Archives for category: Politics

The National Education Association has endorsed Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for president.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Joe Biden continued to consolidate support in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination today when he won the endorsement of the National Education Assn., the country’s largest labor union. With 3 million members, the union’s announcement will probably accelerate Biden’s effort to cement his standing as the Democratic front-runner.

How much has changed in only one week!

A week ago, Biden was counted out and had almost run out of money.

Then came South Carolina, and African American voters picked Biden and turned him into a top contender. Endorsements by Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Beto quickly buoyed Biden’s campaign.

Michael Bloomberg, the only open supporter of charter schools, was routed, despite spending more than all the other candidates put together. To everyone’s surprise, voters ignored Bloomberg’s effort to outspend everyone else, to open more offices and hire more staff. The nomination was not for sale. He did win America Samoa. But it’s only a matter of time—hours or days—until he drops out. He is no longer a factor. Now let’s see if he follows through with his pledge to support the Democratic nominee and to spend big money to match the Republican money juggernaut.

Trump doesn’t want to face Biden in November. He made that clear when he twisted the arm of the president of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden. He appealed publicly to China to find dirt on Biden.

I know that Sanders supports public schools. I hope that Biden doesn’t revive the Obama approach to education. Biden does support unions and recognizes that they built the middle class.

The election is not over. Warren remains but it’s hard to see how she survives after losing her home state. It’s come down to Sanders and Biden. I will gladly support either one.

If Senator Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, you can be sure that Trump will redbait  him on a daily basis. Sanders will be “red meat” for Trump’s ridicule. If you support Sanders, you will hate this column. Be forewarned.

For a preview of what lies ahead, read this column from the Washington Post by Megan McArdle.

The world of comic books, in which characters are constantly dying and being revived or reinvented for a new legion of fans, eventually had to invent a concept known as the “retcon” — short for “retroactive continuity.”
You’ll have noticed the phenomenon in film and television even if you never knew its name: “retconning” means altering an already-established past story line, to cover up growing plot holes or simply to free an author to craft a more enjoyable narrative in the present, one unhindered by the back catalogue.

The term has obvious applications to modern politics. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) looks increasingly likely to win the Democratic nomination, left-of-center people are anxious to downgrade Sanders’s self-described socialism into something more politically palatable — like Great Society liberalism, or perhaps, at maximum, a Nordic-style welfare state.

In this, they struggle with an inconveniently well-documented Early Bernie Sanders, with his calls to nationalize “utilities, banks and major industries,“ his kind words for left-wing dictatorships, and his “very strange honeymoon” in the U.S.S.R. — where he blasted U.S. foreign policy before returning home to say “Let’s take the strengths of both systems. … Let’s learn from each other.”

One should be forgiven almost any number of youthful flirtations with bad ideology. But Sanders was in his early 40s when he went gaga for Nicaragua’s brutal Sandinista regime, and 46 during his sojourn on the Volga. In February 2019, when he was refusing to describe Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro as a “dictator,” Sanders was 77.

Forty years seems enough cultivate skepticism about what you’re shown while visiting a Communist dictatorship.

And 77 is certainly old enough to have read the 2019 Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela, which noted that “polls had not met international standards of freedom and fairness,” and went on to state that no “independent government institutions remain today in Venezuela to act as a check on executive power. … The government has been repressing dissent through often-violent crackdowns.” All of which sounds positively dictatorial.

If that wasn’t enough, Sanders might have been convinced when Maduro started using military blockades to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching his own famine-stricken citizens.
Yes, by the September Democratic debate, Sanders had inched around to calling Maduro a “vicious tyrant,” but why was it such a struggle? No regime that is democratically accountable could undertake such a blockade, which is why Great Society Democrats and Nordic-style social democrats don’t hesitate to condemn the ones that do. That sort of reluctance occurs among people who still hanker for something much more radical than Western democracies are prepared to deliver — and can’t quite admit that their idealistic program has birthed yet another moral and economic catastrophe.

Thus, it’s unsurprising to find that Sanders remains considerably to the left of Europe’s moderate social democrats. Economist Ryan Bourne of the Cato Institute argues that even when you compare the current Sanders platform to the British Labour Party’s 2019 election manifesto, the former is more radical. Sanders wants government to absorb a much higher share of gross domestic product, intervene even more heavily in sectors such as health care, and attack capital more aggressively than Labour promised to do under Jeremy Corbyn — and the Corbyn agenda was broadly recognized as a leftward leap in a country whose politics are already well to the left of ours.

MIT economist Daron Acemoglu recently made similar points, tying them directly to Sanders’s claim that he just wants the United States to be more like Denmark or Sweden. As it happens, he says, Sweden once tried a version of Sanders’s proposals to transfer a sizable chunk of corporate ownership and managerial control to workers. This “workplace democracy,” an idea closely associated with democratic socialism, was eventually abandoned by those Nordic social democrats because it poisoned labor relations, and depressed both investment and productivity growth.

Sanders’s undeniable radicalism, and his equally undeniable popularity with an exceptionally motivated portion of the base, presents a problem for Democrats. Young Democrats may think socialism sounds swell, but affluent older suburbanites will balk at both the word and the policies it denotes. With the white working class flocking Trumpward, Democrats needs those suburbanites; just boosting youth turnout probably won’t be enough.

The obvious solution is to quietly persuade suburbanites that the Sanders socialism label is just personal branding, and either retcon his previous radicalism, or write a change of heart into his biography. One problem is that it’s not clear this change of heart actually occurred; a bigger problem is that Sanders appeals to younger voters precisely because “he’s been saying the same thing for 40 years.” But the biggest problem is that his defenders can’t erase the things he’s saying right now.





Middle School Principal Jamaal Bowman has announced that he will challenge incumbent Congressman Elliot Engel.

The New York Times reported:

WASHINGTON — Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal from the Bronx, announced on Tuesday his plans to challenge Representative Eliot L. Engel, the New York Democrat who leads the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, in the 2020 race.

The contest could serve as a key test of whether liberal insurgent groups can convert a surge of energy on the left into successful challenges of members of the Democratic Party establishment.

Mr. Bowman becomes the second liberal challenger to Mr. Engel this year, but the first New York primary candidate to be endorsed by Justice Democrats, the grass-roots group that helped fuel Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning defeat last year of Joseph Crowley of New York, the No. 4 Democrat in the House at the time.

“I’m inspired by all of the new lifestyles injected into Congress and the new ideas,” said Mr. Bowman, who will run against Mr. Engel, a 16-term incumbent who serves New York’s 16th Congressional District, and Andom Ghebreghiorgis, a teacher who, like Mr. Bowman, has vowed to pursue progressive policies, including “Medicare for all,” the Green New Deal and changes to public education.

The campaign announced:


The Founder of the innovative Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, Bowman has been a leader in the opt-out movement
NEW YORK, NY — Middle school principal, education advocate, and former teacher ​Jamaal Bowman​ launched his campaign for Congress in New York’s 16th district today with a spirited launch video discussing his family, professional background, and his case for taking on his opponent: 30-year incumbent Eliot Engel. Bowman is running to better represent the communities of The Bronx and Westchester with a focus on taking on racial and economic injustice.


“It’s time for a Democrat who will fight for schools and education, not bombs and incarceration,”
reads Bowman’s website.

Bowman was born and raised in New York City by a single mother and spent time in public housing and rent-controlled apartments. He and his wife live in Yonkers with their three kids and are both educators. Bowman founded a public middle school, ​the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA)​ in the Baychester neighborhood of The Bronx in 2009 and serves as its first principal.

Bowman has been an educator and advocate for public schools for over 20 years, including participating in community organizing and activism to support fully funding New York’s public schools, the movement to opt-out of standardized testing, and ​racial justice​. Bowman was a school teacher at PS 90 in The Bronx and Martin Luther King High School in Manhattan.
Despite the fact that Bowman’s middle school ranked first in New York City for improved test score average in 2015, Bowman has consistently been ​one of the most vocal critics​ in New York City and New York state to support the opt-out movement and speak out against the weaponization of standardized tests in public schools.

Bowman also implemented ​a restorative justice model at his middle school in order to combat the school-to-prison pipeline​. Within six years, the school had cut suspensions by two-thirds. Bowman’s school does not use suspensions for insubordination, which is particularly important because nationally, “willful defiance” is ​often found as a racially disproportionate cause​ for suspension.

June 17, 2019
Contact: ​
Bowman’s work as an educator was featured in ​Amsterdam News​, one of the oldest African American newspapers in the country in 2016. He was also featured in ​The Huffington Post​, ​The Washington Post,​ ​New York Daily News​, ​NY1​, and ​TedTalks​.


Driven by a desire to bring people together and create a better future for the young people in his community, Bowman has fought on behalf of the working families of the Bronx to ensure their children have the best education. He envisions a future where all students have an equal shot at a fulfilling life, career, and future, regardless of where they grow up.

Bowman was born and raised in New York City. He spent his early years with his grandmother in public housing at the East River Houses until he was 8 and later moved into rent-controlled apartments

Bowman didn’t have much growing up but his mother provided him all that he needed: love, a stable family, and a sense of community. Her guidance led him toward becoming a teacher, school principal, and community leader.

After finishing high school in New Jersey, Bowman earned a BA in Sports Management from the University of New Haven in 1999 — and immediately became a public school teacher back home in The Bronx. Bowman went on to earn a Masters Degree in Guidance Counseling from Mercy College and an Ed.D. with a specialization in Community Leadership from Manhattanville College.

Bowman’s crowning achievement was in founding a public middle school, the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA) and serving as its first principal. Located in the Baychester neighborhood of The Bronx, CASA is an innovative public school with a strong emphasis on student voice, holistic education, cultural awareness and love. He has also led efforts to educate elected officials on the impact of toxic stress on health and education outcomes.



Bernie Sanders’ website has a better statement on the importance of investing public education and teachers than any other Democratic candidate so far:


Today, more than 60 years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision ending legal segregation in our public schools, and 50 years after President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into law, poor and minority students are still not afforded the same education as their wealthier, and often whiter counterparts. This is not only unjust and immoral, it endangers our democracy.

I’m running for president to restore the promise that every child, regardless of his or her background, has a right to a high-quality public education.

Growing inequality is both the cause and the effect of our nation’s desperately underfunded public school system. Many public schools are severely racially segregated—in some parts of the country, worse than before the Brown decision. With funding for public schools in steep decline, students in low-income areas are forced to learn in decrepit buildings and endure high rates of teacher turnover. Public school teachers are severely underpaid and lack critical resources, and their professional experience is being undermined by high stakes testing requirements that drain resources and destroy the joy of learning.

Meanwhile, resource-rich private schools spend tens of thousands of dollars more per child than public schools do. They are predominantly white or intentionally diversified, and enjoy the best that money can buy—from state of the art facilities to well-paid, highly skilled teachers.

With the vast challenges facing our education system, billionaire philanthropists, Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers are attempting to privatize our education system under the banner of “school choice.” We must act to transform our education system into a high-quality public good.

  • We must make sure that charter schools are accountable, transparent and truly serve the needs of disadvantaged children, not Wall Street, billionaire investors, and other private interests.
  • We must ensure that a handful of billionaires don’t determine education policy for our nation’s children.
  • We will oppose the DeVos-style privatization of our nation’s schools and will not allow public resources to be drained from public schools. 
  • We must guarantee childcare and universal pre-Kindergarten for every child in America to help level the playing field, create new and good jobs, and enable parents more easily balance the demands of work and home.
  • We must increase pay for public school teachers so that their salary is commensurate with their importance to society. And we must invest in high-quality, ongoing professional development, and cancel teachers’ student debt.
  • We must protect the tenure system for public school teachers and combat attacks on collective bargaining by corporate profiteers.
  • We must put an end to high-stakes testing and “teaching to the test” so that our students have a more fulfilling educational life and our teachers are afforded professional respect.

We must guarantee children with disabilities an equal right to high-quality education, and increase funding for programs that combat racial segregation and unfair disciplinary practices that disproportionately affect students of color.

I am still waiting for a Democratic candidate who will explain why we as a nation should have two different publicly funded systems of education–one that chooses the students it wants, and the other required to accept all students. One, under private management, and the other controlled by an elected school board, or a board appointed by an elected official.


I encourage you to sign up for The American Prospect’s near-daily missive. This one is right on target, written by Harold Meyerson. The commentaries by Harold Meyerson and Robert Kuttner are well-informed, incisive, and wise. Let the Democratic candidates slug it out on the field of ideas and policies, not by this kind of ad hominem attack..


APRIL 17, 2019

Meyerson on TAP

How Think Progress Would Have Attacked Franklin Roosevelt. The past few days’ kerfuffle over the attacks that Think Progress has leveled against Bernie Sanders raises a question for the historically minded: How viciously would it have lashed out against Franklin Roosevelt for his presumed hypocrisy in attacking the reactionary rich more directly and vehemently than Sanders ever has?


Think Progress, which is the news and commentary website operating under the aegis and with the funding of the Democratic Party–aligned think tank Center for American Progress, accused Sanders last week of just such hypocrisy for his repeated attacks on the rich, even as he had a yearly income in excess of $1 million from the sale of his books. As one article on the Think Progress website put it:


It’s all very off-brand and embarrassing, but Sen. Bernie Sanders is a millionaire. Turns out railing against “millionaires and billionaires” can be quite the lucrative enterprise.


Sanders, who released his last ten years of tax returns on Monday, acknowledged that the proceeds from his book sales brought him over the millionaire threshold, and chastised Think Progress—and CAP, headed by longtime Hillary Clinton adviser Neera Tanden—for running this sort of ad hominem attack, not just on him but on other progressive Democrats as well.


Think Progress is hardly the first institution or individual to label liberals and leftists of some means as inauthentic or hypocritical for their own attacks on concentrated wealth. The Democratic leader subjected to the greatest number and most vicious of such attacks was Franklin Roosevelt, the heir to an old New York fortune who raised taxes on the wealthy, legalized collective bargaining, and levied attacks on the rich far more coruscating than anything Sanders has ever said. In his nationally broadcast Madison Square Garden speech on the eve of the 1936 election, when he was seeking his second term as president, FDR identified his “unscrupulous enemies” as


business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.


I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.


Whew! Next to that, Sanders sounds like Mr. Rogers.


FDR’s invective against the “forces of selfishness,” and the policies he enacted to combat those forces and create a larger, more confident middle class, prompted conservatives to contrast his anti-plutocratic politics with his personal wealth and accuse him of hypocrisy, insincerity, and double standards. Where did a rich guy come off criticizing other rich guys—or at least, other rich guys who wanted to keep prosperity from trickling down to the hoi polloi? What a sham! What chutzpah!


Not that Sanders has anything remotely resembling a fortune, much less an FDR-type fortune, but this is precisely the same attack that Think Progress belched forth last week against Bernie.

A lot of good, smart progressives work at Think Progress and CAP. They don’t work there because they like this kind of horseshit; they don’t work there because they want to produce memes for the likes of Fox News. That’s not CAP’s mission, either—at least, it shouldn’t be. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON


There is hope for a change in Kentucky politics.

FOX News says that Governor Matt Bevin is in trouble in his re-election bid because he picked a fight with teachers. 

“Matt Bevin is Kentucky’s third Republican governor in the last half-century – and if he’s re-elected this year, he’d be the first in party history to win a second term to that office.

“It likely won’t be easy.

”Bevin gained national repute as a conservative reformer, but made an enemy of the state’s powerfulteachers’ union. He’s the least popular governor in the United States, according to a Morning Consult poll in January. Also, the most recent head-to-head poll found Bevin trailing two Democrats vying for their party’s nomination in the May 21 primary.

“Bevin’s trouble comes largely because he has a reckless mouth,” said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky and veteran political reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal. “He goes after teachers in a sometimes outrageous way. A lot of teachers are Republicans, and a lot of Republicans are teachers. Teachers are still well thought of in rural Kentucky. If not for teachers, Bevin would be a prohibitive favorite for re-election.”

Kentucky teachers! Get out there and organize to protect your students, your community public schools, and your profession!


Three political scientists have written a book about billionaires putting money into local school board elections. Typically, the wealthy are not writing checks for their own school board elections, but even if they were, they are able to swamp the spending of others.


The book is titled Outside Money in School Board Elections: The Nationalization of Education Politics. It was published by Harvard University Press. The authors are Jeffrey R. Henig of Teachers College, Columbia University, Rebecca Jacobsen of Michigan State University, and Sarah Reckhow of Michigan State University.


They examine the role of outside money in five districts: Denver; Indianapolis; New Orleans; Bridgeport; and Los Angeles.


On this blog, we have frequently noted this kind of activity in many districts. People like Michael Bloomberg, the Waltons, the DeVos Family, Reed Hastings, the Koch brothers, and Eli Broad, and groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children (carrying money on behalf of wealthy donors) have intervened in local school board elections, always in favor of charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing. The Network for Public Education Action Fund examined the intervention of wealthy elites in several districts in its report called “Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools.”


Here is where the NPEA report and the Henig book disagree. NPEA believes that the intervention of billionaires into local school board elections is fundamentally anti-democratic because it undermines the ability of local citizens to make their own choices. NPEA knows that the goal of the billionaires is to privatize public schools via charters and vouchers. Our view is that those who spend vast sums of money distort democracy and are trying to impose their views by the power of their wealth to buy advertising, staff, mailings, posters, and everything else involved in a political campaigns. When local people can no longer afford to compete for a seat on the local school board, democracy suffers.


Henig, et al. do not agree with NPEA. Their view is that the expenditure of large amounts of money by outsiders is neither good nor bad. It might be bad because the money drowns out local voices. But it might be good because it brings more media attention to the school board races.


They are agnostic. Looked at from their point of view, it really doesn’t matter if Michael Bloomberg and Alice Walton put a few millions into your local school board race and overwhelm your neighbors Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones, who can raise only $10,000 or $25,000.


They conclude: “The consequences of outside money are neither wholly good nor wholly bad. Outside money can bring greater attention to elections that have, for far too long, been largely ignored by local media. Increased attention, however, can be skewed in favor of those with the most financial backing, leaving voters with little information about many candidates on election day. Similarly, increased media attention usually includes more information on policy issues, potentially educating voters about key issues facing their local schools; however, this increased attention is not evenly distributed across all issues.” And increased funding may produce increased voter turnout. “But our findings suggest it would be false—or at least premature—to conclude that the consequences of outside money are uniformly and decidedly good or bad.” (pp. 175-176).


The authors speculate about how this outside money might affect teaching and learning. “For teachers, we suspect that the influx of outside money could bring national and state debates about teacher accountability to their classroom door. Teachers might feel additional pressure to focus on areas that appear on standardized tests, as accountability pressure is ramped up by local school boards that focus more heavily on this issue. The hot glare of outside money in school board elections could mean that board members, regardless of affiliation, focus more time and energy on this policy issue, leaving teachers bearing the brunt of these expectations. For those worried about teacher recruitment and retention in local districts, such a focus might make their jobs even more challenging, as new teachers perceive these environments as hostile workplaces. For those who believe teacher accountability policies increase the quality of teachers, drawing attention to this issue through outside funding might be seen as a chance to improve overall performance.”


In short, you can expect that if the money people prevail, high-stakes testing will assume even greater importance; the district will have trouble recruiting and retaining teachers, who are likely to see the district as a hostile workplace. You might also anticipate more closings of public schools and more openings of privately managed charter schools. These are not insignificant consequences.

Surely, you might think the authors would see these outcomes as problematic. But they prefer not to take a position. Is it too much to expect three political scientists who study the role of money in politics to look closely at the research about whether test-based accountability improves teaching? Shouldn’t they show that they are aware of the 2014 statement of the American Statistical Association that test-based accountability for individual teachers is invalid? Shouldn’t they give some thought to the consequences of replacing public schools with private management?


They prefer to be agnostic. Maybe ramping up the pressure on testing might be a good thing, maybe it might be a bad thing. Maybe letting the billionaires buy control of your district might be a bad thing, but then again maybe not.


Needless to say, I think the authors are wrong. It is okay for billionaires to buy up your local school district if it brings more media attention? I don’t think so. It is okay to stamp out local democracy if it brings more people to the polls and makes them more aware of the issues? I don’t think so.


If billionaires want to give money to underwrite hospitals, libraries, health clinics, or local schools, with no strings attached, then let them give.


But if they give money so as to take control of local decision-making, that strikes me as a blow against democracy. How can political scientists be agnostic? What am I missing?


The larger question, it seems to me, is completely ignored: the need for campaign finance reform in all elections.


I suggest that the authors of this book read Anand Giridharadas, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. Or Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money. Their indifference to the dangers of allowing plutocrats to buy elections is frankly shocking. I don’t understand their agnosticism. I assume they don’t care because they are not bothered by what the billionaires want to do. But maybe I’m wrong and they just don’t want to take a stand in defense of democratic decision making.

The Network for Public Education Action fund is developing a web-based score card for the 2020 presidential candidates.

We need YOUR help!

We want to keep score on where the candidates stand on issues that matter to students, teachers, parents, and public schools.

We want to know if they support public schools or if they support privatization.

We will keep the website updated based on the candidates’ public statements on television and at town halls.

We will check their funding reports to see if they are funded by the usual privatization-friendly billionaires and hedge-fund managers.

We urge you to attend their town halls and ask them questions about funding for public schools, about charters and vouchers, about testing, about federal policy requiring (unnecessary) annual testing, and about (unnecessary) federal funding for charter schools.

We need your help to keep our score care up to date once it is up and running.

We will not let education be forgotten in the 2020 race!

Climate change. Health care. Taxes. These are topics that 2020 Presidential hopefuls are happy to discuss.  But as important as these topics are, we cannot let our public schools be ignored.

That is why we started The NPE Action 2020 Candidates Project.

In cities across this nation, public schools are disappearing. The city of New Orleans is now a system of privately run charter schools. Vouchers and voucher “workarounds” send taxpayer money from public schools to private and religious schools. Religious schools are flipping themselves into charter schools in order to get public funds. The Koch Brothers have promised to target five states in which they will work to make public education disappear.

Private “choice” is trumping public voice. Test scores are the rationale to shut and shutter community schools even though charter school test scores are not better than those of public schools, and studies show that students who leave public schools with vouchers often do worse.

The Network for Public Education Action’s 2020 Candidates Project will make sure that the issue of school privatization is not ignored. We will grade candidates on their positions regarding charter schools, vouchers, and high-stakes testing. We will grade them by how much they take from the billionaires who believe in the privatization of public schools and score each candidate on the company they keep. They can run for office but they can’t hide from the hard questions we will ask about school privatization.


Here is a good strategy: If elected officials ignore children and educators, defeat them at the polls.

In Oklahoma City, two educators were elected to the city council. 

Oneisthe council’s first openly gay member. Theover was outspent  almost 10-1 by an oil and gas e ecitive.