Archives for category: Shame

Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the top vaccination official in the Tennessee, was fired for encouraging teenagers to get vaccinated. She is a public health official who wants to save lives. Those who fired her thought she was alarmist, despite the deaths of 600,000 Americans who were infected with the coronavirus. Tennessee is a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

The now-former immunization director for the Tennessee Department of Health had been facing scrutiny from Republican state lawmakers over her department’s outreach efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccinations among teenagers.

“Now there is a fundamental lack of ability to discern credible information in the state of Tennessee amongst our leaders as well,” Fiscus told WKRN. “They don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a Facebook meme and a peer-reviewed scientific journal publication.”

Dr. Fiscus told The Tennessean that she was fired Monday to appease lawmakers. She provided the newspaper with a copy of her termination letter, which does not explain the reasoning for her dismissal.

She also released a blistering statement accusing the “leaders” of the state of ignoring the dead and dying around them while turning their backs on doctors, scientists and other front line workers during the pandemic.

“I am ashamed of them,” she wrote. “I am afraid for my state. I am angry for the amazing people of the Tennessee Department of Health who have been mistreated by an uneducated public and leaders who have only their own interests in mind. And I am deeply saddened for the people of Tennessee, who will continue to become sick and die from this vaccine-preventable disease because they choose to listen to the nonsense spread by ignorant people.”

Dr. Fiscus told WKRN she was a scapegoat for a legislature bent on vaccine misinformation: “Our elected officials, many of them have really bought into this anti-vaccine propaganda that has been widely distributed, and they are not seeking the opinions of medical experts who understand these vaccines and understand this pandemic.”

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, but public health officials in Tennessee have been ordered not to acknowledge it.

Politico reports:

TRUMP EMBRACES ‘GREAT PEOPLE’ OF JAN. 6 — In a Sunday interview on Fox News with MARIA BARTIROMO, former President DONALD TRUMP spun up a new interpretation of Jan. 6: It was an act of “love,” a word he used repeatedly to describe the sacking of the Capitol. He portrayed ASHLI BABBITT essentially as a martyr — an “innocent, wonderful, incredible woman” — while floating a conspiracy that she was murdered by security for a “top Democrat.” In a throwback to Charlottesville, he called the rioters “great people.”

Billy Townsend was a school board member in Polk County, Florida. He saw up close and personal how charters were sucking the high-scoring students out of public schools and excluding the students with disabilities. He saw up close and personal how the state’s voucher program was serving as a refuge from high-stakes testing and enabling the restoration of racial segregation. Billy believes, as I do, that if the day ever comes when so-called reformers see the harm they are doing to kids and to our democratic institution of public education, they might repent. Will shame move them more than the pursuit of profit and power? Perhaps we are naive to think it might. But hope springs eternal that even the profiteers and entrepreneurs and shady fly-by-night grifters might someday see the light.

Billy has written a powerful series about the Jeb Crow school industry and how its sole purpose is to destroy public education without helping kids. All of the articles are referenced in this post, the last of the series. He has demonstrated how the voucher schools are highly segregated and low-quality. He refers to the choice schools as “failure factories” but now calls them “Jeb Crow” schools to credit former Governor Jeb Bush for creating the Big Lie that school choice saves children. It doesn’t.

Townsend throws out a challenge to reformers who are sincere, if there are any, about equity and helping kids:

Serious “reformers” — those who actually mean it when they use the moral, racialized language of equity in justifying punitive policies that destroy public education capacity — know today that their entire life’s work is bullshit that failed on its own terms. 

They know it. Every single one of them. Some of them will cry about America’s super awesome graduation rate; but they know that’s manipulated data bullshit, too. Mostly, they’ve just gone silent while think tanks beg to keep getting useless test data and grifters use the language and weaponry “reformers” provided them to demolish public education capacity for everyone. 

The question now: if, when, and how will “reformers” ever break their shamed silence about their failures and decide to help us fix them?

Jeb Crow means wealthier, whiter kids get high capital charters; more vulnerable, less white kids get no capital vouchers; and we kill/privatize public schools altogether.

The grifting and cheating by state education officials is breath-taking. They know that school choice is a cynical ploy to shift money from taxpayers to private corporations. They know that the corporation that handles the voucher funding now has assets of nearly $700 million. They know where power lies in Florida. They know how corrupt the Legislature is. But everyone goes along to get along.

If you read one thing today, read Billy Townsend’s reports on Florida’s massive crime against children and the state’s own future.

The Texas Senate Education Committee bowed to the wishes of the powerful charter lobby and granted sole power to the State Commissioner (appointed by the Governor) to approve charter schools. His decisions can be vetoed only by a supermajority of the State Board of Education.

The State Commissioner of Education is Mike Morath. He is not an educator. He is a software executive who served on the Dallas school board and advocated for charter schools.

Local elected authorities—including mayors and school boards—are prohibited from blocking a charter school that wants to open in its jurisdiction. Charters can locate wherever they choose without regard to the views of local communities that want to protect their own public schools from rapacious charters.

Right now, Texas is being overrun by corporate charter chains aiming to grab market share. This bill will help them by canceling democracy and the will of the people.

This is the bill that passed the committee.

CSSB 28 (Bettencourt), as substituted, increases the threshold – from a majority to a supermajority – required for a State Board of Education veto of a charter awarded by the commissioner and defines reasons why the SBOE may veto a charter. It also prohibits a local governmental entity from enacting or enforcing an ordinance, order, regulation, resolution, rule, or policy or taking action that prohibits an open-enrollment charter school from operating a public school campus, educational support facility, or administrative office in its jurisdiction.

Al Franken is the former Senator from Minnesota. He wrote this retrospective on Rush Limbaugh in the New York Daily News.

Rush Limbaugh died this week. His impact on our nation’s discourse and polity will long outlive him.

Many Americans had been puzzled when President Trump bestowed upon Limbaugh our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After all, previous honorees include Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King and the crew of Apollo 13. I, however, was not surprised. Because without Limbaugh, there is no (former) President Trump.

Rush was the first broadcaster to take full advantage of the FCC’s little-noticed 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. Since its adoption in 1949, the rule had required broadcasters to present controversial issues in a fair and balanced manner. Its repeal cleared the way for disreputable broadcasters to present manifestly dishonest and unbalanced content, and Rush, it turned out, had a real talent for just that kind of thing.

And when I say talent, I mean it. Limbaugh created right-wing talk radio, holding court three hours a day, five days a week for 32 years, attracting an audience of 20 million listeners because he was compelling, sometimes funny, always provocative, if routinely sexist, homophobic and racist.

Racist? He once asked his audience, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

Homophobic? In 1990, Limbaugh ran a recurring segment entitled “AIDS Update,” in which he’d mock the death of a gay man who had just recently died of AIDS, cheekily playing ironic popular songs like Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.”

Sexist? You may remember Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress in 2012, on an exception within the Affordable Care Act that would allow religious institutions to opt out of covering contraception. Here’s Limbaugh referring to her testimony that contraception can cost as much as $3,000: “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke (sic), who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”

Rush went on like that for quite a while. He had three hours to fill.

But mainly, he was a shill for the right wing of the Republican Party. Along the way, he promoted conspiracy theories: Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered; global warming is a hoax; Barack Obama was born in Kenya; COVID-19 is no worse than the common cold and is being used by the media to prevent Donald Trump’s re-election. And, yes, the election was stolen.

Here’s what he told his listeners on Jan. 7: “There’s a lot of people out there calling for the end of violence…lot of conservatives, social media who say that any violence or aggression at all is unacceptable regardless of the circumstance…I am glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual tea party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord didn’t feel that way.”

In 1995, I wrote a book, “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot And Other Observations.” The book was satirical, but its intent entirely serious. Limbaugh’s radio show had become an effective arm of the right wing of the Republican party. The previous November, Republicans had won the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, and the new Speaker, Newt Gingrich, named Limbaugh an honorary member of the class of ’95.

At the time, Limbaugh had a TV show in which he referred to “The White House dog” while the control room put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton.

The show’s producer, Roger Ailes, would go on to run Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel, whose slogan, ironically, would echo the “fair and balanced” language of the Fairness Doctrine, purporting to provide a balance to the liberal mainstream media.

Fox’s right-wing propaganda machine had built a huge, rabid audience by relentlessly attacking Democratic administrations and then functioning as virtual state TV for President Trump. Currently, the network is faced with a $2.7 billion lawsuit from election software company Smartmatic, for spreading false rumors that the company had helped Joe Biden steal the election in several states (none of which, by the way, had used Smartmatic’s software).

Right-wing radio. Right-wing TV. Then came the internet, where websites like Newsmax and Breitbart and social media platforms like Facebook have created a more opaque world where far more extreme and untethered worldviews fester and grow.

This is how you get QAnon. How not a small number of Trump supporters believe that not a small number of Democrats are blood-sucking pedophiles. It’s how you get a member of Congress who blamed Jewish lasers for starting the wildfires in California. It’s how you get Jan. 6.

The most dangerous problem facing America today is the existence of two universes of information. The second universe, a universe of disinformation, has been expanding since 1989. Rush Limbaugh was the Big Bang.

Bette Midler wrote about Limbaugh’s death on Twitter and was not as polite as Franken.

The Sun-Sentinel in South Florida wrote a scathing editorial about the Senate Republicans who failed to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection that endangered the lives of members of Congress as they fulfilled their Constitutional duty to certify the winner of the election.

It begins:

The Republican Party was on trial along with Donald Trump. Both now stand convicted, if not by the Senate, then definitely in the eyes of the nation and the world: The ex-president for planning, inciting and inflaming a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to keep himself in power, and the party for excusing that monumental crime against the American people.

The seven Republicans who voted him guilty were 10 too few to convict him, but they deserve the nation’s love and thanks for their devotion to the Constitution. So do the House impeachment managers, who made a virtually flawless case leading to the most bipartisan impeachment vote ever, 57 to 43.

The 43 senators whose votes acquitted him chose the wrong side in the eternal conflict between conscience and cowardice. They prostituted our democracy to a demagogue and despot. They made a dead letter of impeachment and set history’s stage for others like him.

Those contemptible senators, including Florida’s Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, have cost their party any claim to the respect and trust of the American people.

The damage is beyond repair. It has betrayed the nation. The moment calls for the remaining responsible Republicans, however few or many, to break away. The case for a new party is as urgent as when the GOP was founded in 1854 to oppose the spread of slavery.

The nation cannot do without the political balance provided by a center-right party proudly bound to constitutional principles, such as the peaceful transfer of power. Until now, no president of either party had defied the expressed will of the voters.

But the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower has become the party of Trump, who holds it in such thrall that only 10 of its House members and seven of its 50 senators dared to hold him responsible for the worst crime it was possible for an American president to commit.

That so many others could accept his having put their own lives at risk on Jan. 6 can be understood only in the context of their political ambitions. Their careers matter more to them than anything else, least of all their oaths of office.

The party of Trump is extremist and infested with cadres of domestic terrorists like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois and the Oathkeeepers.

An example of its moral bankruptcy was the vote of the Wyoming party to censure Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, for her courageous vote to impeach Trump.

Abraham Lincoln would not recognize what Trump has made of the party, but Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez very well might.

The House impeachment managers proved beyond reasonable doubt every element of a cynical and criminal conspiracy on Trump’s part.

The editorial continues, and it is worth reading in full.

Mull over this line: “only 10 of its House members and seven of its 50 senators dared to hold him responsible for the worst crime it was possible for an American president to commit.

As Cong. Jamie Raskin asked on the Senate floor, “If these acts do not deserve impeachment, what does?”

It is hard to imagine anything worse for a president to do, unless he lined up his opposition and shot them. Would the 43 Republican Senators have held Trump accountable if he did that? One wonders.

This article was written by Swedish teacher Filippa Mannerheim and translated by retired Swedish educator Sara Hjelm. It appeared in the Swedish publication EXPRESSEN.

Mannerheim expresses her outrage at the corruption and inequity that have flowed from the Swedish policy of privatization. Her articles are a warning to those of us in the United States, as many states are now considering legislation to copy the Swedish free-market model, allowing anyone–including for-profit enterprises–to supply educational services to student.

Politicians let schools sink into a swamp of corruption 

Published 8 Feb 2021 

High school teacher Filippa Mannerheim. 

The Swedish Parliament. 

Photo: OLLE SPORRONG

Teacher Filippa Mannerheim sparked a great debate with her indictment against Swedish parliamentary politicians about the market school. 

All parties – except M and KD have responded – and Mannerheim is now writing her closing remarks. 

This is a cultural article, where writers can express personal opinions and make assessments of works of art. 

DEBT DEBATE. 

There was once a farmer who was terribly hard of hearing, something he was ashamed of. One day, while standing carving on an ax handle, he saw the surveyor coming walking on the road. “First he probably asks what I do and then I answer ‘Ax handle'”, the old man thought. Then he asks if he can borrow my mare and then I say: “The riders have ridden her back off”. And when he asks about my old echo, I answer “She is completely ruined and holds neither weather nor water.”  

– Good day! said the surveyor.  

“Ax shaft,” replied the old man.  

This story my father read to me when I was a child and I remember that we laughed a lot at the old man’s determined but damned answers. That the saga is now revived within me again, after 40 years, is no coincidence.  

After reading the six (non) answers from our parliamentary parties after my article “I accuse…!”, I am saddened by school policy. What is positive is that our Riksdag politicians have answers to all my questions. What is negative is that their answers rarely have to do with the questions.  

The Center Party proudly claims (after three months of reflection, while their formulations have gone back and forth between communicators and party leadership), that they at least want to increase freedom of choice and transparency in Swedish schools, but then make proposals that lead to the exact opposite – slippery as eels in their struggle to defend the corporations’ dividends. The Liberals write an answer so full of empty phrases that I have already forgotten what the message was. I think there was something about teachers being very important. 

The Social Democrats and the Green Party agree with me in substance but unfortunately can do nothing, “very boring, really.” The Western Party is outraged, the Sweden Democrats, as usual, blame the immigrants and the 

Moderates and Christian Democrats don’t bother to even put together an answer. Probably they have none.  

– Swedish schools are in deep crisis! Politicians, you must act! 

– Good day, ax handle, little friend. 

What exactly is politics for our politicians? I ask myself. Is it a polished, trembling index finger in the air, or is it a sincere description of the problem and a long-term and well-thought-out vision of what Sweden can become, based on knowledge, a sense of responsibility and an honest will to improve our society?  

Who knows? Not me anyway.  

In another fairy tale I recently read with my 

students, HC Andersen lets the little child 

shout the obvious: “The emperor is naked!” 

Many of us are shouting now, but without our 

rulers hearing us.  

Photo: CSABA BENE PERLENBERG / 

But this is not a fairytale. This is 2021 in a  small but extreme country in the north, where the majority of our parliamentary parties have made it clear to us voters that the Swedish school market, with its destructive consequences, will remain. The limited companies’ expansion at the expense of the municipal school, the unfair school choice system, the extreme and skewed construction of school fees that are running Swedish schools at the bottom, grade inflation, a rejected principle of openness and an increasingly segregated school system – all this we must continue to live with.  

This was not what we thought of the free school reform!  

Nevertheless, the majority of our political parties are determined to continue on the path that has led Swedish, tax-financed schools deeper and deeper into the dunes of corruption. The partners’ profits are too important to be legislated away. At the same time, meaningless messages are drummed out to voters as pale, Orwellian mantras: “All schools must be good!” “Free schools are good!”  

– Good day, ax handle.  

The fact remains: We are the only country in the world with this school model. No party, neither right-wing nor left-wing parties in the rest of the world, pushes the idea of ​​free establishment for commercial companies, an almost unlimited profit, lack of democratic transparency about how tax money is used and free for profit companies to choose and reject which children to teach. The Swedish school system is rigged.  

Several bourgeois opinion leaders and leading writers have happily begun to raise their voices against the market school. Even the Liberals have very recently expressed concern about venture capitalists as school owners. It gives a certain hope. But the fact that an overwhelming majority of our parliamentary parties cannot unanimously express that they are prepared to take responsibility and do something about the problems is nothing but outrageous. They simply do not want to stop being the only country in the world that prioritizes foreign venture capitalists over the country’s children.  

But Swedish schools are not the private property of politicians or limited companies to milk money and power out of. The schools belongs to us. The Swedish people. We pay for the party.  

In the 2022 election, we voters have the opportunity to use our votes wisely with the socially important school issue in focus. If we vote for a party that does not want to change the school system but only pretends to poke at it for the sake of visibility, the system will remain. And it will leave huge traces in our Swedish society.  

Parliamentary politician: I have nothing more to add in the matter. 

My accusation remains.  

By Filippa Mannerheim 

Filippa Mannerheim is a high school teacher of Swedish and history, as well as a writer and school debater.

The following article was written by Swedish high school teacher Filippa Mannherheim and translated by retired Swedish educator Sara Hjelm. It appeared in the Swedish publication Expressen. Sweden adopted a free-market system of schooling in the early 1990s, and the results have increased segregation without improving the quality of education or access to good schools. The free-market model, she writes, began with extravagant promises but has turned into a bonanza for entrepreneurs and profiteers.

Swedish education is a shame – you politicians have failed

Published 17 Nov 2020 at 06.15, updated 18 Nov at 10.05

Teacher and school debater Filippa Mannerheim.Photo: Press

Teacher and school debater Filippa Mannerheim today publishes an open letter on Expressen’s culture page to Sweden’s Riksdag politicians. “It is time to merge across party lines and stop the expansion of limited companies,” she writes.

This is a cultural article, where writers can express personal opinions and make assessments of works of art.


Parliamentary politicians!

I am a Swedish citizen. I am a teacher. I’m a parent. And I am deeply concerned about the future of Swedish schools. 

The Swedish school has been subjected to a world-unique experiment. In the rest of the world, it is unreasonable for limited companies to make unregulated profits on tax money. Despite this, we in Sweden donate hundreds of millions of kronor to shareholders in company groups year after year – money that was intended for our children’s education.

With the deregulation of the 1990s, the ambition was to create thriving, independent schools, foundations, parent cooperatives and small limited company schools with educational alternatives. Today, this vision has turned into an uncontrollable market where venture capital companies are expanding and devouring tax money at breakneck speed. 

The business model is simple: you buy smaller independent schools and incorporate them into the growing groups and then make a profit by targeting marketing to easy-to-teach, independent students, through special dress codes, requirements for high tempo and great drive or through English as a study language. With a sold-out, simpler student base, the corporation schools can reduce salaries, teacher density, resource staff and – to attract even more lucrative student customers – sprinkle with joy-ratings to show the school’s “high results”.

When the profitable students have been absorbed by the independent school, the municipal school is left with a more difficult student base and with the overall responsibility for all the municipality’s students. And when the municipal school’s student allowance must be increased due to the task becoming more demanding, the independent schools ‘student allowance is also increased and the groups’ profits can increase even more. A bomb-proof business model for venture capital companies but a devastating tax waste for the Swedish citizens. 

You, politicians, have made our common school a wet dream for venture capital companies.

Because while the school giant Academedia, now listed on the stock exchange, makes a profit of SEK 556 million before tax, the size of the children’s groups in the preschool increases and greatly exceeds the National Agency for Education’s benchmarks. While the International English School (IES) presents a profit of 254 million, many children are in classrooms without teaching materials and are taught by foreign teachers without Swedish qualification or by qualified teachers who earn SEK 3,000 less a month than their municipal colleagues. While schools and colleges are sounding the alarm about declining knowledge results, joy grades are rising, as grades have become a competitive tool on the market. While the independent school giants receive a rent discount for establishing themselves in the municipalities, children with diagnoses or a mother tongue other than Swedish are rejected, as they are more expensive to teach.

Before the National Agency for Education made all statistics about individual schools secret – because it became a “trade secret” – all this information was available to us. Today it does not do that anymore, which threatens our democracy. 

I accuse you of that.

Swedish schools bleed at the same time as resources are available. But the tax money that was intended to go to student support, small groups, more teachers, more resource staff, teaching materials and smaller classes ends up in tax havens instead. 

You, politicians, have made our common school a wet dream for venture capital companies. It’s shameful. It’s sad. It is unworthy of a knowledge nation. 

After Chile abolished profit-driven independent schools four years ago, we are left alone in the world with our school system. Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, England all have independent schools but profits are prohibited or strictly regulated. If the rest of the world can have well-functioning independent schools for parents to choose from, without the owners being allowed to pick out millions in profits – why can’t we? 

The company magnates have the money. Nine politicians have the power. I have, apart from my furious despair over the state of affairs, only my pen and my conviction that the truth about Sweden’s school system must emerge.

I’m accusing …! was written by Émile Zola and published January 13, 1898. Zola turned in the letter to the President of France and took a stand for the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus who had been convicted of high treason.

Parliamentary politicians. This letter has become long and it is time to summarize: 

I accuse you, the Social Democrats! Your party name is a pathetic remnant from the time when you defended an equal school – for all children from all walks of life. Today you have voluntarily put your gag on one of Sweden’s most important issues – the marketing school. It is not democracy but its exact opposite: it is political pity.

I accuse you, the Moderates! You are talking about more controls, even though it obviously does not help against the corruption-like elements that the market school has produced, where joy grades, instead of education, have become a competitive tool in the fight for the most easily taught students. You have with your nonchalance betrayed our nation and its youngest citizens.

I accuse you, Liberals. You call yourself a “school party” and claim that teachers should be authorities in the classrooms. At the same time, you have turned children and parents into school customers and “grade shoppers” and teachers into servile sellers of grades, with the task of keeping customers happy for their own school’s survival. The system is morally corrupt and you are partly responsible. 

I accuse you, the Christian Democrats. Your reluctance to see how the interest in profit hits the school is depressing. You earn money when you should serve our children. To you, I have only one thing to say: Drive the traders out of the temple!

I accuse you, the Green Party. In 2013, your congress voted no to welfare gains. After that, your school policy has consisted of hand hearts on Youtube, despite the fact that you held the post of Minister of Education. Your contribution on the school grounds has been an unfunded “Read-write-count-guarantee” and a struggle for more sex and cohabitation education, while the school falls. 

I accuse you, the Sweden Democrats. You talk about assimilation, community and security. Yet you support a school system that increases segregation and allows jihadist schools run by people with links to Islamism and violent extremism and schools with religious indoctrination of children. And after a special lunch at Riche, you turned to the issue of banning profiteering and sat yourself on lap in the independent school lobby. 

I accuse you, the Left Party. You have been passive and have not even indicated that you would like to overthrow the government on this issue. The school groups’ profit-taking and expansion is a matter of destiny for our country and no matter how outrageous alone you are here in Sweden, you have the rest of the world on your side. Overthrow the government! This issue is not negotiable.

I accuse you, Center Party! You put venture capital companies’ right to millions in profits ahead of future generations and call Sweden’s principle of openness – the foundation of our democracy – a “hot pursuit of free enterprise”. You let your friends in business management legally steal our taxes – millions that were meant for education. You pose shamelessly with the groups great in photo, without being ashamed. You have let Sweden down. 

Knowledge, education and upbringing should be at the center of this socially important activity – not money.

My questions to you politicians are the following: What will happen to Sweden when more and more children do not get the education they need? When foreign venture capital companies gain more and more influence over the school and we citizens lose both transparency and the principle of openness? When tax money, through independent school groups, ends up in the pockets of fundamentalists and shareholders in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Malta? What opportunities will we have to govern the school in a democratic way when the power of foreign owners over our education system increases through the expansion of the school groups? 

One last reflection. Whatever it may now be worth to you: Schools are not just buildings with children and teachers inside. Schools are not just childcare while parents work. The school is a common community building, where we adults prepare future generations for the future. Knowledge, education and upbringing should be at the center of this socially important activity – not money. 

If we demolish this common building, which you, politicians, are well on your way to doing, society will also fall to pieces, slowly but surely. Your society, just like mine. Your children’s society, just like my children’s society. 

Parliamentary politicians. The time has come. It is time to merge across party lines and stop the expansion of venture companies and take back the tax millions and education to the Swedish people.

While we still can. 

By Filippa Mannerheim

Filippa Mannerheim is a high school teacher of Swedish and history, and a school debater.

The Republicans who control the North Carolina legislature want to divert public funds to religious and private schools. This outright theft of public funds is cynically called a bill for “equity and opportunity,” although it will increase racial segregation, undermine equity, and subsidize students to attend schools of lesser quality than public schools.

At what point do these thieves of public money reveal their true motives and stop stealing the egalitarian language of public education? There is nothing egalitarian about their scheme to take money from public schools and transfer it to low-quality religious schools. Some of these schools will use racist textbooks. Some will exclude students whose parents are gay. Some will be attached to churches that teach snake-handling. Few will have certified teachers or meet any state standards. North Carolina Republicans don’t care about the future of their state. They prefer to subsidize low-quality schools instead of improving their public schools.


Kris Nordstrom of NC Policy Watch wrote this description of the legislation. It was shared with me by Public Schools First North Carolina:

HB32 would make five changes to the Opportunity Scholarship program:

1.     No prior public school enrollment requirement for entering second graders: Under current law, first-time voucher recipients had to previously been enrolled in a public school unless they are entering kindergarten or first grade. Under H32, applicants entering second grade would not have to have been previously enrolled in a public school. As a result, more vouchers will be provided to students who were already enrolled in a private school.

2.     Increase value of the voucher: Since its inception in FY 2014-15, the Opportunity Scholarship voucher has been capped at $4,200. Under HB32, the maximum voucher amount would be set to “70 percent of the average State per pupil allocation in the prior fiscal year.” The average state per pupil allocation is currently $6,586, implying a maximum voucher of more than $4,610 if, as proposed, this goes into effect for vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year. The maximum voucher value would then be bumped up to 80% of the average State per pupil allocation in the 2023-24 school year and beyond. This would permit vouchers of up to $5,269, given current state spending levels.

3.     Loosening of prior public school enrollment requirement in grades 3-12: HB32 would allow students entering grades 3-12 to also be eligible for a voucher even if they’re already enrolled in a private school, so long as they were in a public school in the preceding semester. For example, if a student started their school year in a public school, but transferred to a private school for the spring semester, they would still be eligible for a voucher in the subsequent school year. This change would first apply to vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year.

4.     Diversion of funds to marketing efforts: Since inception, the Opportunity Scholarship program has been overfunded. HB32 would divert $500,000 worth of unused funds to “a nonprofit corporation representing parents and families” to market the program in an effort to juice up demand. There are few (if any) organizations that would qualify for these funds beyond Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. It is probably just a coincidence that PEFNC provided HB32 sponsor Rep. Hugh Blackwell with an all-expenses paid trip to Miami in 2012.

5.     Increase of administration funding. Under current law, the NC State Education Assistance Authority  may retain $1.5 million for administrating the Opportunity Scholarship program. Under HB32, they would be allowed to use up to 2.5% of appropriated funds. That equates to $2.1 million for FY 2021-22, rising to $3.6 million by FY 2027-28.

The bill also amends the state’s two other voucher programs: the Disabilities Grant voucher and Personal Education Savings Accounts vouchers.

The Disabilities Grant is a traditional voucher covering up to $8,000 per year for students with disabilities. Funds can be used for school tuition, as well as for related expenses such as therapy, tutoring and educational technology.

Under the Personal Education Savings Accounts, parents of qualifying children receive a debit card loaded with $9,000 to be spent on a wide range of education-related expenses.

HB32 makes the following changes:

1.     Merges the two programs and changes the name. The combined program would be called Personal Education Student Accounts.

2.     Expands eligibility. Currently, students must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to qualify for either program. Under HB32, eligibility would also be extended to students with 504 plans, which broadens the allowable disabilities. Students would also be eligible even if they are already enrolled in college, so long as they are taking less than 12 credits per year.

3.     Different awards and carry-forward rules. If a student is affected by autism, hearing impairment, moderate or severe intellectual or developmental disability, multiple, permanent orthopedic impairments, or visual impairment, they qualify for a higher award amount and may carry-forward up to $4,500 of unspent funds to the next fiscal year. These students will get $17,000 on their debit cards. Other disabled students’ awards are based on a percentage of per-student funding provided in the prior year. Based on 2020-21 funding levels, the award would be $9,549. These students would not be permitted to carry forward unspent funds.

4.     Eligibility verification relaxed. Currently the State Education Assistance Authority is required to verify eligibility of 6% of applicants each year. That requirement would be removed under HB32.

5.     Additional skimming of funds by financial companies. HB32 would permit the charging of “transaction or merchant fees” of up to 2.5% of all spending.

6.     Forward-funds the program and creates guaranteed funding increases through FY 2031-32. Under HB32, appropriations for Personal Education Savings Accounts would be made to a reserve account to forward-fund vouchers in the subsequent fiscal year. Additionally, funding would increase $1 million annually through FY 2031-32, increasing total funding by 62%. Voucher programs are the only education programs with guaranteed funding increases beyond FY 2021-22.

Finally, the bill would permit county governments to contribute to either of the voucher programs. Counties would be able to appropriate up to $1,000 per every child in the county who receives a voucher and attends a private school in the county. These funds would be used to increase the size of student vouchers rather than increase the number of vouchers awarded.

Fiscal impact of Opportunity Scholarship changes

If HB32 becomes law, it would be the second consecutive year of rapid expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship program to divert additional state funding to students who were already planning to go to a private school. During the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly expanded the program’s income eligibility requirements and removed limits on awards to students entering Kindergarten and first grade. These changes are expected to cost the state approximately $272 million over the next 10 years.

The changes proposed under H3B2 would add $159 million to these costs over the next nine years.

One of the casualties of the 2020 election was public education in New Hampshire, because Republicans regained control of the legislature. They already hold the Governorship (Chris Sununu, son of John Sununu, who was also Governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff to the first President Bush).

The Republicans’ top priority is school vouchers. Their program, if enacted, would be the most expansive voucher program in the nation. At least 95% of students in the state would be eligible to apply for a voucher.

A new bill that would create the country’s first nearly universal voucher program has been introduced as the top priority for lawmakers in the 2021 session. House Bill 20(HB 20) would require the state to use state dollars currently allocated for public education to fund “Education Freedom Accounts.” Parents could then receive between $3,786 and $8,458 per student in state dollars, depending on eligibility and fees, to use for private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, and other school-related expenses. 

The bill creates the same voucher program that lawmakers originally introduced in 2017 under SB 193 (though they were called “Education Freedom Savings Accounts” then), which was killed because of the deep inequities it would cause for students, as well as the steep costs to the state and local towns. The current version of the bill, HB 20, has no accountability requirements to ensure that students are receiving an adequate education or that public funds are being spent for the stated purposes, aside from self-reporting by the independent scholarship organization. 

“Our communities are struggling under an inequitable funding system which will culminate in an $89 million cut in state funding next year. However, lawmakers have stated that one of their top priorities this session is to enact the most far-reaching voucher program in the country,” said Christina Pretorius, Policy Director at Reaching Higher NH.

“A question that I think our state leaders should ask is, what kind of state do we want 5, 10, 15 years from now? Will this program help to strengthen our state, our economy, and prepare our students — current and future — for life in the 21st century? This proposal, along with the funding crisis, presents a reckoning for our state, that I think we all need to grapple with,” she continued.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • HB 20 would create a nearly universal voucher program, where students attending both public and private schools would qualify for a voucher. Students who enroll in the program must disenroll full-time from their public or charter school. 
  • There are no provisions in the bill that would protect students from discrimination, but the bill does protect educational service providers from being discriminated against based on their religious affiliation. 
  • Parents could receive between $3,786 and $8,458, minus administrative fees, depending on the student’s eligibility for state aid programs. The funding would be placed in an “Education Freedom Account,” or voucher, managed by an independent scholarship organization and funded from the state’s Education Trust Fund.  
  • Parents could use the voucher for various education-related expenses, including private and religious school tuition and program costs, homeschooling costs, tutoring services, computers and software, summer programs, college tuition, or other approved expenses. Recipients are permitted to “roll-over” unused funds from year to year. 
  • Students with disabilities might waive their rights under federal and state disability laws, including the right to an IEP, the right to services, and the right to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. 
  • There is little public oversight for state funds. There is no financial audit requirement for the scholarship organization to ensure that they are appropriately using public funds, nor are participating students required to take, or submit, the statewide assessment that public and charter school students are required to take. There is no requirement that participating students take any assessment of any kind, in order to ensure that public dollars are going towards programs that provide the opportunity for an adequate education.
  • HB 20, as proposed, would be the most far-reaching voucher bill in the country. Other states with voucher programs are targeted to low-income students, students with IEPs, and other identified or discrete student cohorts. HB 20, however, would be a nearly universal voucher program that is not targeted and is open to nearly all New Hampshire children. 
  • Voucher programs have been shown to hurt student outcomes. Long-term studies of voucher programs have shown that participants in voucher programs have significantly lower math and reading scores than those who do not, and that those dips persist for years after the initial study. Other, short-term studies by independent research organizations and universities suggest that voucher programs hurt, or have an insignificant impact, on student outcomes.