Who Runs the “Well-Ordered Militia”? CONGRESS!

Inspired by an article in Sunday’s paper by Representative Jamie Raskin, I looked at the text of the first section US Constitution for the first time in many years.

Here’s the part that actually surprised me, where the writers specifically list the powers of Congress, and in this section they in NO way come anywhere near the idea of letting any wack job to go get concealed weapons to bring to a school, a party, a concert, or a church, or to overthrow the government, as our current NRA wack jobs and some Supreme Court members would have you believe. Instead, the Militia is specifically in order to “…execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”.

(I write this as a person who grew up owning a 22-rifle, and who has hunted deer in the past with shotgun slugs, sometimes successfully. But I think that unless you are really planning on overthrowing the government, then those extremely dangerous machines should be registered, and those who own them should need to undergo both a competency test of some sort and (for obvious reasons) some form of vouching for his or her mental status as well. I mean, DUH!

These things can kill you!

The more deadly the weapon is, the more stringent should be the licensure.

Again, duh.

So here are sections 14-16 of the first Article if the Constitution:

“14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

“15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

“16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;…”

Published in: on May 16, 2019 at 10:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Lead Exposure in Childhood Leads to More Crime

This article cites four studies showing that being exposed to the element lead (Pb) causes increased levels of violence and crime about 20 years later.

However, treatments to mitigate the effects of lead exposure are very effective.

Published in: on May 16, 2019 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Firing day at a charter school

What a nightmare!

https://seattleducation.com/a-teachers-perspective/

Published in: on May 12, 2019 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hundreds of Federal Prosecutors Sign Petition Saying that Trump Performed Multiple Felonious Acts Obstructing Justice

This is hot. Hundreds of federal prosecutors, both Republicans and Democrats, say that Trump’s behavior would merit multiple felony indictments for obstruction of justice — except for a single DOJ memo that claims that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

You can read their statement, and their names, at this link.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.

The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These include:

· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;

· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and

· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.”

They then explain, in clear detail, exactly what those accusations mean.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are many (any?) Republican politicians in Congress with the guts to vote against this unsavory menace to any pretense of democratic rule.

 

How to Succeed with “Success Academy”

Here is the secret behind having stellar state test scores at Moskowitz’ chain of ‘Success Academy’ schools: discourage families from coming by telling them how much is expected from them (NEVER be tardy, ENORMOUS amounts of homework, etc) and also hold back any student who doesn’t meet very hazy but difficult benchmarks.

Gary Rubinstein provides details, and taped quotes from Success Academy principals:

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Revealing Podcast About Success Academy — Part V

by garyrubinstein

Star Wars fans know that Episode 5 — The Empire Strikes Back, was the best of the Star Wars saga.  And of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, the most famous is surely his fifth.  Likewise, of the seven episodes of Startup’s podcast about Success Academy, the fifth (found here) is the most powerful and the most important.

To say that this episode has the ‘smoking gun’ would be an understatement.  This episode has not just the smoking gun, but a video of the culprit firing that gun.  I’m not sure why this episode hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.  Maybe because it is so many hours into the podcast and most people don’t listen to all the parts.  Or maybe there are so many Success Academy excuses and talking points weaved into all the other episodes that this episode just seems like a small blemish on a generally favorable portrait of the controversial charter network.  Whatever the reason, I’m hoping that people will take the time to listen to the whole podcast and to share it, along with my summary, widely.

This episode is entitled ‘Expectations’ and it explores whether or not the expectations Success Academy has for it’s students and for the parents of those students are something that the students and parents rise to meet or if they scare away potential families and families who struggle to keep up with those expectations.

They play a tape of Eva Moskowitz speaking to families who have been accepted into Success Academy:

EVA: Hi everyone, I’m Eva Moskowitz the founder and CEO of Success Academies. It’s very nice to meet you in this large auditorium.

LISA: Eva paces across the stage in stilettos, a fitted blue dress and leather bomber jacket, her standard attire. She’s speaking to a couple hundred parents, near Success Academy Union Square. That’s one of 30 Success elementary schools offering spots to new students.

EVA: First of all, congratulations for those of you who have won the lottery.

LISA: This year Success Academy had a little over 3000 spots for about 17000 applicants. That means through a random lottery, only about one out of every six kids got a spot.

Eva tells the audience that she designed Success Academy with the hope that kids would fall in love with school. They have science labs in kindergarten, kids learning chess early on. She touts the school’s high academic standards. But she is also clear about some of the things that parents might not like.

EVA: We believe in homework. A lot of it. So if you feel really strongly that that is not something you like, you probably shouldn’t come to Success. Cause we’re going to be arguing for 12 years about homework and we’re gonna win.

LISA: Want small class sizes? We don’t have that. And, of course…

EVA: Tests. Anyone against tests? Anyone want to be part of the opt-out movement? Great, thank you for your honesty. Success is not the place for you.

LISA: Success is not the place for you. Parents start hearing that line early on. Eva makes it clear at this meeting that they’ll expect a lot of parents.

EVA: We’re very very strict on kids getting to school on time. School starts August 20th and you must be here the first day of school, no exceptions. We expect at a minimum for you to return our phone calls. I had a parent who was refusing to meet with the principal. God forbid. No no no no no.

About half of the families that get into Success Academy after winning ‘the lottery’ choose to not go there, maybe because of messages like this.

The devastating part in this episode follows a 5th grader at Success Academy named Nia.  Nia had been at Success Academy since kindergarten and had passed both sections of the 3rd and 4th grade state tests.  But she was getting about a 70 average in 5th grade so the school said that she was at risk of repeating 5th grade.  According to the podcast, this is something that is said to hundreds of families each year.

Getting ‘left back’ is a big deal.  It has major consequences that can affect the rest of a student’s life.  From then on, that student will be a year older than her classmates, always having to explain why she is a year older, that she was ‘left back.’  The school said she would have to get her grades up, which she did, to about an 80.  But the school said that it wasn’t enough.  It didn’t matter that she was now comfortably passing.  It also didn’t matter that she had passed the state tests the previous years and that she was likely to pass the state test again this year.  They said that when they took it all into consideration they decided not to promote her.  However, they would promote her if she would transfer out of Success Academy.

The amazing hypocrisy here is that Success Academy is saying that the fact that this girl passed the state tests was not enough.  They are actually admitting that passing the state tests — the thing that the entire reputation of Success Academy is based on — is not an accurate measure of achievement.

The parent tried to appeal this decision and she even secretly taped the meeting she had with the administrator:

JO-LAINE: So I guess my question is, so this is a final decision? This is a final decision?

PRINCIPAL: Yes.

JO-LAINE: And I cannot appeal this process at all?

PRINCIPAL: No.

JO-LAINE: I cannot talk to anybody else about this process?

PRINCIPAL: If you would like to talk to someone you can reach out to the network.

JO-LAINE: Who, who in the network?

PRINCIPAL: You can just call the general number.

JO-LAINE: I don’t get anyone when I call that general number. Why are you doing this to my daughter? You know that she is a bright kid, you know she has potential. You know she does.

PRINCIPAL: Of course.

LISA: Of course she has potential, the principal says. And she notes the improvement Nia had made by the second trimester.

PRINCIPAL: She was at a 77 and we said if she continued going in that direction, she continued doing her homework, she continued really applying herself in class, then we could possibly promote her to the sixth grade.

LISA: Nia’s GPA had jumped from 69 to 80, and her grades for participation had trended up too. Jo-Laine asks where Nia would have needed to get.

JO-LAINE: So what is the passing GPA to be promoted?

PRINCIPAL: There is no passing GPA.

JO-LAINE: There isn’t a passing GPA, it’s so much ambiguity. How do I know how my kid is succeeding?

LISA: The principal points out that these decisions are not just about GPA — they consider a lot of factors. She says Nia doesn’t have the work habits to succeed in the sixth grade.

PRINCIPAL: So ultimately the issue is that she does not have independent work habits that she needs to be successful next year in a tougher grade with a more rigorous curriculum. Good habits of working, so like asking questions, trying hard, going back revising your work.

LISA: At some point during the back-and-forth, Jo-Laine gets more frustrated.

JO-LAINE: I have it in text message, ok, and in emails.

PRINCIPAL: Please don’t talk to me like that.

LISA: The principal says the conversation is no longer productive and asks her to leave.

JO-LAINE: I’m not leaving until we finish talking about… I do not agree with your decision.

LISA: Jo-Laine starts to say something to an assistant principal who’s also in the room.

PRINCIPAL: You’re not speaking to my assistant principal, this is my school to be clear.

JO-LAINE: Who are you talking to?

PRINCIPAL: I’m talking to you.

JO-LAINE: I am not speaking to you. You just told me I may not speak, I’m not, no.
PRINCIPAL: I’m done.

JO-LAINE: You cannot tell me I cannot speak to this woman here and that you’re going to call security on me.

PRINCIPAL: I will call security on you.

LISA: The principal calls security, and Jo-Laine is escorted out of the building.
JO-LAINE: and I left and i cried like a baby. I let out this howl when I left the building.

LISA: Jo-Laine said she felt defeated. All the opportunities she thought Nia would have because she won the lottery and got into Success were now disappearing. That’s because, if Nia was going to be held back, Jo-Laine wanted to take her out of Success when the year ended, even though the school had been Nia’s world since she was 5 years old.

what was the conversation with Nia that night?

JO-LAINE: You know Nia, things are going to be different. Same thing, same routine conversation, you got to go to school every day and do your best. Mommy has to be very honest with you. We need to try a new school.  I don’t think Success Academy is healthy for you. And she cried. Silent silent tears. And she’s like, ‘I’m going to miss my friends. This is all I know. I’m a little afraid of public school. But it’s okay Mommy.’ And that changed everything for me. I remember sitting on her bed and she’s like ‘Mommy it’s OK. You know I just want to be happy.’

LISA: While Jo-Laine was fighting to get Success to promote Nia to the next grade, she had also applied to several middle schools, as backups. And Nia had been accepted into a public school. It’s a selective one. Students have to have good marks and test scores from fourth grade to get in.

JO-LAINE: So I have the acceptance letter. And the first paragraph says, congratulations Nia, we want you to know that you were specifically chosen for this school for your academic achievement, thousands of kids applied to star academy and you were one of the 60. She was like ‘me? Oh my god, me mommy?’ and I am like ‘you’, and I could honestly say with all confidence, it wasn’t a lottery, it was like we chose you, we want you.

LISA: In Nia’s final report card, which she got in June, after the decision to hold her back had already been made, her GPA had gone up another few points to an 83. A few months later, she got her state test scores for fifth grade. Top scores again, fours on both.

The principal who defended this decision was, of course, a Teach For America alum.  So if Success Academy is leaving back students who are passing the state tests and getting an 83 average, but not meeting some nebulous metric that relies not on data, but on their gut feelings, what about the kids who are not passing the state tests?  Are we to believe that this same nebulous metric is somehow generous to those students?

Another Success Administrator is interviewed about the schools expectations

LISA: Do you think there’s such a thing as a bar that’s too high?

JAVERIA: For whom?

LISA: For kids at Success.

JAVERIA: Well see I think when people ask that question and I’m not saying you are. So please. I think when people say we’re too hard and we’re too rigorous I always ask is that because we run schools in poor neighborhoods? Do you mean is it too hard for poor neighborhoods? Because rich white kids are doing this all day and they’re paying for it.

LISA: It is a question you have to ask. Where is the bar? It seems like a very legitimate appropriate question to really think through.

JAVERIA: I do often think when that questions comes up… And by the way I wish we can control the bar but the bar often is determined by really elite colleges who get their kids great jobs.

LISA: Javeria tells me that Success Academy is trying to set its academic standards so that all students are on track to complete college in four years. Success says about 10 percent of its students get held back every year.  And half of those students end up leaving Success. When their alternative, their zoned traditional public school, is willing to take them at the next grade, that can seem like the more attractive option for families.

LISA: Do you worry about like the kids who are leaving because they were held over.

JAVERIA: I guess worry about that meaning… I guess that’s a thing, like do we think we’re doing something wrong and that’s why they’re leaving? like do we are we too rigid and too difficult and too painful of a schools so we’re pissing people off and they’re leaving? No I don’t. I mean I think I think…

LISA: Or just even studying like why kids leave? Like you know I’ve spoken to other charter school networks that are studying the kids who leave and really trying to understand that.

JAVERIA: I mean we can’t, we’re not a prison we can not make anyone sign up to do things they don’t want to do. And so that’s why I asked like is the issue should we ease our design in any way to keep more people is like I think where you’re headed in that question, which is no, we don’t want kids to come any later to school. We are going to continue to ask for them to wear a uniform. We are going to be rigorous. We are not going to willy nilly promote kids because it feels good.

LISA: Success doesn’t buy into the practice of social promotion — moving kids up through grades to keep them with their age group. The charter school network believes that promotion should be based on achievement. And in many ways, their position makes sense. You don’t want someone to graduate from high school, not being able to read an elementary school text. And yet by sticking to extremely high standards for kids, Success is, in effect, sending a lot of families to the same schools it says it’s saving them from.

So according to the podcast, with a statistic that surely came from Success Academy themselves, they leave back 5% of students each year and another 5% leave so they can escape being left back.  I think these numbers are way below the actual numbers.  I think this is one of the major reasons that students leave the school and based on their first cohort where 73 1st graders were whittled down to 16 eventual graduates, it is clear that a lot of students leave Success Academy.

Even the parent from the first episode had pulled her son from Success Academy when they threatened to have him repeat second grade.

On the podcast they say

A lot of families who leave Success, whether it’s because they were asked to repeat a grade, or were getting suspended, or just had had enough of Success’ inflexibility … a lot of those families go back into the traditional public school system, a system that Eva Moskowitz says is failing.

Then they compare Success Academy to a ‘failing’ traditional school, as measured by its test scores.  They show that the principal is much warmer in the way he deals with parents than the Success Academy administrators we have heard from in this episode.

Then a surprising thing happens where this principal Jesse Yarbrough goes off on a rant about how one of his biggest problems is that it is too hard to fire tenured teachers because of the teacher’s union contract.  I was disappointed to hear this.  I’ve taught at several ‘failing’ schools in my career and I’ve found mostly very hard working teachers at them.  And the few teachers who were not trying their hardest, well, I don’t think that our test scores would have changed that dramatically if we were to replace those teachers — there just weren’t enough of them to make a tremendous difference.  Somehow, though, on this podcast they found a traditional school where the principal did believe that the students at his school had only 20% passing the state tests because of the teacher’s union.  That is unfortunate since I’m sure that many principals would defend their staff and say that the test scores don’t reflect the commitment and quality of the teachers.

The rest of the part about the traditional school was good and showed how they were more humane to their students.  They also have this principal talk about how they get kids who were booted out of charter schools:

LISA: Jesse says his school regularly gets kids from charter schools, and what he sees are a lot of the feelings that our two families earlier in the episode expressed: feelings of shame and guilt.

JESSE: They tend to come feeling like they were pushed out. Parents have told us that the principal kept calling them in to say that the student wasn’t behaving or the student wasn’t doing their work and that kids are always coming home with infractions, whether it’s for uniform, for attendance, for lateness for homework, and if you’re constantly getting negative feedback about your child, you’re going to think that the school doesn’t want the child there. And a lot of parents come in and they say my son had so and so issues, my son was kicked out, they said that we couldn’t be there anymore. And that’s terrible too because then they have that same perception of the child.

This is where episode 5 ends.  I think any reasonable person listening to the part where they leave back the girl despite her average in the 80s and her passing the state tests, and their treatment of her mother where they call security on them, would have to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with Success Academy.

There are still two more podcasts.  Episode 6 features the ‘rip and redo’ hidden video and episode 7 is about the chaos at their first high school.  I’ll likely write those up as one post.  This one, episode 5, is really the main reason I wanted to write up these summaries, I recommend you listen to the whole thing since there are some things that are conveyed by the vocal intonations of the Success Academy administrators that a transcript can’t fully capture.

How to Destroy Public Education

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From truthdig
 [drilling beneath the headlines],Monday, April 22, 2019. SEE
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-true-a**merican-tragedy-is-playing-out-in-our-classrooms/
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Opinion
An American Tragedy Is Unfolding in Our Classrooms
Belle Chesler / TomDispatch
Three weeks ago, I sat in a cramped conference room in the large public high school where I teach in Beaverton, Oregon. I was listening to the principal deliver a scripted PowerPoint presentation on the $35 million budget deficit our district faces in the upcoming school year.

Teachers and staff members slumped in chairs. A thick funk of disappointment, resignation, hopelessness, and simmering anger clung to us. After all, we’ve been here before. We know the drill: expect layoffs, ballooning class sizes, diminished instructional time, and not enough resources. Accept that the teacher-student relationship – one that has the potential to be productive and sometimes even transformative – will become, at best, transactional. Bodies will be crammed into too-small spaces, resources will dwindle, and learning will suffer. These budgetary crises are by now cyclical and completely familiar. Yet the thought of weathering another of them is devastating.

This is the third time in my 14-year-career as a visual arts teacher that we’ve faced the upheaval, disruption, and chaos of just such a budget crisis. In 2012, the district experienced a massive shortfall that resulted in the firing of 344 teachers and bloated class sizes for those of us who were left. At one point, my Drawing I classroom studio – built to fit a maximum of 35 students – had more than 50 of them stuffed into it. We didn’t have enough chairs, tables, or spaces to draw, so we worked in the halls.

During that semester I taught six separate classes and was responsible for more than 250 students. Despite the pretense that real instruction was taking place, teachers like me were largely engaged in crowd management and little more. All of the meaningful parts of the job – connecting with students, providing one-on-one support, helping struggling class members to make social and intellectual breakthroughs, not to speak of creating a healthy classroom community – simply fell by the wayside.

I couldn’t remember my students’ names, was unable to keep up with the usual grading and assessments we’re supposed to do, and was overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Worst of all, I was unable to provide the emotional support I normally try to give my students. I couldn’t listen because there wasn’t time.

On the drive to work, I was paralyzed by dread; on the drive home, cowed by feelings of failure. The experience of that year was demoralizing and humiliating. My love for my students, my passion for the subjects I teach, and ultimately my professional identity were all stripped from me. And what was lost for the students? Quality instruction and adult mentorship, as well as access to vital resources – not to mention a loss of faith in one of America’s supposedly bedrock institutions, the public school.

And keep in mind that what’s happening in my school and in Oregon’s schools more generally is anything but unique. According to the American Federation of Teachers, divestment in education is occurring in every single state in the nation, with 25 states spending less on education than they did before the recession of 2008. [SEE https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/decade-of-neglect-2018.pdf ] The refusal of individual states to prioritize spending on education coupled with the Trump administration’s proposed $7 billion in cuts to the Department of Education are already beginning to make the situation in our nation’s public schools untenable – for both students and teachers. [SEE https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-devos-testimony-st-0407-story.html ]
Sitting in that conference room, listening to my capable and dedicated boss describe our potential return to a distorted reality I remembered well made me recoil. Bracing myself for the soul-crushing grind of trying to convince students to buy into a system that will almost by definition fail to address, no less meet, their needs – to get them to show up each day even though there aren’t enough seats, supplies, or teachers to do the job – is an exercise in futility.
The truth of the matter is that a society that refuses to adequately invest in the education of its children is refusing to invest in the future. Think of it as nihilism on a grand scale.
Teachers as First Responders

Schools are loud, vital, chaotic places, unlike any other public space in America. Comprehensive public high schools reflect the socioeconomic, racial, religious, and cultural makeup of the population they serve. Each school has its own particular culture and ecosystem of rules, structures, core beliefs, and values. Each also has its own set of problems, specific to the population that walks through its doors each day. Coping with the complexity and magnitude of those problems makes the job of creating a thriving, equitable, and productive space for learning something akin to magical thinking. [SEE https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/01/what-school-funding-debates-ignore/551126/ ]

The reflexive blame now regularly heaped on schools, teachers, and students in this country is a misrepresentation of reality. The real reason we are being left behind our global peers when it comes to student achievement has to do with so much more than the failure to perform well on standardized tests. [SEE https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/  ]Our kids are struggling not because we’ve forgotten how to teach them or they’ve forgotten how to learn, but because the adults who run this society have largely decided that their collective future is not a priority. In reality, the tattered and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure of our national system of social services leaves schools and teachers as front-line first responders in what I’d call a national crisis of the soul. [SEE https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/3/11/18259789/trumps-2020-budget-proposal-cuts ]

So it’s no surprise to me that teachers, even in the reddest of states, have been walking out of their classrooms and demanding change. [SEE http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/red-for-ed-continues-where-teachers-are-set-to-strike-next.html  ]Such walkouts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia have reflected grievances more all-encompassing than the pleas for higher pay that have made the headlines. (And in so many states, they are still being paid less than a living wage.) [SEE http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/red-for-ed-continues-where-teachers-are-set-to-strike-next.html  ]Demands for just compensation are symbolic and easy for the public to grasp. The higher pay won through some of those walkouts represents an acknowledgement that teachers are being asked to do a seemingly impossible job in a society whose priorities are increasingly out of whack, amid the crumbling infrastructure of the public-school system itself.

The idea that the real world is somehow separate from the world inside our schools and that issues of inequality, poverty, mental health, addiction, and racism won’t impact the capacity of our students to thrive academically sets a dangerous precedent for measuring success. Assuming that the student living in a car, not a home, should be able to stay awake during a lecture, that the one returning from a week in a psychiatric ward should be able to instantly tackle a difficult math test, and that the one whose undocumented father was just picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers should have no problem concentrating as her teacher diagrams sentences in English is a grand delusion.

In fact, among the many demands of teachers and their unions during the strikes of the past year were calls for more financial support for comprehensive social services for students. [SEE https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2019/03/two_more_statewide_teacher_protests.html  ] In Los Angeles, teachers fought for legal support for students in danger of deportation. In North Carolina [SEE https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/01/why-los-angeles-teachers-are-striking/580360/ ], teachers are planning a new round of strikes that will, among other things, demand Medicaid coverage expansion aimed at improving student health. [SEE https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/04/10/historic-strikes-protests-by-teachers-around-country-arent-over/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.644d8e23dd53 ] In Chicago, teachers included a call for affordable housing in their negotiations and so drew attention to the importance of supporting students both in and out of the classroom. [SEE https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/04/10/historic-strikes-protests-by-teachers-around-country-arent-over/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.644d8e23dd53 ]
If schools are expected to pick up the slack for the gaping holes in our social safety net, it follows that they should be designed and funded with that purpose in mind.  If teachers are supposed not only to teach but to act as counselors, therapists, and social workers, they should be paid salaries that reflect such weighty demands and should have access to resources that support such work.
Why Prioritizing School Funding Matters
There is a large disconnect between the lip service paid to supporting public schools and teachers and a visible reticence to adequately fund them. [SEEabout:blank ]Ask almost anyone – save Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos – if they support teachers and schools and the answer is probably “yes.” [SEE https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/betsy-devos-and-the-plan-to-break-public-schools ] Bring up the question of how to actually provide adequate financial support for education, however, and you’ll quickly find yourself mired in arguments about wasteful school spending, pension funds that drain resources, sub-par teachers, and bureaucratic bloat, as well as claims that you can’t just continue to throw money at a problem, that money is not the solution.
I’d argue that money certainly is part of the solution. In a capitalist society, money represents value and power. In America, when you put money into something, you give it meaning. Students are more than capable of grasping that when school funding is being cut, it’s because we as a society have decided that investing in public education doesn’t carry enough value or meaning.
The prioritization of spending on the military, as well as the emphasis of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans on a staggering tax cut for the rich, corporate tax evasion, and the dismantling of what’s left of the social safety net couldn’t send a louder message about how much of a priority the well-being of the majority of this nation’s kids actually is. [SEE http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176391/tomgram%3A_william_hartung%2C_the_pentagon_budget_as_corporate_welfare_for_weapons_makers  AND  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/06/business/economy/retailers-property-tax-dark-stores.html  ]https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/corporate-tax-cuts-mainly-benefit-shareholders-and-ceos-not-workers ] The 2019 federal budget invested $716 billion in national security, $686 billion of which has been earmarked for the Department of Defense (with even more staggering figures expected next year). [SEE https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/fy2019_Press_Release.pdf ] Compare that to the $59.9 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education and the expected future cuts to its budget. Point made, no?
However, since federal school contributions add up to only a small percentage of local and state education budgets, all blame can’t go there. In Oregon, for instance, restrictions placed on property taxes in the 1990s artificially limited such revenue, forcing the state to start relying heavily on income taxes to keep schools afloat. [SEE https://www.ocpp.org/2018/08/01/property-tax-limits-weaken-services-oregon/ ] Corporations are an important source of income for states. Yet, though corporate profits in the U.S. rose by $69.3 billion to an all-time high of more than $2 trillion in the third quarter of 2018, over the last 40 years the states’ share of income-tax revenue has fallen to half what it was in the 1970s. [SEE https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/corporate-profits ]
Take Nike, whose worldwide headquarters are located only a few miles from the high school where I teach. It stands as a shining example of a corporation that has profited handsomely from sheltering income abroad while evading local tax responsibilities. [SEEhttps://itep.org/fact-sheet-nike-and-tax-avoidance/] Nike has a special relationship with the state of Oregon, which taxes only the company’s local profits, not those earned elsewhere. Adding insult to injury, according to The Oregonian, by the end of 2017, Nike had put $12.2 billion of its earnings into offshore tax shelters. [SEE https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/06/nike-tax-paradise-papers ] Had that money been repatriated, the company could have owed up to $4.1 billion in U.S. taxes, which means it has a modest hand in the monetary shortfalls that leave schools like mine in desperate straits.
In reality, Oregon’s economy is thriving and yet how little it all matters, since here we are again on the precipice of another crisis. [SEE https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/strong-oregon-economy-triggers-taxpayer-refund/ ]
In 1999, the state government formed a committee made up of educators, legislators, business leaders, and parents to create a reliable budgetary tool that would correlate school funding needs with student performance. This “Quality Education Model” set out a standard for what a “quality” education would look like for every student in Oregon. In the 20 years since then, the state legislature has reliably failed to meet the funding goals set out by that model. This year, it calls for $10.7 billion in education spending, while the state legislature’s joint ways and means committee recently released a budget that included spending of just $8.87 billion on the school system.[SEE https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/strong-oregon-economy-triggers-taxpayer-refund/  ] Such annual shortages of funds have, over time, helped create the present gaping hole in our public education system. And each year that hole grows larger.
Restoring Faith in Our Nation’s Institutions
Public schools represent one of the bedrock institutions of American democracy. Yet as a society we’ve stood aside as the very institutions that actually made America great were gutted and undermined by short-term thinking, corporate greed, and unconscionable disrespect for our collective future.

The truth is that there is money for education, for schools, for teachers, and for students. We just don’t choose to prioritize education spending and so send a loud-and-clear message to students that education doesn’t truly matter. And when you essentially defund education for more than 40 years, you leave kids with ever less faith in American institutions, which is a genuine tragedy.

On May 8, educators across the state of Oregon are planning to walk out of schools.  The action, a precursor to a strike, is a direct response to the inadequate funding in the upcoming state budget and a referendum on the continuing divestment in public education. Teachers like me will be stepping out of our classrooms not because we don’t want to teach, but because we do.
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Published in: on April 26, 2019 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Segregation in Baltimore

This is an editorial from the New York Times that pursues what I found earlier about segregation in DC and elsewhere.

How Racism Doomed Baltimore

 

Opinion

EDITORIAL

 

How Racism Doomed Baltimore

By The Editorial Board

May 9, 2015

 

The Baltimore riots threw a spotlight on the poverty and isolation of the African-American community where the unrest began last month. The problems were underscored on Friday when the Justice Department, in response to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s request, started an investigation of the Police Department, which has an egregious history of brutality and misconduct.

 

Other cities are plagued by the same difficulties, but they have proved especially intractable in Baltimore. A new study from Harvard offers evidence that Baltimore is perhaps the worst large city in the country when measured by a child’s chances of escaping poverty.

 

The city’s racially segregated, deeply poor neighborhoods cast an especially long shadow over the lives of low-income boys. For example, those who grew up in recent decades in Baltimore earn 28 percent less at age 26 than otherwise similar kids who grew up in an average county in the United States.

 

As shocking as they are, these facts make perfect sense in the context of the century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers, all of whom worked to quarantine black residents in ghettos, making it difficult even for people of means to move into integrated areas that offered better jobs, schools and lives for their children. This happened in cities all over the country, but the segregationist impulse in Maryland generally was particularly virulent and well-documented in Baltimore, which is now 63 percent black.

 

A Southern City

 

Americans might think of Maryland as a Northern state, but it was distinctly Southern in its attitudes toward race. In the first decade of the 20th century, for example, the Legislature approved amendments to the State Constitution to deny the vote to black citizens. Voters rejected these amendments, not out of sympathy for civil rights, but because of suspicion that the political machine would use disenfranchisement to gain a stranglehold over state politics.

 

The segregationist effort in Baltimore gained momentum in 1910, shortly after a Yale-educated black lawyer bought a house in the well-heeled Mount Royal section of the city. The uproar among whites led to an ordinance that partitioned the city into black blocks and white blocks: No black person could occupy a home on a block where more than half the people were white; no white person could move into a block where more than half the residents were black. In 1910, The New York Times described this as “the most pronounced ‘Jim Crow’ measure on record.”

When the courts overturned the ordinance, the city adopted a strategy, already successful in Chicago, under which building and health department inspectors lodged code violations against owners who ignored the apartheid rule. Civic leaders then imposed restrictive covenants that barred black residents.

 

‘House Not For Sale’

 

The Federal Housing Administration, created in 1934 by Congress to promote homeownership by insuring private mortgages, could have staved off housing segregation by enforcing a nondiscrimination policy. Instead, as the historian Kenneth Jackson explained in “Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States,” the agency reflected “the racist tradition of the United States.” It insisted on a rigid, white-black separation in housing. It openly supported racist covenants that largely excluded African-Americans — even the middle class and well-to-do — from the homeownership boom that took place between the 1930s and the 1960s. And it typically denied mortgages to black residents wherever they lived.

 

As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote last year in The Atlantic, this policy meant that the federal government had endorsed a system of financial apartheid under which “whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport.”

 

African-Americans who were cut off from legitimate bank mortgages paid a price. But the penalty was especially high in Chicago and Baltimore, where laws allowed the worst kinds of financial predation. Black buyers often resorted to what was known as the contract system, run by sellers who were the subprime sharks of their time. They rigged up ruinously priced installment plans and financial booby traps with the express aim of repossessing the home when the buyer missed even one payment and then selling it again. To meet the outrageous costs, borrowers sometimes subdivided apartments and skimped on repairs, allowing properties to fall into decay.

 

The system accelerated urban decline and ghettoization. It also prevented a generation of black citizens from gaining the wealth that typically flows from homeownership. Writing of Baltimore just last month, Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, argued that “the distressed condition of African-American working- and lower-middle-class families” in Maryland’s largest city and elsewhere “is almost entirely attributable to federal policy that prohibited black families from accumulating housing equity during the suburban boom that moved white families into single-family homes from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s — and thus from bequeathing that wealth to their children and grandchildren, as white suburbanites have done.”

 

Trapped in the Neighborhood

 

Segregation that traps black families in dangerous, decrepit neighborhoods continues to be an issue in Baltimore. As recently as 2012, for example, the United States District Court in Maryland approved a settlement in the long-running public housing desegregation suit, Thompson v. HUD, which sought to eradicate 100 years of government-sponsored segregation in the Baltimore region. The settlement called for expanding a housing mobility program that helps black residents move to low-poverty neighborhoods that are racially integrated in the city and surrounding region.

 

Against this backdrop, the data showing diminished life chances for poor people living in Baltimore should not be startling. The tensions associated with segregation and concentrated poverty place many cities at risk of unrest. But the acute nature of segregation in Baltimore — and the tools that were developed to enforce it over such a long period of time — have left an indelible mark and given that city a singular place in the country’s racial history.

 

A version of this article appears in print on May 10, 2015, on Page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: How Racism Doomed Baltimore.

Published in: on April 19, 2019 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

We’re Number One! (Or Else, We Are Tied for #1)

Folks like me who do not associate with any religion, are apparently now either the largest group in America or are statistically tied with Evangelicals. Here’s a graph where I colored the ‘No Religion’ plot as deep, thick purple. If this is correct, then the rise of us ‘nones’ has been amazing, as has been the decline of the ‘mainline’ protestants.

no religion is now number 1 (or tied)

The GSS is the General Social Survey out of the University of Chicago. You can look up the data for yourself at this link or else at this one. A professor by the name of Ryan Burge crunched the numbers and you can see his twitter page here.

(Obviously if you combine all Christian groups into one bucket, they far outnumber the Nones, but you can also argue that the policy differences between the various Christian sects are actually very large.)

Published in: on April 15, 2019 at 9:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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Did Restrictive Racial Housing Covenants in America Begin in Washington, DC?

I knew that my block of Randolph Street in NE DC at one point had legal, racially exclusive covenants built into the deeds of the houses, stating that the houses could never be purchased or rented by blacks, Jews, or Mexicans. I was glad that such restrictions have been swept away.

However, I didn’t realize that DC was sort of an epicenter of such racial redistributing and oppression of disfavored minorities. This article, which I found on the Ward 5 list-serve, takes the case of nearby Bloomingdale and shows how that nasty social cancer was developed and spread, with the government and white businessmen at all levels fostering it.
Kudos to the African-American folks who fought against it. It is sad that so many white folks agreed with this sort of nasty business for so long and failed to protest it alongside black people.
https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/racially-restrictive-covenants-bloomingdale/

A quote from that article:

During the first half of the 20th century, the number of areas in which black people could live in D.C. shrank as new whites-only housing, playgrounds, and schools were developed. The growth of the federal government, and corresponding demand for new buildings and infrastructure, added to the problem.

Washington had not always been so spatially segregated. In fact, African American and white families had often lived in close proximity to one another throughout the 19th century, especially within the city’s urban core and in neighborhoods along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. However, the city grew increasingly divided along racial lines through a series of city planning efforts.[4] D.C. did not legally assign neighborhoods to one racial group or another—a policy introduced in Baltimore in 1911 and copied by more than a dozen cities across the upper South—but nearly the same thing was accomplished by other means.[5]

 

By the way, my Brookland neighbor Jim Loewen is mentioned in the article: he wrote perhaps the best book in existence showing how “sundown towns” like Greenbelt and Chevy Chase were developed.
From another paper:
In its 1948 decision, Shelley v. Kramer, the U.S. Supreme Court held that racially restrictive covenants could not be enforced, but the practice of inserting such covenants into title documents remained common. Finally, in 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act made the practice of writing racial covenants into deeds illegal. However, nearly seventy years after Shelley and 60 years after the Fair Housing Act, racially restrictive covenants remain common features of deeds. This may be for several reasons. First, since covenants run with the land, they become part of the land title in perpetuity. Second, the process to remove covenants is expensive and time-consuming. Third, the majority of owners may not be aware that their properties are subject to racially restrictive covenants.
You are probably aware that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue began his career in real estate by enforcing the racist housing practices of his racist father.

Kentucky Wildcat Strike?

From : Schools Matter website

Kentucky Teachers Strike as Union Leaders Sit on Hands

Posted: 20 Mar 2019 08:32 AM PDT

The continuing waves of job actions across the country demonstrate the irrelevance of AFT and NEA top-heavy and top-down misleadership.  As Kentucky teachers and parents plan an execute sick-outs to shut down schools in protest of a toxic package of state legislation to rob schools and crush teacher voices, the union misleaders continue to urge teachers to go to work and, instead of striking, to send a delegation of beggars to the state capital to “lobby” corporate legislators.   Teachers are not having it.

From Nation of Change:

Don’t call what Kentucky teachers just did a “wildcat” labor action, at least not when you’re speaking with Tim Hall. Hall, a classroom teacher at Shawnee High School in Louisville, answered my phone call as he was driving to the state capitol in Frankfort to protest the latest slate of education-related bills being considered in the legislature. He and hundreds of other teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district that includes Louisville, called in sick, prompting the district to close schools for over 100,000 students. 

Hundreds of those teachers joined Hall at the state capitol. It was the third time in a week and the second day in a row that enough JCPS teachers called out sick to trigger a full district shutdown. The sick-out spread to four other districts that also had to close. But neither the state teachers’ union nor the local union for Jefferson County had anything to do with organizing the action. In fact, union leaders urged teachers to show up for work, preferring instead to have districts send small teams of teachers to lobby state lawmakers. 

Yet Hall bristled at using “wildcat” to describe what JCPS teachers were doing. “I don’t like that word,” he said. “I think our concerns are reflective of teachers not only in JCPS but also across the state.” 

The Kentucky teachers’ actions are the latest in what has become a wave of teachers using their collective power to influence legislation in state governments, but the sick-out in Kentucky is also a sign of how teacher protests are evolving. 

Teachers who once saw labor actions as effective tactical responses to attacks on their financial well-being are now understanding that their labor power is part of a broader strategy to even the playing field in a political landscape that is increasingly unequal. And there’s strong evidence they’re having an impact. 

Teacher strikes are evolving 

The teachers, joined by parents and other public education activists, organized the sick-out action on social media sites including the Facebook page for JCPS Leads, which Hall helps facilitate. Teachers went back to work at one point, but then extended their protest to a fourth, fifth, and then a sixth day to ensure controversial bills were killed in the legislature. 

The roots of this year’s labor action are in last year’s statewide strike when teachers closed schools across the Bluegrass State to protest a new pension bill that would have put retirement earnings for new teachers at greater risk and shortchanged retirees and senior teachers. This year’s sick-out is different. 

First, teachers have a much broader array of targets for their protests. “We want a whole package of bills voted down,” Hall explained. 

Once again, a threat to teachers’ pensions, House Bill 525, has stirred the teachers’ ire because it would reduce the participation of educators on the state employee pension board. But two other bills go beyond wage-and-benefits grievances: House Bill 205 that would establish a statewide school voucher program giving tax breaks to those who donate to private school scholarships for special-needs and low-income students, and Senate Bill 250 that would take school principal hiring decisions away from local, site-based committees, which include teachers, and give the district superintendent sole responsibility for the hiring process – the bill applies to JCPS only. 

Hall sees all three bills as attacks on democracy. “They’re about taking away our ability to collaborate on how our schools operate,” he said. By removing educators from the pension board, ramping up a statewide voucher program, and undermining teachers’ influence on principal hiring, teachers are being pushed further out to the periphery of decision making, he explained, and in turn, are less able to make their voices heard as advocates for their schools and their students.

Also, there’s a good reason why Jefferson County teachers are taking it upon themselves to lead the labor action and go it alone in speaking out for their colleagues elsewhere in the state. Not only is JCPS the only district affected by the bill to change principal hiring; JCPS is also the only district currently under threat of state takeover. Proponents of charter schools and vouchers are generally seen as the most ardent backers of the takeover effort. 

And Hall and other teachers see all three bills as efforts to further undermine their participation in governance of their schools and usher in more state control and privatization of schools. 

A movement about democracy 

In taking their demands beyond economic grievances to include issues of governance and local community voice, the Kentucky teachers are joining a strong new trend in the teacher movement. 

When West Virginia teachers walked off the job last year and started what’s become known as RedForEd, they generally made wages and benefits the core of their grievances. But in their labor action this year, West Virginia teachers expanded their protests to include issues with privatization, specifically, to fight new legislation that would take public money from traditional districts and use it for charter schools and for private and religious school tuition. 

Also this year, teachers in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, made opposition to the unchecked growth of charter schools and their lack of transparency and accountability a centerpiece of the unions’ demands. 

Education journalists and “experts” have noticed this trend and described it as mostly a battle over funding for public schools vs. charter schools, voucher programs, and other forms of privatization. But that misses the broader argument teachers make that all education mandates that stem from top-down authority and big money interests are meant to rob teachers of having a voice in how schools are governed. 

Teachers are making RedForEd a fight not just for funding but also for political power. 

Teacher strikes work 

There’s evidence that the teachers’ change in strategy will work. 

Last year’s RedForEd protests clearly affected state legislation where the protests occurred. According to a new analysis, in four states where teachers walked off the job, state legislatures responded by increasing baseline state funding for schools by 3-19 percent. 

This year, teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland led to calls from local governments for moratoriums on new charters and increased regulation of the industry. In response, California state lawmakers acted with “lightning speed” to enact new laws that require more transparency in charter school operations. 

How successful were the Kentucky teachers? As of this writing, on the final day of the legislative session, two of the three bills teachers targeted in their protests appear to be dead – the bill restructuring the state pension board and the bill creating a statewide school voucher program. The bill targeting the principal hiring process in JCPS appears to have passed in both chambers and will likely be signed by Governor Matt Bevin. 

Two out of three is not a bad batting average in a “red state” where Republicans hold a trifecta of strong majorities in both branches of the state legislature and the governor’s seat. And should the dead bills come back to life, Hall assures me, or similar bills spring up, teachers will return to the capitol. 

“We’re tired of being unsupported and messed with,” he said. “Teachers want to have fair ways for us to ensure the public education system continues to provide access to well-supported schools for

Published in: on March 20, 2019 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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