Archives for category: Obama

The Biden campaign released the names of those who will serve on transition teams. Our reader, retired arts educator Laura Chapman, reviewed the members of the education transition team. According to the campaign (cited in Valerie Strauss’s article), the transition team will identify DeVos regulations that should be reversed, but the team will not set policy or staff. Chapman, like many readers of this blog, believes that President Obama’s Race to the Top was profoundly wrong because of its overemphasis on standardized testing (a fact acknowledged even by President Obama) and its advocacy for charter schools and evaluation of teachers by the test scores of their students. Biden promised a new vision and fresh policies for K-12 education, not more of the same failed policies.

Chapman writes:

Biden-Harris Transition teams are selected to review specific agencies. Volunteers are listed only by their “most recent employment.” Those serving in education are “volunteers” and not required to indicate “sources of funding.”

I have looked into the biographies of Biden’s 20 experts in education – entries from LinkedIn, their current organizations, and less often Wikipedia. 

Of these
15 have no documented Pre-k to12 teaching experience.
14 held positions in Obama’s administration with nine of these in the US Department of Education (USDE). Two worked at USDE before Obama.
10 are lawyers.
7 have supported charter schools, here indicated by*
Also lurking here are Billionaire supporters of failed educational reforms. 

LEADER: Linda Darling-Hammond.* CEO Learning Policy Institute. See Wikipedia. Of interest: She developed the EdTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment) used in 40 states and 750 teacher education programs and the Smarter Balanced Assessment aligned with the Common Core, still used in some states, including California. Early in her career, she co-founded a preschool/day care center and Early College High charter school serving low-income students of color in East Palo Alto, California. The school had multiple connections with Stanford University where Linda Darling-Hammond taught. A version of this concept still exists in East Palo Alto Academy where some academic programs are connected with Stanford University. Linda Darling-Hammond is the subject of video interviews conducted in her home by Amrein-Beardsley. I recommend them. Be sure to scan down for the first video /inside-the-academy/linda-darling-hammond This archive also has video interviews with Diane Ravitch, Howard Gardner, Elliot Eisner and others.

UNION CONNECTIONS: American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.
–Donna Harris-Aikens. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Senior Director of Education Policy and Practice NEA (14 years). Prior work at NEA on ESEA. Former Policy Manager for Service Employees International Union.
–Beth Antunez, No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Deputy Director, Government Relations for AFT. Previously ATF Assistant Director for educational issues especially community school initiatives.
–Shital Shah, No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Manager of Philanthropic Engagement at AFT. Other AFT positions for 18 years, most of these in community engagement. Other youth and public heath work, including Peace Corps in Honduras.
–Marla Ucelli-Kashyap. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Assistant to the AFT President for Educational Issues. Former Director of District Redesign and Leadership at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and senior program officer at the Rockefeller Foundation. Member, Advisory Council for “Education Reimagined,” devoted to “Personalized learning that is competency-based and has a wide range of learning environments and adult roles.” https://education-reimagined.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Vision_Website.pdf

UNION and OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SERVICE
–Robert Kim. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. John Jay College of Criminal Justice; writer and consultant on legal, policy, and civil rights issues in education. Senior Title IX EEO investigator. Former Obama Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach, USDE. Senior Policy Analyst, NEA. Co-author, “Education and the Law, 5th ed.” (West Academic Publishing, 2019) and “Legal Issues in Education: Rights and Responsibilities in U.S. Public Schools Today” (2017). Early legal service for ACLU, and Legal Aid.
–Ruthanne Buck. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. A Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretaries of Education John King and Arne Duncan for educator outreach and engagement. Previously Assistant to AFT President for Special Projects and National Field Director at AFT. Led major field and political operations on progressive issues, agencies and candidates.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION (* indicates some connection to charter schools)
–Ary Amerikaner, Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Vice President for P-12 Policy, Practice, and Research at the Education Trust. Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education. The Education Trust operates four offices coast to coast and makes recommendations for federal and state policy. These recommendations have treated ESSA as a civil rights mandate to be followed, with no testing waivers. The Trust wants to expand Civil Rights Data Collection reports on school crime and discipline, also AP courses (for the College Board?). The Trust wants to see the present ban on a “student unit record system” lifted. That would please Bill Gates and allow federal data-collection on individual students in any post-secondary program–including their SS numbers, income tax records and more. See https://dianeravitch.net/2017/01/07/stop-our-government-wants-to-create-a-national-database-about-everyone-including-your-children/ and https://edtrust.org/press-release/opportunities-to-advance-educational-equity-during-the-next-administration/.
–James Kvaal,* Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. President, The Institute for College Access & Success, a non-profit treating issues of student debt. Obama’s White House Deputy Director of Domestic Policy and Deputy Under Secretary USDE. Prior work as consultant for Achieving the Dream (a network of community colleges), America Achieves (Common Core), Annie E. Casey Foundation (Read by Grade Three), College Board (David Coleman), the Harvard Government Performance Lab, Results for America and others. The Institute for College Access & Success has six senior fellows from the Obama administration and lists 220 “partners” devoted to evidence-based policies and “what works.” Partners include Teach for America, Teach Plus, The New Teacher Center, charter school franchises (KIPP, IDEA, Green Dot, and YesPrep). Billionaires fund the Institute: Arnold Ventures (John D. and Laura Arnold hedge funds), the Ballmer Group (a nonprofit co-founded by former CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer), the S.D. Bechtel, Jr Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (funded expansion of Green Dot charter schools), William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Schmidt Futures (former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s philanthropy)
–Emma Vadehra.Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Senior fellow, The Century Foundation, also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the charter-friendly Center For American Progress. Executive Director of Next100, a Century Foundation incubator for next generation policy leaders. Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary in USDE’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, Policy Development. Also Chief of Staff for Obama’s USDE serving John B. King Jr. and Arne Duncan. Former Chief of Staff at Uncommon Schools, a charter school management organization.
–Keia Cole. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Head of Digital Experience at MassMutual, an insurance company. Obama’s Associate General Counsel and Chief of Staff to Deputy Secretary of USDE. Responsible for providing strategic direction for USDE’s financial, technology, human capital, and risk management operations. First work at Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking Division, specialist in financial analysis of media and communications companies. For less than a year she was an Education Pioneers Fellow at KIPP San Jose Collegiate charter school, not as a teacher.
–Roberto Rodriguez.* No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. President and CEO of Teach Plus, operates in 11 states to supply charter school teachers. Obama’s Deputy Assistant to the President for Education. Claims credit for contributions to ESSA, STEM, higher education standards. Rodriguez claims credit for bipartisan work on No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, among other major bills. Advisor on education for Unidos US, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. Serves on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Excellent Education, The Achievement Network (promoter of charter schools), the Bainum Family Foundation and Strive Together’s data-mongering Cradle to Career Network.
–Kristina Ishmael. In Nebraska, she taught ELL students for two years and Kindergarten and 2nd Grade for four years. Director of Primary and Secondary Education at Open Education Global (less than a year), in charge of adoptions of Open Educational Resources world-wide. Open Education fellow in Obama’s USDE Office of Educational Technology (2016-2017). Former manager of the Teaching, Learning, & Tech team at New America. Digital learning specialist for the Nebraska Department of Education for four years.
–Lindsay Dworkin. Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Director, Policy Development and State Government Relations at Alliance for Excellent Education. Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Outreach USDE (2016-2017). Legal work in Delaware for the former Governor and State Treasurer of Delaware Jack Markell. The Alliance (All4Ed) advocates for evidence-based instructional practices, and college and career pathways in 40 states and specific federal educational policies. A major Alliance project, Future Ready Schools, is active in 30 states pushing for digital access to “anytime, anywhere, personalized learning.” Superintendents in over 3400 districts have signed the Bill Gates inspired “pledge” at https://dashboard.futurereadyschools.org/pledge/
–Paul Monteiro, Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Assistant Vice President of External Affairs, Howard University. Previously Chief of Staff for Howard University’s President. Former Acting Director of the Community Relations Service, Obama’s Department of Justice (one year, 4 months), National Director of AmeriCorps VISTA. Public Engagement Advisor to White House on Arab Americans, faith communities, anti-poverty groups, and gun safety organizations. Deputy Director of Religious Affairs for Presidential Inauguration Committee including the National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral. Two year appointee, Board of Education Prince George County Public Schools. Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland for three years.

USDE WORK prior to OBAMA
-Norma Cantu. University of Texas at Austin, Chair Department of Educational Administration, former US Assistant Secretary of Education 1993-2001. (Position misidentified on Biden’s list)

OTHER
–Jessica Cardichon. Lawyer. An upper elementary teacher in NYC for nearly seven years. Director of Learning Policy Institute’s DC office. Leads the Institute’s federal legislative and regulatory strategy. Co-leads LPI’s teams on state policy, member of LPI’s teams on Educator Quality, Deeper Learning, Equitable Resources and Access and Early Childhood Education. Authored reports on the Federal role in school discipline, and taking advantage of ESSA’s policies. Education Counsel to Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senior Director for Federal Policy and Advocacy, Alliance for Excellent Education.
–Jim Brown.* Lawyer. No evident Pre-k to12 teaching. Former Chief of Staff for Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey and Pennsylvania Secretary of General Services. At U.S. House of Representatives, served as Staff Director and General Counsel for the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs (now the Committee on Financial Services). Jim is co-founder of a company that manages over $800 million in venture capital. He is a trustee of Immaculata University, the Gesu Catholic School (K-12) and Young Scholars Charter School in Philadelphia. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation.
–Margaret R (Peggy) McLeod. In her native Puerto Rico, she taught in two Montessori schools and owned a center that provided afterschool services to students with disabilities. Served as ESL teacher in DC. Currently Deputy Vice President of Education and Workforce Development, National Council of La Raza. Previously Executive Director, Student services, Alexandria (VA) City Public Schools. Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, District of Columbia (DC), also in DC, the Title III director, Office of Bilingual Education, Title VII coordinator, and bilingual program developer. A member of the National Board of Education Sciences since 2010.
—Pedro A. Rivera. Extent of classroom experience not found. President of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA since August 2020. Former five-year Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania aiding the adoption of a funding formula for basic education; a performance measure for schools (Future Ready PA Index), and a school improvement strategy. Former Executive Director for the School District of Philadelphia, former Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, PA, classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal.  
https://buildbackbetter.com/the-transition/agency-review-teams/ 

We have all been guessing about what President-Elect Joe Biden will do in education. Will he keep his campaign promises and set federal policy on a new direction, away from No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, ESSA, high-stakes testing, and school choice, or will he stick with the stale and destructive status quo?

No one knows for sure but many have tried to divine his intentions by the composition of his transition team for education. At first glance, it is worrisome that so many of its members come from the Race to the Top era. But Valerie Strauss offers a different perspective on the transition team’s purpose and significance.

She writes:

Now that President-elect Joe Biden has named a 20-person education transition team, the education world is trying to glean insight from its makeup as to what the next president will do to try to improve America’s public schools.


Some progressives are worried that the list of members is heavy with former members of the Obama administration, whose controversial education policies ultimately alienated teachers’ unions, parents and members of Congress from both major political parties. Some conservatives are concerned that four of the team’s members come from national teachers’ unions. And others wonder what it means that Biden chose Linda Darling-Hammond — the first Black woman to serve as president of the California Board of Education and an expert on educational equity and teacher quality — to lead the team.


When it comes to policy, such concerns are probably misplaced. This transition team is not charged with writing big policy papers or selecting a new education secretary. The campaign set Biden’s education agenda, and there is a separate, smaller committee working on domestic policy.


The transition team’s charge is largely about reimagining the Education Department, which has been run for nearly four years by Betsy DeVos, whose top priority was pushing alternatives to public school districts and encouraging states to use public money to fund private and religious school education. She also focused on reversing a number of Obama administration initiatives in civil rights and other areas.


Biden has promised to focus on the public schools that educate the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren and to take steps to address the inequity that has long existed in the education system — and his proposals speak to a divergence from the Obama agenda.


Subgroups on the transition team are tackling different areas, including K-12, higher education and a covid-19 response that would allow schools to safely reopen — an urgent priority for Biden. Step No. 1, according to one person familiar with the process (who spoke on the condition of anonymity) is to “figure out what damage she [DeVos] did and then stand up a department.”


The selection of the transition team does speak to some basic Biden priorities. He picked people who have expertise in their field; most of the 20 on the transition team were involved in the Education Department in either the Obama or Clinton administration. He won’t, for example, hire a neurosurgeon to run a department that deals with housing, like Trump did with Ben Carson. Biden promised to hire a teacher as education secretary, not someone who never went to a public school, like DeVos.


As Kevin Welner, the director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said, the “obvious reason” there are so many former Obama administration education officials on the Biden team is that they are working “on crafting remedies for the Trump-DeVos reversals — to restore guidances and executive orders that the current administration changed or eliminated.”
The inclusion of four union leaders — three from the American Federation of Teachers and one from the National Education Association — underscores Biden’s long connections with the labor movement and shows he is not expecting to break those ties.


In fact, two of the names reported to be under consideration for Biden’s education secretary are Lily Eskelsen García, former president of the National Education Association, which is the largest union in the country; and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (The appointment of one of these women raises some questions: Would a Republican-led Senate confirm a labor leader? Would Biden appoint one as acting if it won’t?)


The Biden team has been floating a number of names for education secretary, a job that many thought would go to Darling-Hammond before she said recently that she didn’t want it.


She is as highly regarded in the education world as just about anyone; among other things, she is the founder of the Stanford University Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, founder of the California-based Learning Policy Institute think tank, founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and a former president of the American Educational Research Association.


Darling-Hammond was also Obama’s education transition chief after his 2008 presidential win. It was a time when serious flaws with the K-12 No Child Left Behind law had emerged, including an unhealthy emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and mandates that were unachievable.


Obama had said during the 2008 campaign he thought kids took too many standardized tests, telling the American Federation of Teachers, “Creativity has been drained from classrooms as too many teachers are forced to teach fill-in-the-bubble tests.” And many public school advocates believed he would support their agenda of de-emphasizing the tests that had become routine under No Child Left Behind.


But Obama had quietly embraced a group called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) — started by some New York hedge-fund managers — who wanted to reform schools along business principles and who were antagonistic toward the teachers’ unions. Columns began appearing in numerous publications accusing Darling-Hammond of being too close to the unions.


Obama wound up tapping Arne Duncan, a reformer in the DFER mold, as education secretary. Duncan, the former chief of Chicago schools, pushed the evaluation of teachers by student standardized test scores, the adoption by states of Common Core State Standards and the expansion of charter schools. The result was that students took many more standardized tests and some states created cockamamie evaluation systems that saw teachers evaluated by the test scores of students they didn’t have. The Common Core, which started with bipartisan support, saw a rushed implementation that helped lead to opposition to it.


By 2014, the National Education Association called for Duncan’s resignation and the AFT said he should change policy or resign. Congress eventually rewrote the No Child Left Behind law, taking away some of the federal power that Duncan had exercised in education policy and giving it to the states.


The 2008 education transition team that Darling-Hammond headed included some progressive thinkers in education who wrote deep policy papers that focused on educational equity and other transformative issues. Duncan ignored them, going his own way. In 2008, the makeup of the presidential transition team had no effect on policy.


Through his tenure as vice president, though, Biden did not publicly discuss the Obama-Duncan education changes. It appears that he was not a big supporter; his wife, Jill Biden, a community college educator, is a longtime member of the NEA, and the AFT’s Weingarten has said when the AFT was not getting along with the Obama administration, Biden was “our north star” and our “go-to guy who always listened to us.”


Biden sought out Darling-Hammond to run his transition team because of her expertise in education and in part as a signal about what he hopes to prioritize in education, according to people familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


Biden and his team made a number of promises about education during the campaign, including increasing federal funds for the poorest students as well as for students with special needs, raising the salaries of teachers, making community college free and implementing college debt forgiveness. His proposals would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to implement; meeting his promise to “fully fund” the federal law protecting students with special needs alone could cost $40 billion or more.


It is more than highly unlikely that there will be federal funding available to do everything he promised, but public education advocates say they are hopeful that he will stick to his promise to concentrate on publicly funded school districts and not school choice, like DeVos, or standardized testing, like Duncan.


All the signs at the moment indicate that Biden’s education agenda will be significantly different from Duncan’s (and certainly DeVos’s) and start to address the issue of educational equity in ways that Darling-Hammond has always thought were important, including how public schools are funded. Stay tuned.

James Hohmann of t reviewed former President Barack Obama’s speech in Philadelphia in support of Biden. Obama lashed back at Trump’s specious claims and lies. The former president stood on a makeshift stage in a parking lot in front of the Philadelphia Eagles’ stadium and spoke to a drive-in audience.

Here are Obama’s top 10 daggers from his 36-minute speech:

1) Shredding Trump’s covid-19 response 

“Donald Trump isn’t going to suddenly protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself…”

2) Teeing up a contrast between Trump and Biden

“Joe is not going to screw up testing. He’s not going to call scientists idiots. He’s not going to hold a superspreader event at the White House…”

3) Highlighting a double standard 

“Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection? You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that? They would have called me ‘Beijing Barry…’”

4) Connecting the dots 

“Joe knows that the first job of a president is to keep us safe from all threats, foreign, domestic or microscopic. When the daily intelligence briefings flash warning signs about a virus, a president can’t ignore them. He can’t be AWOL. Just like when Russia puts bounties on the heads of our soldiers in Afghanistan, the commander-in-chief can’t be missing in action…”

5) Effectively employing mockery 

“You’ll be able to go about your lives [if Biden wins] knowing that the president is not going to retweet conspiracy theories about secret cabals running the world or that Navy SEALS didn’t actually kill bin Laden. Think about that. The president of the United States retweeted that! Imagine! What? What?….”

6) Trolling Trump

“Donald Trump likes to claim he built this economy, but America created 1.5 million more jobs in the last three years of the Obama-Biden administration than in the first three years of the Trump-Pence administration. How you figure that? … Now, he did inherit the longest streak of job growth in American history but just like everything else he inherited, he messed it up…”

7) Personnel is policy

“When Joe and Kamala are in charge, they’re not going to surround themselves with hacks and lobbyists. … That, more than anything, is what separates them from their opponents…”

“The Environmental Protection Agency that’s supposed to protect our air and our water is right now run by an energy lobbyist that gives polluters free reign to dump unlimited poison into our air and water. The Labor Department that’s supposed to protect workers and their rights right now is run by a corporate lobbyist who’s declared war on workers. … The Interior Department that’s supposed to protect our public lands and wild spaces … right now is run by an oil lobbyist who’s determined to sell them to the highest bidder. You’ve got the Education Department, that’s supposed to give every kid a chance, being run by a billionaire who guts rules designed to protect students from getting ripped off by for-profit colleges and stiff-arms students looking for loan relief in the middle of an economic collapse. The person who runs Medicaid right now is doing their best to kick people off of Medicaid, instead of sign them up. Come on…”

8) Highlighting promises not kept 

“They keep on promising, ‘We’re going to have a great replacement.’ … It’s been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare? They’ve had 10 years to do it. There is no plan!…”

9) Defending his own record 

“Listen, listen: I understand why a lot of Americans can get frustrated by government and can feel like it doesn’t make a difference. Even supporters of mine, during my eight years, there were times where stuff we wanted to get done didn’t get done and people said, ‘Well, gosh, if Obama didn’t get it done, then maybe it’s just not going to happen.’”

Obama said he had “firsthand experience” with Republican obstruction and the way “special interests” tried to “stop progress” before making a case that voters need to work within the system, “The fact that we don’t get 100 percent of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote,” said the onetime community organizer. “It means we’ve got to vote and then get some change and then vote some more and then get some more change, and then keep on voting until we get it right…”

10) Connecting protesting to voting

“We’ve seen Americans of all races joining together to declare in the face of injustice that Black lives matter – no more, but no less – so that no child in this country feels the continuing sting of racism. … We can’t abandon those protesters who inspired us. We’ve got to channel their activism into action.”

 

Alex Thompson of Politico wrote a fascinating article about the tensions between Obama and Biden.

During his eight years as Vice-President, Biden was loyal to Obama. Biden thought he was the inevitable successor to Obama. But Obama preferred Hillary to Joe. Hillary and Barack were both Ivy League, both cerebral, both cut from the same cloth.

Biden is an old school politician. He’s not Ivy League. He counts on personal relationships and works with anyone to get things done. He looks for the good in people and connects on a human level.

As the story explains, Obama did not encourage Biden to run. As Biden’s star faded, key members of his staff left him and joined Hillary’s team.

Biden was not an academic star, like Obama and Hillary. He was a solid C student.

His candidacy was not favored by the Democratic establishment. He rose from political ostracism by grit, based on old-fashioned values like empathy, kindness, friendship, and personal warmth. He is not a nerd. He is not a technocrat. He is a good man.

Barack Obama was president of the United States for eight years without a single scandal. None of his aides were arrested and jailed. I disagreed with his education policies but I respect him as a man of integrity and a patriot.

This is the speech he delivered to the virtual Democratic National Convention.

Please watch. It was riveting.

I really really like Kamala Harris. I find her warm, intelligent, thoughtful. I love her smile and her laugh.

But Barack Obama blew me away. He was intense, coiled, quietly angry, and very powerful. His words were gripping.

The video of his speech is not yet online. The transcript is. But if you didn’t see it, you should. In the morning, I will post the video. You have to see him. You have to se his face and hear the occasional sigh.

He knows that the future of our democracy is on the line in November. Nothing less.

Trump is a danger to our nation and the world. He must be replaced by people of intelligence, experience, compassion, and heart. Those are qualities he lacks and will never have. Biden and Harris have them.

We must work hard and do whatever we can to oust the incompetents, white supremacists, authoritarians, and crooks now running the country, people who traffic in bizarre conspiracy theories, and who care only for their own self-aggrandizement. Enough.

Randy Rainbow explains Trump’s latest Tweet-storm.

It’s all about distraction. He doesn’t want you to think about the pandemic. He doesn’t want you to dwell on 100,000 deaths.

The biggest scandal of our era, he says, is Obamagate.

What does that mean? No one knows.

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.

Jeff Bryant attended the Presidential Forum for Democratic candidates in Pittsburgh, and he watched to see how the candidates reacted to the Bush-Obama-Duncan agenda.

Michael Bennett was the only one to endorse it, and he got a tepid reception.

The others spoke of their love for public schools, their desire to raise funding, etc, but barely mentioned charters or testing unless pushed.

Duncan’s name was never mentioned.

Evaluating teachers by test scores never came up.

Everything that Bush and Obama had promoted was absent.

Of course, everything they promoted has failed, and the moderator kept referring to flat NAEP scores to challenge the candidates, without recognizing that the stagnant scores are the results of 20 years of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core.

But Jeff is not convinced that the change is more than cosmetic.

He thinks that the candidates will gravitate to where the money is: Wall Street; hedge fund managers; billionaires.

Warren and Sanders have not.

But he is right about this: Bad habits and bad ideas die slowly. If at all.

Not one candidate said simply and candidly, “everything that the federal government has imposed since passage of NCLB has failed. We need a fresh vision.”

 

 

The Center for American Progress has been the think tank of centrist Democrats and a refuge for veterans of the Obama administration and the would-have-been Clinton Administration. The media calls it “progressive,” but on education its agenda was aligned with the mainstream of the Republican Party. It never supported vouchers but it was all-in for charter schools. Now that Betsy DeVos is the new face of the Reform and Choice moment, it’s bizarre to call charters a progressive idea.

CAP’s new site “Think Progress” is folding. It could not find a patron. The problem may have been not just money but message. With Sanders and Warren vying for the progressive vote, CAP has lost its claim to be”progressive.”

Given its unrelenting defense of the privatization of public schools by entrepreneurs and corporate chains, it is clear that CAP was not in touch with the meaning of progressivism. It defended all the noxious tenets of Obama and Duncan’s Race to the Top. High-stakes testing, evaluation of teachers by test scores, closing schools with low scores, and charter schools. In D.C, these were the common threads in the Bush-Obama era. In state after state, these principles are being repudiated. They failed. They were corporatist, not progressive.