“Slaying Goliath” by Diane Ravitch

I wish I could write half as well as, or as much as, Diane Ravitch manages to do, every single day. I also admire her dedication to fighting the billionaires who have been dictating education policy in the USA for quite some time.

If you are reading this post, you are no doubt aware that only ten years ago, Ravitch did a 180-degree turn on major education issues, admitted she had been wrong on a number of points, and became one of the major forces fighting against the disruptive education-privatization agenda of the billionaires.

Since that time, she has been documenting on her blog, several times a day, nearly every day, the utter failures of the extremely wealthy amateurs who have been claiming to ‘reform’ education, but who have instead merely been disrupting it and failing to achieve any of the goals that they confidently predicted would be won, even using their own yard-sticks.

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I found DR’s most recent book (pictured above) to be an excellent history of the past 37 years wherein certain billionaires, and their well-paid acolytes, have claimed that the American public school system is a total failure and needed to be torn down and rebuilt through these steps:

  1. Pretending that American students were at one point the highest-scoring ones on the planet (which has NEVER been true) and that the fact that they currently score at middling levels on international tests like PISA is a cause for national alarm;
  2. Claiming that student family poverty does not cause lower student achievement (however measured), but the reverse: that the schools that have students from poor and non-white populations are the CAUSE of that poverty and low achievement;
  3. Fraudulently assuming that huge fractions of teachers are not only incompetent but actively oppress their students (particularly the poor, the brown, and the black) and need to be fired en masse (as they were in New Orleans, Rhode Island, and Washington, DC);
  4. Micromanaging teachers in various ways, including by forcing all states to adopt a never-tested and largely incomprehensible ‘Common Core’ curriculum and demanding that all teachers follow scripted lessons in lockstep;
  5. ‘Measuring’ the productivity of teachers through arcane and impenetrable ‘Value-Added’ schemes that were devised for dairy cows;
  6. Mass firings of certified teachers, particularly African-American ones (see #2) and replacing them either with untrained, mostly-white newbies from Teach for America or with computers;
  7. Requiring public and charter schools (but not vouchers) to spend ever-larger fractions of their classroom time on test prep instead of real learning;
  8. Turning billions of public funds over to wealthy amateurs (and con artists) with no educational experience to set up charter schools and voucher schools with no real accountability — the very worst ones being the online charter schools.

One great aspect of this book is that Ravitch points out how

  1. All of those claims and ‘solutions’ have failed (for example, a study in Texas showed charter schools had no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings (p. 82);
  2. Teachers, parents, students, and ordinary community members have had a good deal of success in fighting back.

I will conclude with a number of quotes from the book in random colors.

“How many more billions will be required to lift charter school enrollment to 10 percent? [It’s now about 5 percent] And why is it worth the investment, given that charter schools, unless they cherry-pick their students, are no more successful than public schools are and often far worse? Why should the federal government spend nearly half a billion dollars on charter schools that may never open when there are so many desperately underfunded public schools?” (p. 276-277)

“Any movement controlled by billionaires is guaranteed […] to preserve the status quo while offering nothing more than the illusion of change.” (p. 281)

“There is no “Reform movement.” The Disrupters never tried to reform public schools. They wanted to disrupt and privatize the public schools that Americans have relied on for generations. They wanted to put public school funding in private hands. They wanted to short-circuit democracy. They wanted to cripple, not improve, the public schools. They wanted to replace a public service with a free market.” (p. 277)

“Our current education policy is madness. It is madness to destroy public education in pursuit of zany libertarian goals. It is madness to use public funds to put young children into religious schools where they will learn religious doctrine instead of science. It is madness to hand public money over to unaccountable entrepreneurs who want to open a school but refuse to be held to high ethical standards or to be held accountable for its finances and its performance. It is madness to ignore nepotism, self-dealing, and conflicts of interest. We sacrifice our future as a nation if we continue on this path of de-professionalizing our schools and turning them over to businessmen, corporate chains, grifters, and well-meaning amateurs. We sacrifice our children and our grandchildren if we continue to allow them to be guinea pigs in experiments whose negative results are clear.” (p. 281)

Ravitch proposes a number of things that billionaires could do that would be more helpful than what they are currently doing. She suggests [I’m quoting but shortening her list, found on page 280] that the billionaires could …

  • pay their share of taxes to support well-resourced public schools.
  • open health clinics to serve needy communities and make sure that all families and children have regular medical checkups.
  • underwrite programs to ensure that all pregnant women have medical care and that all children have nutritious meals each day.
  • subsidize after-school programs where children get exercise, play, dramatics, and tutoring.
  • rebuild the dramatics programs and performance spaces in every school.
  • lobby their state legislatures to fund schools fairly, to reduce class sizes, and to enable every school to have the teachers, teaching assistants, social services, librarians, nurses, counselors, books, and supplies it needs.
  • create mental health clinics and treatment centers for those addicted to drugs.
  • underwrite programs based on “the Kalamazoo Promise.”
  • They could emulate the innovative public school that basketball star leBron James subsidized in Akron, Ohio.

She also quotes Paymon Rouhanifard, who was a “prominent member of the Disruption establishment [who] denounced standardized testing when he stepped down as superintendent of the Camden, New Jersey, public schools […]. He had served as a high-level official on Joel Klein’s team in New York City […] Upon his arrival of the impoverished Camden district [….] he developed school report cards to rank every school mainly by test scores. But before he left, he abolished the school report cards.” She quotes him directly: “[…] most everybody in this room wouldn’t tolerate what I described for their own children’s school. Mostly affluent, mostly white schools shy away from heavy testing, and as a result, they are literally receiving an extra month of instruction […] The basic rule, what we would want for our own children, should apply to all kids.” (p.271)

“Disrupters have used standardized testing to identify and take over or close schools with low scores, but they disregard standardized testing when it reveals the failure of charters and vouchers. Disrupters no longer claim that charter schools and inexperienced recruits from Teach for America will miraculously raise test scores. After three decades of trying, they have not been successful.

“Nothing that the Disrupters have championed has succeeded unless one counts as ‘success’ closing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of community public schools in low-income neighborhoods. Ths Disrupters have succeeded in demoralizing teachers and reducing the number of people entering the teaching profession. They have enriched entrepreneurs who have opened charter schools or developed shoddy new products and services to sell to schools. They have enhanced the bottom line of large testing corporations. Their fling with the Common Core cost states billions of dollars to implement but had no effect on national or international test scores and outraged many parents, child advocates, lovers of literature, and teachers. “

Fortunately, the resistance to this has been having a fair amount of success, including the massive teacher strikes in state after state. As Ravitch writes (p. 266):

“The teachers taught the nation a lesson.

“But more than that, they taught themselves a lesson. They united, they demanded to be heard, and they got respect. That was something that the Disrupters had denied them for almost twenty years. Teachers learned that in unity there is strength.”

 

 

What will happen to Trump’s collaborators?

I found this extremely well-written piece, by a well-known NYT writer who also happened to be in my junior high school homeroom here in DC, in the Daily Intelligencer. I certainly hope he is right that they will land in the cesspool of history. But in actual fact, many criminals do get away with virtually everything, and no, I did not ask Frank’s permission permission before reprinting this.

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What Will Happen to The Trump Toadies?

Look to Nixon’s defenders, and the Vichy collaborators, for clues.

By Frank Rich  ( @frankrichny )

Irony, declared dead after 9/11, is alive and kicking in Trump’s America. It’s the concepts of truth and shame that are on life support. The definition of “facts” has been so thoroughly vandalized that Americans can no longer agree on what one is, and our president has barreled through so many crimes and misdemeanors with so few consequences that it’s impossible to gainsay his claim that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Donald Trump proves daily that there is no longer any penalty for doing wrong as long as you deny everything, never say you’re sorry, and have co-conspirators stashed in powerful places to put the fix in.

No wonder so many fear that Trump will escape his current predicament scot-free, with a foregone acquittal at his impeachment trial in the GOP-controlled Senate and a pull-from-behind victory in November, buoyed by a booming economy, fractious Democrats, and a stacked Electoral College. The enablers and apologists who have facilitated his triumph over the rule of law happily agree. John Kennedy, the Louisiana senator who parrots Vladimir Putin’s talking points in his supine defense of Trump, acts as if there will never be a reckoning. While he has no relation to the president whose name he incongruously bears, his every craven statement bespeaks a confidence that history will count him among the knights of the buffet table in the gilded Mar-a-Lago renovation of Camelot. He is far from alone.

If we can extricate ourselves even briefly from our fatalistic fog, however, we might give some credence to a wider view. For all the damage inflicted since Inauguration Day 2017, America is still standing, a majority of Americans disapprove of Trump, and the laws of gravity, if not those of the nation, remain in full force. Moral gravity may well reassert its pull, too, with time. Rather than being the end of American history as we know it, the Trump presidency may prove merely a notorious chapter in that history. Heedless lapdogs like Kennedy, Devin Nunes, and Lindsey Graham are acting now as if there is no tomorrow, but tomorrow will come eventually, whatever happens in the near future, and Judgment Day could arrive sooner than they think. That judgment will be rendered by an ever-more demographically diverse America unlikely to be magnanimous toward cynical politicians who prioritized pandering to Trump’s dwindling all-white base over the common good.

All cults come to an end, often abruptly, and Trump’s Republican Party is nothing if not a cult. While cult leaders are generally incapable of remorse — whether they be totalitarian rulers, sexual Svengalis, or the self-declared messiahs of crackpot religions — their followers almost always pay a human and reputational price once the leader is toppled. We don’t know how and when Donald Trump will exit, but under any scenario it won’t be later than January 20, 2025. Even were he to be gone tomorrow, the legacy of his most powerful and servile collaborators is already indelibly bound to his.

Whether these enablers joined his administration in earnest, or aided and abetted it from elite perches in politics, Congress, the media, or the private sector, they will be remembered for cheering on a leader whose record in government (thus far) includes splitting up immigrant families and incarcerating their children in cages; encouraging a spike in racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic vigilantes; leveraging American power to promote ethnic cleansing abroad and punish political opponents at home; actively inciting climate change and environmental wreckage; and surrendering America’s national security to an international rogue’s gallery of despots.

That selective short list doesn’t take into account any new White House felonies still to come, any future repercussions here and abroad of Trump’s actions to date, or any previous foul deeds that have so far eluded public exposure. For all the technological quickening of the media pulse in this century, Trump’s collaborators will one day be viewed through the long lens of history like Nixon’s collaborators before them and the various fools, opportunists, and cowards who tried to appease Hitler in America, England, and France before that. Once Trump has vacated the Oval Office, and possibly for decades thereafter, his government, like any other deposed strongman’s, will be subjected to a forensic colonoscopy to root out buried crimes, whether against humanity or the rule of law or both. With time, everything will come out — it always does. With time, the ultimate fates of those brutalized immigrant and refugee families will emerge in full. And Trump’s collaborators, our Vichy Republicans, will own all of it — whether they were active participants in the wrongdoing like Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Kirstjen Nielsen, Mike Pompeo, and William Barr, or the so-called adults in the room who stood idly by rather than sound public alarms for the good of the Republic (e.g., Gary Cohn, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson), or those elite allies beyond the White House gates who pretended not to notice administration criminality and moral atrocities in exchange for favors like tax cuts and judicial appointments (from Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr.).

Such Trump collaborators are kidding themselves if they think that post-Trump image-laundering through “good works” or sheer historical amnesia will cleanse their names of the Trump taint as easily as his residential complexes in Manhattan have shed their Trump signage. A century of history — and not just American history — says otherwise.

To take two examples from the Nixon era, the White House criminals Charles Colson and Jeb Stuart Magruder both found God and dedicated themselves to ministries after doing time for Watergate-related crimes. (They were among 69 charged and 25 imprisoned.) But you won’t find their ostentatious efforts at spiritual redemption at the top of their Wikipedia entries or referenced more than fleetingly in the vast Nixon-Watergate literature. Nixon lackeys who did nothing illegal generally fared no better: The New Jersey congressman Charles Sandman, a House Judiciary Committee impeachment holdout until a few days before Nixon’s resignation, lost a seat he had held since 1966 in the subsequent 1974 midterms (48 other GOP members of Congress were wiped out as well) and would wind up the decade dishing out steamed crabs at a joint on the Jersey shore and losing a jury trial on the charge of slandering a police officer. When a Senate counterpart, Ed Gurney of Florida, a vocal Nixon defender on Sam Ervin’s Watergate Committee, died in 1996, his family tried to keep his death a secret, presumably to avoid renewed attention to his past.

Some Nixon loyalists on Capitol Hill escaped oblivion — most notably the Mississippi congressman Trent Lott, from a district that had voted 87 percent for Nixon in 1972 (Nixon’s strongest in the nation). So did some White House flacks well removed from Watergate like Pat Buchanan and Diane Sawyer. Others, prefiguring Sean Spicer’s debasement on Dancing With the Stars, landed B-list (and lower) media gigs: The Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy appeared on television’s Miami Vice and MacGyver, and a ditzy Jesuit speechwriter prominent in the White House spin offensive, John McLaughlin, found a secular throne for himself at an odious Beltway chatfest, The McLaughlin Group, after abandoning the priesthood. Like their Trump counterparts, countless Watergate principals wrote tell-all books, many of them best sellers, running the gamut from H. R. Haldeman’s The Ends of Power to John Ehrlichman’s Witness to Power.

But there aren’t any die-hard Nixon supporters in either chamber of Congress who are now remembered as patriots, no matter what else they did with their careers before, during, or after his presidency. The figures who live on are those like Ervin and Judge Sirica, who brought Nixon to justice, and, as the historian David Greenberg has noted, “those loyalists who abandoned Nixon early, when it mattered.”

HuffPost reported in 2017 that the Trump Justice Department took down the portrait of one of the few heroes who stood up to Nixon’s abuses of power from within his administration, Attorney General Elliot Richardson. Whether Richardson’s deaccession was an act of denial, gallows humor, or a conscious or subconscious admission of guilt, it was an impotent gesture — not least because Watergate has with time proved an inadequate analogy for Trump’s metastasizing scandals. The stench of disrepute that will cling to Trump’s collaborators is likely to exceed the posthumous punishment of Nixon’s dead-enders for the simple reason that Nixon’s White House horrors weren’t in the same league.

You don’t have to be a card-carrying fascist to collaborate; you just have to be morally bankrupt and self-serving.

In both cases, impeachment was driven by the revelations of illegal efforts to sabotage a rival presidential candidate and the ensuing cover-ups. But the gravity of the specifics differ by several orders of magnitude. The cash that Nixon & Co. tapped to fund the break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters (and the subsequent hush money to the burglars) came from his own donors; Trump, by contrast, sought to bankroll his effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens by appropriating nearly $400 million in Congress-mandated foreign aid paid for by taxpayers. And while the Nixon White House hired freelance bumblers to spy on the Democrats, Trump commandeered a cabal of Cabinet officers, diplomats, and Rudy Giuliani–recruited thugs to try to muscle the head of state of a foreign ally into doing his bidding.

The disproportionality between Trump’s history and Nixon’s hardly ends there. Trump is not Hitler, but some of his actions, starting with his repeated, barely coded endorsements of white supremacists, suggest it’s not for want of trying. Nixon and his vice-president, Spiro Agnew, exploited racial resentments and backlash to the civil-rights movement to attract bigots to the GOP through a new “southern strategy.” Ugly as that was (and is), it pales next to Trump and his campaign’s explicit alignment with those “fine people” who stir hate, bullying, and incendiary alt-right conspiracy theories into an inflammatory dark-web brew. However much Trump’s courtiers try to compartmentalize, they can’t separate themselves from his flirtations with neo-Nazis.

Nor can Trump’s enablers escape the stain of his alliances with murderous neo-Hitlers and neo-Stalins in Russia, Syria, Turkey, Hungary, Brazil, and North Korea. Whatever else is to be said about Nixon, not for a second would he have favored the worldview and national interests of a strongman like Putin over that of America and its allies, or taken Putin’s word as a former KGB agent over that of America’s own intelligence agencies. It’s this aspect of Trumpian rule that sinks to depths previously unfathomable for an American president and makes Trump’s collaborators look less like the corrupt government bureaucrats and hacks of All the President’s Men and more like the traitorous elites who wittingly or idiotically enabled Hitler in the 1930s.

The notion of Vichy Republicans is hardly hyperbole. Christopher R. Browning, an American historian of the Holocaust and World War II–era Europe, wrote in the New York Review of Books in 2018 that those who rationalized their original support for Trump on the grounds of “Better Trump than Hillary” — and are now reupping for 2020 — are channeling those on the right who proclaimed “Better Hitler than Blum” in France in the 1930s. Such Frenchmen, Browning writes, went so far as to empower their country’s “traditional national enemy across the Rhine” and its Nazi dictator rather than reelect the sitting prime minister, Léon Blum, a Jewish socialist who would have preserved French democracy. (In defeat, Blum would become an opponent of Vichy and end up in Buchenwald.)

Make no mistake: The current “Better Trump than Warren” (or Sanders) crowd is repeating this history. Their credo might as well be “Better Putin, Erdogan, and Assad than Warren,” for Trump is serving as an unabashed proxy for our present-day mini-Hitlers while simultaneously trying to transform American democracy into an Ultimate Fighting Championship ring of chaos, corruption, and dysfunction. Prominent Trump supporters like Kennedy, of course, fiercely deny that they are pro-Putin (even though the president himself never has), but that doesn’t vitiate the real-world consequence that by standing with Trump, they are advancing the interests of Russia even as it conducts cyberwar against their own country and threatens some of the same American allies Hitler did.

You don’t have to be a card-carrying fascist to collaborate with fascists and help them seize power; you just have to be morally bankrupt and self-serving. As the authoritative American historian of Vichy France, Robert O. Paxton, has pointed out, it was only “a rather small minority” of France’s wartime collaborators who were motivated by an actual “ideological sympathy with Nazism and Fascism” to go along with the Nazi puppet regime fronted by Marshal Philippe Pétain in Vichy. A more widespread incentive was “personal gain.” Others rationalized their complicity by persuading themselves they were acting in the “national interest.” It would be no surprise if that distribution of motivations persists among Trump collaborators today. Such backers as the financier Stephen Schwarzman and New York real-estate titans like Stephen Ross of Hudson Yards no doubt congratulate themselves on acting in the “national interest” while pocketing personal gains measured in either political influence or on a profit-and-loss statement.

In France, such ostensible moral distinctions among collaborators were rendered moot in the long-delayed and gruesome postwar reckoning. All roads led to the same destination: Starting in 1942, Vichy shipped some 76,000 Jews in mass deportations to their doom. The exiled were mostly foreign refugees, Paxton writes, who had previously “relied upon traditional French hospitality.” Their blood was on every collaborator’s hands. The collaborators’ common postwar defense — that things would have been far worse if they had not been working on the inside — was repurposed by the Trump official responsible for the brutal treatment of immigrants who had relied upon traditional American humanity. “John F. Kelly Says His Tenure As Trump’s Chief of Staff Is Best Measured by What the President Did Not Do” read the headline of the exit interview he gave the Los Angeles Times. Good luck with that in the long-term court of public opinion. France wrestled with Vichy’s legacy for decades before 1995, when the French president Jacques Chirac abjured denial and officially confirmed his nation’s complicity in the wholesale deportation of Jews.

If you look back at the elite figures who lent their clout and prestige to clearing Hitler’s path before or during World War II, it’s striking how such folly and inhumanity remains immutable across national boundaries and centuries. The amalgam of nationalism, isolationism, and nativism embraced by Trump shares its DNA not just with the Pétainists of France but Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement cohort in England and America First, the movement whose name Trump appropriated without (of course) knowing what it was. America First, though originating as a campus-centric peace campaign, was hijacked by a rancid mob of Hitler acolytes and peace-at-any-price dupes that included, most famously, Charles Lindbergh. Many of these Hitler enablers had elaborate rationalizations for their actions that mirror those of Trump’s highest-profile shills today. Robert Taft, the hard-right isolationist senator from Ohio, wrote the script for Better Trump than Hillary–ism nearly a century ago: America should not go to war with Germany, he argued, because “there is a good deal more danger of the infiltration of totalitarian ideas from the New Deal circles in Washington than there will ever be from the activities of the … Nazis.”

Another parallel is exemplified by the Trump collaborator and donor Gordon Sondland, even now, somehow, still the ambassador to the European Union. He’s a zhlubby discount-rack answer to Joseph Kennedy, a far more successful and clever mogul who served as Franklin Roosevelt’s ambassador to the U.K. from 1937 to 1940. Until FDR shut him down, Kennedy tried to conduct a rogue foreign policy to advance Chamberlain’s appeasement efforts to the point of counseling the Nazis that they could get away with brutalizing Jews if they would just do so with less “loud clamor.” Much as Sondland, Trump, and Giuliani thought nothing of leaving Ukraine vulnerable to Putin’s aggression by holding back military aid, so Kennedy thought that Hitler should be free to conquer expendable smaller countries in Eastern Europe. “I can’t for the life of me understand why anybody would want to go to war to save the Czechs,” he wrote in a draft of a speech before the White House nixed it. As went the Czechs then, so have gone the Ukrainians and Kurds today.

The antecedents for Trumpist enablers from the tycoon sector both within and outside the White House — Cohn, Schwarzman, Steven Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, et al. — can be found in those now-vilified captains of 1930s American industry who were prime movers in various back-channel schemes to appease Hitler. The America First Committee’s members included Henry Ford, an unabashed anti-Semite who was name-checked admiringly in Mein Kampf, and Avery Brundage, an Illinois construction magnate and president of the U.S. Olympic Committee who bent to Hitler’s will by yanking the only two Jewish competitors on an American team in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin. James Mooney, the General Motors overseas president in charge of its European operations and another America First committeeman, took it upon himself to do his own Giuliani-Sondland-like shadow diplomacy by securing face-to-face meetings with Hermann Göring as well as Hitler. He claimed to be seeking peace, but had he succeeded, he would have facilitated Germany’s conquest of Europe much as Trump and his supplicants have been green-lighting the imperial designs of Russia and Turkey.

These businessmen’s machinations did not bring about peace in their time but did bring financial quid pro quos that fattened their bottom lines. Hitler’s regime gave Brundage’s company the commission to build its new embassy in Washington. More than a half-century after V-E Day, researchers confirmed that Ford and GM’s German operations had manufactured armaments for the Nazi war machine, sometimes with slave labor. Alfred P. Sloan, the longtime GM chairman, explained his philosophy: “An international business operating throughout the world should conduct its operations in strictly business terms, without regard to the political beliefs of its management, or the political beliefs of the countries in which it is operating.” Surely Jared Kushner, Mnuchin, and Schwarzman couldn’t have put it any better as they cavorted with Mohammed bin Salman at his investment conference in Riyadh in October, a year after the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. As with Ford, Brundage, Mooney, and the rest, any loot they accrued in exchange for their pact with the Devil will be unearthed in good time.

While some Hitler appeasers faced swift retribution — FDR shut down Joseph Kennedy’s personal political ambitions for good — others would get their due later. In 1998, nearly four decades after his death, Mooney would at last face an accounting: Newly discovered documents, triggered in part by litigation on behalf of Holocaust survivors, would show, as the Washington Post put it, that in consultation with Göring, “he was involved in the partial conversion of the principal GM automobile plant at Rüsselsheim to production of engines and other parts for the Junker ‘Wunderbomber,’ a key weapon in the German air force.”

One imagines that high-toned Trump collaborators deplore Khashoggi’s murder (though not when in Saudi Arabia). And they may (privately) roll their eyes at Trump’s palling around with bigots. For heaven’s sake, some of them are Jewish themselves, and so is the First Daughter! But America First also claimed to be foursquare against anti-Semitism, despite the fact that Lindbergh, Ford, and Mooney all received medals of appreciation from the Third Reich before the war. Like the Trump White House, the America First Committee deployed token Jews to try to deflect critics, including Florence Kahn, a former Republican congresswoman from California; it even hired a Jew as the first publicity director of its New York chapter. But such disingenuous stunts, like Trump’s soporific teleprompter-scripted condemnation of “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” after mass shootings, didn’t deter American Nazi wannabes from flocking to the organization’s ranks, among them the followers of the unabashedly anti-Semitic radio priest Father Coughlin. Ivanka Trump’s observance of the Sabbath has not stopped her father from retweeting anti-Semitic memes or prevented “Jews Will Not Replace Us” thugs from rallying around #MAGA.

In Hitler in Los Angeles, his groundbreaking recent history of wartime Nazism in California, Steven J. Ross might as well have been writing about Charlottesville when he observes that “America First enabled previously disreputable hate groups to move from the margins to the mainstream of American life and politics.” The anti-Semitic dog whistles of Lindbergh and his prominent peers gave a pass to violent extremist groups of that time like the American Rangers and the Royal Order of American Defenders. The Trump GOP has revived the tradition: Not only did House members meet with Chuck Johnson, a Holocaust denier who raises money for the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, but Florida’s irrepressible freshman congressman Matt Gaetz invited him to cheer Trump at the 2018 State of the Union.

No one can predict posterity’s judgments, but if the past is any guide at all, this is not going to end well for Trump’s collaborators. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the Unification Church cult leader who was welcomed into the Oval Office by Nixon and whose brainwashed “Moonies” gathered en masse on the Capitol steps to pray and fast for three days during impeachment, may have found his farcical descendants in Trump’s Christian stooges. Witness the offspring of Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell — the Donald Trump Jr.’s, if you will, of America’s pagan Evangelical racket. Franklin Graham has preached an Old Testament parallel between Trump and David, while Jerry Jr. is now fending off inquiries into his and his wife’s antics, business or otherwise, with a pool boy they befriended at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. (For his part, Moon was eventually engulfed by repeated post-Watergate scandals, including a conviction for tax fraud and obstruction of justice that sent him to prison in 1982.) The rhetoric of Nixon’s and Trump’s mad-dog defenders can be interchangeable, too. There’s more than a little of the degraded Lindsey Graham in the legendary Today show appearance by Earl Landgrebe, a die-hard anti-impeachment vote on the House Judiciary Committee, the day before Nixon resigned in August 1974. “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind,” he said. “I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.” (The voters shot him soon enough; he received only 39 percent of the vote in his safe Indiana district three months later.)

But such similarities understate the case. The stakes are much higher when an American president is putting the nation, and its Constitution, in jeopardy by abusing his power to aid America’s foreign foes. Someone like Graham is less likely to be remembered as another Landgrebe than as another Burton Wheeler, a senator from Montana who began his career as a conventional New Deal Democrat and morphed into an America First Nazi appeaser. As Graham countenanced Trump’s empowering of Putin and his assault on Ukraine, so Wheeler opposed aid to England and other American allies when war broke out in Europe. He is best known now — and may be in perpetuity — as the fascist vice-president to Lindbergh’s president in Philip Roth’s World War II counter-history, The Plot Against America. (David Simon is soon to bring out a television version.)

Mitch McConnell has led another, even graver reenactment of the Hitler-appeasers’ playbook by slow-walking or ignoring intelligence-agency alarms about Russian interference in our elections past, present, and future. His congressional antecedents did the same when Germany tried to sabotage the election of 1940. As the story is told by Susan Dunn, a historian at Williams College, in her 2013 book 1940, the chargé d’affaires at the German Embassy in Washington, Hans Thomsen, wielded “money, a cohort of isolationist congressmen, senators, and authors, and a bag of dirty tricks,” hoping to realize goals tantamount to Putin’s ambitions: “to convince Americans that fascist aggression posed no danger to them, to discourage them from pouring billions of dollars into national defense and military aid for the Allies, and, finally, to engineer Roosevelt’s defeat in 1940.”

Even without social media in his arsenal, Thomsen’s dirty tricks uncannily anticipated Russia’s 21st-century disinformation tactics. He funneled financial aid to an isolationist “Make Europe Pay War Debts” Committee to rile up Americans against European allies, lent aid to ostensibly grassroots organizations with names like “Paul Revere’s Sentinels” rallying against American entry into war with Germany, and clandestinely underwrote newspaper ads lobbying for the same. With a secret subsidy, he paid an isolationist congressman, Hamilton Fish of New York, to corral anti-interventionist colleagues before a GOP convention platform committee to push a resolution “unequivocally opposing any American involvement in the war in Europe.” Thomsen even helped engineer a fake news stunt worthy of Russia’s propaganda schemes on Facebook by using the isolationist Montana representative Jacob Thorkelson to slip a counterfeit Hitler interview into the Congressional Record. It had “Hitler telling a reporter that American fears of him were ‘flattering but grotesque’ and calling the idea of a German invasion of the United States ‘stupid and fantastic.’ ”

Any historical parallels, alas, end there. Germany’s attempted election sabotage failed in 1940. The Republicans nominated Wendell Willkie, an interventionist, as their presidential candidate, rather than an isolationist favored by the Nazis, and the reelected FDR led America to war. By contrast, Russia may have succeeded in moving the electoral needle in 2016, and may again in 2020, with the blessings of the Putin-admiring American president and his quisling of a secretary of State Pompeo, not to mention the pliant Moscow Mitch, the double-dealing Barr, and the rest of their collaborators in the executive branch and Congress.

Those who continue with Trump on this path, if they have any shred of conscience or patriotism left, would be advised to look at their historical predecessors of the appeasement era, not the more forgiving template of Watergate, if they wish to game out their future and that of family members who bear their names. They might recall that Lindbergh was among the most popular figures, if not the most popular, in the nation before lending his voice to America First. He had won the cheers of the world after piloting the first nonstop solo flight over the Atlantic and then its sympathy after his 20-month-old son was murdered in a sensational kidnapping case. More than a decade after V-E Day, when Hollywood decided it was at last safe to profitably resurrect that heroic young Lindbergh in an adulatory 1957 biopic, The Spirit of St. Louis, some theaters refused to book it despite the added halo of the most unimpeachable all-American star, Jimmy Stewart of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Jack Warner reputedly called it “the most disastrous failure” in the history of Warner Bros. In the following decade, Lindbergh inched back into the spotlight as a philanthropist campaigning for the World Wildlife Fund. “I don’t want history to record my generation as being responsible for the extermination of any form of life,” he declared, prompting the popular syndicated columnist Max Lerner to respond, “Where the hell was he when Hitler was trying to exterminate an entire race of human beings?”

Some of Lindbergh’s fellow isolationists sought to reclaim their reputations after the war, too, but as the historian Geoffrey Perret wrote, they “would generally be regarded for years to come as stupid, vicious, pro-Nazi reactionaries, or at least as people blind to the realities of a new day and a menace to their country’s safety.” Taft, the rigidly isolationist senator who bore a White House lineage (William Howard Taft was his father), failed in two subsequent presidential runs after his first attempt imploded as France fell to the Germans in 1940. Once known as the towering “Mr. Republican,” he now is barely remembered even by Republicans.

A comparable figure in England was Lord Londonderry, né Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, a former Tory British air minister whose entanglement with Nazi leaders and push for Anglo-German friendship in the 1930s mirrors Trump, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and their posse’s infatuated courtship of Putin’s Russia. As the English Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw writes in Making Friends With Hitler, Londonderry “spent his later years in a relentless, but fruitless, campaign” for vindication. “Was he, as his detractors claimed, a genuine Nazi sympathizer — ‘a Nazi Englishman’ as he was dubbed? Or was he merely a gullible, naïve and misguided ‘fellow-traveler of the Right’?” Though Londonderry “had no truck with the fanatical fascists, or the wide-eyed cranks and mystics who fell for Hitler lock, stock and barrel,” Kershaw concludes, in the end it didn’t matter.

His actions worked to Hitler’s advantage, and his “reputation was ruined.” His fitting permanent memorial is Lord Darlington, the fictional English aristocrat whose outreach to the Nazis and ensuing downfall are observed with a certain sorrow and pity by his butler, Stevens, in Kazuo Ishiguro’s classic novel The Remains of the Day.

No less a sage than Ted Cruz told friends while preparing his 2016 convention speech that “history isn’t kind to the man who holds Mussolini’s jacket,” according to the Politico journalist Tim Alberta’s account in American Carnage. But so harsh was the base’s blowback after he refused to endorse Trump in that address that he has been holding Mussolini’s jacket ever since.

What are Cruz and all his peers afraid of? “Every member of the French Resistance faced the strong possibility of torture, deportation, and death,” wrote Charles Kaiser, whose book The Cost of Courage tells of one Resistance family during Vichy. “The most a Republican senator risks from opposing a corrupt and racist president is a loss at the polls.” And even at that, there can be rewards down the road. Larry Hogan, the current Republican governor of Maryland, recently reminisced to the New York Times about his father, Lawrence Hogan, who was the first Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to come out in favor of impeaching Nixon in 1974. “He lost friends in Congress,” the younger Hogan recalled. “He lost the support of his constituents and he angered the White House. But history was kind to him. He was known as a courageous guy. I think it’s the thing he is most remembered for and the thing I’m most proud of him for.”

Trump’s enablers and collaborators are more Londonderry than Hogan. It is too late for them to save their reputations. We must hope that it is not too late to save the country they have betrayed.

 

On the malign influence of Eli Broad in education

This is a good summary by Wendy Lecker on the results of billionaire Eli Broad’s strenuous efforts to reshape American education. Even though Broad’s rhetoric is a lot more progressive than that of the Koch brothers, Broad’s results have not been good at all – not only in human terms, but even on his own terms and using his own benchmarks. I might add that in terms of Broad’s failures, Lecker could have included the Broad-financed reform effort under Michelle Rhee here in Washington DC had a 98% failure rate in reaching its own goals. (See here for a link to my analysis thereof.)

==========================================

Putting a price tag on public schools

By Wendy Lecker|January 5, 2020

When it comes to using one’s fortune to influence American policy, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch stand out.

The Kochs have spent a fortune pushing American politics and policy to the right. Their secretive organization, Americans for Prosperity, is a major player in anti-labor activities, such as Wisconsin’s slashing of union rights, and fighting minimum wage increases nationwide. The Kochs poured money into the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) a stealth lobby organization that writes bills that advance Koch industries’ interests specifically and the Koch’s extreme free market ideology in general, and then gets legislators all over the country to introduce them.

They have also donated millions of dollars to establish research centers at universities to push their brand of unregulated capitalism. They impose conditions and performance obligations on the donations, interfere in hiring decisions, and make curriculum and programming decisions. The Kochs often demand pre-approval of any public statements and include anti-transparency provisions in donor agreements. This research is then cited as the scholarly basis for Congressional decisions favoring the Kochs’ interests. The Kochs are proud of their integrated strategy to build a pipeline of influence. The president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation boasted that “(n)o one else has this infrastructure.”

Eli Broad, a billionaire who made his fortune through real estate and insurance, seeks to build a Koch-style infrastructure to push his education reform ideology. Broad recently announced that, with a $100 million donation, he is bringing his Broad Center to Yale’s School of Management (“SOM”).

The Broad Center trains school district leaders and those who seek to influence education policy. The center emphasizes applying business principles to running school districts and de-emphasizes education. In seeking candidates, the Broad Center prioritizes “a strong and direct alignment with specific (Broad Center) reform priorities” — which include school privatization and weakening labor protections. The Center openly aims to reshape American public education according to Broad’s ideology.

Eli Broad is a major player in some of the most aggressive — and controversial- education reform policies in America. Like the Kochs, Broad employs an integrated strategy of influence. For example, he bankrolled the education reform slate in the Los Angeles 2018 school board election. His star beneficiary, charter operator Ref Rodriguez, later resigned from the board and pled guilty to felony election fraud conspiracy. Broad also poured millions into Broad alumnus and charter operator Marshall Tuck’s 2018 unsuccessful campaign for California State Superintendent.

Broad used his money and influence to push the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to run Detroit’s public schools. He provided significant funding and even summoned Broad alumnus and then Kansas City superintendent, John Covington, to be its first chancellor. Covington had wreaked havoc on Kansas City, firing hundreds of teachers and replacing them with inexperienced Teach for America members, and imposing other disruptive reforms. After his chaotic departure, Kansas City’s school district lost its accreditation. It then abandoned Covington’s reforms to regain its footing.

Covington left the EAA abruptly after charges of questionable spending, and the Broad Center hired him. The EAA was a devastating failure, plagued by financial mismanagement and abysmal academic failures.

A succession of Broad alumni ran Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, which was also plagued by financial mismanagement and poor student achievement — worse than in schools under local district control.

Broad alumni were forced out of Seattle and Los Angeles amid financial impropriety, and Barbara Byrd Bennett, a Broad executive coach, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to a bribery scandal in which she engaged while head of Chicago Public Schools.

These scandals reflect poorly on Broad’s emphasis on applying business practices to school districts.

Much like the Koch’s foray into higher education, Broad’s move to SOM seems like an effort to profit from Yale’s name and perhaps sanitize the questionable track record of Broad alumni. Since Yale has no school of education — unlike other universities in New Haven — Broad’s interest is not to bolster any knowledge of how children can learn successfully.

In an effort to discern how much of the Koch playbook Broad is employing at Yale, I asked SOM about Broad’s involvement in the governance, curriculum, programming and hiring at SOM’s new center. After first indicating they would run these questions by SOM’s dean, SOM now fails to respond, despite my request for follow-up. Apparently, SOM’s Broad Center is adopting the Koch’s lack of transparency.

It is disturbing that a major university is helping enlarge the Broad pipeline, which has funneled scandal and upheaval across American public schools.

————————————————-

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center

Religiosity vs Poverty and Education

This is from Quora. The USA is a real outlier, but in general the poorer a country is, the more religious its people are, and vice versa; also, the more education, the less religiosity.

Q: Have countries that have learned towards atheism failed more than countries that have acknowledged God?

A: Let’s check.

The table below has the ten most and least religious countries according to Gallup, followed by how many think religion is important, followed by GDP per capita according to IMF.


1: Estonia: religious score 16%, GDP/capita $22,990

2: Sweden: religious score 17%, GDP/capita $53,873

3: Denmark: religious score 19%, GDP/capita $60,692

4: Norway: religious score 21%, GDP/capita $81,695

5: Czech republic: religious score 21%, GDP/capita $22,850

6: Japan: religious score 24%, GDP/capita $39,306

7: Hong Kong: religious score 24%, GDP/capita $48,517

8: United Kingdom: religious score 27%, GDP/capita $42,558

9: Finland: religious score 28%, GDP/capita $42,878

10: Vietnam: religious score 30%, GDP/capita $2,551

[…]

149: Djibouti: religious score 98%, GDP/capita $2,085

150: Mauritania: religious score 98%, GDP/capita $1,143

151: Sri Lanka: religious score 99%, GDP/capita $4,068

152: Malawi: religious score 99%, GDP/capita $351

153: Indonesia: religious score 99%, GDP/capita $3,871

154: Yemen: religious score 99%, GDP/capita $872

155: Niger: religious score 100%, GDP/capita $477

156: Ethiopia: religious score 100%, GDP/capita $853

157: Somalia: religious score 100%, GDP/capita $499*

158. Bangladesh: religious score 100%, GDP/capita $1,745

*Not in IMF’s dataset; World Bank used instead.


But that data isn’t very intuitive. Sure, there’s at least a factor 10 difference between the least religious countries and the most religious countries, but how can we illustrate it more clearly? Well, how about a graph:

Although Pew chose to highlight the US and its strong outlier as a wealthy nation with high religiosity, the interesting thing is the inverse correlation between GDP/capita and religiosity. It really seems to imply that in general, success and irreligion are connected.

But how? In the same dataset, Pew also makes another important observation, namely of education.

This correlation is much stronger. And we already know that education and wealth are strongly correlated.

But it’s not quite that simple. Pew makes yet another observation, of income inequality and religion:

But what we can take away from this is that the poorer a country is, and the greater the income inequality is, and the poorer educated a country is, the more religious it is in general.

Or expressed even more bluntly: shithole country ≈ religious country.


Sources:

Importance of religion by country – Wikipedia

List of countries by GDP (nominal) per capita – Wikipedia

Religious observance by age and country

Published in: on January 10, 2020 at 9:31 am  Comments (7)  
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I sure hope Betsy DeVos goes to jail!

Read why at Curmudgucation:

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/ORjvzd/~3/KwKCooM3p8c/devos-and-department-may-face-increased.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email

But I bet she gets off with merely a fine, which she could pay out of change in her sofa. But one would wish that she would actually be imprisoned for helping to defraud thousands of students who ended up owing enormous sums to fraudulent, for-profit universities and trade schools; and for refusing to stop doing so, repeatedly. If she is fined, I bet that #45 finds a way to overturn it or pay for it out of the general treasury — that is, making it so that WE the taxpayers have to pay DeVos’ fine.

 

Yes, they really do want public education to fail!

A long quote from Peter Greene of Curmudgucation with some emphasis added by me.

…as the Obama administration rolled out policy, I began to realize that this was not going to be the guy to help us, that he was, in fact, going to take some of the worst parts of NCLB and keep them, boost them. Keep high stakes testing, but now judge individual teachers and not just schools. States were encouraged to fight for some additional funding, which they could do by handing over control of their state department of education to the feds. But then all states were encouraged to do the same for free to escape the penalties of NCLB, which Congress seemed completely incapable of fixing, as if– and this seemed to be a recurring theme in the early 10s– as if they actually wanted public schools to fail.

We said it over and over– when we peeked at test questions and saw how bad they were, when we asked for actionable results from last year’s tests, when we looked at the kind of crappy materials the state sent us, when we saw the unattainable goals– do they actually want us to fail??

And the more I dug into things, the more troubling they seemed. Most of what we had been told about the Common Core standards turned out to be a lie. Everywhere there were new groups with “student” and “education” in their names, important rich guys like Bill Gates, the guys in DC that we had voted for, all agreeing that we teachers in public schools, we who were devoting our lives to education and who, mostly, had far more training and experience than any of them– we were stinking up the joint. Public education was failing, and it was our fault.

“We don’t trust you. We don’t believe you or believe in you. We are trying to fix the system that you broke.” They said.

“Is this over that test? That crappy bad test?? Is that what this is about??” We asked incredulously.

“Never mind,” they said. “We’re not talking to you. You’ve done enough already. We think you’re going to need some motivation, like threats or maybe free market competition to get you to stop slacking and screwing up. Don’t like it? Big deal– we can get some of this teacher-proof curriculum in a box, or hire one of those five-week wonders from Teach for America. Your job, even though you suck at it, is not so hard.”

It began to sink in. The newly-required aligned texts. The computer-based practice testing. The test prep materials. The education-flavored businesses designed to make a buck from ed solutions, from charter schools to consulting groups. The data collection. All of those narratives were based on one premise– that public schools were failing and that some combination of solutions and alternatives were needed.

Added to that shock was the feeling of isolation. Who was on the side of public schools? Not politicians– not from either party. Not wealthy and powerful people. Not even our damned unions, which cheerfully endorsed Common Core and implicitly accepted the premise that public schools were failing.

It’s really scary.

PISA shows great US education progress under Common Core, charter proliferation, reforms. (JUST KIDDING!)

If there is anything that the recent PISA results show, it’s that the promises by David Coleman, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Betsy Devos, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, and others of tremendous achievement increases and closing socioeconomic gaps with their ‘reforms’ were completely unfilled. I am copying and pasting here how American students have done on the PISA, a test given in many, many countries, since 2006. There have been tiny changes over the past dozen years in the scores of American students in reading, math, and science, but virtually none have been statistically significant, according to the statisticians who compiled and published the data.

Then again, nearly any classroom teacher you talked to over the past decade or two of educational ‘reforms’ in American classrooms could have told you why and how it was bound to fail.

Look for yourself:

PISA results through 2018

 

Source: https://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/PISA2018_CN_USA.pdf

 

EDIT: I meant David Coleman the educational reform huckster, not Gary Coleman the actor!

 

Lest we forget how bad it used to be

Daily Kos has a long article, with press clippings, about the numerous attacks by racist whites upon black people a century ago. They were called “race riots” at the time, but were actually mass violence against black people, aka pogroms, during the period known as the Nadir of racism in America. It’s absolutely appalling and shameful to see that such a large fraction of white folks, including workers and rank-and-file members of the military, fell for such racist ideas and physically attacked a minority group rather than uniting against their common exploiters — capitalists like the Rockefellers, JP Morgan, Carnegie, Stanford, and others.

https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/29/1900019/-Red-Summer-100-years-later-1919-was-a-yearlong-litany-of-white-brutality-against-black-Americans?detail=emailLL

Published in: on December 5, 2019 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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About the Civil War …

I’m copying and pasting this from Quora:

 

Scott Johnson
Published in: on November 29, 2019 at 9:19 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Right Moment …

(A guest blog by Peter MacPherson on the need to revert to democratic local control of schools in Washington, DC.)

By Peter MacPherson

The right moment.

A crucial sense of timing has long been viewed as the key to successful human endeavors. Advertising keeps reminding us that it’s crucial to have the erectile-dysfunction drug Cialis on hand when the right moment strikes, otherwise the opportunity for a joyful session of lovemaking will be lost. Sometimes the right moment, at least in retrospect and in real circumstances, can be of almost incalculable importance, where the very course of history is recognized to have been altered by timing. In early June of 1944 American General Dwight Eisenhower, with the help of his fellow centurions, was desperately trying to determine when they could unleash the largest invasion force in history on the shores of France to begin the final chapter of the Second World War in Europe. Before the invasion, Eisenhower and his colleagues had been bedeviled by bad weather, and 156,000 allied troops were onboard ships in ports along the British coast waiting to be dispatched to a battle that many participants on both sides viewed as an impending struggle of almost biblical proportions.

Group Captain James Stagg, a British RAF officer who led a team that monitored the weather for Eisenhower, determined that a brief window would open for a few hours on June 6, 1944 that would allow the allied invasion force to leave port and put ashore on the beaches of Normandy in France. Upon receiving this vital information Eisenhower recognized that the quintessential right moment had arrived.

The outcome of acting in that moment could not be clearer.

The voters of the District of Columbia are entering a period that seems very much like the right moment, the zone of opportunity, to produce a badly needed change for which the city will benefit enormously over the long term. With the announcement by At-Large Councilman David Grosso that he does not intend to seek re-election and that charter school board executive director Scott Pearson is leaving his post in May, the right moment to drop the curtain on mayoral control of the schools has presented itself. For it to be the right moment, though, it has to be recognized as such.

Here, in my view, is why the way in which the stars have aligned has produced this crucial moment for the city.

Grosso is now a deeply unpopular District politician. He’s been chairman of the council’s education committee for four years and because of a prickly, dismissive personality and a seeming view that the role of the panel he oversees should be a limited one, oversight of public education has been wanting. Over the past four years the District of Columbia Public Schools has been beset by scandal. Among them are heavily inflated graduation rates, the untimely departure of and reasons for former chancellor Antwan Wilson leaving DCPS and thin to non-existent oversight of critical aspects of DCPS’ operations.

Scott Pearson has been a deeply problematic actor in the ongoing drama of public education in the city. Though nominally a public employee, Pearson advocates for public charter schools as if he were heading a trade group. He’s pushed back vigorously against even modest efforts to open the charter sector to additional scrutiny by both the council and outside groups. In recent testimony before the council on member Charles Allen’s proposed legislation that would have opened charter schools to the provisions of the District’s Freedom of Information law, Pearson expressed his adamant opposition to the bill.

And the future and health of DCPS has never seemed to be in his portfolio of concerns. Pearson has actively sought to allow the untrammeled growth in the number of charter schools in the city. During his seven-year tenure as the charter board’s executive director, the number of charter schools in the city has grown from 98 to 123. They now enroll 43,000 students. He has pressed the city to transfer closed DCPS buildings for use by charters, thus inhibiting their use as swing space during modernizations or to reopened as DCPS campuses. Essentially, on Pearson’s watch, a parallel school system has been established in the city. And until his planned departure of the charter school board in May, he will continue to press for the unabated expansion of the sector in the city.

In 2007, at the beginning of the mayoral-control era, DCPS had an enrollment of around 50,000 students, with the charters educating around 22,000. During this 12-year period DCPS has bled away a staggering level of enrollment to charters. If mayoral control was supposed to secure the future of DCPS, which was broadly represented to mean high-quality education for all District children, then the great education reform experiment has failed. DCPS has good schools, as it always has. But their location is as disparate as ever. Between stagnant enrollment and virtually non-existent test score growth, then the experiment has failed. The city not only has a failed governance model, it has also wasted an immense amount of municipal treasure pursing this model. In the surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia that have comparable numbers of students to the District, they spend around half of what the city does [per student] and have higher performing systems. With over 22,000 vacant seats, the District is maintaining a staggering amount of excess capacity.

With the impending departures of Grosso and Pearson, the question that District stakeholders need to ask themselves is whether meaningful change will happen once they’re off the stage. If mayoral control remains in place the answer is easy to discern. For those not wearing their glasses and cannot see the writing in the sky, the answer is no.

Part of the reason that one should have no expectations of changes that will lead to school improvement is implicit in the design of mayoral control. Though the mayor has statutory responsibility for DCPS, the executive is also responsible for generating a budget that funds the charters. The mayor appoints the members of the charter school board. The mayor ultimately decides the fate of excess District school buildings. And, through the deputy mayor for education, has a strong planning role as well.

Then there’s the realpolitik aspect of the way the city government run. The mayor is beneficiary of significant campaign contributions from outside charter supporters and operators. It’s inevitable that the mayor would play both sides and that is certainly what Muriel Bowser has done.

The city council, during 12 years of mayoral control, has mostly shown great squeamishness about exercising its oversight role of the schools. Having watched and given testimony before the council, I have yet to see a major sea change in DCPS policy that resulted from that testimony. The impact of public testimony has chiefly been felt in area of school modernizations, which have often required aggressive advocacy on the part of school communities to bring equity what has been a brutally unequal process.

Going forward what we’re likely to see is a real struggle to find a council member willing to enthusiastically take on the role of education committee chairman. One frequently hears from council and their representatives that the council is not the school board, that by design oversight is supposed to be more modest. But when the council voted to eliminate the elected school board, they became de facto the school board. The public has demanded a court of last resort in education matters when they don’t like the way things are going. Virtually any education committee hearing that will accept public testimony finds itself hearing from a large number of witnesses. The public clearly wants to participate in school governance and wants its voice heard.

The obvious ambivalence of current council members to take on the education committee chairman role, and the track record the council has relative to education oversight, mean that the city is in the midst of a right moment moment.

In a city short on representative democratic institutions, the city council and mayor made a grave error in eliminating the school [board] in 2007. The experiment upon which they allowed the city to embark has proven to be one of poor quality. And the council is not telegraphing a willing desire to improve its performance relative to education oversight. District children need oversight of their school from adults who are committed to their success, who want DCPS and existing charter schools to thrive. The mayor keeps DCPS on life-support. It’s never permitted to be strong or aggressive enough to really compete in an education marketplace.

And charter students are poorly served in the existing governance structures. The city provides a significant facilities fee per student to charters. Yet that money is not required to be used for that purpose, and frequently is not. If students and parents have an issue with a charter, their route of appeal ends at the front door of the school. And once the search begins for a new charter school board executive director, the selection process will not involve the public in any meaningful way. Remember that the charter school board is appointed by the mayor, which then functions autonomously. The charter board will decide on its next executive director.

Ideally the council would vote to reestablish the elected school board. It would also vote to make the State Superintendent of Education a creature of the State Board of Education, the District’s only body related to education that is directly elected by voters. And they would also construct a more robust regulatory structure for charter schools so that parents, students and teachers have a real voice. But if the council will not act than the voters must. If a ballot initiative is required, then concerned citizens must pursue it vigorously.

This is the right moment.

 

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