Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

July 31, 2011

“Imminent” Deal On Debt Ceiling a Total Victory for Republicans

Filed under: Unworthy Compromise — millerlf @ 10:20 am

Sunday July 31, 2011

The “deal” that is surfacing in Washington is a total victory for the Republicans. Even Grover Norquist has given his nod of support.

The deal includes no future revenue increases with cuts at every level. The cuts will lead to worse unemployment and more misery for the American people.

Today Paul Krugman, with the New York Times, called this a 100% victory for the tea party Republicans.

As it stands the debt ceiling limit will be raised along with a plan for massive cuts that put social security and Medicare in the mix. The second stage is to have a bipartisan “committee” oversee the process.

If this passes it is shameful and a defeat for the American people.

The 2 sides of a compromise should be cuts and revue increases, not cuts on one side and raising the debt ceiling on the other side.

Please, please call Congress to demand a change.

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July 29, 2011

Debt Ceiling Crisis: America Held Hostage by Republican Party Extremists

Filed under: Republicans,Right Wing Agenda,Tea Party — millerlf @ 9:22 am

How Does the Media Portray it? Read The Centrist Cop-Out

By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: July 28, 2011 NYTimes

The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats — who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether — have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.

As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. As The Times’s Nate Silver pointed out, Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter’s preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s preferences.

But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? “Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric.” A Democratic president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side — or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he’s in danger of falling over — is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!

Which brings me to those “centrist” fantasies.

Many pundits view taking a position in the middle of the political spectrum as a virtue in itself. I don’t. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily reside in the middle of the road, and I want leaders who do the right thing, not the centrist thing.

But for those who insist that the center is always the place to be, I have an important piece of information: We already have a centrist president. Indeed, Bruce Bartlett, who served as a policy analyst in the Reagan administration, argues that Mr. Obama is in practice a moderate conservative.

Mr. Bartlett has a point. The president, as we’ve seen, was willing, even eager, to strike a budget deal that strongly favored conservative priorities. His health reform was very similar to the reform Mitt Romney installed in Massachusetts. Romneycare, in turn, closely followed the outlines of a plan originally proposed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. And returning tax rates on high-income Americans to their level during the Roaring Nineties is hardly a socialist proposal.

True, Republicans insist that Mr. Obama is a leftist seeking a government takeover of the economy, but they would, wouldn’t they? The facts, should anyone choose to report them, say otherwise.

So what’s with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it’s coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it’s not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.

But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

July 22, 2011

Superintendents Across Wisconsin: Walker’s “Education Budget” Hurts School Districts

Filed under: School Finance,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 3:09 pm

New Wisconsin budget creates
fiscal obstacles for schools, kids

July 20th press conference at Greenfield School District
School District officials and parents from around the state met to let the public know that the state budget cuts are curtailing students’ opportunity to learn.

School board members, district administrators and parents from across the state gathered in Greenfield on Wednesday to speak about how the $1.6 billion education state budget cut impacts schools, families and communities. Their message was: “It’s not OK.”

According to Bruce Quinton, superintendent of the Pepin School District, Governor Scott Walker’s recent cuts are especially difficult after 18 years of school districts operating under state revenue limits.

“Given year after year of school funding reductions, educators are already working with larger classes, fewer materials and fewer programs and services for students. The most recent budget cuts make things worse, essentially handing the state’s budget deficit to all school districts and municipalities throughout the state. Our young people and our educators didn’t create this mess, but we will be the ones who pay for it.”

July 21, 2011

See Who is Not Paying Taxes in Wisconsin

Filed under: Corporate Domination — millerlf @ 4:57 pm

Welcome to the inaugural edition of a new monthly e-publication from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future: WhoDoesNotPayTaxes? Its focus is on the growing problem of tax avoidance, especially by large corporations. Tax avoidance is the practice of creating and exploiting tax loopholes, credits and exemptions. Increasing corporate tax avoidance weakens financial support for important public structures and places unfair burdens on those who pay their full share of taxes. The goal of the newsletter is to focus attention on the need to tighten the tax laws and broaden Wisconsin’s tax base.

Associated Bank and M &I have lucrative tax deals.

To see the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future newsletter go to:

http://www.wisconsinsfuture.org/

Attempt by Republicans to Gut Title 1 Funding

Filed under: Education Policy,Republicans,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 10:36 am

Hurting Poor Students

Published: July 19, 2011 NYTimes
Extremists in Congress have long wanted to gut the spending restrictions in Title I, a federal law dating back to the 1960s that underwrites extra help for disadvantaged schoolchildren. A bill, approved by a House committee last week, would do just that, damaging one of most important civil rights programs in the country.
The State and Local Funding Flexibility Act would let school districts spend money earmarked for impoverished children on almost any educational purpose they chose. This would inevitably lead to money going from politically powerless poor schools to those without the same needs.
Title I was created during the Johnson administration in response to the failure of the states to offer access to equal education for all students as required by Brown v. Board of Education. The education law is based on a strict formula that drives federal aid to high-poverty districts, where large numbers of disadvantaged children often pose educational challenges. It is supposed to provide an added layer of federal money to high-poverty schools that already have budget allocations similar to those of other schools in the same district.
But because the districts kept gaming the system, moving the money from the Title I schools to more politically influential schools, Congress required more close accounting of how the money is spent.
Still, the districts that receive the money (about $14 billion this year) have enormous spending flexibility. For example, they can hire teachers, nurses or mental health workers or finance a longer school day. But ideologues in Congress believe the federal government should not be in the business of ensuring that the most vulnerable children are served. The bill would allow local officials to take money from schools that need it most. That’s a terrible idea. Sensible members of Congress should resist it.

More on ALEC: How Wisconsin Republicans Create Right Wing Legislation

Filed under: Republicans,Right Wing Agenda,Tea Party — millerlf @ 10:30 am

July 13, 2011

In the midst of trying to balance the state’s multibillion-dollar budget, who had time to debate the state tax on moist tobacco products?
The American Legislative Exchange Council’s allies in the Wisconsin Legislature did.
Late in the budget debate, six Republican lawmakers – including four currently facing recall elections – sponsored a proposal to lower the overall price of moist snuff like Copenhagen and Skoal. Specifically, the provision would have altered the tax on smokeless tobacco products from one based on the price of the tobacco to one based on weight.
That stance on this obscure subject matches a model resolution approved by ALEC, a conservative outfit that brings corporations and lawmakers together to draw up draft legislation.
Gov. Scott Walker eventually vetoed the item before signing the 2011-’13 budget.
Mary Bottari, spokeswoman for the left-wing Center for Media and Democracy, said the moist tobacco proposal illustrates the influence the relatively obscure conservative outfit has on the legislative process in Wisconsin and other states.
“These are very specific, ideological agenda items,” said Bottari, whose group is making available online 800-plus of ALEC’s draft bills and resolutions that it obtained from a whistleblower. “It’s deserving of some scrutiny.”
Overall, her media research group has identified about 20 ALEC proposals that it says have been introduced or approved by Wisconsin lawmakers this year.
For instance, the center finds strong parallels between nine ALEC measures and the tort-reform law introduced by Walker and approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature in a special session in January.
But a Walker spokesman says the first-term Republican didn’t rely on any draft legislation from ALEC when putting together the tort-reform law or any other bill he’s introduced this year.
“Absolutely not,” said Walker aide Cullen Werwie.
Walker listed himself as a member of the conservative group on his official biography when in the Legislature during the 1990s.
State Rep. Robin Vos, state chairman for ALEC, said he’s unaware of any model ALEC bills or resolutions that have made it through the state Legislature so far this year, though he acknowledged that he could have missed one.
Vos said the group – which receives funding from the Koch brothers and the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation – simply provides a way for state lawmakers to share ideas from other states.
Even if someone introduces a model ALEC bill, Vos said, it still must be vetted via the committee process.
“This is a made-up issue,” Vos said.
Still, the similarities between some Wisconsin legislation and ALEC draft bills are striking.
On the moist tobacco proposal, an ALEC staffer even wrote to the governor to ask him not to veto the item after it was inserted in the budget bill.
“The amendment will create a fairer tax system that reduces market distortions and encourages fiscal stability,” wrote Courtney O’Brien, director of the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development & Public Safety and Elections Task Forces at ALEC.
She did not return calls or emails. The measure was pushed by Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, which would have benefited from it because it manufactures smokeless tobacco products that are far lighter than those of other manufacturers.
Two of the four Republican senators targeted for recalls who sponsored the provision – Luther Olsen of Ripon and Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls – distanced themselves from the issue.
“We do not interact with them at all,” Olsen aide Tara Baxter said of ALEC. She said her boss had never been a member of the organization and “never will be.”
Sens. Alberta Darling of River Hills and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac didn’t return calls.
As it turns out, the proposal was ordered up by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Juneau Republican. He has received about $3,000 in reimbursements from ALEC to attend conferences in the past two years, according to his ethics statements.
Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse said his boss pushed the moist tobacco proposal because it is the fair thing to do. Federal officials, he said, already tax snuff, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco based on weight.
Welhouse said it’s not surprising that GOP legislators and ALEC agree on a tax issue.
“Lately, it feels like the Democrats are trying to create this ALEC boogeyman, but we didn’t make this change because it’s an ALEC bill – we made it because it’s a tax fairness issue,” Welhouse said. “ALEC supports organ donation and drug-free schools, too. Sometimes good ideas are just good ideas.”
That’s not the only proposal with strong similarities to ALEC’s draft legislation.
Vos fought to insert a provision in the state budget to bring for-profit bail bondsmen back to Wisconsin.
But the co-chairman of the powerful Joint Finance Committee said he couldn’t have used the model ALEC bills on this issue because Wisconsin’s statutes are so unusual on this issue.
Sen. Leah Vukmir – voted national “Legislator of the Year” at ALEC’s 2009 annual meeting – has introduced a bill that would give scholarships to handicapped students so they could attend private schools enrolled in the state’s choice program. The name of her bill, the Special Needs Scholarship Program Act, is verbatim as the model bill from ALEC.
That’s also true of her Patient’s Right to Know Act, a bill she sponsored in 2009 that would allow patients to ask health care providers and insurers about the cost and coverage for specific medical procedures.
Vukmir aide Jason Rostan said the scholarship bill actually came from a proposal in Florida. He said he thought the idea may have originally come from school choice proponents.
As for the health care legislation, he said, Vukmir took the proposal to ALEC after she introduced it here. Members of the conservative group then signed off on the plan, adopting it as a model bill.
“We actually gave it to ALEC,” Rostan said.
Bottari, the critic of ALEC, said she’s not buying the denials from the governor and top Wisconsin legislators that they’re not using material from the national group when crafting their bills.
Her group maintains that ALEC allows corporations and conservative lawmakers to work in secret to draw up bills that benefit specific business interests. By pushing the model legislation and resolutions, the group is trying to bring greater scrutiny to ALEC’s influence.
“When you consider the 20 ALEC bills we identified and the ideas that keep coming out of this (Walker) administration,” Bottari said, “it just defies belief that there’s no relationship between these bills and ALEC.”

July 20, 2011

Vouchers: POLITIFACT Column made shaky assumption

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 1:58 am

Michael Mathias Journal Sentinel Letter to Editor 7/20/011

False, exclaims the Truth-O-Meter accompanying the July 13 PolitiFact column on a statement by Rep. Peter Barca that Republicans “voted to take funding away from their public schools in their districts to give it to private Milwaukee choice schools” (“Choice doesn’t cost schools statewide”).

Having read through the column, however, the rating seems like a real stretch.

The column admits the new budget hurts Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee taxpayers. And it concedes “it is possible that if large numbers of the new choice students come from private schools rather than Milwaukee Public Schools, there could be a net loss to taxpayers outside of MPS.”

Given the radical expansion of the voucher program, that’s too big an “if” to ignore. Last year, 6,200 students attended private voucher schools without a taxpayer subsidy. Now, with the income limit lifted to nearly $72,000, PolitiFact bases its “false” rating on the shaky assumption that most of those families won’t apply for the vouchers, leading to the increased statewide tax burden Barca is warning about. PolitiFact hedges somewhat, noting, “The bottom line here is we won’t know until some time in the future.”

Well, exactly. Others can debate why PolitiFact is free to engage in conjecture while Barca cannot, but the bottom line is this: State funding for private voucher programs is going up while funding for public education is going down by $1.6 billion. For public school parents, this means fewer choices for our children. And that’s the truth.


July 17, 2011

The Nation on ALEC, Consortium for Republican Right Wing Policy

Filed under: Republicans,Right Wing Agenda,Tea Party — millerlf @ 10:03 pm

The Conservatives’ ALEC Philosophy: Everything Related to Government Should Be Demonized, Starved or Privatized

Any force in civil society that contests the right of business to grab all social surplus, and to treat people like roadkill and the earth like a sewer, should be crushed.
 This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for their e-mail newsletters here.
In the world according to ALEC, competing firms in free markets are the only real source of social efficiency and wealth. Government contributes nothing but security. Outside of this function, it should be demonized, starved or privatized. Any force in civil society, especially labor, that contests the right of business to grab all social surplus for itself, and to treat people like roadkill and the earth like a sewer, should be crushed.
This view of the world dominated the legislative sessions that began in January. GOP leaders, fresh from their blowout victory in November, pushed a consistent message—“We’re broke”; “Public sector workers are to blame”; “If we tax the rich we’ll face economic extinction”—and deployed legislative tools inspired by ALEC to enact their vision. They faced pushback, but they also made great progress—and will be back again soon.
Let’s examine what happened in three critical economic areas:Revenue

ALEC has long sought to limit the ability of states to raise or collect taxes or fees. Before this spring, it had already succeeded in getting more than thirty to adopt such limits, often hard-wired into their constitutions or requiring supermajorities to change. Its varied model legislation to this end includes the Capital Gains Tax Elimination Act, Use Tax Elimination Act, Super Majority Act, Taxpayer Protection Act and Automatic Income Tax Rate Adjustment Act. Its model resolutions oppose such things as mandatory unitary combined reporting (the chief way states get corporations to pay any taxes at all) while supporting such things as the federal flat tax and efforts to extend the Bush tax cuts permanently. The Automatic Income Tax Rate Adjustment Act, for example, “provides for a biennial reduction in the state adjusted gross income tax rate on residents, nonresidents, and corporations if year-over-year revenue…exceeds certain amounts,” in effect ensuring no increase in state revenue, even during periods of growth, while keeping tax cuts on the table. The Taxpayer Protection Act “prohibits the revenue department of a state from basing any employee’s compensation, promotion or evaluation on collections or assessments,” otherwise known as doing their job.
This past session, ALEC members, drawing heavily from the list above, introduced 500 bills to “starve the beast.” But their greatest victory was the most obvious one. Faced with shortfalls in state revenues from the economic crisis, states almost universally and overwhelmingly chose cuts to public employment or services over progressive tax increases as a solution.

Privatization

Privatization is so central to ALEC’s agenda that it has built a fake board game, Publicopoly, on its website, where the curious can find model legislation and other resources on privatizing basically everything, from transportation (Competitive Contracting of the Department of Motor Vehicles Act) to the environment (Environmental Services Public-Private Partnership Act). Critical to ALEC’s agenda are the foundational bills that set up the rationale for privatizing government services: the Public-Private Fair Competition Act creates a committee to review “whether state agencies unfairly compete with the private sector,” and the Competitive Contracting of Public Services Act requires “make or buy” decisions to encourage privatization. The hallmark of ALEC’s model privatization legislation, the Council on Efficient Government Act, creates “a council on efficient government to leverage resources and contract with private sector vendors if those vendors can more effectively and efficiently provide goods and services and reduce the cost of government.” These councils typically include representatives from the private sector, who then decide to let their business colleagues bid for public sector work.
In the past few years, with at least three additions this session alone, legislation establishing a state Council on Efficient Government has been introduced in Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, Illinois and South Carolina. In each case, the concepts in the bill mirror the ALEC proposal. In some cases—South Carolina, Arizona and Illinois—the state bills read as copies of ALEC’s model legislation. Virginia’s, Oregon’s, Maryland’s and Kansas’ bills, to varying degrees, contain language directly from ALEC’s model.

Unions

The fiercest attacks this session were reserved for public sector unions, especially in the once labor-friendly Midwest states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that went deep red in November. ALEC has a sweeping range of model antiunion laws, the broad aim of which is to make it harder to be a union and easier for workers not to pay the costs of collective bargaining or union political activity. The Right to Work Act eliminates employee obligation to pay the costs of collective bargaining; the Public Employee Freedom Act bars almost any action to induce it; the Public Employer Payroll Deduction Act bars automatic dues collection; the Voluntary Contribution Act bars the use of dues for political activity.
This spring, GOP governors or legislatures introduced at least 500 of these and other ALEC-inspired antilabor laws, including laws to restrict the scope of collective bargaining; to limit or eliminate “project labor agreements” and state “prevailing wage” requirements; and to pre-empt local living wage or other labor standards. Just keeping track of all the antiunion legislation was often daunting. In Michigan, the AFL-CIO was dealing with more than fifty laws aimed at its demise.
In some states, the results have been lethal. In Wisconsin, the first state to legalize public sector union bargaining, public sector unions (excluding police and firefighters) were reduced to near irrelevance. The law limits collective bargaining to wages only (no bargaining over benefits, safety or work conditions) and forbids those to be increased faster than inflation. To continue to exist, unions must annually win recertification elections with more than 50 percent of the vote of all workers in their bargaining unit—a threshold requirement that is unheard of. Ohio also passed a law limiting public sector bargaining rights (including for police and firefighters) and permitting members to opt out of paying dues.
There were limits to this stampede. “Paycheck protection,” introduced in fifteen states, passed only in Alabama and Arizona. “Right to work,” introduced in eighteen states, hasn’t advanced significantly anywhere. (Tennessee reaffirmed a pre-existing right to work, and in New Hampshire the governor’s veto is holding it back.) But damage has been done. It may be that unions and other progressive organizations, moved by the carnage, will work together and with the public to build a mass movement to reverse it. Certainly, many people are trying to do that now. Whatever their success, we can be sure that ALEC will fight them fiercely in the states, while pressing forward with its own project: the complete business domination of American public life.

U.S. Education Policy: “School Isn’t for Everyone”

Filed under: Education Policy — millerlf @ 2:16 pm

How is it that we can afford to double our military budget since 9/11, can afford the carried-interest tax loophole for billionaires, can afford billions of dollars in givebacks to oil and gas companies, yet can’t afford to invest in our kids’ futures?

Our Broken Escalator

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF Published: July 16, 2011 NYtimes

THE United States supports schools in Afghanistan because we know that education is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to build a country.

Alas, we’ve forgotten that lesson at home. All across America, school budgets are being cut, teachers laid off and education programs dismantled.

My beloved old high school in Yamhill, Ore. — a plain brick building that was my rocket ship — is emblematic of that trend. There were only 167 school days in the last school year here (180 was typical until the recession hit), and the staff has been reduced by 9 percent over five years.

This school was where I embraced sports, became a journalist, encountered intellectual worlds, and got in trouble. These days, the 430 students still have opportunities to get into trouble, but the rest is harder.

For the next school year, freshman and junior varsity sports teams are at risk, and all students will have to pay $125 to participate on a team. The school newspaper, which once doubled as a biweekly newspaper for the entire town, has been terminated.

Business classes are gone. A music teacher has been eliminated. Class size is growing, with more than 40 students in freshman Spanish. “It’s like a long, slow bleed, watching things disappear,” says the school district’s business manager, Michelle Morrison.

The school still has good teachers, but is that sustainable with a starting salary of $33,676?

In a rural, blue-collar area like Yamhill, traditionally dependent on farming and forestry, school has always been an escalator to opportunity. One of my buddies was Loren, a house painter’s son, who graduated as salutatorian and became a lawyer. That’s the role that education historically has played — but the escalator is now breaking down.

“Every year we say: ‘What can we cut? What can we reduce?’ ” said Steve Chiovaro, superintendent of Yamhill-Carlton schools. “We’ve gotten to the point where we can no longer ‘do no harm.’ We’re starting to eviscerate education.”

Yamhill is far from alone. The Center on Education Policy reports that 70 percent of school districts nationwide endured budget cuts in the school year that just ended, and 84 percent anticipate cuts this year.

In higher education, the same drama is unfolding. California’s superb public university system is being undermined by the biggest budget cuts in the state’s history. Tuition is set to rise about 20 percent this year, on top of a 26 percent increase last year, which means that college will become unaffordable for some.

The immediate losers are the students. In the long run, the loser is our country.

Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, two Harvard economists, argue in their book “The Race Between Education and Technology” that a prime factor in America’s rise over the last two centuries was its leadership in educating the masses.

On the eve of World War I, only 1 percent of Britain’s young people graduated from high school, compared with 9 percent of Americans. By 1950, a majority of American youths were graduating from high school, compared with only 10 percent of British youths.

American pre-eminence in mass education has eroded since the 1970s, and now a number of countries have leapfrogged us in high school graduation rates, in student performance, in college attendance. If you look for the classic American faith in the value of broad education to spread opportunity, you can still find it — in Asia.

When I report on poverty in Africa and poverty in America, the differences are vast. But there is a common thread: chipping away at poverty is difficult and uncertain work, but perhaps the anti-poverty program with the very best record is education — and that’s as true in New York as it is in Nigeria.

Granted, budget shortfalls are real, and schools need reforms as well as dollars. Pouring money into a broken system isn’t a solution, and we need more accountability. But it’s also true that blindly slashing budgets is making the problems worse. As Derek Bok, the former Harvard president, once observed, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Still, we nation-build in Afghanistan and scrimp at home. How is it that we can afford to double our military budget since 9/11, can afford the carried-interest tax loophole for billionaires, can afford billions of dollars in givebacks to oil and gas companies, yet can’t afford to invest in our kids’ futures?

Sometimes I hear people endorse education cuts by arguing that “school isn’t for everybody,” which usually means something like “education isn’t for other people’s children” — or that farm kids in places like Yamhill really don’t need schools that double as rocket ships. I can’t think of any view that is more un-American.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

July 15, 2011

Voces de la Frontera: Condemns redistricting power grab

Filed under: Republicans,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:02 am

Voces statement 7/14/2011:

Community requests three weeks to evaluate GOP map for fair representation

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Assembly State Affairs Committee held a public hearing at the State Capitol on Senate Bill 150, the Republican-led plan to create new redistricting boundaries. The plan would force the city of Milwaukee to redraw its wards, and raises serious concerns about civil rights violations for African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities.

In sharp contrast to the City of Milwaukee’s transparent and participatory process, the state redistricting map is being fast tracked with limited information provided to Wisconsin residents and state elected officials. Indeed, the new state map, will force the City of Milwaukee to uselessly spend more money to redo the redistricting process at the city level. According to civil rights attorney, Peter Earle, speaking on behalf of Voces de la Frontera: “The Republican majority intends to fast-track this proposal in a way that precludes any meaningful participation by any community of interest- Latinos, African-Americans, urban residents, suburban residents, rural residents, young and old.

First, they make the map public only four days ago. Then they do not provide detailed census block data in a user-friendly format that allows the citizenry to evaluate the proposed map or explore alternatives. Third, the summary demographic information provided with the map is insufficient to assess its compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

Also speaking on behalf of Voces, Freya Neumann, a retired Wisconsin teacher of 30 years, testified: “We stand in solidarity with the NAACP and the African-American community. We demand a process that is transparent, and protects the civil rights of all Wisconsinites. We need to ensure that marginalized communities are part of the democratic process. As a naturalized US citizen who swore to uphold the democratic principles on which our nation was founded, I call on all of you elected officials to do the same.”

Addressing the committee chair directly, Earle stated, “If you don’t slow this process down and hold hearings to allow the three weeks needed to understand this process, you will go down in history as having done serious violence to the integrity of representative government.”

Joe Shansky  414- 218-3331

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