Archives for category: Resistance

Parents in Texas got disgusted 15 years ago when the Legislature almost passed a voucher law. They organized the Texas Parent PAC, which is a highly effective voice on behalf of public schools and more than five million students.

The website of Texas Parent PAC has a list of the endorsed candidates, both Democrats and Republicans.

Their guiding principles are a model for parents, grandparents, and civic activists in other states.

I recently heard from Dinah Miller, co-founder and co-chair, who explained the PAC’s origins. She wrote:

Texas Parent PAC formed in 2005 after taxpayer-funded private school vouchers failed to pass the Texas House by only one vote. Five PTA moms called a press conference during PTA Summer Seminar in Austin and announced we were forming a political action committee to elect better talent to the Texas House who would oppose vouchers and support public schools. We recruited Diane Patrick from Arlington who had local and state school board experience to run against hostile Texas House Public Education Committee Chair Kent Grusendorf who had been in office 20 years. We beat Grusendorf in the primary along with others and then knocked off another hostile education committee member in the general election. Those races put us on the map.

From our website: Texas Parent PAC is a bipartisan political action committee for parents, grandparents, parents-to-be, and anyone who supports high quality public education. The PAC has a track record of success, helping to elect over 63 current members of the Texas Legislature, and defeat 23 incumbents who were hostile to public education.

Endorsed candidates reflect traditional mainstream American values that honor and support children and their families, quality public education, strong communities, unlimited opportunities, and maximum citizen participation in our democracy. All endorsed candidates support the Texas Parent PAC Guiding Principles.

Fifteen years later, our volunteers are still fundraising for our endorsed bipartisan candidates for the November 3, 2020 election. Our website is www.txparentpac.com

Sincerely, Your Fan,

Dinah Miller

Co-chair and Co-founder

Texas Parent PAC

Jennifer Berkshire writes in this post about the educational awakening in Arizona, the result of #red4ed and the teachers’ revolt of 2018.

Proposition 208 is on the ballot. It calls for a 3.5% tax increase on people earning over $250,000 a year, to be used to raise teachers’ salaries and hire more teachers. Surprisingly, 60% of voters appear to favor the measure, including a sizable number of Republicans.

She writes:

That taxing the rich to pay for schools would emerge as a cause with bipartisan support in 2020 is not a complete surprise. More Arizonans now identify education, not immigration, as the top priority facing the state, reflecting mounting concern with schools that are notoriously underfunded, teachers who are poorly paid, and a teacher shortage crisis so severe that 28 percent of the state’s classrooms lack a permanent teacher.

Education has become a potent political issue since #RedforEd protests shone a harsh light on the condition of Arizona’s schools in 2018. After a historic teacher strike, educators doubled down on electoral organizing. Democrats gained four seats in the state House of Representatives that year. Now they’re poised to tip the House and possibly the Senate in their favor. If they succeed, voter dissatisfaction with the GOP’s embrace of controversial policies aimed at dismantling, defunding, and privatizing education will be a major reason.

A similar pattern is playing out in other key battleground states, including Michigan and Texas. In these states and others, the gulf between voters who believe in taxpayer-funded public education and GOP candidates who are hostile to it has created an opening for Democrats.

For decades, Arizona has been a petri dish for free market education experiments. Charter schools, publicly funded private schools, education savings accounts that allow parents to spend taxpayer funds on a dizzying array of education “options” with little state oversight or accountability—the Grand Canyon State has them all...

As school choice offerings in the state have ballooned, they have increasingly competed for funding with traditional public schools. “It all comes out of the same funding bucket, and the bucket wasn’t that big to begin with,” said Sharon Kirsch, research director for the grassroots public education advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona...

That hands-off, regulation-free vision is precisely what an array of deep-pocketed interest groups in Arizona are pushing. Organizations like the Americans for Prosperity, funded by Charles Koch and the American Federation for Children, founded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are a major presence in the state. More recent arrivals to the school choice lobbying space include Yes Every Kid, which is another Koch project, and Love Your School, an offshoot of the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy.

Said Kirsch: “I’m not sure most people have any idea that these groups are essentially running education policy in Arizona...”

Berkshire points out that teachers are running for office, and their prospects look good. Arizona may be about to throw off the shackles of one-party rule that has crippled the state’s public schools and turned it into a free-market for privatizers, religious zealots, rightwing nuts, libertarians, and profiteers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 1,000 current and former officials at the Centers for Disease Control denounced the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19.

More than 1,000 current and former officers of an elite disease-fighting program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed an open letter expressing dismay at the nation’s public-health response to the Covid-19 pandemic and calling for the federal agency to play a more central role.

“The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous,” said the letter, signed by current and former officers of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service of outbreak investigators. “CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency.”

Signers included two former CDC directors: Jeffrey Koplan, who led the agency under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Tom Frieden, who served under President Barack Obama.

All of the signatories were writing to “express our concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency” during the current pandemic, said their letter, which was published Friday in the Epidemiology Monitor, a newsletter for epidemiologists.

“CDC has today, as it has every day during its 74-year history, provided the best available information and recommendations to the American public,” the agency said in a response to the letter. “Since January, more than 5,200 CDC personnel have dedicated themselves to protecting the health of the American people.”

Long regarded as the world’s premier public health agency, the CDC normally plays a leading role globally in a response to epidemics.

The Trump administration has been deeply involved at times in the shaping of scientific recommendations at the CDC during the pandemic, raising objections to guidelines for reopening churches and schools and for wearing masks, The Wall Street Journal reported. An administration spokesman said that “the CDC occupies a critical seat on the (coronavirus) task force, which is made up of public health leaders with an array of valuable expertise.”

Nebraska is one of the few states that has thus far managed to keep the privatizers out. That makes it a tempting target. Here is a message by one of the state’s strong advocates for public schools.

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As you know, Stand For Schools is dedicated to advancing public education in Nebraska. Our work involves not only advocating for evidence-based policies that would help schools serve all students better, but also being vigilant for and responsive to efforts to privatize our state’s public schools. 

Because Nebraska is one of only three states wise enough to avoid charter schools, private school vouchers, or scholarship tax credits, our state is viewed as prey by corporate reformers and proponents of school privatization. We have been aware of this target on the backs of Nebraska’s children and families for years, but something new and profoundly troubling has come to light this week. 

The American Federation For Children (AFC), an organization founded and largely funded by Betsy DeVos, is attempting to directly influence Nebraska elections.

Campaign filings reveal that William Oberndorf, a billionaire hedge fund manager from California, has donated $125,000 to Nebraska Federation for Children, and the organization is spending $25,000 in each of two legislative races in Nebraska

For decades, Oberndorf has spent huge sums of his fortune to influence elections and education policy across the country. Oberndorf succeeded Betsy DeVos as AFC board chair, so while he is not new to the school privatization agenda, his political campaign contributions are new to Nebraska.

Oberndorf was notably a board member of and major investor in Voyager, a computer software and hardware company masquerading as literacy curriculum, which not only produced negative academic outcomes but also cost taxpayers billions during the No Child Left Behind era – all while lining the pockets of Oberndorf and others. Government investigators would later find the entire organization was “very close to a criminal enterprise,” with referrals made to the Department of Justice.

Oberndorf’s large contribution caught our attention, but he is hardly the first out-of-state billionaire attempting to advance his agenda in Nebraska–a state where voters and nonpartisan legislators have rejected school privatization time and again.

Over the last few years, we have listened intently to testimony given at our State Capitol by paid fellows flown into the state by AFC. We read the editorial published in the Lincoln Journal Star earlier this year penned by a lawyer from another Koch-funded group, Institute For Justice. We have seen more than one nonprofit pop up in our state – one which failed to disclose their donors in a timely manner as required by federal law and another, Invest In Kids Nebraska, that is the local arm of AFC. And every year, we watch the governor host a rally on the steps of our Capitol coordinated and funded by National School Choice Week, which is itself an enormous web of dark money, special interests, and corporate lobbyists. 

The evidence is clear: School privatization does not benefit students or low-income families; it benefits wealthy privatizers like William Oberndorf. 

Nebraskans deserve to know about the presence of out of state money in our democracy and the attempted interference on education policy by special interests that will directly impact our schools and communities.

We are a state widely known and revered for our unicameral legislature. Our Second House is supposed to be the people of Nebraska and our best interests – not people like Californian William Oberndorf and his financial interests. Nebraska has some of the most lax campaign finance laws in the country, and that needs to change.

As always, Stand For Schools remains committed to advancing public education in Nebraska, and that means doing our part to inform the people of our state about threats to our public schools. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit that does not endorse any political candidate – but we believe Nebraskans deserve to know the truth about who is spending money in our elections. 

Stand For Schools is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing public education in Nebraska by advocating for evidence-based policies to close the opportunity gap and ensure schools have the resources they need to serve all students better – no matter their race, ethnicity, nationality, citizen status, language, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or
special need. You can find our organization’s Form 990 here. 

Dr. Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of education in Indiana, is a hero of public education. She has steadfastly sided with public schools and defied her own party’s embrace of charters and vouchers.

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports that Superintendent McCormick has endorsed Democratic candidates who support public schools instead of members of her own party aligned with the Mitch Daniels-Mike Pence privatization agenda.

Hinnefeld writes:

There was a time when Indiana Republicans supported public schools; at least, they supported their local public schools. The shift came in 2011, when Gov. Mitch Daniels got the GOP-controlled legislature to adopt school vouchers and expand charter schools. Today, many Hoosier Republicans have come very close to embracing the late economist Milton Friedman’s vision of a “universal” voucher program of unrestricted state support for private schools.

But McCormick, former superintendent of Indiana’s Yorktown school district, has been an outspoken advocate for public schools. Every time she spoke out for public school districts, you could see Republicans edging further away. When she announced in 2018 that she wouldn’t seek re-election, she implied that she was being elbowed aside. Legislators promptly changed the law so Indiana’s governor will appoint the state’s next chief education officer, starting in 2021.

Yes, support for public schools used to be bipartisan. Indiana has a long tradition of valuing public schools. But party leaders followed the Pied Piper, Milton Friedman, and determined to promote private school choice while defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of the state’s children.

Meanwhile, Hinnefeld writes, McCormick has endorsed Democrats because they, like her, believe in the importance of public schools.

I hereby add Jennifer McCormick to the Honor Roll of the blog, for her principled support of public schools and the common good and for her uncommon courage.

Jan Resseger describes a grassroots effort to stave off the persistent assaults on public schools by the Republican-controlled legislature and state officials. Ohio has a large and low-performing charter sector, as well as a well-funded voucher sector that has produced no gains for students.

The privatization movement has harmed the public schools that most students attend without providing better schools. While the nation has struggled to survive the pandemic, Ohio’s legislators have remained focused on expanding their failed choice plans.

Resseger describes the work of the Northeast Ohio Friends of PublicEducation and their decision to create a website to educate the public.

Resseger writes:

In this leaderless situation with schools struggling everywhere, no matter their efforts to prepare, questions of policy have just sort of faded away—except that the privatizers are doggedly trying to co-opt the chaos in every way they can. In Ohio, the Legislature has taken advantage of the time while the public is distracted by COVID-19 to explode the number of EdChoice vouchers for private schools at the expense of public school district budgets, to neglect to address the injustices of our state’s punitive, autocratic state takeovers of the public schools in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland, and to put off for over a year discussion of a proposed plan to fix a state school funding formula so broken that 503 of the state’s 610 school districts (80 percent) have fallen off a grossly under-funded old formula.

In recent years, most Ohio school districts have been getting exactly as much state funding as they got last year and the year before that and the year before that even if their overall enrollment has increased, the number poor children has risen, or the number of special education students has grown. And all this got even worse under the current two-year state budget, in which school funding was simply frozen for every school district at the amount allocated in fiscal year 2019. That is until this past June, when, due to the revenue shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor cut an additional $330 million from the money already budgeted for public schools in the fiscal year that ended June 30, thus forcing school districts to reduce their own budgets below what they had been promised. With much hoopla in the spring of 2019, the new Cupp-Patterson school funding plan was proposed. A year ago, however, research indicated (see here and here) that—partly thanks to the past decade of tax cuts in Ohio and partly due to problems in the new distribution formula itself—the new school funding proposal failed to help the state’s poorest schools districts. The analysis said that a lot of work would be required to make the plan equitable. New hearings are planned this fall, but nobody has yet reported on whether or how the Cupp-Patterson Plan has been readjusted.

In this context, discussions in the Northeast Ohio Friends of Public Education focused on our need to help ourselves and the citizens in our school districts find our way. What are the big issues? What information will help us explore and advocate effectively for policies that will ensure our schools are funded adequately and that funding is distributed equitably? In Ohio, how can we effectively push the Legislature to collect enough revenue to be able to fund the state’s 610 school districts without dumping the entire burden onto local school districts passing voted property tax levies? How can we help stop what feels like a privatization juggernaut in the Ohio Legislature? And how can federal policy be made to invest in and help the nation’s most vulnerable public schools?

The idea of a website emerged, with the idea of highlighting four core principles—with a cache of information in each section: Why Public Schools? Why More School Funding? Why Not Privatization? and Why Educational Equity? Although we have noticed that much public school advocacy these days emphasizes what public school supporters are against, we decided to frame our website instead about what we stand for as “friends of public education” even though our opposition to charter schools and private school tuition vouchers is evident in our website.

Educating the public is a crucial step in reclaiming the narrative from entrepreneurs, libertarians, and cultural vandals.

The National Education Policy Center posted this notification about #ScholarStrike, inviting higher education professionals to speak out together against racial violence and injustice. I joined. Will you?

Today and tomorrow, scholars at colleges across America will follow in the footsteps of the NBA, Major League Baseball and celebrities in speaking out against racial violence and unjust policing in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The effort, which is to include actions such as devoting class time to discussions of racial injustice, was started by a tweet from Anthea Butler, a professor of religious and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I would be down as a professor to follow the NBA and Strike for a few days to protest police violence in America,” Professor Butler wrote in her initial tweet.

The movement has since spread, via social media, to a diverse array of institutions and academic fields, including education. Although in-person demonstrations may occur, they may be impractical due to the pervasiveness of online learning.

The subjects of policing and race are particularly relevant to education scholars, given that the discriminatory law enforcement practices experienced by communities of color typically start in childhood and even occur within schools. “Systemic violence and disparate school discipline policies hinder equitable, just, and safe schooling,” according to Law and Order in School, an NEPC brief published in 2017 and authored by professors Janelle Scott, Michele Moses, Kara Finnigan, Tina Trujillo, and Darrell Jackson. “Research demonstrates that Black and Latinx students experience police violence and school discipline unequally,” the authors write. “Punitive educational and criminal justice policies disproportionately affect students, families, and communities of color, as well as the teachers and schools that serve them.”

Anticipating the current movement, the 2017 brief suggests addressing racially disparate school policing and discipline with such actions as redirecting funds for school police officers to expenditures such as guidance counseling, advanced and enrichment courses and other practices shown to “improve student engagement and social connectivity.”

For more information on #ScholarStrike, go to Butler’s Twitter profile.

NEPC resources on equity and social justice.

Several groups of Never Trumpers have created a media campaign that has gotten under Trump’s skin. He responds to them on Twitter, enlarging their audience. They don’t have loads of money, but they understand very well his egotism, narcissism, and vanity, and they hit their target time and again.

One recent ad from The Lincoln Project is a “Breaking News” headline in which the White House Press Secretary declares that “The president can read.”

VoteVets.org has posted blistering videos about Trump’s cowardice and betrayals.

Ads from Republican Voters Against Trump are testimonials from ordinary people who say why they would vote for anyone or anything rather than Trump. Even a can of tuna fish. And then there is Trump’s “Death Chart,” which he considers a victory.

This ad “Walk of Courage” was just released.

One of the most prominent members of the group is George Conway III, who is married to the president’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway. Others were advisors to George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain who despised what Trump was doing to the Republican Party, turning it into the party of racism and reaction and Trump-First.

They aim their videos at key swing states, hoping to peel away independents and like-minded Republicans who don’t want to support Trump’s brand of stupidity. Their videos react quickly to events, and they pull no punches. They target not only Trump but Republican Senators who protect Trump. They advertise in the D.C. market on Fox News, to be sure that Trump sees their ads.

The group has particularly targeted Washington and swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. It has also spent hundreds of thousands against Republican Senate candidates in states like Arizona, Iowa and Montana.

Read Ken Bernstein’s piece at the Daily Kos and watch the Lincoln Project’s brilliant, hard-hitting video ad about the Republican Senators running for office this November who protected Trump. Learn. Their. Names.

And here Ken Bernstein posts The Lincoln Project’s tribute to John Lewis. Brilliant.

And here Ken B. posts The Lincoln Project’s warning about what’s happening in Portland, Oregon.

Black students/staff at charter schools fight back on Instagram. Lots of
amazing stuff here.

@blackatuncommon
@_theuncommontruth
@dearcharterschool
@truecolorsofcharter
@blackandbrownatdp
@defundcharterschools
@beingblackatkipp
@survivors_of_successacademy
@sa.vanguards

Trump and DeVos demand that schools reopen in full, in-person, on time in a few weeks, even as they block the resources needed by schools to protect students and staff from the pandemic that is raging across the nation.

Districts in which there are few or no COVID infections may choose to reopen if they have the resources to do it safely.

But in states and districts where the disease is still rampaging and where schools do not have adequate resources, reopening is dangerous.

Trump and DeVos have threatened “financial sanctions” against schools that don’t open for in-person instruction. Instead of pressuring schools, they should be fighting the spread of the disease. They could start by wearing masks themselves.

Not only are they blocking the additional funding needed for smaller classes, social distancing, personal protective equipment, and additional nurses, they demand that all public schools open despite the dramatic budget cuts and layoffs that fiscally-challenged states will impose on schools.

Matt Barnum wrote in Chalkbeat about the administration’s efforts to force schools to reopen:

Meanwhile, Trump and DeVos downplayed public health concerns connected to opening up schools, despite rising national case numbers. Trump tweeted that he disagreed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — part of his own administration — which has issued guidance for schools around social distancing and school hygiene. “They are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump wrote.

In other words, Trump is bullying the CDC to water down its safety guidance for schools. We already have seen federal officials equivocate for fear of Trump’s wrath. Dr. Deborah Birx said nothing when Trump urged the public to ingest disinfectants, even though it would be fatal to anyone who tried it. Just a few days ago, the head of the Federal Drug Administration was asked on CNN if he agreed with Trump’s claim that 99% of COVID cases are “totally harmless.” He refused to disagree with Trump’s patently false statement.

Thankfully, the CDC just announced that it won’t bend to political pressure to weaken its guidelines for reopening schools.

The death of any student or teacher or staff member at a school that opened too soon will be on Trump, Pence, and DeVos.

We are in the midst of a fierce pandemic, and there is no national leadership calling on us to rise to the occasion, wear masks, protect ourselves and others by following the advice of scientists. Everyone is on their own. We are adrift and rudderless.

As much as parents long to have their children in real schools with real teachers, as much as teachers long to be in their classrooms, it is not safe to reopen schools wherever the disease is active.

IT IS NOT SAFE TO REOPEN SCHOOLS IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC THAT IS OUT OF CONTROL.

Stay home. Continue distance learning. Demand that our elected officials exercise leadership and require quarantines, masks, social distancing, and whatever else is necessary to curb the pandemic.

What is the life of a child or a teacher worth? How many lives will be sacrificed to open schools in the midst of a pandemic?

Safety first. Life first. Only when it is safe for children and adults alike should schools be reopened. It is not safe now.