Educate All Students, Support Public Education

October 29, 2012

What’s At Stake in This Election

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 3:24 pm

by Larry Miller

If my uncle Al were alive today, even he would be taken aback by the brazen actions of the Republican Party. Al was a small business owner in Sauk City, Wisconsin, who believed in the common good while supporting Republican business policies.

Today’s Republican Party initiatives are not just an exercise in conservatism, but instead a move to the extreme right, an attack on democratic institutions and blatant disregard of the personal rights of citizens. The views and policies put forward by a solid core of Republican senators, representatives and candidates shed light on what is in store if Romney wins the White House and Republicans win the Senate.

The war on women would just be a start. The open and blatant attacks on the rights of rape victims should startle any sensible person about the dark cloud of perverse thinking dominating the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney may have been a moderate conservative in the past. But today he is an opportunist channeling the most extreme social ideologies and draconian economic proposals that put European austerity to shame.

This is no longer just a debate between slight variations in politics. The policies that amplify what’s at stake can be seen in a coordinated attempt to restrict voting rights largely for people of color, attacks on women’s right to control their bodies, an end to the safety net for the poor and elderly, anti-unionism directed both at the public sector and the private sector, xenophobia toward immigrants by embracing Arizona’s Act 1070 and saber rattling in national affairs.

Don’t forget that this same Mitt Romney railed against spending for FEMA, saying it was “immoral” for the U.S. to spend money on disaster relief when it should be focused on deficit reduction.

Right now America is within the margin of error of experiencing a siege of power by extremism. The Tea Party House representatives elected in 2010 did not move to the center or attempt to compromise to get work done in Washington for the American people. Instead, they vowed to block Obama and proceeded to flood the legislative process with extreme proposals on everything from changing the definition of rape to ending Roe v. Wade to blocking job creation to ending Medicare.

If these same people are given full reign of government, the American people will suffer significantly.

Please join me in doing everything we can these final days to stop that from happening.

Letter to Diane Ravitch on Wisconsin’s Voucher Hustle

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 1:27 pm

Diane Ravitch on Starting a Voucher School in Wisconsin

A reader writes from Wisconsin:

After our Act 10 passed in Wisconsin, a few of my colleagues and I looked into what it would take to take our game to the private sector and start a voucher school in our town. What we learned was that it would be perfectly legal for us to rent an abandoned storefront in our town and lure students in with the promise of free technology that they could keep, even after they left the school. We could collect our voucher money from the state after the third Friday in September, when the state establishes your enrollment. To keep costs low and profits high, we could use Khan Academy as our curriculum and hire uncertified aides to monitor the students (we had a few recent HS graduates in mind who we thought would make good bouncers). The hastily sketched out business plan had us earning far more than we would as public school teachers, based on our best estimates.

But the real beauty of the plan kicked in after the third Friday in September. Immediately after that, we would start “counseling” kids out and sending them back to the public school. We figure that by Thanksgiving or at the latest Christmas, we would have our enrollment down to zero, then we could fire the bouncers, break the lease, take the voucher money and run. All totally legitimate, as far as we could tell by reading the law.



October 15, 2012

News Conference: Clear Channel Comes under Fire for Biased Advertisements Intended to Intimidate Voters

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 2:25 pm

                                                                          Community Leaders Respond to Voter Suppression Billboards-

                                                                    Demand Clear Channel Remove Billboards Aimed at Intimidating Voters

              Billboard at Corner of Holton and Nash

Today members of the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable and community partners came together to demand that Clear Channel take down billboards placed throughout Milwaukee that display threatening messages intended to intimidate voters in primarily low-income communities of color. The coalition is requesting that Clear Channel replace the biased and misleading advertisements with information that will help voters exercise their fundamental right to vote in this year’s election.

                          Today’s news conference 10/15/12

Wisconsin law allows ex-felons to vote if they are no longer on probation (Off Papers.) If a citizen is on probation for a misdemeanor, they too are eligible to vote.

Bice Calls Out Tommy Thompson’s Son for Racist Remark at Republican Party Event

Filed under: Racism,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 7:42 am

Tommy Thompson’s son calls for sending Obama back ‘to Kenya’

Daniel Bice Oct. 14, 2012 Milwaukee JS

Jason Thompson, the son of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, was caught on video Sunday suggesting at a Republican event that voters this fall could send President Barack Obama back “to Kenya.”

“We have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago – or Kenya,” Jason Thompson, an attorney at Michael Best and Friedrich, said during a fall brunch hosted by the Kenosha County Republican Party.

Jason Thompson’s comment about Obama prompted laughs from the crowd, with one woman jokingly adding, “We are taking donations for that Kenya trip.”

For years, a fringe group of Obama critics has promoted the discredited “birther” argument that the first-term Democratic president was not born in the U.S. Though Obama’s father was Kenyan, the White House released Obama’s birth certificate last year showing he was born in a Hawaii hospital on Aug. 4, 1961.

Also speaking at the Kenosha event were Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Brad Courtney. The video was taken by a Democratic Party operative and posted at BuzzFeed Politics early Sunday evening.

Jason Thompson, 38, has been actively involved in his father’s bid for an open U.S. Senate seat, representing the campaign at some events. Running against Thompson is Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison.

A Baldwin spokesman declined to comment on the video.

At an evening news conference in Wauwatosa, the former four-term governor – known for committing his share of verbal gaffes over the years – initially deflected a question about the video.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Thompson said.

About an hour later, however, Thompson’s staff sent an email addressing the controversy.

“The Governor has addressed this with his son, just like any father would do,” said the campaign statement. “Jason Thompson said something he should not have, and he apologizes.”

Priebus and Courtney did not return calls.

During the same Sunday news conference, Thompson had his own slip of the tongue when talking about Baldwin.

A reporter asked Thompson about Baldwin’s statements Sunday at the Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee, responding to allegations that she has flip-flopped on sanctioning Iran.

Thompson called Baldwin’s explanation “the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard.” He then went on to call her “anti-Jewish.”

Only later did he backtrack when the same reporter asked him if he meant what he said.

“She’s anti-Israel,” he clarified.

Back in 2007, Thompson had to apologize for telling a Jewish group that earning money was “part of the Jewish tradition.” He made the remark to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism while running for president.

Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 224-2135 or Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice


Support Anti-Bullying Day, Oppose Right Wing Christian Group’s Homophobia

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 6:52 am

Christian Group Finds Gay Agenda in an Anti-Bullying Day

By KIM SEVERSON October 14,2012 NY Times

On Mix It Up at Lunch Day, schoolchildren around the country are encouraged to hang out with someone they normally might not speak to.

The program, started 11 years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center and now in more than 2,500 schools, was intended as a way to break up cliques and prevent bullying.

But this year, the American Family Association, a conservative evangelical group, has called the project “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools” and is urging parents to keep their children home from school on Oct. 30, the day most of the schools plan to participate this year.

The charges, raised in an e-mail to supporters earlier this month, have caused a handful of schools to cancel this year’s event and has caught organizers off guard.

“I was surprised that they completely lied about what Mix It Up Day is,” said Maureen Costello, the director of the center’s Teaching Tolerance project, which organizes the program. “It was a cynical, fear-mongering tactic.”

The swirl around Mix It Up at Lunch Day reflects a deeper battle between the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights group founded 41 years ago in Montgomery, Ala., and the American Family Association, a Bible-based cultural watchdog organization in Tupelo, Miss. The association says its mission is to fight what it calls the “increasing ungodliness” in America.

The law center recently added the group to its national list of active hate groups, which also includes neo-Nazis, black separatists and Holocaust deniers.

Association leaders, in return, have gone on the offensive, calling the law center a hate group for oppressing Christian students and claiming its aim is to shut down groups that oppose homosexuality.

“The reality is we are not a hate group. We are a truth group,” said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the association. “We tell the truth about homosexual behavior.”

Although the suggested activities for Mix It Up at Lunch Day do not expressly address gay and lesbian students, the law center itself promotes equal treatment for gays and lesbians and that philosophy then informs the school program, he said.

“Anti-bullying legislation is exactly the same,” Mr. Fischer said. “It’s just another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda. No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized.”

The program is not about sexual orientation but rather about breaking up social cliques, which are especially evident in a school cafeteria, Ms. Costello said.

In some schools, cliques are socioeconomic. In others they are ethnic or religious or based on sexual orientation. By giving students a way to mix with other students, self-imposed social barriers can be broken down and bullying can be curbed, she said.

“Many of the targets of bullying are kids who are either gay or are perceived as gay,” she said.

But the idea that the program is intended as homosexual indoctrination is simply wrong, Ms. Costello added.

“We’ve become used to the idea of lunatic fringe attacks,” she said, “but this one was complete misrepresentation.”

Parents who are on the American Family Association e-mail list were encouraged to keep their children home on that day and to call school administrators to tell them why.

By Friday, about 200 schools had canceled, Ms. Costello said. But exactly why was unclear. Of 20 schools that had canceled and were contacted by The New York Times, only one chose to comment.

The Chattahoochee County Education Center in Cusseta, Ga., canceled because teachers were too busy trying to meet basic state teaching requirements, said Tabatha Walton, the principal.

“The decision had nothing to do with taking a position on gay rights,” she said. “We support diversity.”

Although parents did complain to Kevin Brady, the head of the Avon Grove Charter School in rural Pennsylvania, the school is still planning to hold Mix it Up at Lunch Day for its 1,600 students.

Students will each be assigned a number and then paired up by school officials. The school has a large population of special-needs students who can feel isolated and thus benefit greatly from the program, Mr. Brady said.

The school started it a few years ago, inspired, in part, by the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado and examples of bully-related violence that surfaced in schools around the country.

He said the e-mail sent by the association described a program that had “absolutely no resemblance to what we do.” Once parents understood how the program worked, they decided not keep their children home that day, he said.

“I think they feel they have been taken for a bit of a ride,” he said.

Robbie Brown contributed reporting from Atlanta.



October 12, 2012

New Orleans Parent Discusses Recovery District “Reforms”

Filed under: Charter Schools,New Orleans — millerlf @ 10:29 am

This is a profile of one of the Parents Across America founders followed by a link to her presentation at a Washington D.C. forum in August of 2012 titled “how some African-Americans got on the wrong side of education reform.”

Karran Harper Royal’s articulate, impassioned advocacy for children has made her a familiar figure in her hometown of New Orleans and a sought-after speaker the national scene. In public meetings, government hearings, conference presentations, radio programs and television broadcasts, she cuts straight through the puffery that so often characterizes education “reform,” asking hard questions and describing the experiences of her city’s most vulnerable children in eloquent detail.

Karran’s activism began back in the 1990s, when her oldest son encountered difficulties in kindergarten, largely because he did not fit the expected student mold. She became his full-time advocate, and in the process learned to negotiate the complications of educational policies and bureaucracies at local, state and federal levels.

As her experience grew, she began to realize “that school wasn’t just broken for my son. A whole lot of little Khristopher Royals had not been getting what they needed.” So she expanded her advocacy to other children and families, working first for the city Mental Health department and then for the Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center, where she advises the families of children with disabilities.

Then came Hurricane Katrina. The floodwaters that devastated the city filled Karran’s Gentilly home with ten feet of contaminated water. Karran, whose family has lived in New Orleans for generations, came back to the city as soon as the floodwaters receded. “I’m a New Orleanian through and through,” she said. “We love where we live. There was just no question that we were coming back.” Karran, her husband and her sons stripped the house to the studs and built it back. Karran worked to rebuild her neighborhood school and joined several civic improvement groups.

As she labored to rebuild her home and her community, Karran accepted an invitation from the Louisiana Department of Education to serve on the Recovery School District Advisory Council. She had been concerned for years about the quality of public education in New Orleans, and hoped that the state’s control of schools would be a positive move. But she watched with growing dismay as the state used Katrina as an excuse to replace most New Orleans schools with charter schools.

Unlike U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who proclaimed Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” Karran quickly saw the flaws in the system, especially for children with disabilities. While traditional public schools were required to meet the needs of challenged students, most charter schools preferred to simply kick them out. In a city with few traditional public schools left, children who were expelled or pressured out of charters had only deeply troubled schools as options. And even in the charter sector, many schools were failing to deliver on the educational miracles they promised.

The all-charter system also destabilized neighborhoods, because families could not count on sending their children to a neighborhood school. Karran worked with families whose children were scattered among several different schools, because of the vagaries of charter lotteries. This lack of educational stability, she explained, introduced an “additional trauma” to already devastated neighborhoods and communities. “They’re destabilizing neighborhoods,” she lamented. “They’re destabilizing families.”

As well as helping individual families, Karran began to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center to document the problems with post-Katrina education in New Orleans. She connected with other Parents Across America founders after she spoke out against Arne Duncan’s Katrina statement. She was attracted to the idea of working to improve education policy on a national level because, as she pithily put it, “It’s from those policies that actions occur that impact children at school. If you have crappy policy, you’re going to have crappy action.” She believes that parents need to be organized to influence policy and its implementation at every level of our society.

Her own family serves as an example of the power of parent advocacy. Her oldest son, Khris, graduated from New Orleans schools and won a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston, which led to a successful career in music. Her younger son, Kendrick, currently attends a New Orleans public charter high school.

When Karran isn’t traveling to speaking engagements across the country or the world, she divides her days between the phone, the Internet and face-to-face meetings with parents and community members. She sees herself as an “information sharer” in the communities she works with, helping parents and community members to understand their rights and sharing with them strategies to participate effectively in their children’s education. “I can’t solve everybody’s problems,” she notes. “I want to give parents the information they need so they can solve their own problems and be strong advocates for their children.”

She is currently seeking to expand her political influence, by running for the District 3 seat on the Orleans Parish School Board.

To listen to Karran Harper Royal talk about New Orleans “reforms” go to:

Debate on Success of New Orleans Recovery District

Filed under: Charter Schools,New Orleans — millerlf @ 10:02 am

New Orleans Education Reform: Pass or Fail?

By Jill Anderson 04/24/2012 ASKWITHFORUMS

Do the numbers on New Orleans schools lie? It depends on who you ask.

At a heated Askwith Forum, “New Orleans Education Reform: Pass or Fail?” participants went head-to-head debating issues like academic achievement, special education, teacher firings and unions, and governance.  Time columnist and EduWonk blogger Andy Rotherham moderated the discussion between Sarah Newell Usdin, founder and CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, and Kristen Buras, assistant professor of urban educational policy at Georgia State University.

One of the only things upon which the participants could agree was that, prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans schools were abysmal with a history of mass disinvestment. The city had some of the worst schools in the nation, rapid superintendent turnover, and a human resources and financial crisis leaving over $3 million in salary and benefits being paid to deceased employees.

Although some education reforms like the development of the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) began before Hurricane Katrina, the storm fueled the development of new mandates and forced a redefininition of the school system in an effort to reopen schools as quickly as possible.  A point of contention for many in education, including Buras, Usdin, and the New Orleans community, remains the manner in which this occurred. To date, there are class action lawsuits pending in areas of teacher firings and unions, and an onslaught of new charter school openings that have left many wondering whether New Orleans schools have truly seen improvement.

According to Usdin, the schools have seen the “most dramatic gains in a school system in a short amount of time,” with 56 percent of students performing on grade level compared with 35 percent before Katrina. Yet Buras contended that those numbers are not an accurate portrayal of what was really happening in schools, particularly in the RSD. “RSD schools are a complete failure,” Buras said. “A vast majority of the schools are still failing.” She noted that the standards that were passed in 2004–2005 changed the definition of failing public schools and continue to bealtered in order to make it appear as though the schools are performing better than they actually are.

“The success of the New Orleans charter school movement has been legislatively defined,” Buras said. “If you treat standards of what constitutes status of failure like a ping pong ball and continuously move it, then you can generate success or failure by shifting the definition.”

The standard in 2005 was a score 87.4. In 2009, the state lowered it to 75 and, in 2010, lowered it even further to 60, she said. In 2012, the number stands at 75. “You can’t use one standard to take over and then ratchet up the standard,” Buras added. “The absolute numbers are dismal.”

Rotherham, visibly baffled by the difference in numbers and percentages, quipped, “I’m still completely confused.”

Usdin clarified that the standards are increasing, but that still means that 56 percent of students are on level and that percentage is rising. “We’ve cut the gap between the state and the city,” she said, noting the RSD was on track to outperform the state in the next few years.

In the area of special education, Buras accused the RSD of not evenly distributing the numbers of special education students among schools and a negligence among New Orleans schools to properly educate these students.

Usdin didn’t deny a need for improvement in special education efforts on all fronts. “It’s a persistent, prevalent problem,” she said, admitting there was still a long way to go but also pointing out that most urban schools in the country are not doing a “good job” with special education.

In addition to those issues of contention, Buras raised conspiracy theories in which she accused other hands at work – mainly the government – of eyeing New Orleans as the “charter school experiment of the nation.”

Buras said that several mandates alluded to New Orleans schools being “subject to charterization” and, if they didn’t, then disaster aid would be withheld.

Usdin flatly denied Buras’ theories. She said that many schools had made efforts to secede from the school district and gain charters prior to the hurricane, and there was nothing being urged by the federal government. “There was never any mention of the Heritage Foundation or anything coming from the White House,” she said.

Following the hurricane, a declaration made by the New Orleans governor stating that it could take upward of a year for schools to reopen prompted the creation of charters by many educators, Usdin said, in an effort just to get schools open again.

In closing, Rotherham asked Buras and Usdin if there had been any improvements at all to New Orleans schools.  “Not much,” Buras quickly responded. But Usdin insisted that improvements had been made and will continue into the future.

To view the debate go to:



October 8, 2012

A President Romney Cartoon

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 8:44 pm

October 5, 2012

Romney Going After Big Bird and Sesame Street

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 2:29 pm

Sesame Street and PBS funding from the Federal government is 1/100th of 1% of Federal spending.

These  funds would keep the Federal government operating for less than an hour and the military operating for less than 6 hours.

533 Romney Lies

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 1:52 pm

Want to see 533 Romney lies?  Double-click any of the following Roman numerals to begin.

(This list was compiled by Steve Benen, a producer for the Rachel Maddow Show.)






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