Educate All Students, Support Public Education

October 31, 2011

Please Contact Your Alderperson About Rocketship

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:33 pm

On Wednesday the Milwaukee Common Council will be voting on a proposed charter school which I wrote about in an op-ed last week in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Journal Sentinel Op-Ed: Rocketship Charter Schools Need Scrutiny.) Tim Sheehy, President of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, has responded with an op-ed supporting the proposal (see his op-ed below.)

This proposal has some interesting features. For example in year one the school will be paying $531,810 from its funds to the “national and regional” Rocketship Education organization. This is the “non-profit” that will be running the proposed school. In the 2nd year of operation the “national and regional” fees will be $664,763. Each year after, the school will pay $797,717 that will not go to the school or the classroom.

Please call your alderperson before Wednesday and ask that the vote be postponed for 1 month so that there can be more community dialogue and input on this proposal.

To find your alderperson go to:

To contact your alderperson go to:

To read Tim Sheehy’s op-ed go to:

The Rocketship proposal (called Rocketship Milwaukee Public School) in full (497 pages) can be viewed by

going to the City of Milwaukee page, Attachments: Rocketship Application at

October 30, 2011

Community hearing: OCCUPY The HOOD / OCCUPY MILWAUKEE Oppose Senate Bill 207

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 11:51 am
WISCONSIN– We are in a state of emergency. The employment crisis will take yet another hit if Senate Bill 207(SB 207) is passed. This bill has already sped through the Assembly (AB 286), reached the Senate table, and will be passed if not challenged immediately. SB 207 gives employers the right to legally discriminate against over 62,000 Wisconsin residents.

Occupy the Hood, a coalition of organizations and individuals, is demanding that politicians put reelection hopes aside and represent the best interests of the people. This current piece of legislation is reflective of the solidarity between politicians, corporations, and other employers that are aligned in the exploitation of the working class.  The overall unemployment rate in Wisconsin is already a staggering 7.9% and in Milwaukee County alone 9.2% of people are without work. In these trying economic times, Governor Scott Walker promised 250,000 jobs, but instead we are being blindsided by SB 207. Not only will this further inhibit job creation, it also makes Wisconsin less competitive in the global marketplace.

In an effort to counter this covert attack, the voice of the people needs to be heard! The following event will be taking place…

 • Wed., November 2, 6pm. A People’s Hearing will be held at Union Hall (ATU), 734 N. 26th St, Milwaukee. We encourage ALL of Wisconsin to attend this hearing to voice their concerns and propose Calls for Action about SB207.

OCCUPY MKE On FaceBook:!/pages/Occupy-Milwaukee/145292382232714


Call Representatives “KILL THE BILL”
KILL- AB 286/SB207.
This Bill “SB 207” gives employers the right to legally discriminate against over 62,000 Wisconsin residents, and disproportionately people of color. It allow employers to fire employees and refuse to hire job-seekers who have committed felonies.

* Call senate committee on labor and public service to DELAY SB207 and hold a Public Hearing in Milwaukee!

Sen Coggs
608 266 2500
414 442 0739

Sen Taylor
608 266 5870
414 342 7177


***And Call Bill supporters Rep. Joel Kleefisch & state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

Tell them to “KILL THIS BILL”: This Assembly Bill 286 was introduced by state Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) and co-sponsored by state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)

* Kleefisch: (608) 266-8551

* Darling: (262) 250-9440

More Info on the Bill: (link to bill) (press release) (press conference)

October 29, 2011

Milwaukee: Hundreds of ‘Occupy’ protesters march on north side

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 10:49 pm

Gary Porter

Marchers representing Occupy Milwaukee and Occupy the Hood march on W. Capitol Drive from Lincoln Park to the closed A.O. Smith factory complex, in protest of urban unemployment and the growing gap in income and political power.

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel Oct. 29, 2011

Chanting, “We are the 99%,” and “Jobs now,” hundreds gathered in Lincoln Park on Saturday afternoon for an Occupy the Hood Milwaukee rally and then marched to the shuttered Tower Automotive plant on Milwaukee’s north side.

Rally organizers said they planned to make this the first of several rallies that aim to steer the Occupy Wall Street movement into city neighborhoods where high unemployment is rampant.

“When we can get people from all walks of life and all ages here, we’re doing something powerful,” said Khalil Coleman of Occupy Milwaukee and Occupy the Hood, as the march got under way, heading down Green Bay Ave. toward Capitol Drive.

“We’re going to do what it takes to get our elected officials to hear us.”

The choice of the former A.O. Smith plant, which got it start making frames for the Model T, once employed nearly 10,000 people and shut its doors in 2006, underscores the attention that needs to be given to the need for jobs, particularly for city residents, speakers at the rally said.

“Once they left there, the community began to suffer,” said Torrie Moffett of 9to5, National Association of Working Women. “There’s no jobs that are sustainable.”

Jennifer Epps-Addison, a public defender and community organizer with Citizen Action Wisconsin, said the crisis of black unemployment needs to be addressed.

“My grandmother said, ‘We used to joke that you couldn’t throw a penny in the city of Milwaukee without hitting an A.O. Smith family,’ ” she said, urging rally participants to support a local jobs initiative to be offered by Ald. Ashanti Hamilton.

“As we go through these neighborhoods, we’re going to draw the attention of folks who are really affected by this crisis,” Epps-Addison said.

“The pundits want to tell us this movement is not sustainable,” said Becky Cooper of Peace Action Wisconsin. “We are here to tell you that you, the 1%, are not sustainable.”

Among the targets of the some 400 Occupy Milwaukee protesters was a bill pending in Madison that would allow employers to terminate or refuse to hire someone with a felony conviction. That bill would disproportionately affect blacks and Latinos and would contribute to unemployment, speakers said.

“It really is a disgrace for anyone to try and fire someone for something they did a long time ago,” said retiree Henrietta Smith.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

October 27, 2011

Wisconsin Iraq Veteran Injured in Oakland, California at “Occupy Wall Street” Demo

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 12:01 pm

In case anyone wants  to send flowers or a card to Scott Olsen (Marine injured in Oakland)

USMC Scott Olsen

Highland Hospital

1411 East 31st Street

Oakland, CA 94602


Article By Meg Jones of the Journal Sentinel

Marine from Onalaska injured in protest in California

Oct. 26, 2011 |(193) Comments

A Marine from Onalaska, Wis., suffered a fractured skull during an Occupy Wall Street protest in California and was in critical condition Wednesday.

Scott Olsen, 24, who served two tours of Iraq, was struck by an unidentified object as Oakland police and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators clashed. Some witnesses said Olsen was hit by a tear-gas canister; others said it was a rubber bullet fired by police.

Olsen was conscious when he was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland on Tuesday night but was unconscious Wednesday, suffering from brain swelling, said his roommate Keith Shannon, who served in the same Marine unit as Olsen.

Aaron Hinde, who knows Olsen from Iraq Veterans Against the War, said Olsen suffered a seizure at the hospital. A hospital spokesman confirmed that Olsen was in critical condition Wednesday.

Olsen, whose uncle served in the Marines, signed up for the military when he was 17 and still in high school. As a member of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, he was deployed to Iraq from August 2006 to May 2007 and again in 2008-’09. Olsen was not injured in his deployments, but his unit was hit by numerous IEDs, said Shannon, who served with Olsen on Olsen’s first deployment and helped him get a job in information technology in the San Francisco Bay area.

Olsen left the military in 2010.

“It wasn’t what he wanted to do for a career; he didn’t agree with the war and the way it was going. He thought he could best serve people from outside the military,” Shannon said.

As members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Olsen and Shannon participated in Occupy San Francisco demonstrations. When Oakland Occupy Wall Street organizers put out a call for people to participate in a rally Tuesday night, Olsen, wearing his Marine uniform shirt, decided to attend.

The demonstrators had been making an attempt to re-establish a presence in the area of a disbanded protesters’ camp when they were met by police officers in riot gear. The clash Tuesday came as officials complained about what they described as deteriorating safety, sanitation and health issues at the dismantled camp.

Photos posted on the Internet show Olsen on the ground, bleeding and being helped by other protesters who took him to the hospital.

Olsen’s mother was traveling from Wisconsin to California on Wednesday to be with her son, Hinde said.

Shannon said Olsen is a quiet guy who loves to play hockey, listen to Bay-area bands, has a hamster named Agent Carmichael and moved to California when he got a job as a systems network administrator.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Journal Sentinel Op-Ed: Rocketship Charter Schools Need Scrutiny

Filed under: Charter Schools,Rocketship — millerlf @ 7:46 am

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

By Larry F. Miller Oct. 26, 2011

Council should get to the bottom of ‘miracle school’

Rocketship schools seem to have a serious problem with attrition

When it comes to education, everyone wants a miracle. Milwaukee’s Common Council is considering a proposal to open eight charter schools run by Rocketship Education, a national charter network claiming to create what some people call “miracle” schools.

According to Gary Rubinstein, a Teach for America alumnus and Noel Hammatt, researchers who operate “,” a “miracle” school is one that is significantly outperforming schools in its neighborhood despite working with the same student populations and the same resources.

Their litmus test for being rated a “miracle” school is fulfilling a list of nine factors. If a school fails in any of these categories, the researchers say, it is not truly a “miracle” school. The factors are:

  • A low attrition rate;
  • High test scores;
  • Fair representation of special education students;
  • Fair representation of English language learner students;
  • A high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals;
  • Funding equivalent to the nearby “failing” schools;
  • High graduation rate (for high schools);
  • High college acceptance rate (for high schools);
  • No evidence that the school discriminates against low performing students.

Rocketship Education began its charter model in San Jose, Calif., and is now scheduled to expand nationwide, including the eight elementary schools proposed for Milwaukee.

Rocketship operates only three schools, and yet is getting business support to expand nationally. It is important to go beyond the selected data that Rocketship Education chooses to present. When one sorts through data that is available from the California Department of Education, some troubling facts emerge in the areas of attrition rates, special education students and discrimination against low-performing students.

Clear data on attrition rates are not available from the two San Jose Rocketship model schools. This is in sharp contrast to Milwaukee Public Schools, which makes public all such information for all of its schools. However, by looking at enrollment changes over time, attrition problems become apparent. Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy, now in its third year of operation, had a 79% loss of students in the cohort moving from fourth to fifth grade in 2010-2011. Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary had a 20% loss of students for the cohorts going into fifth grade for both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

This significant drop in student enrollment for specific class levels raises serious questions about the schools’ operations and claims of high test scores. In San Jose districtwide, the loss of student population is less than 1%.

Other disturbing data include the low enrollment of special education students. While the San Jose school district has a special education population of more than 12%, the Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy has only 14 special education students total. Its sister school, Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary, serves only 15 special education students out of a total of 270 students. The newest school, Rocketship Los Suenos Academy, serves only 11 special education students. Keeping the number of special education students below 20, as shown in all three schools, means that special education is not considered as a subgroup required to make “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind.

The practice of not serving special education students or forcing out low-performing students can produce the appearance of successful schools. KIPP charter schools, for example, have been exposed for similar practices in their attempt to raise test scores. If “behavior problem” students and special education students, who often are challenged by standardized tests, are taken out of the equation, test scores for the school rise. But such results are hardly miraculous.

Every child in Milwaukee deserves a high performing school. But the starting point for any school must be transparency and integrity in its claims of achievement.

I urge Milwaukee’s Common Council to carefully research all of Rocketship’s outcomes before approving its request for a charter.

Larry F. Miller represents the Fifth District on the Milwaukee School Board.

October 25, 2011

Poverty Grows in the Suburbs

Filed under: Poverty — millerlf @ 10:15 am

By SABRINA TAVERNISE Published: October 24, 2011 NYTimes

PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio — The poor population in America’s suburbs — long a symbol of a stable and prosperous American middle class — rose by more than half after 2000, forcing suburban communities across the country to re-evaluate their identities and how they serve their populations.

The increase in the suburbs was 53 percent, compared with 26 percent in cities. The recession accelerated the pace: two-thirds of the new suburban poor were added from 2007 to 2010.

“The growth has been stunning,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, who conducted the analysis of census data. “For the first time, more than half of the metropolitan poor live in suburban areas.”

As a result, suburban municipalities — once concerned with policing, putting out fires and repairing roads — are confronting a new set of issues, namely how to help poor residents without the array of social programs that cities have, and how to get those residents to services without public transportation. Many suburbs are facing these challenges with the tightest budgets in years.

“The whole political class is just getting the memo that Ozzie and Harriet don’t live here anymore,” said Edward Hill, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

This shift has helped redefine the image of the suburbs. “The suburbs were always a place of opportunity — a better school, a bigger house, a better job,” said Scott Allard, an associate professor at the University of Chicago who focuses on social welfare policy and poverty. “Today, that’s not as true as the popular mythology would have us believe.”

Since 2000, the poverty roll has increased by five million in the suburbs, with large rises in metropolitan areas as different as Colorado Springs and Greensboro, N.C. Over the decade, Midwestern suburbs ranked high; recently, the rise has been sharpest in communities the housing collapse hit the hardest, like Cape Coral, Fla., and Riverside, Calif., according to the Brookings analysis.

Nearly 60 percent of Cleveland’s poor, once concentrated in its urban core, now live in its suburbs, up from 46 percent in 2000. Nationwide, 55 percent of the poor population in metropolitan areas is now in the suburbs, up from 49 percent.


Thoughtful Reflection on ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Movement

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 8:06 am

By Mike Davis / 24 October 2011 Los Angeles Review of Books

Who could have envisioned Occupy Wall Street and its sudden wildflower-like profusion in cities large and small?

John Carpenter could have, and did. Almost a quarter of a century ago (1988), the master of date-night terror (Halloween, The Thing), wrote and directed They Live, depicting the Age of Reagan as a catastrophic alien invasion. In one of the film’s brilliant early scenes, a huge third-world shantytown is reflected across the Hollywood Freeway in the sinister mirror-glass of Bunker Hill’s corporate skyscrapers.

They Live remains Carpenter’s subversive tour de force. Few who’ve seen it could forget his portrayal of billionaire bankers and evil mediacrats and their zombie-distant rule over a pulverized American working class living in tents on a rubble-strewn hillside and begging for jobs. From this negative equality of homelessness and despair, and thanks to the magic dark glasses found by the enigmatic Nada (played by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper), the proletariat finally achieves interracial unity, sees through the subliminal deceptions of capitalism, and gets angry.

Very angry.

Yes, I know, I’m reading ahead. The Occupy the World movement is still looking for its magic glasses (program, demands, strategy, and so on) and its anger remains on Gandhian low heat. But, as Carpenter foresaw, force enough Americans out of their homes and/or careers (or at least torment tens of millions with the possibility) and something new and huge will begin to slouch towards Goldman Sachs. And unlike the “Tea Party,” so far it has no puppet strings.


October 24, 2011

Milwaukee’s Alliance High School Featured in Time Magazine as Model Program

Filed under: General,LGBT — millerlf @ 6:17 pm

Time Specials

By Kayla Webley  Oct. 13, 2011

The taunting started four years ago, when Dylan Huegerich was 10. Back then, he didn’t know what being gay meant, and even today the soft-spoken teenager isn’t sure where he fits on the spectrum of sexual orientation. He knows he’s different. He knows that his sense of style — his chin-length hair, his dabbling with makeup — caught the eyes of school bullies in Saukville, Wis. In seventh grade he was pelted with snowballs and shoved into lockers. Everywhere he went on campus, students shouted anti-gay slurs and pointed and stared. “It hurt so bad,” he says. “I hated my life. I hated everything.”

His mother Amy tried to intervene. She says she was told it was her son’s fault for standing out and that he should cut his hair or try to act “more manly,” allegations the principal declined to comment on. Dylan’s mother considered volunteering in his classroom or the cafeteria, but that wouldn’t protect him the rest of the time. Every morning, she says, “I knew I was driving him back to this place where he was hurting. Oh, they beat you up? Here, go there again. My heart broke every time he got out of the car.” When the time came to register Dylan for eighth grade, she decided against re-enrollment. “I felt like if I turned in those forms, I was giving him some kind of a sentence,” she says.

So instead of sending Dylan back to a school that was a 10-minute drive from his house, his mother opted for the publicly funded Alliance School, an hour and a half away in downtown Milwaukee. The only overtly gay-friendly charter school in the U.S. to accept students as early as the sixth grade, Alliance has several boys who, with their painted nails and longer hairstyles, look like Dylan. But more important, it has many students who say they know how Dylan feels. While only about half of Alliance’s 165-member student body identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), nearly all were bullied or harassed at their previous schools. The hallways are filled with masculine girls, effeminate boys, punks, goths, runts, the overweight and the ultra-nerds. Alliance art teacher Jill Engel affectionately calls the school “the island of misfit toys.”

The Alliance School is a radical solution to a much debated problem. Children have long been taunted with homophobic slurs, but a recent string of high-profile suicides has led school and government officials to pay more attention to this subset of bullying victims. Nine out of 10 LGBT students say they have experienced bullying or harassment, according to a nationwide survey of 7,261 middle and high school students conducted in 2009 by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they have felt unsafe in school; 1 in 5 reported having been physically assaulted.

Parents want to protect their kids, but is wrapping them in an Alliance-style cocoon of tolerance the best solution? Some conservatives oppose the idea of a gay-friendly school on moral grounds, others for fiscal reasons: Why should taxpayers help make sexuality a central part of a child’s or a school’s identity? Developmental experts — and many gay activists — question the wisdom of shielding some students rather than teaching kids coping skills and promoting an atmosphere of respect on all campuses. “Being segregated doesn’t help gay kids learn, it doesn’t help straight kids learn, it doesn’t help bullies learn,” says Ritch Savin-Williams, a professor at Cornell University who chairs the human-development department. “All it does is relieve the school and the teachers of responsibility. It’s a lose-lose situation all around.” And yet to some bullying victims, it’s nothing short of a lifeline.


October 20, 2011

Ravitch on Why “Miracle Schools” are Smoke and Mirrors

Filed under: Rocketship — millerlf @ 7:39 am

Ravitch: Why ‘miracle schools’ aren’t really miracles

By Valerie Strauss Washington Post

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch for her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” an important critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.

I wrote an op-ed for The New York Times a few months ago disputing the idea of “miracle schools.” With the assistance of two volunteer researchers, Gary Rubinstein and Noel Hammatt, I learned that several schools touted by various political leaders as miraculous were not. My intention was not to criticize the schools and their staff, but to criticize the politicians who were using the schools to imply that their policies (like firing the staff and closing the school) were working and that it wasn’t all that difficult to turn around a school that enrolled large numbers of low-performing students.
The politicians seemed to suggest that their policies (testing and accountability or mass firings) sufficed to produce dramatically higher test scores and graduation rates. The subtext is that poverty and resources are not actually problems for urban schools; if they could just test more often and fire more teachers, the corporate reformers imply, then test scores would soar. This analysis suggests that schools enrolling the neediest students do not need more resources, and it rationalizes the current trend of draconian budget cuts for public education — for the arts, pre-kindergarten, libraries, physical education, and other non-tested subjects and services.
Soon after my article appeared in the Times, Newsweek published a story hailing 10 “miracle” schools. This seemed to be a direct response to my article. Gary Rubinstein and Noel Hammatt investigated the Newsweek 10 and disqualified them as “miracle schools” because they did not meet one or more of the following criteria:

1) A low attrition rate
2) High test scores
3) High graduation rate (for high schools)
4) High college acceptance rate (for high schools)
5) Fair representation of English-language learner (ELL) and special education students
6) A high percent of students who qualify for free or reduced meal prices
7) Funding equivalent to the nearby ‘failing’ school
8) No evidence that the school discriminates against low-performing students

Gary, a blogger, Teach for America alumnus (and critic), and high school mathematics teacher, became so interested in the miracle school phenomenon that he created a website to publish reviews of miracle claims.
Last week, Gary debunked a story that was prominently featured in Education Week about a “turnaround” school, the Academy@Shawnee in Louisville, Kentucky. This story seemed to validate the punitive policies advanced by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. But when Gary examined the school’s record, he found a very different story from the one reported in Education Week.
Then Gary reviewed the miracle claims of the New Orleans Recovery School District. New Orleans has been widely touted as proof that incredible results can be achieved by getting rid of the teachers’ union and converting most schools into privately managed charter schools.

Two days ago, the oft-told tale was repeated in an editorial in The New York Times. The editorial begins with the statement that, before Hurricane Katrina, more than 60 percent of New Orleans’ students attended a failing school, and now only 18 percent do. Among the unasked questions: Are the students in New Orleans the same ones who were in the schools before the hurricane? How many of the city’s poorest children returned? What is the definition of a “failing school”? Was the definition the same pre- and post-hurricane? What methods are the presumably better schools using to produce such miracles?
Once again, Gary found that the hype exceeded reality. By examining state data, Gary learned that the district is in fact one of the lowest-performing in the state of Louisiana. In fact, it is 69th of 70 districts. The state gave a D or an F grade to 87 percent of the schools in the Recovery School District. Its much-heralded “improvement” is based on a statistic that exaggerates growth for districts with low baseline scores.
The lesson in all this debunking is not that poor kids can’t learn. Of course, they can. Let me say that again, slowly: Yes, poor kids can learn and excel. But whether or not children are poor, education is a slow, incremental process. While it is true that a student may have a remarkable change in attitude and motivation and demonstrate large test-score gains in a short period of time, it is rare indeed when an entire school or district experiences a dramatic increase in test scores. Any huge change in scores for a school or a district in a short period of time ought to provoke skepticism and a demand for evidence, not a willing suspension of disbelief.
Like you, I don’t believe that test scores are by themselves a genuine proxy for achievement because test scores may indicate nothing more than a heavy investment in test prep. As Harvard University Professor Daniel Koretz, an assessment expert, points out in his valuable book “Measuring Up”, too much test prep may compromise the value of the measure. I used to think that test scores were a reliable gauge of academic achievement. Now I take care not to confuse the two. Not only have we seen widespread evidence of cheating and gaming the system, but it seems obvious that the over-use and misuse of standardized testing is distorting the educational process, narrowing the curriculum, and conflicting with the goals of meaningful education.
But as long as public officials insist on making test scores the measure of teacher quality and school success, then their claims should be closely scrutinized using the metrics that they themselves have made the coin of the realm. Many of the schools that politicians hail as successes have records no different from other schools that the politicians are closing.
I worry that our current national obsession with test scores has spiraled out of control and is harming students, teachers, principals, and the quality of education. How will we regain our common sense?

Juan Williams of Fox News Criticizes Republican Voter Suppression, a Reminder of Jim Crow

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 7:05 am

Opinion: GOP seeks to block the vote

By Juan Williams – The Hill 10/17/11

Politics is not Patty Cakes. Everyone plays to win. Generations of political professionals have pushed the rules to the brink with new schemes for raising money, spreading rumors, running negative ads and controlling the press.

But as the 2012 elections come into view, even cruel, old political cynics see something beyond the edge; something frightening.

With a rising number of Hispanic and black voters pushing into the electorate — putting Republicans at a bigger disadvantage every day — the GOP has unleashed a brazen, ugly effort to discourage these new voters from ever getting near the voting booth. They are turning back the clock on voting rights in America.

According to a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, 5 million eligible voters — overwhelmingly young people and minorities — are likely to be barred from voting in the 2012 elections because of laws being ginned up by Republican governors and state legislators across the country.

These new laws include unprecedented requirements for photo identification and proof of citizenship. It is no secret that 10 percent of all Americans don’t have government-issued identification and that this includes nearly 20 percent of young voters and 25 percent of black voters.

In several states the new laws also eliminate early voting and same-day registration. These laws are being called for as necessary steps to halt voter fraud. But there is no evidence of even a small amount of voter fraud anywhere in the United States. Under President Bush the Justice Department pushed federal prosecutors to find voter fraud and they came up empty.

“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” former President Clinton said in July.

The Brennan study points to 38 states where these new anti-voting laws have emerged in the last year. These include 2012 battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.

Florida is the center of the GOP’s battle against the wave of new voters who lean to the Democrats.

The Sunshine State’s new Republican Governor, Rick Scott, and his GOP-controlled legislature enacted several strict new voting regulations earlier this year. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice citing a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In its letter to DOJ’s voting rights division chief, the DSCC wrote: “[We see] it as no coincidence that the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature would institute voting changes that will disparately affect minority voters in an election year when suppressing the minority vote likely will help Republican candidates, but under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, minority voting rights cannot be bartered in the course of political gamesmanship.”

One particularly egregious tactic in Florida, but also in North Carolina and Ohio, is the elimination of early voting on Sundays. That simple step in the name of ease of voting helped people who have to be at their jobs during the week make it to the polls. Sunday is also the day when many black churches organize their members and help them vote.

There have been small, widely condemned efforts to shut the door on American votes in the last decade.

In a few instances, threatening, anonymous letters flooded poor, black neighborhoods warning that police and creditors would be checking anyone who voted. In another case fliers were posted in black neighborhoods announcing that the election was to take place a day later than previously announced. In a controversial move during the 2000 presidential election, police cars were positioned near polling places in minority neighborhoods in Florida.

With some organizational help from unions and liberal advocacy groups, citizens in some of these states are fighting back, with petition drives and litigation to overturn the voting restrictions.

These days, congressional Republicans seem to spend every news cycle attacking Attorney General Eric Holder. Ironically, one of their charges is that he did not aggressively pursue the most serious possible charges against a member of the New Black Panther Party who stood in intimidating fashion near a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.

It is time for Holder to stand up to something far more pernicious — the Republicans’ very real, widespread effort to distort the nation’s sacred political process.

It is time for the voting rights section of Holder’s Justice Department to accept the DSCC’s call for action against Florida’s Republican politicians.

Let that be Holder’s proud legacy — the 21st century attorney general who drew a line in the sands of history and refused to allow a return to the bad old days.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.


Next Page »

Blog at