Archives for category: Shame

Salvador Rizzo of the Washington Post writes about a letter sent by Trump to the World Health Organization, in which he made false claims.

Trump is poorly staffed. He is ignorant and he is surrounded by sycophants who are dumber than he is.

He is an international laughing stock.

Rizzo writes:

Any letter signed by the U.S. president and sent to an international organization would have gotten a thorough scrubbing in previous administrations: research, vetting, fact-checking, multiple layers of review, the works.

It’s fair to say President Trump’s letter this week to the head of the World Health Organization got a much lighter touch. We found several false or misleading statements to fact check. And we weren’t the only ones who noticed. The editor of the Lancet, the British medical journal, issued a response accusing Trump of being “factually inaccurate.”

Here’s a sample of fishy claims in Trump’s letter dated May 18 to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

“The World Health Organization consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal. The World Health Organization failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself.”

Richard Horton, the Lancet’s editor in chief, issued a statement on Twitter pointing out no such study existed: “Please let me correct the record. The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24, 2020.”

The Jan. 24 Lancet study says “the symptom onset date of the first patient identified was Dec. 1, 2019,” with patients in the study hospitalized between Dec. 16 and Jan. 2. The White House did not respond to a request for an explanation.

“On March 3, 2020, the World Health Organization cited official Chinese data to downplay the very serious risk of asymptomatic spread, telling the world that ‘COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza’ and that unlike influenza this disease was not primarily driven by ‘people who are infected but not yet sick.’ China’s evidence, the World Health Organization told the world, ‘showed that only one percent of reported cases do not have symptoms, and most of those cases develop symptoms within two days.’”

Tedros did say this at a March 3 briefing, as part of a presentation on the ways covid-19 was different from the seasonal flu. But he also said “covid-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza. … Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported covid-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.” He urged governments to expand contact tracing because it would slow the spread of infections. “We can’t treat covid-19 exactly the same way we treat flu,” Tedros said, noting there would be no vaccine for some time.

For the full fact check, click here.

The Hechinger Report invited two eminent scholars to write about how public schools might respond if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in the Espinoza v. Montana case. In this case, rightwing libertarians seek to eliminate Montana’s constitutional prohibition on spending public money for tuition in religious schools. In effect, they want to eliminate the line separating church and state. The Trump-enhanced Supreme Court has already ruled that it is permissible to discriminate on religious grounds against same-sex couples in a Colorado case where a baker refused to bake a cake for two men. Homophobia is okay if it is based on deep religious convictions.

The Hehinger Report asked Bruce Baker of Rutgers, an expert on school finance, Preston Green III of the University of Connecticut, a constitutional lawyer, to consider the ramifications of this case if the Court favors the plaintiffs.

They wrote the article, then discovered that Corey DeAngelis of the libertarian Reason Foundation and the CATO Foundation (founded by the Koch brothers) objected to their views, basing his objection on an entry in Wikipedia. He insisted that an earlier Supreme Court decision forbade private schools from discriminating on the basis of race. Professor Green said DeAngelis was wrong.

Instead of inviting DeAngelis to write a letter to the editor or post a dissenting comment, which is customary, the Hechinger Report inserted an editor’s note inside the article.

This is the paragraph with the editor’s note responding DeAngelis’ complaint. By the time you read this, the “editor’s note” may have been deleted. I was informed by an editor that the publication had decided to delete it.

Let’s assume that there exist state legislatures that would prefer not to have taxpayer dollars used to support religious schooling. Perhaps they are concerned with supporting schools that might discriminate in admissions or other treatment on the basis of sexual orientation of children or parents, or even race. (Editor’s note: Current Federal law does not permit private schools to discriminate on the basis of race.)

Preston Greene III wrote the following response as a warning to others: The Hechinger Report puts Wikipedia on the same level as scholarship. (DeAngelis received a Ph.D. in education policy from the Walton-funded Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, which holds a single point of view on school choice, and he regularly trolls anyone who disagrees with choice ideology on Twitter).

My own note: Fred Hechinger, for whom the Hechinger Report was named, was born in Germany and came to New York in 1936 at the age of 16. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City and the City College of New York, at that time a free public college. He and his wife Grace were personal friends of mine. He opposed public funding of religious schools. He supported free and universal public schools. This is how the Hechinger Report describes the man whose name it bears: “Fred M. Hechinger was education editor of The New York Times, an author of several books and an advocate for public education. The Hechinger Report continues his efforts to produce and promote high-quality education coverage.”

Preston C. Green III

I am writing this post to alert my fellow professors about a situation I recently encountered after publishing a piece with the Hechinger Institute. This organization approached Bruce Baker and me to write an op-ed explaining the possible consequences of the Espinoza v. Montana State Department of Revenue case. In this case, the Supreme Court is considering whether states can prohibit parochial schools from participating in a tax-credit scholarship program. It is generally expected that the Court will hold that states cannot act in this manner.

In this op-ed, we explained that states might respond to this potential decision by placing curricular restrictions on participating schools or even refusing to fund private education altogether. We even posited that states might respond to the Court’s expected decision by dramatically reducing their investment in charter schools.

We did not get much pushback for these points in the op-ed. However, Corey DeAngelis, adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and the Director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation, claimed on Twitter that we were wrong to suggest that parochial school participants in school voucher programs might even consider discrimination on the basis of race. He supported this assertion by citing a Supreme Court case, Runyon v. McCrary. DeAngelis posted a screenshot of the purported holding, which he got from Wikipedia. According to this summation, Runyon held that “[f]ederal law prohibits private schools from discriminating on the basis of race.” On the basis of this “evidence,” DeAngelis demanded that Hechinger correct this alleged error.

I responded on Twitter by posting a screenshot of the pertinent part of the actual case, which included the following statement (italics added):

It is worth noting at the outset some of the questions that these cases do not present. They do not present any question of the right of a private social organization to limit its membership on racial or any other grounds. They do not present any question of the right of a private school to limit its student body to boys, to girls, or to adherents of a particular religious faith, since 42 U.S.C. § 1981 is in no way addressed to such categories of selectivity. They do not even present the application of § 1981 to private sectarian schools that practice Racial Exclusion on religious grounds. Rather, these cases present only two basic questions: whether § 1981 prohibits private, commercially operated, nonsectarian schools from denying admission to prospective students because they are Negroes, and, if so, whether that federal law is constitutional as so applied.

The italicized section clearly established that the Court in Runyon did not address the question of whether § 1981 prohibited sectarian schools from racially discriminating on the basis of religious belief.

DeAngelis insisted that a retraction was in order reposting the Wikipedia screenshot and claiming that parochial schools would never discriminate because they might lose their tax-exempt status. Other people joined in on Twitter claiming that we were fearmongering because no school would ever consider discriminating on the basis of race for religious reasons – the stakes were too high.

Although I would like to believe we are past the time that schools would not overtly try to discriminate on the basis of race, I do not share this rosy view. My parents received part of their education in racially segregated public schools in Virginia. And although I did not attend a racially segregated school, I also experienced several incidents of overt discrimination.

The Hechinger editor asked Bruce Baker and me over email about the Twitter avalanche from DeAngelis and his supporters. I explained that DeAngelis’s understanding of Runyon was incorrect. The Court’s decision expressly did not address the legality of parochial schools claiming racial discrimination on the basis of religious belief. I even cited cases in which parochial schools attempted to exploit this loophole in Runyon (the courts rejected this assertion on the ground that the discrimination was not based on sincere religious belief).

Two days later, our editor emailed Bruce Baker and me again, explaining that her superiors wanted to place a note after the offending sentence to the effect that racial discrimination violated federal law. We responded by explaining that this statement was overly broad. It was true that parochial schools that discriminated on the basis of race ran the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. It was also true that a parochial school that discriminated on the basis of race ran the risk of losing its federal funding (if it received such aid). However, it was false to assert that federal law explicitly prohibited parochial schools from racially discriminating in their admissions. To summarize our position: While it was unlikely that a parochial school would discriminate on the basis of race in its admissions policy, federal law did not explicitly prohibit it.

Our editor then responded by suggesting an editors’ note that federal law made it unlikely for a parochial school to discriminate on the basis of race. I agreed to that parenthetical statement.

To our surprise, the following day, we received an email from the editor telling us that her superiors had overruled her. The overly broad editors’ note was back in. We were also told that there was nothing we could do about it. We have yet to hear any convincing explanation why Hechinger rejected our reasoning regarding this legal issue.

I am disappointed and, frankly, outraged, that Hechinger acted in this manner. When DeAngelis challenged our assertions, we cogently explained why we believed he was wrong. Yet Hechinger did not support the well-reasoned legal opinion of two scholars in the field it had specifically asked to research this issue. Instead, it bowed to online pressure even after we had spent more time providing additional background and case law. Other professors should consider our experience if Hechinger approaches them for an op-ed.

The public schools of Houston are going to be taken over by the incompetent State Education Department, which has never run a school district of any size and which has failed in its previous takeover efforts.

The Houston Chronicle hailed the pending takeover, while noting that the Houston Independent School District has been acknowledged in the recent past as the best urban school district in the nation (by the disreputable Broad Institute or Academy). Its editorial saluting the takeover by the state notes that 21 of HISD’s 280 campuses received “failing grades” from the state, and one (1) school–Wheatley High School–has a persistent record of low test scores. The failure of Wheatley–which has an even higher proportion of the neediest students than the rest of the district–triggered the state takeover.  This is a district where 80% of the students are “economically disadvantaged” and many are English learners. So, of course, the state commissioner and the editorial board of the newspaper blame low test scores on the elected school board. Apparently, they believe that democracy is the culprit, not poverty.

The citizens of Houston should rise up in protest. I am a graduate of the Houston public schools. The teachers are not the same. The schools are now majority-minority. The state would not dare to pull a stunt like this in one of its majority white districts.

The state commissioner, Mike Morath, is a software developer who was never a teacher or an administrator in a public school or any school. He served on the Dallas school board, which presumably makes him an expert. Despite the high rate of poverty in HISD, the graduation rate is 81%, but in Dallas it is 88%. This is considered a disgrace for Houston, but who knows how those graduation rates were manipulated? How many were the result of a one-week online credit recovery program?

It is understandable that the rightwing governor Greg Abbott would enjoy stripping democracy from the people of Houston, who don’t vote the way he likes. It is incomprehensible that the Houston Chronicle salutes this blatant removal of democracy from the people of Houston.

Don’t they know that the most important mission of public education is to teach democracy and the skills of citizenship, not to manufacture test scores?

What lesson do they think they are teaching the students of Houston?

I hereby name Governor Greg Abbott and Commissioner Morath to this blog’s Wall of Shame. People whose names are on the Wall of Shame have trouble looking at themselves in the mirror.

HISD at a crossroads: A four-part series by the Editorial Board

Thursday Dec. 26: Time for radical improvement
Friday Dec. 27: Learning from others, and our own past
Sunday Dec. 29: Road map to transformation
Monday Dec. 30: A call to action
Tell us what you think about HISD: What works? What doesn’t? What needs to change? Please use this online form to send letters to the editor. To access the form, point your browser to https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/submit.
https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/HISD-in-crisis-Looming-state-takeover-presents-14929858.php

HISD at a crossroads: Looming state takeover presents rare opportunity [Editorial]

The Editorial Board

 

A dark cloud has loomed over Houston ISD almost as long as Naomi Doyle-Madrid’s children have been enrolled in the district.
The nonprofit director despaired over the elimination of the arts program at the elementary school her oldest son attended — part of a round of “devastating” cuts to HISD’s magnet programs about seven years ago.
She had to slash through layers of bureaucracy to get special education services for her third-grader. She has seen school safety funds held up by red tape and shaken her head in frustration at school board squabbling and mismanagement that have brought the district to the brink of a total takeover by state education officials.
Now, as the Texas Education Agency prepares to appoint a board of managers to replace HISD’s elected trustees, Doyle-Madrid hopes crisis will turn into opportunity — and that the state intervention will serve as a wake-up call for district leaders and for everyone who cares about educating Houston’s children.
“We have to really shake up the structure in order to have any kind of relevant, effective long-term change,” she told the editorial board.
This is a defining moment for HISD which, at about 209,000 students, is the largest public school system in Texas and the seventh-largest in the country. Once regarded nationally as a leader in education reform, HISD has failed to end a cycle of low performance that has paved the way for state takeover. Among its challenges are a cluster of perpetually struggling schools, a dysfunctional board of trustees that has often placed petty politics above the needs of students, and the abrupt resignation of a superintendent.
Add to that the destructive legacy of segregation and racism, a student population where about 80 percent are economically disadvantaged and many are immigrants with limited English skills, and high teacher and principal turnover at low-performing schools.
It is a recipe for a school district sorely in need of repair. Or, as TEA Commissioner Mike Morath told the editorial board recently, “It is a story, essentially, of chronic neglect.”
HISD’s boosters, and we certain count ourselves among them, may flinch at that description of their district — still home to some of the nation’s best schools. For those in the right school zone or with the know-how to navigate magnets, HISD can deliver an excellent education. The district has an overall B rating and by some measures has improved year over year. But 21 of HISD’s 280 campuses received failing grades from the state this year, including Wheatley High School, whose seventh consecutive failure triggered a state law requiring TEA to either close the school or install a board of managers.
A pattern of inequity that harms low-income, black and Hispanic students persists across the district — as evidenced by wide achievement gaps and schools that underperform on standardized tests year after year. About one-third of elementary and middle school campuses have received at least one failing grade in the past five years under the state’s academic accountability system.
More than half of HISD students — about 117,000 — are not meeting grade-level expectations, Morath told the editorial board. Of those, the vast majority — about 104,000 — are low-income students.
In 2018, the district had an 81 percent four-year graduation rate, which is up from 64.3 percent in 2007 but still not where it should be. In Dallas, which also contends with many of the same challenges facing HISD, 88 percent of students graduated; in Fort Worth, 87 percent did. Houston cannot be OK with a system that sees 1 out of every 5 students fail to even complete high school.
Of those who do graduate, far too many HISD students are unprepared for college and the workforce. Only one-fourth of graduates enroll in college and earn an associates or bachelor’s degree within six years. Many needed remedial courses once they got to college.
The status quo simply cannot be allowed to continue. Not if we care about children. Not if we care about the future of Houston, a city hoping to produce a workforce and citizenry capable of powering one of the nation’s largest cities through the 21st century.
Not everyone agrees that a state-appointed board is the solution. At a series of community meetings in November, hundreds of parents, residents and educators spoke out in opposition to the move, saying it disenfranchises voters in mostly black and Latino district and puts a Republican-led state bureaucracy in control of local schools.
Those concerns are valid and must be taken into account by Morath. He has pledged to appoint a board that is representative of the city and to select members who “believe every child can learn.” That’s a good start, but he must also accept that even good ideas imposed by Austin without significant buy-in from the voters who pay for, and depend on, HISD will be doomed to fail. In our meeting with him earlier this month, he did not seem to have fully embraced the need to leaven with humility the extraordinary authority state lawmakers have vested in him, a sweeping power triggered by Wheatley’s failure.
But for all that, Doyle-Madrid’s optimism is well-founded. Finally, with so much at stake, the takeover will provide a means for great changes for the good. State takeovers of local districts have had a poor track record in the U.S., but we believe in Houston’s case a board of managers can serve as a springboard to revamp ineffective practices and initiate bold, innovative reforms.
If done correctly, and through close dialogue with stakeholders, nothing should be off the table. Regardless of who runs the district — a state-appointed board or an elected one — the main focus should be on meeting the needs of students by drawing from established best practices and turnaround models from other districts around the country.
District leaders should also make use of a scathing but detailed performance review of HISD conducted by the state Legislative Budget Board, which found dozens of flaws in operations, governance, education delivery and oversight, and issued 94 recommendations for change. The audit could serve as a road map for improvement.
The need for improvement is clear. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t also a lot that works well in HISD. Those programs — from wrap-around services to full-day pre-K to the district’s magnet program — should be targets for investment and expansion. Their success and the district’s overall B rating are why parents like Doyle-Madrid stick by the district. Her youngest child is in kindergarten, which she says gives her a vested interest in the long-term success of the district.
For far too long, district leaders have failed the children and parents of our community. It’s time for even HISD’s strongest defenders to recognize how urgently it must change. The state takeover presents challenges all its own, but it is also the best chance in years for the district to reinvent itself.

HISD at a crossroads: Learning from others, and our own past [Editorial]

While Houston has some of the highest performing public schools in the state and the country, the system overall is failing too many children. About 56 percent of students are not meeting grade-level expectations. That’s about 117,000 students who with each passing grade they are left further and further behind.
Even with a state takeover and the best intentions to improve the district, there is no magic formula that can work overnight. In some ways it’s the toughest job in Houston.
“It’s about getting the right teachers in front of kids,” former HISD trustee Cathy Mincberg, president of the Center for Reform of School Systems, told the editorial board. “Sounds simple, but it islike brain surgery, it is like rocket science, to learn what works with what kid.”
But as big a challenge as turning HISD around is, it’s certainly possible. In fact, school districts and states around the country have recovered from far worse positions than HISD finds itself in, and proof of that, with lessons for HISD, is as close as Texas’ second-largest district four hours to the north, and in HISD’s own storied past.
The Dallas model
The Dallas Independent School District’s improvement strategy, known as Accelerating Campus Excellence, or ACE, is based on strong leadership, incentives for highly effective teachers and a data-driven approach to education.
Under the ACE model, targeted schools were given an experienced principal with a track record of improving struggling schools. Those principals could then replace their entire staffs, if need be, with teachers who scored high on the district’s educator evaluation. Top-rated teachers could receive bonuses ranging from $6,000 to $12,000 if they worked at an ACE school.
While HISD has tried something similar to attract talent to poorly performing schools through its Apollo 20 and Achieve 180 program, it hasn’t had the success yet that Dallas has found with its ACE approach. Instead of very large investments in a small number of schools each year, Achieve 180 makes smaller investments in dozens of campuses. And while it has steered $5,000 bonus to teachers in the program, HISD does not require strong performance ratings from teachers, has seen high turnover, and failed to attract enough highly-rated educators to make an impact.
Dallas also renovated ACE campuses, invested in additional social services and extended the school day. The results: In just two years after it launched for the 2015-2016 school year, ACE students had made double-digit gains in reading and math scores and the achievement gap between minority and other students virtually disappeared.
Titche Elementary, for instance, had consistently failed state standards for more than a decade. It went from an ‘F’ rating to a ‘B’ by 2018, jumping from one of the worst campuses in the district for student progress to one of the best under Dallas’ internal School Effectiveness Indices.
All of this takes money — each ACE school costs an extra $1 million a year, and early data shows that some of the improvements fall out when the extra money was redirected. To sustain these and other reforms, Dallas-area voters approved an 13-cent tax rate increase in 2018.
But even more than additional funds, turning the district around required leadership. Though many of the reforms began under a predecessor, many credit Dallas ISD’s success to veteran superintendent Michael Hinojosa, a savvy leader and zealous advocate for the district in the community and in Austin.
“Offering reforms is one thing, implementing them is another — and you’ve got to have both,” DISD trustee Ben Mackey told The Dallas Morning News in September, when the board extended Hinojosa’s contract to 2024. “If leadership doesn’t say this is what we’re going to move forward on, it doesn’t happen.”
The kind of momentum Dallas is experiencing is something HISD has found before.
Best urban district in America
In 2002, HISD won the first-ever Broad Prize for Urban Education. The national award, which came with a $1 million prize to give scholarships to district students, recognized Houston for its student achievement and reduction in the achievement gap.
The award capped a decade of work by the trustees and superintendents to turn around a struggling district, even in the throes of political infighting, scandal and initial public disappointment. In his book, “Fighting to Save Our Urban Schools… and Winning! — Lessons from Houston,” former trustee Donald McAdams details this decade of growth and renewal.
As McAdams recounts, the district improved through reforms such as decentralization, school-improvement plans, school-based budgeting, changes in school attendance boundaries, management audits, employee performance evaluations, performance contracts for administrators, district charter schools and incentive pay for teachers.
“We once made a list of all the things we were working on, and it was, like, 99 things — and all 99 things had to happen in order for us to turn around,” said Mincberg, who was on the board from 1982 to 1995.
The leadership the district needed flowed from a joint belief by the board and the superintendent that student success had to be at the center of every decision they made
.
“There were mistakes all along the way, nothing was perfect,” Mincberg said. “But the board supported the superintendent and the superintendent supported student achievement.”
The changes made and continued efforts by stakeholders eventually netted HISD another Broad Prize in 2013, the only district to repeat the honor.
Even TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, who will hold ultimate authority over the district for several years, says HISD has plenty of strengths on which to build.
“This was an award-wining urban school system that had seen massive improvement and much of those bones are still in existence,” Morath said.
Whether HISD learns from other urban districts or finds the lost spirit that once propelled its highly praised successes, the district has turned itself around before. It can do it again.

George T. Conway III is Trump’s most eloquent critic. If you follow him on Twitter, you will know that he has been consistent in calling out Trump for his outrageous behavior and his illegal actions. (He is the husband of Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior advisor, and some speculate that she is Anonymous, the inside whistleblower.)

He writes today in the Washington Post that Republicans have lashed themselves to an unhinged and unpredictable figure, who will pull them down too.

Members of Congress should be aware of the famous words of lawyer Joseph Welch, who represented the U.S. Department of the Army, defending it against charges of Communism by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Confronting a sneering, badgering Senator McCarthy, who was accusing one of his junior associates of Communist sympathies, Mr. Welch said, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Welch helped to end the infamous career of McCarthy, whose like has not been seen again until now, in the language and behavior of the current president of the United States, whose first resort to any challenger is ridicule and contempt.

George T. Conway III is a lawyer in New York and an adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC.

In his unhinged letter Tuesday, President Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” A few days earlier, he accused Democrats of “trivializing impeachment.” 

If anything has cheapened or trivialized the process by which Trump was impeached, it was House Republicans’ refusal to treat the proceedings with the seriousness the Constitution demands. Unable to defend the president’s conduct on the merits, GOP members of the House resorted to deception, distortion and deflection: pretending that Trump didn’t ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival; claiming that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election; and throwing up all manner of silly assertions of procedural unfairness. 

Now, as the process moves to the Senate, Republican senators threaten the ultimate cheapening and trivialization of Congress’s constitutional obligations: holding a “trial” that would be nothing but a sham

Specifically, they threaten to conduct a trial without witnesses, which wouldn’t be a trial at all. In civil or criminal litigation in a jury case, the only way for a defendant to avoid a trial is for a judge to rule that there was no evidence from which the jury could find for the other side. However much the Republicans may pretend otherwise, that isn’t the case here — the president isn’t entitled to summary judgment. The evidence against him is far too strong. No doubt that is the real reason they wish to avoid a full-blown trial. 

In addition, judicial trials traditionally give parties the right to subpoena all relevant witnesses, even witnesses who haven’t given evidence before. Indeed, the Senate’s standing impeachment rules provide for the issuance of subpoenas at the request of either side. Even at the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, which involved much simpler facts, and where a complete evidentiary record had been developed by an independent counsel before a federal grand jury that heard the testimony of all witnesses, including Clinton, the Senate allowed videotaped deposition testimony to be taken and introduced into evidence. 

In any event, the fact that senators swear an oath to “bear true faith” to the Constitution, and the fact that the Constitution requires the Senate to “try all Impeachments,” should require them to hold a real trial with live witnesses. But if that isn’t enough to persuade them, Republican senators should consider at least two significant practicalities. 

The first is that the Ukraine investigation is only three months old. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has cited this as evidence that the impeachment was rushed and unsupported. Actually, the opposite is true: A remarkably strong case was assembled in an unusually short time, even in the face of extraordinary obstructionism from the administration, which directed numerous witnesses not to testify. The Watergate investigation, by contrast, spanned roughly two years; the Starr investigation and Clinton impeachment proceedings, 11 months. 

What that tells us is that plenty more evidence remains to be unearthed. We know already of the witnesses whom Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposes should testify, but whose testimony was blocked by Trump: acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Robert Blair, a senior adviser to Mulvaney; former national security adviser John Bolton; and Michael Duffey, a top official at the Office of Management and Budget. No doubt there are volumes of electronic and physical documents that remain to be produced. 

One way or another, the gist of that evidence will seep out, as truth inevitably does. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, will continue to make admissions, and, if he were to be criminally prosecuted, evidence would come out in his prosecution. Others — most notably Bolton — will write books. There will be more leaks to intrepid journalists. Perhaps more whistleblowers will step forward. 

Meanwhile, the House can still investigate, if it so chooses. In fact, it should. After all, not only does the House have a continuing obligation of oversight, but also there is no double-jeopardy prohibition on impeachment: If more damning evidence surfaces, there is no constitutional reason Trump couldn’t be impeached again. 

So common sense should tell senators that, even if Trump is acquitted in a short-circuited trial, that won’t prevent the evidence from revealing whether an acquittal was a just one. If Republican senators cut the trial short, they run the risk of being refuted and shamed on the pages of history by the very evidence they sought to suppress. 

But that’s not the only practical reason they shouldn’t cut the trial short. A second reason — perhaps the ultimate reason — is President Trump. 

For the extraordinary evidence of the Ukraine scandal isn’t a one-off. Putting his interests above the nation’s is what Trump instinctively does.

Trump’s written tirade to Pelosi confirms the point: It shows that, even as he is being impeached, he still has no idea why — and thus no idea what his presidential duties require. He hasn’t learned his lesson, and never will.

And that is the ultimate point Republican senators who care about their legacies should consider: They run the risk of being refuted and shamed on the pages of history not just by the evidence — but by Trump himself. 

Tufts University is taking the Sackler name off the buildings and programs endowed by the billionaire family because of its relationship to the opioid crisis. The Sackler billions were mostly derived from the sale of Oxycontin, which is a highly addictive opioid (and effective painkiller).

Jonathan Sackler is a major funder of charter schools. He helped to start Achievement First, ConnCAN, and 50CAN.

The Boston Globe posted a list of the institutions that have buildings with the Sackler name on them. 

1. Tufts University: The Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education; the Sackler Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical and Engineering Sciences; the Sackler Families Collaborative Fund for Cancer Biology Research; and the Richard Sackler Endowed Research Fund. The Sackler name will be removed.

Harvard has the Arthur Sackler name on a museum but won’t remove it because Arthur Sackler died before the family got into the opioid business.

Yale has institutes and professorships with the Sackler name. It won’t change that, but won’t accept any new Sackler money.

University of Connecticut has multiple Sackler-named facilities. It is not changing anything and has made no announcements about future donations.

Columbia has a Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology. It won’t accept new money from the Sacklers.

The Smithsonian has an Arthur Sackler Gallery and no plans to change the name.

The Louvre has the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities. It removed the name in July 2019.

The Tate Galleries in London has accepted $5 million but won’t take any more.

The National Portrait Gallery in London turned down $1.3 million from the Sackler family.

This is not a complete list.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York City has a major wing named for the Sacklers.

The New York Times wrote in May of this year:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art said on Wednesday that it would stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the maker of OxyContin, severing ties between one of the world’s most prestigious museums and one of its most prolific philanthropic dynasties.

The decision was months in the making, and followed steps by other museums, including the Tate Modern in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, to distance themselves from the family behind Purdue Pharma. On Wednesday, the American Museum of Natural History said that it, too, had ceased taking Sackler donations.

The moves reflect the growing outrage over the role the Sacklers may have played in the opioid crisis, as well as an energized activist movement that is starting to force museums to reckon with where some of their money comes from.

“The museum takes a position of gratitude and respect to those who support us, but on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest,” said Daniel H. Weiss, the president of the Met. “That is what we’re doing here.”

 

The Wall Street Journal published an expose of the College Board’s practice of selling student data, which is illegal in some states. The colleges buy the names and addresses of students, encourage them to apply, then reject them so they can claim they are “exclusive.” It looks good on the US News phony ratings when colleges have a low acceptance rate.

For 47 cents, the College Board will sell an individual’s information, feeding admissions frenzy

Jori Johnson took the practice SAT test as a high-school student outside Chicago. Brochures later arrived from Vanderbilt, Stanford, Northwestern and the University of Chicago.

The universities’ solicitations piqued her interest, and she eventually applied. A few months later, she was rejected by those and three other schools that had sought her application, she said. The high-school valedictorian’s test scores, while strong by most standards, were well below those of most students admitted to the several schools that had contacted her.

“A lot of the rejections came on the same day,” said Ms. Johnson, a 21-year-old senior film major at New York University, one of three schools that accepted her out of 10 applications. “I just stared at my computer and cried.”

The recruitment pitches didn’t help Ms. Johnson, but they did benefit the universities that sent them. Colleges rise in national rankings and reputation when they show data suggesting they are more selective. They can do that by rejecting more applicants, whether or not those candidates ever stood a chance. Some applicants, in effect, become unknowing pawns.

Feeding this dynamic is the College Board, the New York nonprofit that owns the SAT, a test designed to level the college-admissions playing field.

The board is using the SAT as the foundation for another business: selling test-takers’ names and personal information to universities.

That has helped schools inflate their applicant pools and rejection rates. Those rejection rates have amplified the perception of exclusivity that colleges are eager to reinforce, pushing students to invest more time and money in preparing for and retaking exams College Board sells. Colleges say the data helps them reach a diverse pool of students they might have otherwise missed.

The top 10% of universities don’t need to do this. They are buying some students’ names who don’t have a great chance of getting in,” said Terry Cowdrey, an enrollment consultant for universities and Vanderbilt University’s acting dean of undergraduate admission in 1996 and 1997. “Then the kids say, ‘well why did you recruit me if you weren’t going to let me in?’ They do it to increase the number of applications; you’ve got to keep getting your denominator up for your admit rate.

Jane Nylund, parent activist in Oakland, wrote the following warning after reading about the ouster of the Disrupters in Denver. Parents and activists and concerned citizens must organize and oust the agents of Disruption:

 

Oakland also must flip 4 board seats next year. The Walton-bought board has recently closed two schools, Roots and Kaiser Elementary, and there is talk of accelerating the “Blueprint process”, which is basically a plan to close and consolidate schools. Oakland’s portfolio model, which was only supposed to close “low performing” schools (nearly all of which were privatized into charters), has now morphed into the Citywide plan, in which no school is safe from the threat of closure. Kaiser was an exemplary model for a popular, well-supported, diverse neighborhood public school that attracted families both within and outside its boundaries. It also supported a significant number of LGBT families. It’s enrollment had been steady for years. Its closure (and planned consolidation with Sankofa, a struggling elementary school several miles away with a freeway in between) means that the beautiful piece of property where Kaiser is located (with SF bay views) will either be sold or handed over to a charter. Kaiser’s closure was a sacrifice, a political pawn in the school closure game, to show that the school board can be “bold” and not just close schools in high-needs neighborhoods. Look at us, we can close anything, and we will! This is the not-so-new normal for OUSD.

I am a K-12 graduate of the Houston Independent School District. I am appalled that Texas officials would dare to strip Houston citizens of their elected board because of ONE LOW-PERFORMING HIGH SCHOOL. Wheatley High School happens to have a high concentration of students who live in poverty (88%), don’t speak English, and have special needs (19%).

The Texas Education Agency and Commissioner Mike Morath should be ashamed of themselves. Since when did Republicans become advocates of authoritarianism and enemies of local control?

Commissioner Mike Morath, who is not an educator but a software developer, joins this blog’s Wall of Shame.


For Immediate Release
November 7, 2019
 
Contact:

Oriana Korin

202-374-6103
okorin@aft.org
www.aft.org


Educators Question State Takeover of HISD
 

HOUSTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Texas AFT and Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo issued the following statements in response to the Texas Education Agency’s announcement that it plans to take over local control of the Houston Independent School District:

 

Capo said:

 

“This is a power grab to disenfranchise families in Houston—particularly families of color—who just exercised their voice in a democratic vote on control of the city’s public schools. Now, the state government wants to step in and ignore that vote and exercise state control over this community because of one below-grade school, when the rest of them are scoring in the top tier in math and reading.

 

“What Houston’s students and their families really need is leadership: leadership that is committed to serving the needs of our local schoolchildren and the needs of the teachers who greet them every day. Educators must be assured that they, their students and their classrooms will be the focus of every decision, and our campuses must be able to thrive as safe and welcoming places for teaching and learning, unfettered by the machinations in Austin.

 

“The HFT has one goal: to look out for students—not to play politics with how we educate them.”

 

Weingarten said:

 

“This takeover by the Texas Education Agency strips the entire Houston community—particularly Houston’s families—of their basic right to have democratically governed public schools. It’s curiously timed during the exact moment the public are casting their votes to make changes in the Houston school board. But the fact remains: Teachers, parents and the community of Houston know what is best for Houston, and they have worked together over the last decade to see real improvement in Houston’s schools. Alarmingly, rather than focusing on that improvement, Austin bureaucrats are using one school’s challenges as the basis for stripping everyone in Houston of their voice.

 

“The state is playing a crude game of politics with public education in a shameful power grab that ignores students’ educational needs and disrespects the educators in the classroom. Using grossly flawed judgment, politicians in Austin have decided to use a blunt instrument that will undermine and disrupt the mission of community control of public education.

 

”We’ve been here enough times to know that our first priority must always be students, and our national union will do whatever we have to do to support the educators in this city in standing up for their kids and their schools against the state’s overreach. Our country’s history is replete with efforts to disenfranchise people of color and women, but Texas should not go down that ugly path again with this effort to take over the Houston school system.”

 

 

The American Federation of Teachers is a union of 1.7 million professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

###

 

The headquarters of the Walton/Walmart billionaires is in Bentonville, Arkansas, so it is not surprising that the Walton Family Foundation and the members of the family (net worth: $100 billion) have decided to privatize the public schools of Arkansas.

Arkansas is a poor state. It doesn’t have an abundance of private schools that are as good as its underfunded public schools but the Waltons want every child to have a voucher or a charter school to attend.

Legislators are easy to buy in a poor state. The Waltons own quite a few.

The Arkansas Education Association did the research and described the empire that the Waltons have constructed in service to their goal of owning and privatizing the public schools of Arkansas. In the Walton plan, there will be no “public schools,” only privately managed charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.

The AEA report lays out the Walton Empire of Privatization in detail, with their bought and paid for think tanks and academics.

Although this report includes a lot of names, it is just one slice of the nationwide effort to plunder our public schools. These organizations have a vast infrastructure and deep pockets that can seem daunting, but our students are counting on us to stand up and speak out.

While they may have more cash, we have the power of numbers and common sense. Arkansas’s taxpayers and students would be better served by investing our scarce resources to improve our neighborhood public schools and helping all of the students who attend them.

Our public schools are the anchor of our communities, and the best way to expand opportunity for all. This idea does not require twisted statistics, or market tested language to trick people into supporting it. It’s as old as the country itself.

Do you think any member of the Walton Family ever feels ashamed of the damage they are wreaking on our democracy?

What about their minions? Have they no shame?

Justin Parmenter here tells the story of the “white flight academy” that decided to turn itself into a charter, thus relieving the parents of the burden of paying tuition. Now the taxpayers of North Carolina get to fund this school with a long history of fighting desegregation.

Hobgood Academy was founded in 1969 and opened in 1970 as a private academy for white parents who didn’t want their children to attend desegregated (by court order) schools in North Carolina. Tuition was low ($5,000) but onerous for the parents. They realized not long ago that they could become a charter school and the state would pay all their costs.

The Hobgood parent site confirms that the primary reason behind the school’s desire to become a public charter was not to increase diversity and expand opportunity for children of poverty at all. Rather, it was to allow children who already went to the 87% White school to continue to attend it, instead of going to Halifax County Schools, where only 4% of students are White. According to 2010 census data, Halifax County’s residents are 40% White and 53% Black.

North Carolina’s Director of Charter Schools opened Hobgood’s opening ceremony as a charter school and praised it for…its “diversity.”

Do you laugh or cry when confronted with such hypocrisy?