Archives for category: Republicans

Jonathan Chait wrote an excellent article about the Republican plan to control, destroy, and censor American education. It is the cover story in this week’s New York magazine.

Chait and I have long disagreed about charter schools and will continue to do so. The article does not get into privatization, and the Republicans’ determination to divert public money to religious and private schools via vouchers. Nor does it touch on the growth and scandals of the charter industry. It’s hard to ignore privatization as a main line of attacking the public purpose of public schools, but Chait covers culture war issues only.

Chait says that, in the view of conservatives, left wing indoctrination occurs in religious schools, private schools, and charter schools, so choice will not solve the problem (the problem being the left wing capture of the culture). The answer, then, for the rightwing is to capture control of the institutions and replace left wing indoctrination with rightwing indoctrination.

The article digs into the Republican effort to destroy academic freedom, freedom to teach, freedom to learn, and to turn American schools and universities into purveyors of rightwing ideology. Two central figures in this conspiracy are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and rightwing ideologue Chris Rufo.

Florida is indeed the model for the Republican attack on education. It is here that the Governor boasts about his Stop WOKE Act, which blocks teaching about topics that might cause discomfort (especially teaching factually accurate accounts of racist brutality in American politics); his Don’t Say Gay Act (which eliminates any instruction about homosexuality in K-3, recently amended to grades K-8); his successful capture of tiny progressive New College and to turn it into the Hillsdale of the South; his intention to take control of the state’s public colleges and universities, eliminate tenure, and purge progressive professors; and his encouragement of censorship of books about race, racism, and gender issues. Add to these DeSantis’ demonizing of the minuscule number of transgender students, as well as his bullying of drag queens, and you have a major state that has embraced fascism and scapegoating of powerless minorities. Florida is also notable for the billions it spends on lightly regulated charters and unregulated, unaccountable vouchers.

Readers of this blog are familiar with DeSantis’ war on public schools and higher education, and his control of curriculum and leadership. I can’t think of another state where the Governor has moved so aggressively to control every aspect of public education. Others have recognized the limits of their power. DeSantis does not.

We also know that Florida recently enacted universal vouchers, offering to subsidize the tuition of rich students. And that the wife of the Republican Speaker of the House, then state education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, now president of New College, started a charter. And that many legislators are financially tied to charters.

This article is about the culture wars, however, not privatization.

Chait writes:

Republicans have begun saying things about American schools that not long ago would have struck them as peculiar, even insane. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has called schools “a cesspool of Marxist indoctrination.” Former secretary of State Mike Pompeo predicts that “teachers’ unions, and the filth that they’re teaching our kids,” will “take this republic down.” Against the backdrop of his party, Donald Trump, complaining about “pink-haired communists teaching our kids” and “Marxist maniacs and lunatics” running our universities, sounds practically calm.

More ominously, at every level of government, Republicans have begun to act on these beliefs. Over the past three years, legislators in 28 states have passed at least 71 bills controlling what teachers and students can say and do at school. A wave of library purges, subject-matter restrictions, and potential legal threats against educators has followed.

Education has become an obsession on the political right, which now sees it as the central battlefield upon which this country’s future will be settled. Schoolhouses are being conscripted into a cataclysmic war in which no compromise is possible — in which a child in a red state will be discouraged from asking questions about sexual identity, or a professor will be barred from exploring the ways in which white supremacy has shaped America today, or a trans athlete will be prohibited from playing sports…

While there have been political battles over the schools for many years, but this controversy is different. Republicans are going for the jugular. They believe that “the left” has taken over the nation’s educational institutions and is determined to indoctrinate the next generation to despise their own country. Nothing could be more ridiculous, but facts don’t get in the way of their culture war.

He writes:

The Republican Party emerged from the Trump era deeply embittered. A large share of the party believed that Democrats had stolen their way back into power. But this sentiment took another form that was not as absurd or, at least, not as clearly disprovable. The theory was that Republicans were subverted by a vast institutional conspiracy. Left-wing beliefs had taken hold among elite institutions: the media, the bureaucracy, corporations, and, especially, schools.

This theory maintains that this invisible progressive network makes successful Republican government impossible. Because the enemy permanently controls the cultural high ground, Republicans lose even when they win. Their only recourse is to seize back these nonelected institutions….

“Left-wing radicals have spent the past 50 years on a ‘long march through the institutions,’” claims Manhattan Institute fellow and conservative activist Chris Rufo, who is perhaps the school movement’s chief ideologist. “We are going to reverse that process, starting now.”

Many institutions figure in Republicans’ plans. They are developing proposals to cleanse the federal workforce of politically subversive elements, to pressure corporations to resist demands by their “woke employees,” and to freeze out the mainstream media. But their attention has centered on the schools. “It is the schools — where our children spend much of their waking hours — that have disproportionate influence over American society, seeding every other institution that has succumbed to left-wing ideological capture,” writes conservative commentator Benjamin Weingarten.

Republicans are afraid that the liberal bias of schools and colleges is turning their children into liberals, intent on advancing social justice. They feel a sense of urgency about gaining control of these agencies of indontrination.

DeSantis’ approach is straightforward: Taxpayers pay for schools. Why shouldn’t they control them? Why shouldn’t they tell them what to teach and what not to teach?

Chait errs in describing Florida’s efforts to restrict the accurate teaching of African American history. He writes:

It is possible for legislatures to restrict some of the pedagogical fads of recent years without preventing children from learning unvarnished historical truths about slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and its aftermath. Reports have described bans on lessons that make students feel guilty, when they have merely restricted lessons that instruct them to feel guilty, a reasonable thing to ask. Commentators on the internet likewise depicted Florida as banning the teaching of African American history, when in fact the state merely objected to elements of the AP African American History curriculum, ultimately resulting in a revised version.

This is understating the active role that the DeSantis team played in squashing the brutal facts about African American history in Florida and the U.S. The Stop WOKE Act banned teaching “critical race theory,” which most people can’t define but assume that it refers to systemic racism. The DeSantis team has banned textbooks in math and social studies that showed any interest in “social justice.”

DeSantis and his education commissioner didn’t “merely object” to parts of the AP African American History course, they threatened to exclude the AP course and test from the state’s schools altogether, a move that would likely be followed by other deep red states. This hits the College Board where it hurts, in their revenues. DeSantis has objected not only to CRT, but to “social-emotional learning,” which he sees as indoctrination but which typically means exercises in perseverance, self-control, and other workaday approaches to collaboration and respect for others. Like what I learned in elementary school many decades ago.

Are there teachers who go too far in imposing their own beliefs (from both the left and the right)? Surely. But Chait observes:

A broader problem with the wave of conservative legislation is that it is responding to a wildly hyperbolic version of reality. In a very large country with a fragmented education system, there are going to be plenty of examples of outrageous or radical teaching in the schools on a daily basis without necessarily indicating anything about the system’s overall character. As conservatives grew alarmed about left-wing teachers, their favorite media sources started curating examples of it to stoke their outrage.

DeSantis projects Florida as a model for the nation, and he looks to Hungary as a model for Florida. Its leader Viktor Orban has tamed the universities by controlling them. Chris Rufo recently spent a month in Hungary, learning how Orban has silenced the left.

Orbán’s example has shown the government’s power over the academy can be absolute. DeSantis is simply the first Republican to appreciate the potential of this once-unimaginable use of state power to win the culture wars. Even before DeSantis’s plan has passed, Republicans in North Carolina, Texas, and North Dakota rushed out bills to eliminate tenure for professors.

I urge you to read the article in full. Aside from his leaving out privatization as the keystone of the Republican attack on public schools, the article fails to mention the big money behind the culture wars and privatization. DeVos, Walton, Koch, Yass. They are an important part of the story. And there are many more (I have a long list of billionaires, foundations, and corporations funding privatization in my book Slaying Goliath.)

Chait’s incisive analysis is a good primer for the elections of 2024. Implicit are the many reasons why Democrats must be prepared to defend teachers and professors, to protect both schools and universities from the takeovers planned by Republican legislators, to gear up for the fight against censorship, to resist incipient fascism, and to hold the line for our democratic principles.

I dare to dream that Donald Trump will lose the 2024 Republican nomination to someone even worse than him, like DeSatan, and then mount a third-party campaign, claiming that the primary election was rigged/stolen/whatever.

Such an event would split the Republican Party and give it four years to find its soul, heart, and brain, unless they are irretrievably lost. Even better, it would give the Democrats four more years in which to repair the damage done by Trump to the courts, every federal agency and democratic institutions.

But recently I have read several articles explaining why this is unlikely to happen.

I was not aware that many states have “sore loser laws,” which do not allow the loser of a primary campaign to run again in the general election.

These laws make it mathematically impossible for a “sore loser” to mount a winning campaign.

Google the term and you will see the implications for 2024.

Meanwhile, though I loathe Trump, he is the likely candidate in 2024. Unlike DeSantis, he has a fanatical national base. DeSantis has yet to face a withering barrage of insults by Trump, and we have seen that Little Ron has a fragile ego. That’s why he practices censorship. He can’t tolerate dissent or detractors.

With Trump as their candidate, the GOP will be saddled with a man who is likely to be under indictment in more than one state. Of course, his base loves him even more when he plays victim, so they won’t be deterred.

The next 19 months will be interesting.

A reader of the blog uses the sobriquet “Democracy” to protect his or her anonymity. His/her comments are always thoughtful.

The attack on public schools — in Virginia and across the country — is not some spontaneous “parent rights” outburst. It’s orchestrated. It’s being funded and set into motion by right-wing “Christians” at the Council for National Policy, a far-right group that had outsized-influence with the Trump administration.

Richard DeVos, husband of Betsy, has been president of CNP twice. Ed Meese, who helped Reagan cover up the Iran-Contra scandal, has been president of CNP. So has Pat Robertson. And Tim LaHaye.

Current and former CNP members include Cleta Mitchell, the Trump lawyer who was on that call to the Georgia Secretary of State demanding that he find Trump more than 11,780 votes, and Charlie Kirk, head of Turning Point USA who bragged about bussing tens of thousands of people to the January 6th ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and insurrection. Two of the top peeps at the Federalist Society, Eugene Meyer and Leonard Leo, are also CNP members. (Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were high priorities for the Federalist Society and for CNP). Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is a member. So is Stephen Moore, the wack-boy “economist” that Trump wanted to appoint to the Federal Reserve but ultimately didn’t because he owed his ex-wife $300,000 in back alimony and child support, and who was an “advisor” Glenn Youngkin in his campaign for Virginia governor even though he’s been dead wrong about virtually all of his economic predictions and who helped Sam Brownback ruin the economy of Kansas.

The Council for National Policy is interconnected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network and Tea Party Patriots and a host of other right-wing groups. This is – in fact – the vast “right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton complained about. Glenn Youngkin made himself all very much a part of this.

Did this “new” Republican Southern Strategy work? Well, Youngkin won the Virginia governorship, and exit polls showed that Youngkin won 62 percent of white voters, and 76 percent of non-college graduate whites. And, Youngkin got way more of the non-college white women votes (75 percent) than his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe.

Here’s how the NY Times explained it:

“Republicans have moved to galvanize crucial groups of voters around what the party calls ‘parental rights’ issues in public schools, a hodgepodge of conservative causes ranging from eradicating mask mandates to demanding changes to the way children are taught about racism…Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate in Virginia, stoked the resentment and fear of white voters, alarmed by efforts to teach a more critical history of racism in America…he released an ad that was a throwback to the days of banning books, highlighting objections by a white mother and her high-school-age son to ‘Beloved,’ the canonical novel about slavery by the Black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison…the conservative news media and Republican candidates stirred the stew of anxieties and racial resentments that animate the party’s base — thundering about equity initiatives, books with sexual content and transgender students on sports teams.”

Republicans and racism. Who knew?

Lots of people.

Yale historian David Blight put it this way:

“Changing demographics and 15 million new voters drawn into the electorate by Obama in 2008 have scared Republicans—now largely the white people’s party—into fearing for their existence. With voter ID laws, reduced polling places and days, voter roll purges, restrictions on mail-in voting, an evisceration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a constant rant about ‘voter fraud’ without evidence, Republicans have soiled our electoral system with undemocratic skullduggery…The Republican Party has become a new kind of Confederacy.”

And this Republican “Confederacy” hates public education.

Civics education in Texas has been turned into textbook study by a 2021 law that bans student interaction with elected officials. Apparently, the Republicans who control state government want to keep students in the dark about getting involved in civic action. Participation is a feature of civic education, but it’s illegal in the Lone Star State.

The Guardian reports:

The defining experience of Jordan Zamora-Garcia’s high school career – a hands-on group project in civics class that spurred a new city ordinance in his Austin suburb – would now violate Texas law.

Since Texas lawmakers in 2021 passed a ban on lessons teaching that any one group is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive”, a little-noticed provision of that legislation has triggered a massive fallout for civics education across the state.Being the only one leaves a mark: a Black mother on the long shadow of school segregation

Tucked into page 8 is a stipulation outlawing all assignments involving “direct communication” between students and their federal, state or local officials – short-circuiting the training young Texans receive to participate in democracy itself.

Zamora-Garcia’s 2017 project to add student advisers to the city council, and others like it involving research and meetings with elected representatives, would stand in direct violation.Since 2021, 18 states have passed laws restricting teachings on race and gender. But Texas is the only one nationwide to suppress students’ interactions with elected officials in class projects, according to researchers at the free expression advocacy group Pen America.

Historian and retired teacher John Thompson is a close observer of the state’s bizarro GOP leaders. There is a small core of “traditional” GOP legislators, who have not lost touch with reality. But the loud and boisterous MAGA faction, led by Governor Kevin Stott, inhabit an alternate universe.

Thompson writes:

Both houses of the Oklahoma legislature, the Governor, and his State Superintendent are engaged in a Battle Royal. Politicos on all sides are asking whether it is merely surreal, or a performance art tactic to gain a political victory – or deflect attention from a political defeat. But there is virtual unanimity that it is bizarre; even in a state known for crazy politics, there seems to be a bipartisan agreement that this weirdness is unprecedented.

This week, Gov. Kevin Stitt said, “I cannot, in good faith, allow another year to go by without cutting taxes and reforming education.” His education plan features tax credits (vouchers), and an extremely regressive funding formula. Then, Stitt vetoed 20 Senate bills “with identical veto messages that said he ‘will continue to veto any and all legislation authored by senators who have not stood with the people of Oklahoma and supported this plan.’”

His vetoes included legislationintended to renew Oklahoma Education Television Authority’s (PBS’) authorization for another three years.” Stitt also questioned whether there was a reason for the OETA to survive. The Republican Senate Pro Tem’s office also criticized the veto of a bill which would have “allowed people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to own a vehicle worth more than $5,000, which is the current limit.” Other bills that had previously been routinely signed would extend agencies like the Board of Governors of the Licensed Architects, Landscape Architects and Registered Commercial Interior Designer, the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

Sen. Pro Tem Greg Treat responded, “Hopefully he’ll calm down and sober up,” and “look at this through the lens of policy, and not through the lens of emotion.” He also said Stitt’s vetoes were “appalling” and “beneath the dignity of the office.”

Then Treat “swiftly rejected” the nominations of Stitt’s secretary of commerce and the CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. The Republican leader explained:

If (Stitt) continues down this road of killing policy, we will be forced to exercise our constitutional authority, as well,” … “He has chosen to exercise his veto authority. We are choosing to exercise our confirmation authority.”

Then the Senate briefly excluded the governor and house members from a discussion on education bills. So, the Tulsa World reports, “House Republicans closed shop and left in something of a huff after their Senate GOP brethren told them they couldn’t come on the floor in that chamber for awhile Thursday afternoon.” Rep. House Majority Leader Jon Echols complained that senate Republicans had thus made, “the most juvenile move I’ve ever seen” during his 11 years in the Legislature.

That week, Stitt supporter, State Superintendent Ryan Walters, also ramped up his attacks on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) which he said“is Marxist at its core.” Walters stressed “that it is a top priority of this administration to ensure that every parent has full parent choice — that parents decide for their kids where their children attend school and are the ones making those decisions that most impact their children,” Walters said. “This has to get done this session.”

So, what is happening here? Will the Republicans get out of this battle unscathed, reaching a compromise between traditional conservatives and the MAGAs? Or will these performances result in an effort to push back against this chaotic politics of destruction?

It seems to me that Republicans who abhor this rightwing campaign against the norms and principles of our democracy have remained silent because they understood how powerful emotions of hatred and fear have been helping their party. The extremists want to turn back the clock to the pre-civil rights era of the 1950s. The traditional Republicans may or may not care that, back then, Oklahoma was one of the most corrupt and most racist states in America. They don’t seem worried that Christian Nationalists are now welcoming the return of that era’s corruption, violence, and racism.

But today’s Battle Royal-style theatrics reminds me of the cruel joke played on Ralph Ellison when he grew up in Oklahoma City. (If Stitt or Walters are aware of the Battle Royal, I doubt they would want it taught in school.) Ellison was ambiguous about the actual facts he faced that inspired the story of the brutal, surreal charade presented in his novel, The Invisible Man. He tells the story of ten young Black men who “are ushered into a boxing ring. Then they are all blindfolded and instructed to fight each other all at once until only one is left standing.”

This week’s ridiculous fight, a metaphorical Battle Royal that featured affluent Whites who were funded by the super-rich, should embarrass Republicans. It echoes the previous cruelty promoted by the Robber Barons and the Ku Klux Klan that survived until I was a child. Now it’s the billionaire privatizers who are funding a destructive 21st century propaganda campaign. This week, it resulted in conservatives and Trumpians blindly humiliating themselves as political fights are being transformed into performances demonstrating that they are angry and hateful enough to get reelected.

The silliness promoted by Stitt and the House has virtually nothing to do with improving education. For instance, the combatants are much more focused on not making the mistake that the narrator (based on Ellison) made when giving his post-fight speech. There is no way that these conservatives will offend the MAGAs by accidently using the words “social equality.”

Postscript: At the end of the week, compromises were being discussed. It looks like modest increases in school funding will be distributed more fairly. The vouchers for families making over $250,000 per year will be capped at $5,000 while homeschool tax “credits” will be capped at $1,000. But the governor remains committed to income and corporate tax cuts (as well as sales tax cuts.) So it looks like the chaos was intended to be performance art to advance the agenda of the rich. The elites are on track to get what they want. But the surreal week still degenerated into a Battle Royal where even influential White men humiliated themselves in order to advance their donors’ interests.

Then, Stitt condemned OETA, which has the highest viewership of any of the nation’s PBS stations, for shows like “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” and PBS NewsHour for interviewing parents of transgender children.

He said such shows “over sexualize” children. What next? A list of banned films? More dangerous TV programs? A police investigation of every state employee’s computer to search for porn?

Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, the same publication that bravely published The 1619 Project, had a cover story about Randi Weingarten. It raised (and implied) the question of whether she is “the most dangerous person in the world.” The cover illustration had several placards, the most prominent saying “Stop Randi Weingarten.” My immediate thought, before reading the story, was that Randi’s life might be in danger, because the illustration and the title made her a target. This is no joke.

Randi has been a friend of mine for many years, and we don’t always agree. I have never persuaded her, and she has never persuaded me. We have had some strong arguments, but she’s still my friend. I believe passionately in the importance of unions, especially in a society with such deep economic inequality as ours. I wrote a letter to the editor about my objections to the article. I hope it gets published.

One important inaccuracy in the article: the author says that “only” 40% of American 8th graders are “proficient” in math, and only 32% are “proficient” in reading. This is a common error among journalists, critics, and pundits who misunderstand the achievement levels of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). “Proficient” on NAEP is not grade level. “Proficient” on NAEP represents A level work, at worst an A-. Would you be upset to learn that “only” 40% of 8th graders are at A level in math and “only” 1/3 scored an A in reading?

Jan Resseger, in one of her most brilliant articles, wrote today:

Why Randi Weingarten Is Not a Symbol of What’s Dangerous in American Politics

I felt myself getting angry as I began skimming Jonathan Mahler’s New York Times Magazine article featuring Randi Weingarten. But as I read more carefully, I realized I had to give Mahler credit for recognizing Weingarten’s strong leadership on behalf of public schools and the school teachers she leads as president of the American Federation of Teachers—even in an article framing public school policy according to the standard Republican attack against the teachers unions:

“By now, Pompeo, Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican Party were busy elevating education to a central plank in its 2024 platform…. But Weingarten was building her own case. Public education was now itself a hyperpartisan issue, and she addressed it in hyperpartisan terms in a fiery speech at the National Press Club. Calling out by name some of the people who had demonized her since the pandemic, including Betsy DeVos, she described the ongoing effort to defund public schools as nothing less than a threat to ‘cornerstones of community, of our democracy, our economy and our nation.’ She pointed to studies that have shown that vouchers don’t improve student achievement, characterizing them as a back door into private and parochial schools that are not subject to the same federal civil rights laws as public institutions and can therefore promote discrimination. ‘Our public schools shouldn’t be pawns for politicians’ ambitions… They shouldn’t be destroyed by ideologues.'”

I have myself been delighted to see Randi Weingarten out there fighting for the educational rights of our children during the pandemic, pushing against the widespread blaming of teachers, and opposing the wave of culture war attacks on teachers and on honest and accurate curricula. She has been a far better defender of public schooling than Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

But there is a bias in Mahler’s piece that kept me extremely uncomfortable. While Mahler gives Weingarten some credit for defending her side of the debate, he presents his analysis primarily from the point of view of of Mike Pompeo, Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, Ron DeSantis, and Donald Trump.

We learn about “pandemic learning loss” as measured in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, but we don’t learn that the drop in scores is likely temporary—a one time drop due to Covid disruption. We learn about teachers unions fighting for better protection during Covid—fighting for mask and vaccination mandates. It is implied that teachers unions were partly to blame for school closures, but we read nothing about the struggles of teachers to provide for students’ needs during remote learning, including some pretty difficult periods when many teachers were teaching kids remotely in the same classrooms where they were simultaneously working in-person with groups of kids whose families sent them to school.

Mahler implies that teachers unions are a monolith. He does not tell readers that teachers join their union locals, which operate independently from the national American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—the two large teachers unions.

The culture wars comprise a substantial part of Mahler’s profile. He explains that Tina Descovich in Brevard County, Florida and Tiffany Justice, of Indian River County spontaneously decided to join up and create their own parents’ rights group, Moms for Liberty, but he neglects some important background: Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, and No Left Turn in Education are, in fact, Astroturf fronts for a national culture war campaign being mounted by groups like the Manhattan Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with funding from DonorsTrust dark money and Charles Koch. Additionally Mahler reports that the American Federation of Teachers supported Terry McAuliffe against Glenn Youngkin, who ran a culture war campaign against honest teaching about race in American history in the campaign for Governor of Virginia. It should not be a bit surprising that, as a labor union, the American Federation of Teachers can legally endorse and support candidates, and that the AFT endorsed the candidate who stood with the American Historical Association, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN America on the issue of the school curriculum.

Mahler devotes a significant part of his report to what he describes as the “AFT’s left-wing local, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).” He adds that “like-minded left-wing slates have since taken control of AFT locals in several other cities, too, including Los Angeles and Baltimore.” Many supporters of public education would embrace the cause of these big-city teachers without identifying themselves as left-wing. Here is how Mahler describes CTU’s agenda: “They see public schools’ ongoing struggles to educate their students as inseparable from the larger societal and economic issues facing their working-class members and the poor communities whose children dominate their classrooms.” Mahler quotes the Chicago Teachers’ Union’s recent past president, Jesse Sharkey: “We are trying to promote a brand of unionism that goes all out in its fight for educational justice and is brave about taking on conflicts.”

The problem with Mahler’s analysis is that today’s debates about public education policy are far more complex and nuanced than a fight between Randi Weingarten as a symbol of teacher unionism and Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin. Those of us who have followed the history of education policy battles through the past two decades of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are now watching the far right and dark money campaigns driving culture war chaos across the state legislatures as a path to the expansion of school vouchers. Without any direct connection to teacher unions, many of us share the enlightened assessment that has been articulated by the Chicago Teachers Union.

Mahler mistakes the significance of the recent election of Brandon Johnson, who is a former teacher and more recently an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union, as Chicago’s new mayor. Mahler sees Johnson’s victory as a symbol of the power of teachers unions: “When Johnson narrowly won, it was a stunning upset…. the teachers’ unions had effectively elected the mayor of America’s third-largest city, who was himself an avowedly progressive union organizer promising to raise taxes on the rich, reform the police and increase funding for the city’s schools…. It was those who had underestimated the political power of the unions who were mistaken.” In reality the meaning of Chicago’s mayoral election was more likely a rejection of nearly a quarter of a century of mayoral governance of Chicago’s public schools, of test-and-punish school accountability, of the explosive growth of charter schools in Chicago, and of Rahm Emanuel’s 2013 closure of 49 elementary schools in Chicago’s Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

In our alarmingly unequal society, where too frequently our children reside far apart in pockets of concentrated poverty or in pockets of wealth, we will not be able to close children’s opportunity gaps merely by improving the public schools alone. In a new book, The Education Myth, Jon Shelton, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, identifies the No Child Left Behind Act as the embodiment of a deeply flawed plan to equalize school achievement: “At root, the very premise of the bill—that punishing schools for the scores of their students would improve the schools’ performance—was simply flawed, particularly when school districts did not have the ability to raise students out of poverty or alleviate the trauma of racism…. NCLB ignored the broader economic structures that might lead a student to succeed or fail in school as well as the relationship between where a student got an education and what job would actually be available to them.” (The Education Myth, p. 173)

I am grateful that, in the cities where their members teach, some teachers union locals are working actively to support efforts to ameliorate child poverty. That is not a left-wing cause; it is instead a goal for us all to embrace. As we publicly debate the needs of our children and our public schools, it is wrong to define the conversation as a mere battle between right-wing Republicans and the teachers unions

Jennifer Rubin is a columnist for the Washington Post. Originally, she was hired to express conservative views. Her column was called “Right Turn.” But when Trump was elected, she flipped. She realized that the Republican Party had lost its principles and stood for nothing other than slavishly obeying Trump’s whims and passing tax cuts for the 1%.

In this column, she calls out Senator Dick Durbin for acquiescing to the obsolete tradition of allowing one home-state Senator to block the President’s nomination to a federal judgeship. Democrats play by the unwritten rules, but Republicans ignore them. Democrats allowed Trump to nominate totally unqualified federal judges and joined in confirming them (e.g., the zealous anti-abortion extremist in Amarillo, Texas, who recently slapped a national ban on the main abortion pill because he disapproved of the Federal Drug Administration’s rigorous approval process).

But Republicans withhold their approval of well-qualified judicial nominees. And now, with Senator Dianne Feinstein home on sick leave, the Judiciary Committee is not approving any of President Biden’s nominees and will not give their approval to Senator Feinstein’s request to be removed temporarily from the committee.

Rubin wrote recently:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) seems spectacularly ill-suited for an era when democracy is at risk, when Republicans observe no rules of decorum and when the federal judiciary’s credibility is crumbling.

Far too restrained and deferential, Durbin has refused to alter practices such as the “blue slip,” which allows home-state senators to nix the president’s judicial nominees, although he has beseeched Republicans not to abuse the practice. Durbin also hasn’t yet conducted hearings on the disastrous effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and related abortion bans, nor has he held hearings on a mandatory ethics code for judges — although he has promised hearings on revelations about Justice Clarence Thomas’s failure to disclose luxurious travel gifts and real estate sales. Then again, Senate Democrats as a whole haven’t pushed Durbin, so one cannot blame him alone for his timidity.

Caroline Fredrickson and Alan Neff recently wrote about blue slips for Just Security:

“The blue slip is an opaque — and inherently obstructionist — Senate tradition that allows a single Senator in any State to block a presidential nominee to the District Courts in their electoral patch merely by withholding their consent to consideration of the nominee in Committee. Like the filibuster, the blue slip allows Senators to halt Senate action without ever having to explain themselves to their Senate colleagues, their constituents, or the public, even if it means more criminal and civil cases languish unresolved on federal trial-court dockets for longer periods.”

Durbin could end this practice at any time, removing another abuse of minority-party power in the Senate. It’s one that has been spectacularly abused by Republicans, who have pushed through grossly unqualified, unfit nominees nominated by Republican presidents and yet nixed perfectly acceptable judges nominated by Democratic presidents…

Last week, Carl Hulse wrote for the New York Times:

“Then last week, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Republican of Mississippi, served notice to the Judiciary Committee that she would not allow the nomination of Scott Colom, a candidate for a court vacancy in the state, to move forward, citing his past political support from the left, among other reasons. Her stance endangered the confirmation of Mr. Colom, a popular Black Democratic state prosecutor who had the backing of Roger Wicker, the other Republican senator from the state, as well as leading Mississippi Republicans including two former governors, Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant.”

Durbin had previously promised he would respect blue slips unless the decision to withhold the blue slip was based not on the nominee’s qualifications but on race, gender or sexual orientation.

Apparently, this didn’t qualify in his eyes.

Durbin’s appeals to shameless Republicans have accomplished nothing. Instead, he has allowed Republicans to run amok. Is it any surprise that when they were asked to approve the request from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to be removed from the committee, they balked? Plainly, they know they have nothing to fear from Durbin.

Committee Democrats can, if they choose, push Durbin to end the blue slip practice. They also could demand a hearing on Supreme Court ethics, on book banning, and on the effects of Dobbs and abortion bans. They might even hold hearings on corruption in the prior administration or on domestic terrorism. They could hold hearings on nationwide injunctions and single judge divisions, which allowed for Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk’s abysmal ruling on the abortion drug mifepristone.

All these would be appropriate uses of oversight power — unlike House Republicans’ stunts. They’ve done none of that.

Voters, court reformers, progressive advocacy groups, donors and even Vice President Harris — a former committee member who is strenuously working to keep the plight of women denied abortions in the news — could all apply pressure. Democrats cannot attend to the threats to democracy if they play by Marquess of Queensberry rules and apply to Republicans’ nonexistent good faith.

The voters elected a Democratic Senate and Democratic president; they have a right to expect swift confirmation of qualified nominees when democracy remains vulnerable. Voters have a right to expect Senate investigations into questionable actions at the Supreme Court and elsewhere.

Durbin and his fellow Democrats need to learn to play hardball.

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld writes that the legislature is taking aim again at the teachers’ unions. With a supermajority, the Republicans are set to erode the organized voice of teachers, whose unions fund Democrats. He writes:

I have to pull out the Henry Adams quote at least once every session of the Indiana General Assembly: “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.”

How else do you explain Senate Bill 486, an “education deregulation” bill that seems to be largely about punishing the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indiana Federation of Teachers.

The measure does include some deregulation, but a key component would repeal current law that gives teachers, through their unions, a voice in how their schools operate. Blocking it has become the top priority for the ISTA and IFT, which brought hundreds of teachers to the Statehouse last week to protest.

Why would the Republican supermajority want to punish the unions? Well, because they support Democrats. The ISTA’s political action committee spent over $1 million in the 2022 election year, much of it to assist Democratic legislative candidates. No one else comes close when it comes to supporting the party.

The GOP has chipped away at union strength since they took control of all branches of state government 13 years ago. A big blow came in 2011, when lawmakers decreed that collective bargaining could cover only salaries and pay-related fringe benefits, not working conditions. They have also adopted so-called right-to-work rules and outlawed “fair share fees” for teachers who won’t pay for union benefits.

Please open the link and read on.

Politico reported that rightwing cultural warriors lost most school board elections, despite their big-money backers. Voters in Illinois and Wisconsin were not swayed by fear-mongering about critical race theory, LGBT issues, and other spurious claims of the extremists. These results should encourage the Democratic Party to challenge the attacks on public schools in the 2024 elections. An aggressive defense of public schools is good politics.

Amid all the attention on this month’s elections in Wisconsin and Illinois, one outcome with major implications for 2024 flew under the national radar: School board candidates who ran culture-war campaigns flamed out.

Democrats and teachers’ unions boasted candidates they backed in Midwestern suburbs trounced their opponents in the once-sleepy races. The winning record, they said, was particularly noticeable in elections where conservative candidates emphasized agendas packed with race, gender identity and parental involvement in classrooms.

While there’s no official overall tally of school board results in states that held an array of elections on April 4, two conservative national education groups did not dispute that their candidates posted a losing record. Liberals are now making the case that their winning bids for school board seats in Illinois and Wisconsin show they can beat back Republican attacks on divisive education issues.

The results could also serve as a renewed warning to Republican presidential hopefuls like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis: General election voters are less interested in crusades against critical race theory and transgender students than they are in funding schools and ensuring they are safe.

“Where culture war issues were being waged by some school board candidates, those issues fell flat with voters,” said Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association labor union. “The takeaway for us is that parents and community members and voters want candidates who are focused on strengthening our public schools, not abandoning them.”

The results from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas are hardly the last word on the matter. Thousands more local school elections are set for later this year in some two dozen states. They are often low turnout, low profile, and officially nonpartisan affairs, and conservatives say they are competing aggressively.

“We lost more than we won” earlier this month, said Ryan Girdusky, founder of the conservative 1776 Project political action committee, which has ties to GOP megadonor and billionaire Richard Uihlein and endorsed an array of school board candidates this spring and during the 2022 midterms.

“But we didn’t lose everything. We didn’t get obliterated,” Girdusky told POLITICO of his group’s performance. “We still pulled our weight through, and we just have to keep on pushing forward on this.”

Labor groups and Democratic operatives are nevertheless flexing over the defeat of candidates they opposed during races that took place near Chicago, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from state Democrats and the attention of Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, and in Wisconsin. Conservative board hopefuls also saw mixed results in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Democrats hope the spring school election season validates their playbook: Coordinate with local party officials, educator unions and allied community members to identify and support candidates who wield an affirming pro-public education message — and depict competitors as hard-right extremists.

Yet despite victories in one reliably blue state and one notorious battleground, liberals are still confronting Republican momentum this year that could resemble November’s stalemated midterm results for schools and keep the state of education divided along partisan lines.

Conservative states are already carrying out sharp restrictions on classroom lessons, LGBTQ students, and library books. And they are beginning to refine their message to appeal to moderates.

Trump, DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republican presidential hopefuls are leaning on school-based wedge issues to court primary voters in a crowded White House campaign.

Open the link. The wedge issues are working against the Republicans. Most people know and like their tearchers and their public schools.

Paul Bowers is an experienced journalist who writes a fascinating blog about South Carolina called “Brutal South.” In this post, he tells us who Nikki Haley, Republican Presidential candidate, is and whom she admires.

In his 2010 book of prophetic wisdom, Can America Survive? 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are the Terminal Generation, the Texas televangelist John Hagee recalls standing on a hill overlooking Megiddo in Israel, looking down into the valley, and envisioning a lake of blood 200 miles wide and as deep as a horse’s bridle.

In this and other bestselling books of prophecy, Pastor Hagee takes the book of Revelation literally and then prescribes a political program to bring about the end of human civilization as we know it. This is notable for a number of reasons, not least of which is that he has the ear of Republican presidential contender and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Like a lot of people, my ears perked up when Haley launched her campaign Feb. 15 in Charleston, South Carolina, and brought Pastor Hagee onstage to kick off the proceedings with a prayer. When Haley said, “To Pastor Hagee, I still say I want to be you when I grow up,” I nearly fell out of my chair. Like some kind of theological pervert, I went to the public library that week and borrowed every book by Hagee I could find.

I’ve been taking notes on these books and will probably write a more general synopsis at some point, but this week I want to linger on Can America Survive? It is an audacious book of geopolitical soothsaying, and it raises some questions that it would behoove political reporters to ask Haley on the campaign trail.

This book is, among other things, the most virulent Islamophobic text I have ever read. It repackages the “Eurabia” conspiracy theory for a U.S. audience, warning of an “Islamic population bomb” (p. 37) and favorably citing the British UKIP booster Melanie Phillips’ 2006 book Londonistan (p. 126). Hagee warns of secret Islamist sleeper cells throughout the heartland (p. 11) while advocating for spying on U.S. mosques and pre-emptive military strikes against Iran (p. 50). Hagee questions “radical Islam’s loyalty to America” after citing a random series of newspaper clippings about “honor killings” and claims, without evidence, that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a No. 1 bestseller in unspecified Muslim countries (p. 26).

Please open the link and read on to understand Haley and other Christian nationalists.