing the anger of racists, repeatedly claiming that President Obama was not born in the U.S., demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five (who were ultimately found innocent), pretending never to have heard of David Duke when Duke offered his endorsement of Trump, referring to the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” appealing again and again to the gun-toting, violent people who thronged to his rallies and praising them. No need to point out that Trump has stoked the fires that are now burning. We have all seen it with our own eyes. He is like a boy who plays with matches and eventually burns down his own house.

Last night on CNN, the Reverend William Barber referred to the protests as an expression of “national mourning.” The protestors are reacting, he said, not only to the death of George Floyd, but to poverty, joblessness, unequal treatment, hunger, injustice—to systematic racism and inequity that have been ignored for too long. For too long, our nation has been on a trajectory that creates and enriches billionaires while millions of people of all races, but especially black Americans, are expected to live a life of want and need and hopelessness without complaint.

Last night, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center released the text of a speech that Dr. King gave in 1967 in which he said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” He said, prophetically, “And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out an “economic bill of rights” in 1944, which has since been forgotten as a small number of extraordinarily wealthy people rig the system to intensify economic inequality, abetted by willing allies like Mitch McConnell. Even a huge multi-trillion dollar bill to relieve those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus turned out to be a package of goodies for big corporations.

Trump did not create racism, but he has used it and exploited it for his political benefit. He has ignored it, belittled its consequences, and courted the support of racists. He has made plain his contempt for his predecessor, our nation’s first black president. When Obama was elected president, many commentators declared that America was finally a post-racial society. With a man of African descent in the presidency, with a racially integrated Cabinet, with a black man leading the Justice Department, the stain of racism would at last be abolished.

The commentators were wrong. Racism is thriving. It will destroy our nation until we assure equal justice to every citizen, until we guarantee that everyone has the same rights and privileges, until we provide every man, woman, and child with decent health care, housing, education, and a decent standard of living.

We can’t eliminate racism entirely, but we can remove its adherents from the seats of power, we can stigmatize it. We can choose leaders who fight for freedom, justice, and a decent standard of living for all people. Unless we do so, our tattered democracy will not survive. We can’t let that happen. We must be willing and able to pursue genuine change, a social democracy in which every one of us is protected equally by the law and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is a heartening photograph showing a line of whites, apparently all female, arms locked together, defending black protestors against the police.

I don’t recall whites standing up to defend black protestors in the 1960s.

We must all stand together against racism, injustice, and hatred.

For those of us old enough to remember the protests against racism and police brutality in the late 1960s, the outrage of African Americans has a sad and sickening familiarity. It’s sad because yet another black man was killed by police officers although he was not resisting arrest (and even had he been resisting arrest, the officers were wrong to apply lethal force to an unarmed person). It is sickening because so little has changed in 50+ years.

We don’t have to think back to the 1960s for examples of racism and racial profiling. We see it now, with disgusting, appalling frequency.

Some important things have changed: our nation twice elected a black man as president. Yet so much remains unchanged: segregated neighborhoods, segregated schools, persistent inequality and disparate treatment.

And now a federal administration that exploits and encourages racism, as it did in Charlottesville when neo-Nazis marched and brazenly displayed their bigotry and hatred. And a president who appoints federal judges who can’t say whether the Brown decision was correctly decided in 1954.

Black Lives Matter. Colin Kaepernick was right. Symbolic statements and gestures matter but they don’t change injustice. We need change in enforcement.

We need a Justice Department committed to protecting the rights of all Americans and to defending the most vulnerable and to enforcing civil rights laws. We need a president who sets a moral example and stands forcefully against racism in word and deed.

Whoever is president creates a tone and climate that others take as a signal of what is appropriate.

Vote. Vote. Vote as if your life depends on it. It does. Vote for justice. Vote for decency. Vote to defend civil rights.

Juan Gonzalez is a veteran journalist who wrote a regular column for the “New York Daily News” for many years. He retired from the “News” but frequently appears on “Democracy Now” as co-host with Amy Goodman. Gonzalez is renowned as an investigative reporter and champion of justice. He wrote this post for the blog.


New Brunswick, New Jersey Community Fights to Save a Public School
From Corporate Hospital Industry Expansion

A plan by the political and financial elite of Central New Jersey to demolish a downtown New Brunswick public school this summer so that one of the state’s largest hospital chains can embark on a $750-million expansion has provoked repeated street protests since January, drawn hundreds of angry parents and community residents to public meetings and has already spawned two lawsuits – even in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown.

​The fight to save the Lincoln Annex Public School has emerged as a classic David-and-Goliath battle. On one side are New Brunswick’s low-income Latino residents. More than 50 per cent of the city’s population is Hispanic. Most are immigrants from Mexico and Central America, and many reside in rented houses surrounding the downtown business district. They have garnered support from a dozen Rutgers student organizations and the Rutgers faculty union, AAUP-AFT.

Arrayed against that community alliance is a group of powerful and entrenched institutions that have long pursued a policy of gentrifying the city. They include Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Rutgers Cancer Institute, the New Brunswick Development Corp. (DEVCO), and the Middlesex County Democratic Party machine, led by Mayor James Cahill, who has ruled New Brunswick for nearly 30 years.
​​​
​Last June, RWJ/Barnabas Health, Rutgers and several major state politicians announced plans to build a new 12-story $750-million cancer research and treatment pavilion. At the time, however, they didn’t specify the exact location of the new building, even though internal emails later obtained by parent advocates show they had already decided where. Within months, some local media began reporting that talks were underway behind the scene for the city’s Board of Education to sell a public middle school across the street from RWJ, so that the school could be demolished and the cancer pavilion erected there.

​Lincoln Annex School has an enrollment of 760 children, more than 94% of them Hispanic and more than 80% from economically disadvantaged families. Many parents of the students are not eligible voters and therefore have very little political influence. The school, however, was only opened in September of 2016, after the city purchased the former St. Peter’s elementary and high school, and completely renovated the site at a cost to taxpayers of $22 million. As a result, Lincoln Annex is in far better condition than other schools in the district, and it happens to be one of the city’s best performing schools, with an excellent gifted and talented program.

​Throughout the fall and winter, hundreds of parents and residents began attending the monthly school board meetings to ask if it was true that the city was about to sell their school. At each meeting, the BOE members insisted these were just rumors, or informal discussions, that nothing was on the table. Not until early February did Mayor Cahill officially acknowledge the school would be sold and demolished by this summer. He immediately launched a public relations campaign, claiming “cancer can’t wait,” and he labeled opponents of the plan as somehow opposed to cancer treatment.

​The plan is to relocate the Lincoln Annex students in September to a “swing space” the school district leases on the outskirts of town, nearly two miles from the current Lincoln Annex. The building is actually a warehouse in an industrial park that was converted into classrooms. The students would attend that “swing space” for at least three years until a replacement school is built. Given the notorious delays in school construction, it could likely be much longer. The last school population that was relocated there, the Redshaw School, ended up with pupils spending 10 years in the facility due to such delays.

​Robert Wood Johnson and its developer, DEVCO, have promised to pay for the new school. Initially, they mentioned $25 million. But as community opposition grew, they upped the offer to $50 million, then to $55 million. Still, the students would have to be bused to the “swing space” for years while the new school is built, disrupting their education.

​To make matters worse, Mayor Cahill initially proposed a vacant brownfield site also on the outskirts of town for the new replacement school. The Coalition to Defend Lincoln Annex, the alliance of community groups that formed, soon obtained state environmental records that revealed the site was hopelessly contaminated with heavy metals and carcinogenic chemicals, which the city and its private owners had not been able to remediate after 10 years of effort. Once the group made that information public, the city came up with a new site, one closer to the current Lincoln Annex, but one that is still a contaminated brownfield site. The extent of that contamination is not known because of delays in state responses to freedom of information requests since the COVID-19 lockdown.

​All the while, parents and community residents mounted numerous protests – at Board of Education meetings, at meetings of the Rutgers Board of Governors, at City Council meetings and at Planning Board meetings, but officials continued to ignore the public pressure and bulldoze ahead. As many as 200 people showed up to the Feb. 25 board of education meeting, all in opposition.

​Even the Catholic Church was drawn into the fray. When the Diocese of Metuchen sold the site to the Board of Education in 2013, it specifically included a deed restriction that the property had to be used as a “public school or for public administrative purposes” for fifty years. The parents, most of whom are Catholic, began to ask Bishop James Checchio to invoke the deed restriction and prevent the sale. They even appealed to Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark and to Pope Francis for help. Church leaders have declined to meet, but the bishop keeps issuing statements that he wishes to reach some kind of agreement with all parties.

​Faced with such overwhelming uproar, the New Brunswick Board of Education has resorted to limiting public testimony, ousting people from meetings, conducting official business in private, and otherwise violating state regulations on how to close or erect new public schools.

​Even after the coronavirus pandemic erupted, city officials kept moving forward with their plans, holding all meetings in telephonic conversations that further limited public participation. Initially, they claimed that the new school would not cost taxpayers a penny because Robert Wood Johnson would pay for the whole project. But then early this month, the Middlesex County Freeholders suddenly voted out of the blue to provide $25 million for the new cancer pavilion.

​At one point, members of the Coalition attempted to seek help from New Jersey’s non-profit Educational Law Center, which famously spearheaded the historic Abbott v. Burke decision thirty years ago that mandated the equalizing of state funding for public schools. But the center never responded. Only later did Coalition members learn that David Sciarra, the civil rights attorney who heads the law center, is also on the board of directors of DEVCO, the non-profit developer that is sponsoring this project!

​The Coalition eventually went outside of New Jersey, to a New York based Hispanic civil rights law firm, LatinoJustice/PRLDEF. Last week LatinoJustice filed two key actions. One is a complaint in Middlesex County Superior Court on behalf of parents and residents to enforce the deed restriction against a sale and raising key issues of violations of due process in the decision to sell the school. The other is a complaint to New Jersey Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, asking him to reject the Long-Range Facilities Plan that New Brunswick submitted a few weeks ago to the state, which must approve any school district’s amendments to its school facilities.

​The degree of wealth and power confronting this parent-community coalition is breath-taking. Twenty executives of the the non-profit RWJ hospital and its parent chain received more than $1 million in compensation in 2018, a review of their IRS 990 tax form shows, topped by RWJ/BarnabasHealth’s CEO Barry Ostrowsky’s $4.9 million, northern regional president Thomas Biga’s $3.5 million, and RWJ President John Gantner’s $2.1 million. Dr. Steven Libutti, director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute, was paid $1.1 million; Christopher Paladino, the chief executive of DEVCO, received nearly $700,000. All of this raises serious issues about how public education policy is being driven by corporate interests, how public officials are seizing on the COVID-19 pandemic, in shock doctrine style, to push through their agenda without public accountability, and why a supposed “sanctuary city” like New Brunswick is running rough-shod over the interests of its immigrant community.
​Meanwhile, parents and community leaders have repeatedly said they will continue to resist the sale of Lincoln Annex.

​For more information, follow Defend Lincoln Annex on facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Defendamos-Lincoln-Annex-110326327234225/

Nancy Bailey just keeps getting better and better as she points her pen and her blog at malfeasance in education.

In this post, she points to the recent landmark decision that recognized that the children of Detroit have a right to literacy, a right not previously acknowledged by any court (or overturned on appeal). The court quite correctly decided that young people cannot exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens if they can’t read.

What is DeVos’s role in the Detroit debacle? She has spent large sums of money to promote the false idea that the way to improve education is to expand school choice. Detroit is her handiwork, and it proves the failure of school choice. What she purchased was widespread inequity and inadequacy.

Open the link to read the full article and see the links to other sources.

Bailey writes:

The Detroit landmark decision that children deserve to learn to read in school is a case that reflects decades of troubled education in Detroit. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and school privatization are not mentioned in this case. But school privatization initiatives have been failing children in the Motor City for years. DeVos is the current face of a long line of those peddling such reforms.

Harmful school reform initiatives go back to Gov. John Engler’s administration. Many school reformers, both Republican and Democrat, have their fingerprints on the crime scene. The DeVos family is from Michigan and has affected Detroit and school reform there for years.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Detroit students who claim they were denied their rights to a “basic minimum education.” Called the “Right to Read” lawsuit, Gary B. v. Whitmer exposes the decrepit conditions found in schools run by State leaders who failed to support Detroit’s students. The case was originally filed under former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

It’s critical to recognize DeVos’s connection to the Detroit school failures. During this pandemic she is flagrantly redirecting public money to the same privatization agenda. It puts democratic public schools in jeopardy, like schools were put at risk in Detroit. Here’s a petition you can sign now to try and stop her.

School privatization cheerleaders have for years promoted the idea that choice will equalize education by giving parents choices. They’ve pushed for online charter schools and school turnarounds that get tough on teachers and students of color. Choice failed in Detroit.

Reading

Schools had no literacy programs.

The case describes what good reading instruction should consist of in school. Sometimes it appears to be delving into the Reading Wars, emphasizing the loss of explicit phonics.

The trouble is, one can’t get to a debate over how students learn to read, without overcoming the fact that students have untrained teachers and an atrocious learning environment.

It’s troubling to think the case might result in only professional development and a push for unproven programs, even online reading programs, that don’t address the need for creating quality schools, professional teachers, and more individualized attention for the children of Detroit.

School Buildings

Poor school conditions have been a part of Detroit’s schools for years. Students struggle to learn in slum-like conditions, no air-conditioning in the summer, freezing temperatures in the winter. Who can forget these pictures from 2016, the year the case was filed?

Vermin, mold, and contaminated drinking water plague the schools. Bullets, dead vermin, condoms, and sex toys have been found on the playground. Fire safety equipment and fire regulations are missing.

Betsy DeVos’s mantra is that education is about students and not buildings. She has done nothing to improve the condition of schools in Detroit or around the country.

Lacking Resources

Teaching resources were deficient. The case describes classrooms without enough textbooks, and old books that haven’t been updated in years.

The only school library mentioned had no librarian and was locked!

This is a tragic story. A 30-year-old woman, the first in her family to go to college, felt sick and sought testing in Brooklyn. Both times she was rejected. The hospital gave her Tylenol and sent her home. She died of COVID-19.

Rana Zoe Mungin was a black woman. Was she brushed off because of her race?

She must have been a remarkable young woman. She was a graduate of Wellesley College, where admission is highly selective, and UMass at Amherst.

The president of Wellesley, who is also black and is a physician, said that the death of Ms. Mungin highlights racial disparities in access to care.

Rana Zoe Mungin, a graduate of both Wellesley College and UMass Amherst, died Monday from complications associated with COVID-19. On two occasions prior to her death, her family said, Mungin went to a hospital seeking a coronavirus test but was unable to get one.

As the first member of her family to attend college, Rana Zoe Mungin quickly stood out for her work on race and class.

At Wellesley College, where she majored in psychology, she wrote about her family, and her upbringing in Brooklyn. At UMass Amherst, where she later studied creative writing, those at the school said her work added to the national discourse about institutional racism within MFA programs.

And so when Mungin, 30, died Monday from COVID-19 complications — after, her family said, she was twice denied coronavirus tests during trips to a Brooklyn hospital — some who knew her saw a tragic irony: The very biases that Mungin, who was Black, sought to bring attention to in her work ultimately played a role in her death, they say.

The circumstances surrounding her death have left those who knew her reeling. Though her sister believes the doctors and nurses who eventually treated Mungin did the best they could with the resources they had, she is also left to wonder whether earlier testing would’ve resulted in earlier treatment — and a different outcome.

“I felt like she had no fighting chance,” said Mia Mungin, who works as a registered nurse in Brooklyn, in an interview Thursday.

“Rana Zoe’s battle with coronavirus unfortunately sheds light on the systems of racial, gendered, and class bias — entrenched power dynamics — that she sought to expose and change in her work,” read a statement this week released by the English department at UMass Amherst, where Mungin earned her master of fine arts in creative writing in 2015.

“The dismissal of her symptoms is a register of the long history of economic and racial barriers to healthcare faced by Black women in this country.”

Dr. Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College and a former chief of the division of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that Mungin’s experience highlights the longstanding disparities that exist when it comes to minorities’ ability to access health care — and the manner in which they’re treated once they’re there.

“This is historic — we have data points overall for many years, and I think this pandemic has really brought to light these disparities in the most profound way,” said Johnson, who also is Black. “Here’s a young woman, a teacher, and she can not get the care she needs.”

COVID-19 death rates in communities of color have been vastly higher than overall mortality rates in many cities. Black people in New York have been twice as likely to die as white people; and at one point earlier this month, Black people in Chicago reportedly made up nearly 70 percent of the city’s coronavirus-related deaths, despite making up just 30 percent of the population.

Mungin, who worked as a social studies teacher in Brooklyn, was hospitalized in New York. But in Massachusetts, where data on the race and ethnicity of those who’ve died has been spotty — the ethnicity of half of the state’s 3,562 deaths is unknown — Black and Hispanic people have made up about 22 percent of the deaths for which race and ethnicity is known. That’s about the same percentage the groups represent in the population of Massachusetts.

But Black and Hispanic people also make up a disproportionate share of the confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state — roughly 40 percent of cases and 33 percent of hospitalizations for which race and ethnicity data is available…

According to her sister, Mungin visited Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn on two separate occasions between March 15 and March 19 with fever, chills, and shortness of breath. On both occasions, Mia Mungin said, her sister was told that the hospital wasn’t conducting COVID-19 testing.

Prior to one visit, her sister said, an EMT suggested Mungin was simply suffering from a panic attack.

“What they did was give her some Tylenol and sent her home,” said Mia Mungin.

On March 20, after her symptoms worsened, Mungin returned to the hospital for a third time, this time by ambulance. The following day, according to her sister, she finally received a test for the virus — which came back positive.

Brookdale Hospital did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

This is a conundrum. See if you can make sense of it.

According to the New York Times, farmers are destroying the food they produce because demand has fallen due to restaurants closing in response to the pandemic.

The New York Times reports:

In Wisconsin and Ohio, farmers are dumping thousands of gallons of fresh milk into lagoons and manure pits. An Idaho farmer has dug huge ditches to bury 1 million pounds of onions. And in South Florida, a region that supplies much of the Eastern half of the United States with produce, tractors are crisscrossing bean and cabbage fields, plowing perfectly ripe vegetables back into the soil.

After weeks of concern about shortages in grocery stores and mad scrambles to find the last box of pasta or toilet paper roll, many of the nation’s largest farms are struggling with another ghastly effect of the pandemic. They are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they can no longer sell.

The closing of restaurants, hotels and schools has left some farmers with no buyers for more than half their crops. And even as retailers see spikes in food sales to Americans who are now eating nearly every meal at home, the increases are not enough to absorb all of the perishable food that was planted weeks ago and intended for schools and businesses.

The amount of waste is staggering. The nation’s largest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs every week.

Many farmers say they have donated part of the surplus to food banks and Meals on Wheels programs, which have been overwhelmed with demand. But there is only so much perishable food that charities with limited numbers of refrigerators and volunteers can absorb.

And the costs of harvesting, processing and then transporting produce and milk to food banks or other areas of need would put further financial strain on farms that have seen half their paying customers disappear. Exporting much of the excess food is not feasible either, farmers say, because many international customers are also struggling through the pandemic and recent currency fluctuations make exports unprofitable.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Paul Allen, co-owner of R.C. Hatton, who has had to destroy millions of pounds of beans and cabbage at his farms in South Florida and Georgia.

In Delaware and Maryland, two million chickens will be “depopulated,” killed by agribusiness, because many processing plants are closed due to the virus. The chickens will be killed and disposed of, never reaching the hungry. If you have ever been to Delmarva, the small area where Delaware, Maryland and Virginia converge, you have seen the units where the chickens are hatched and confined until they are slaughtered. The chickens’ feet never touch the ground. The lights in these units are on 24/7 to speed their growth. This is agribusiness at its worst. Once you have seen these places, you will avoid buying chicken produced under these in humans conditions, like a crop.

But at the same time, people in impoverished nations are approaching starvation due to the absence of food supplies. This was also reported in the New York Times a few days after the story about farmers destroying their products:

The head of the U.N. food agency warned Tuesday that, as the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is also “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within a few months if immediate action isn’t taken.

World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council that even before COVID-19 became an issue, he was telling world leaders that “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” That’s because of wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, locust swarms in Africa, frequent natural disasters and economic crises including in Lebanon, Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, he said.

Beasley said today 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, a further 135 million people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse,” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.”

He said in the video briefing that WFP is providing food to nearly 100 million people on any given day, including “about 30 million people who literally depend on us to stay alive.”

Beasley, who is recovering from COVID-19, said if those 30 million people can’t be reached, “our analysis shows that 300,000 people could starve to death every single day over a three-month period” — and that doesn’t include increased starvation due to the coronavirus.
“In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries, and in fact, in 10 of these countries we already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation,” he said.
According to WFP, the 10 countries with the worst food crises in 2019 were Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti.

In our own country, millions of people are going hungry and get their food from free food banks.

The Washington Post reported a few days ago on this paradox of farmers killing their crops while people go hungry:

Farmers in the upper Midwest euthanize their baby pigs because the slaughterhouses are backing up or closing, while dairy owners in the region dump thousands of gallons of milk a day. In Salinas, Calif., rows of ripe iceberg, romaine and red-leaf lettuce shrivel in the spring sun, waiting to be plowed back into the earth.

Drone footage shows a 1.5-mile-long line of cars waiting their turn at a drive-through food bank in Miami. In Dallas, schools serve well north of 500,000 meals on each service day, cars rolling slowly past stations of ice chests and insulated bags as food service employees, volunteers and substitute teachers hand milk and meal packets through the windows.

Surely some brilliant person or agency could figure out how to get our excess crops and produce to hungry Americans and to people in nations that are facing mass starvation.

Jesse Drucker of the New York Times writes that the federal stimulus bill will bestow a bonanza on the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. While millions of Americans are jobless, and countless small businesses are facing bankruptcy, the 1% are scooping up unearned benefits, thanks to the unscrupulous strategies of Senate Republicans.

Drucker writes:


As the federal government dispenses trillions of dollars to save the economy, small businesses and out-of-work individuals are jostling to grab small slices of aid before the funds run out.

But another group is in no danger of missing out: wealthy individuals and big companies that are poised for tax windfalls.

As part of the economic rescue package that became law last month, the federal government is giving away $174 billion in temporary tax breaks overwhelmingly to rich individuals and large companies, according to interviews and government estimates.

Some of the breaks apply to taxes have long been in the cross hairs of corporate lobbyists. They undo limitations that were imposed to rein in the giveaways embedded in a $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in 2017. None specifically target businesses or individuals harmed by the coronavirus.

One provision tucked into the federal economic-rescue law increases the amount of deductions companies are permitted to take on the interest they pay on large quantities of debt. Only companies with at least $25 million in annual receipts can qualify for that break.

Another change lets people deduct even more of their businesses’ losses from any winnings they reaped in the stock market, sharply reducing what they owe in capital gains taxes. Only households earning at least $500,000 a year — the top 1 percent of American taxpayers — are eligible.

And yet another provision in last month’s rescue package allows companies to deduct losses in one year against profits that they earned years earlier. The tax break most likely won’t put any extra cash directly into the hands of companies hit by the current crisis for at least a year.

The bottom line is that, barely two years after congressional Republicans and President Trump lavished America’s wealthiest families and companies with a series of lucrative tax cuts, those same beneficiaries are now receiving a second helping.

Many of the tax benefits in the stimulus are “just shoveling money to rich people,” said Victor Fleischer, a tax law professor at the University of California, Irvine. While the 2017 tax-cut package was a bonanza for big companies and wealthy individuals, in order to keep the law’s overall costs down it imposed a number of restrictions on who could take advantage of certain tax breaks and how much those taxpayers could reap.

Now, with the 2020 stimulus package, Congress has temporarily repealed a number of those limitations.

“Under the cover of the pandemic, they are undoing the perfectly sensible limitations” that moderated the size of the 2017 tax cuts, said H. David Rosenbloom, a corporate tax lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale and head of the international tax program at New York University’s law school. “And taking into account the giveaways in that act, it’s a joke.”

The new law temporarily undoes a restriction on companies using losses in one year to obtain refunds for previous profitable years. Big companies, including Morgan Stanley, have lobbied on related issues as recently as this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, defended the changes. The stimulus law “threw a much-needed financial lifeline to businesses of all sizes, types and industries to give them the best chance to survive,” he said. He added, “The attempt to paint these bipartisan tax provisions as a boon for particular industries or investors completely misses the mark.”

One of the breaks temporarily rolls back the 2017 restriction on how much debt some companies can deduct from their taxes. That restriction was the subject of lobbying for the last two years by big companies, including Coca-Cola and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, according to federal lobbying records. The National Association of Manufacturers, whose board includes executives from Exxon Mobil, Raytheon, and Caterpillar, has pushed lawmakers for similar changes.

Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan congressional body, found that the two other breaks — those that allow people to deduct only-on-paper losses from their tax bills — would go largely to people making at least $1 million a year.

That analysis came in response to requests by the Democratic lawmakers Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. On Tuesday, Mr. Doggett introduced legislation that would roll back major chunks of the tax breaks. Among other things, it would no longer let people who earn more than $500,000 to immediately deduct all of that year’s business losses from their capital gains.

“Tax giveaways for a wealthy few shouldn’t have come near a coronavirus relief bill,” said Senator Whitehouse, who plans to introduce a Senate version.

The biggest tax break permits wealthy investors in, say, the real estate or energy businesses to use only-on-paper financial losses — such as from writing down, or depreciating, the value of assets — to reduce the taxes they owe on profits from stock market investments.

The New York Stock Exchange. One element of the economic rescue package lets people deduct their businesses’ losses from any winnings they reaped in the stock market, sharply reducing what they owe in capital gains taxes.

The New York Stock Exchange. One element of the economic rescue package lets people deduct their businesses’ losses from any winnings they reaped in the stock market, sharply reducing what they owe in capital gains taxes.

The provision does not single out real estate. But the industry is well known for generating tax losses from depreciation even in profitable years.

The 2017 tax-cut law limited the ability to use those losses. A married couple could shelter only the first $500,000 of their nonbusiness income — such as capital gains from investments — in the year that the loss was generated. Any leftover losses would be rolled over into future years.

The stimulus undoes those restrictions for this year and, retroactively, for 2018 and 2019 — meaning that wealthy households will be able to shield far more of their capital gains from taxation.

The 2017 law also restricted the ability of companies to use so-called net operating losses — which are losses that companies report on their tax returns, even if they are otherwise profitable — to reduce their tax bills. (Net operating losses can include expenses that are only for tax purposes and that don’t reduce profits reported to shareholders.) No longer could such losses from one year be used to retroactively cancel out profits accumulated in previous years, thus generating tax refunds.

The new law temporarily undoes that restriction, enabling companies to use losses in one year to get refunds for previous profitable years.

Big companies, including Morgan Stanley, have lobbied on issues relating to such tax losses as recently as the first few months of this year, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Among the problems with this tax break, critics say, is that it isn’t aimed at the companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Under the new law, companies that will suffer big losses in 2020 won’t be able to use those losses to obtain refunds until they file their tax returns at least a year from now.

The provision will quickly put cash into a company’s pockets if it had tax losses from 2019 or earlier — well before the pandemic — that can be applied against profits from preceding years.

“There’s no reason to send money in a blanket form to all the companies that have net operating losses,” said Mr. Fleischer. “We have some amazingly successful companies that don’t pay tax and have net operating losses, and there’s no reason to be subsidizing these companies or expect that money will find its way down to the employees.”

The tax breaks for companies that report losses are likely to be especially lucrative because the 2017 tax law created new deductions that could generate large paper losses — for tax purposes only — for otherwise profitable companies in 2018 and 2019. For example, the 2017 law permitted companies to fully write off certain types of investments in the first year, instead of stretching those deductions over several years. That, in turn, meant companies could report profits to their shareholders but losses on their tax returns.

A third break, worth more than $13 billion over a decade, temporarily loosens 2017 restrictions on how much interest big companies can deduct on their tax returns. Private equity firms, which rely on borrowed money to generate big profits, have been urging the Treasury Department to write favorable rules governing the restrictions on how much interest on their debt companies can deduct from taxes.

The private equity industry is poised to benefit from the rescue package. Companies with at least $25 million in annual revenue are now eligible to deduct more interest from their tax bills — a change that will make the private-equity business model even more lucrative. Private equity firms amplify their profits by using borrowed money to finance their investments. Deducting even more of the interest on that debt from their taxes would further boost their profits.

The tax break “allows private equity to swoop in and scoop up struggling businesses,” said Matthew Rappaport, a tax lawyer who specializes in private equity at Falcon Rappaport & Berkman in New York.

Jesse Drucker is an investigative reporter for the Business desk. He previously worked for The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News where he won a pair of awards in 2011 for investigative and explanatory reporting from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers for a series on how U.S. multinationals shift profits into tax havens. @JesseDrucker

In this powerful post, NBCT teacher Stuart Egan describes the calculated attack on democracy and social justice in North Carolina.

The state was once considered one of the most enlightened in the South. It is now one of the most regressive, taken down by the Tea Party, by a legislature dominated by ALEC, and by politicians determined to destroy opportunity for people of color and poor people.

Egan provides a timeline of North Carolina’s descent, which accelerated after the Tea Party capture of the General Assembly in 2010. Behind the scenes, big money pushed ALEC bills.

Egan writes:

That timeline is filled with actions that are calculated, highly crafted, delicately executed, and driven by dogma deliberately done to hurt public education and communities that rely on public schools. Each occurred before the May 16th, 2018 march in Raleigh.

Citizens United, you may remember, allowed for corporations and other entities to donate to political candidates. It gave rise to PACs and SUPERPACs. It’s why you now see an incredible amount of money in political races donated by people who have a vested interest in a race or candidate but cannot vote in that race.

HB17 was the legislation produced in a special session in December of 2016 right before Roy Cooper took office. It was a power grab that granted the incoming state superintendent, Mark Johnson, the most power any state super had ever had. Johnson might be the most unqualified person to ever hold the job. What ensued was a lawsuit between Johnson and the State Board of Education that lasted for 18 months. Ultimately, it cemented Johnson’s role as a puppet and led to DPI’s reorganization and reduction of personnel.

The Innovative School District is an educational reform that allows the state to select “poor” performing schools to be taken over by an out-of-state entity. In three years, it has only one school under its umbrella, but has gone through multiple leaders.

And then there was the Voter ID law, racially driven gerrymandered political maps, and the abolishment of automatically paycheck deductions for groups like NCAE. (Yes, the Voter ID law and the gerrymandered districting has been overruled, but we still as a state have not had an election cycle since both were overturned.)

It used to not be this way, but after the Great Recession of 2008 and the rise of a new wing of the Republican Party, a noticeable shift occurred in North Carolina politics. Decades ago, public education was championed by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Think of governors like Holshousher and Martin and you will see a commitment to funding public education like NC saw with Sanford, Hunt, and Easley. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.

That unification is not there anymore. And it wasn’t caused by public education or its advocates. It was planted, fed, fostered, and championed by those who came to power after the Great Recession. These are not Eisenhower Republicans or Reagan Republicans; they are ALEC Republicans whose sole purpose is to politicize all things and try and privatize as many public goods as possible. And on a state level, nothing is more of a public good than public schools.

They have been very adept at combining racial and social issues with public education to make it hard not only to compartmentalize each through legislation, but easy to exploit how much social and racial issues are tied to public education without people thinking they are interlinked. Laws and mandates like HB2, the Voter ID Law, the gerrymandered districts, and the attempted judicial system overhaul have as much to do with the health of public schools as any other factor.

When you keep people from being able to vote, you affect public education. When you keep people below the poverty line, you affect public education. When you gerrymander districts along racial lines, you affect public education. You cannot separate them exclusively. And we have lawmakers in power who know that very well. It’s why when you advocate for public schools, you must be aware of social and racial issues and be willing to fight along those lines.

Public school advocacy that was “successful” before 2008 will not work as effectively in 2020. No ALEC aligned politician who is in a right to work state that outlaws collective bargaining is going to “work with” advocacy groups like NCAE.

For NCAE and other groups to truly advocate for public schools, they must fight for issues outside of school rooms that affect the very students, teachers, and staff who come into those school rooms.

By every measure, North Carolina has regressed and opposed equity and democracy.

For example, “Now name the only state in the country with the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated voucher and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth. North Carolina.“

The legislators who have passed regressive laws are not interested in dialogue or reason. They knew exactly what they were doing. They don’t negotiate. They don’t listen. They must be voted out of office.

Jack Schneider, historian of education at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, says that the pandemic lays bare the fact that vast social inequality produces vast educational inequality. So-called reformers have argued that “fixing the schools” will “fix society.” Schneider shows that this is backwards. Readers, please send this article to the teacher-bashers and public-school-bashers at Education Post, Teach for America, the Walton Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the many other organizations who insist that public schools alone can fix the inequities that harm children before they enter school.

He writes, on Valerie Strauss’s blog:

For the past generation, we have been talking about the achievement gap in American public education — the fact that low income students and students from historically marginalized racial groups, on average, score lower than their more privileged peers. Chiefly, this matter has been treated as a problem with the schools.
In a news release accompanying No Child Left Behind legislation, for instance, president George W. Bush celebrated that “An ‘age of accountability’ is starting to replace an era of low expectations” in our schools. His Democratic successor, Barack Obama, went a step further, pinning responsibility on educators. “The single most important factor” in determining student achievement, Obama insisted, is “who their teacher is.”



Scholars, meanwhile, have made a very different case.
In the research community, it is widely recognized that students transition into schools not from a blank slate, but from an unequal society. Because of that, young people enter school with vastly different levels of preparation. As renowned teacher educator Gloria Ladson-Billings argued in a celebrated address to the educational research community, the “achievement gap” is a misnomer, implying an expectation that all children would perform equally at school. Instead, she suggested, we should train our collective gaze on the “education debt” — the damage done to particular communities by “the historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral decisions and policies that characterize our society.”




The achievement gap, in this framing, is merely a symptom of broader inequality, past and present. The implication is that maybe schools are not to blame, after all. Such a position is well-supported by educational research. But for many Americans, it remains relatively abstract.


The covid-19 outbreak, then, may be the best time to actually see the education debt in action. The playing field across schools has been leveled with a bulldozer — differences in school funding, facilities, curricular resources, teacher experience, arts and music education and more are essentially moot. With students at home, schooling has shifted online, dramatically reducing what can happen educationally.

Assume, then, that the schools are now more or less equal. An outgoing tide has lowered all boats.
Yet, some students will make significant educational progress during this hiatus from school, even as many of their peers lose ground.


Consider, first, the parental supports some young people have. Roughly 69 percent of students will have two parents at home with them, tag-teaming to offer support and encouragement. Some of those parents — disproportionately drawn from those with extended formal education — will feel at ease generating a school-like environment.


Those adults who successfully navigated school themselves, especially the minority of Americans who have college degrees, will be more likely to press their children to stay focused on academic work for several hours a day. That is not because they are better parents; it is because they are better situated to pass on their educational privilege.

Parents are a child’s first teachers — teaching language, social skills, dispositions and more — and remain the primary influence on how young people approach school.


Consider, too, the resources that are now differentially available to students.

Unlike their high-poverty peers, children from middle-class and affluent households almost all have high-speed Internet access at home, as well as web-enabled devices. They’ve got enough books to see them through the end of the crisis — twice as many, on average, as low-income families and African American families. Their homes are more likely to be set up in a manner that supports school learning.

Such differences explain why summer breaks from school widen the achievement gap.


Finally, it is important to consider the way that basic needs will be met, or not, in American households over the next several months. Many families have well-stocked pantries and a satisfying rotation of takeout orders; others will struggle to put food on the table.


In Somerville, Mass., where I live, the district is preparing “grab and go” meals to replace the free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches that children here — and 20 million students across America — ordinarily receive at school.

To relax, some families will take day trips for nature walks or retreat to their second homes; their less privileged counterparts will be stranded in place, often without heat.

Twenty-two percent of the homeless population are children.
Our schools are not equal.

Schools in affluent neighborhoods often have more resources than their counterparts in poor neighborhoods, even as research demonstrates a need for the opposite. White children and middle-class children are generally taught by more experienced teachers than their peers and are less likely to experience schooling as an unending preparation for standardized tests. Privileged students receive a more well-rounded curriculum and maintain better access to arts and music education.




Yet even if our schools were equal, they would not produce equal results. They would reflect the different circumstances that characterize the home and neighborhood environments in which young people spend a majority of their time. For the poorest and most marginalized, this means not just present disadvantage, but also the cumulative effects of intergenerational poverty.

Right now, this is what you will see. Gaps are not closing; they are beginning to yawn.


For two decades, we have been trashing schools and blaming teachers. It is easy to assume 
responsibility rests with them. But the achievement gap is a product of our unequal society — the reflection of an education debt that has never been settled.

It is not something schools alone will fix; and as they remain shuttered, that fact will become painfully clear.
Perhaps the present crisis, then, will prompt some deeper reflection about why students succeed. And perhaps we will awaken to the collective obligations we have for so long failed to fulfill.


Schools will eventually reopen. When they do, we should return with eyes unclouded. Rather than finding fault with our schools and the educators who bring them to life, we might begin to wrestle with what it would take for all students to enter on equal footing. Until then, even an equal education will not produce equal outcomes.