Educate All Students, Support Public Education

November 24, 2016

Wisconsin school-choice supporters cheer DeVos pick

Filed under: American Federation for Children,Trump,Vouchers — millerlf @ 7:25 am

Jim Bender, of School Choice Wisconsin, celebrates the decisions of Trump, the President elected on a platform of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia

Erin Richards , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel November 23, 2016

With her deep ties to Wisconsin’s private-school choice movement and disdain for unions thwarting reforms, Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Education Secretary, was a name that sent shock waves through the state’s education circles Wednesday.

“It is completely jazzing the entire school-choice community nationwide,” said Jim Bender, president of advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin. “It’s like, game on.”

Gov. Scott Walker congratulated DeVos, whom he called his friend, on Twitter while Democratic Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan tweeted the nomination was “really bad news for public schools.”

DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, and both are heirs to the fortune amassed by Michigan-based direct sales company Amway, which was co-founded by Dick’s father, Richard DeVos. Betsy DeVos was active in Republican politics and has focused on schools as board chair of her national advocacy group, American Federation for Children, based in Washington, D.C. The group has funneled millions of dollars into campaigns around the country to elect school choice friendly lawmakers and to lobby aggressively for school choice legislation.

AFC spent almost $5 million on Wisconsin elections alone since 2010, according to liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, which railed against DeVos in a statement Wednesday.

“Being a billionaire whose hobby is underwriting campaigns to steal our public school dollars and send them to unaccountable private schools disqualifies her from being our Secretary of Education,” the statement said.

DeVos believes in upending the status quo in education and has denounced politics and slow-moving governmental processes as methods for doing so. Instead, she supports competition in the form of charter schools and voucher schools to provide more educational opportunities.

“How many of you believe our education system will ever be fixed by political parties?” she asked in Austin last year when she spoke at the SXSW education conference. “I have some bad news for you,” she continued for anyone whose hands were raised. “You are delusional.”

The American Federation for Children actually had its origins in Milwaukee in 1998; it operated under a different name and helped support the Milwaukee voucher program. DeVos remains close with Scott Jensen, the former Republican speaker of the state Assembly who was barred from running for public office in Wisconsin after his role in the state caucus scandal. Since 2010, Jensen has been a senior adviser for AFC, a position that’s allowed him to skillfully direct the nonprofit’s efforts to spread school choice programs in the form of vouchers, tax credits and education savings accounts.

Bender said the DeVos nomination is a powerful show of support for Trump’s agenda for change, which includes a proposal to make $20 billion available for children to attend the public or private schools of their choice. There is no plan yet for where that federal money would come from.

“There will be two big winners: The roles of local units of government and the role that parents play in education,” Bender said. “It looks like you’re going to have a de-emphasis put on the role of the federal government in education.”

Bill Hughes, chief academic officer of the Seton Catholic Schools network in Milwaukee and a former public-schools superintendent, said the DeVos nomination is a clear shift in educational direction that’s somewhat consistent with where Wisconsin has been heading for years.

“There is going to be considerable discussion and ferment about all of this — which should lead to better policy and ultimately better schools in public, choice and charter sectors,” Hughes said.

Contact Erin Richards at or (414) 224-2705 or @emrichards.



November 23, 2016

Betsy DeVos is Trumps nominee for Education Secretary. Her Game Plan is to make all public schools private.

Filed under: American Federation for Children,Trump — millerlf @ 2:34 pm

Let there be no confusion. Betsy DeVos  strives for the end to public education and replacing it with vouchers, or as it has been called for by some in Wisconsin, “a voucher in every backpack.”

School Choice Wisconsin , will you oppose the Trump racist, misogynist, xenophobic administration? Or are you celebrating?

From the mission statement  for The American Federation for Children:

“The American Federation for Children is the leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs and Education Savings Accounts.”

Following is a blog I posted in April of 2014.

Who is the right-wing American Federation for Children?

The American Federation for Children (AFC), led by Betty DeVos, is allying with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce( MMAC) to run candidates for offices in upcoming elections. The American Federation for Children spent $1.5 million helping Republicans in the recall elections. That includes some $900,000 that it spent to help Scott Walker fend off Tom Barrett’s challenge.

Who is the American Federation for Children?
The American Federation for Children (AFC) is an organization with roots in Milwaukee that promotes public school privatization through “voucher programs.” It shares an address and leadership with its 501(c)(3) partner Alliance for School Choice (ASC).

AFC is chaired by Betsy DeVos, the billionaire wife of Amway founder Richard DeVos and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. In recent years, she has funneled tens of millions of dollars into school privatization efforts and other right-wing initiatives.

AFC is an ALEC member and is represented by former Rep. Jensen on the ALEC Education Task Force. Jensen is the former Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker convicted in 2005 of three felonies for misuse of his office for political purposes, and banned from the state Capitol for five years (the charges were later reduced on appeal). Jensen is one of AFC’s registered lobbyists in Wisconsin.

Jensen has proposed bills to ALEC on behalf of AFC/ASC that were adopted as “model” legislation. For example, in March 2011, Jensen presented to the ALEC Education Task Force the “Education Savings Account Act,” which creates financial incentives for families to take their children out of the public school system and put them in for-profit primary and secondary schools.

AFC was a “Trustee” level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference – which, according to data from 2010, equated to a $5,000 payment to ALEC.

(Following is an AlterNet blog article that gives some history of Betty DeVos, her family and their right-wing agenda.)
The DeVos Family: Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wingers Working With the Religious Right to Kill Public Education
By Rachel Tabachnick, AlterNet
Posted in 2011 and Printed on July 19, 2012

Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions.

Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But “school choice,” as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system.

The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA, and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America’s schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.

Right-Wing Privatization Forces

The conservative policy institutes founded beginning in the 1970s get hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy families and foundations to develop and promote free market fundamentalism. More specifically, their goals include privatizing social security, reducing government regulations, thwarting environmental policy, dismantling unions – and eliminating public schools.

Whatever they may say about giving poor students a leg up, their real priority is nothing short of the total dismantling of our public educational institutions, and they’ve admitted as much. Cato Institute founder Ed Crane and other conservative think tank leaders have signed the Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which reads in part that signing on, “Announces to the world your commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education.”

But Americans don’t want their schools dismantled. So privatization advocates have recognized that it’s not politically viable to openly push for full privatization and have resigned themselves to incrementally dismantling public school systems. The think tanks’ weapon of choice is school vouchers.

Vouchers are funded with public school dollars but are used to pay for students to attend private and parochial (religious-affiliated) schools. The idea was introduced in the 1950s by the high priest of free-market fundamentalism, Milton Friedman, who also made the real goal of the voucher movement clear: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.” The quote is in a 1995 Cato Institute briefing paper titled “Public Schools: Make Them Private.”

Joseph Bast, president of Heartland Institute, stated in 1997, “Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling. In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Bast added, “Government schools will diminish in enrollment and thus in number as parents shift their loyalty and vouchers to superior-performing private schools.”

But Bast’s lofty goals have not panned out. That’s because, quite simply, voucher programs do not work.

The longest running voucher program in the country is the 20-year-old Milwaukee School Choice Program. Standardized testing shows that the voucher students in private schools perform below the level of Milwaukee’s public school students, and even when socioeconomic status is factored in, the voucher students still score at or below the level of the students who remain in Milwaukee’s public schools. Cleveland’s voucher program has produced similar results. Private schools in the voucher program range from excellent to very poor. In some, less than 20 percent of students reach basic proficiency levels in math and reading.

Most Americans do not want their tax dollars to fund private and sectarian schools. Since 1966, 24 of 25 voucher initiatives have been defeated by voters, most by huge margins. Nevertheless, the pro-privatization battle continues, organized by an array of 527s, 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and political action committees. At the helm of this interconnected network is Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the pro-voucher movement.

The DeVos Family Campaign for Privatization of Schools
The DeVoses are top contributors to the Republican Party and have provided the funding for major Religious Right organizations. And they spent millions of their own fortune promoting the failed voucher initiative in Michigan in 2000, dramatically outspending their opposition. Sixty-eight percent of Michigan voters rejected the voucher scheme. Following this defeat, the DeVoses altered their strategy.

Instead of taking the issue directly to voters, they would support bills for vouchers in state legislatures. In 2002 Dick DeVos gave a speech on school choice at the Heritage Foundation. After an introduction by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett, DeVos described a system of “rewards and consequences” to pressure state politicians to support vouchers. “That has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible,” stated DeVos. He described how his wife Betsy was putting these ideas into practice in their home state of Michigan and claimed this effort has reduced the number of anti-school choice Republicans from six to two. The millions raised from the wealthy pro-privatization contributors would be used to finance campaigns of voucher supporters and purchase ads attacking opposing candidates.
Media materials for Betsy DeVos’ group All Children Matter, formed in 2003, claimed the organization spent $7.6 million in its first year, “impacting state legislative elections in 10 targeted states” and a won/loss record of 121/60.

Dick DeVos also explained to his Heritage Foundation audience that they should no longer use the term public schools, but instead start calling them “government schools.” He noted that the role of wealthy conservatives would have to be obscured. “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” said DeVos, and pointed to the need to “cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.”
Reinventing Vouchers
Like DeVos, several free-market think tanks have also issued warnings that vouchers appear to be an “elitist” plan. There’s reason for their concern, given the long and racially charged history of vouchers.

School vouchers drew little public interest until Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered desegregation of public schools. Southern states devised voucher schemes for students to leave public schools and take the public funding with them.

Author Kevin Michael Kreuse explains how this plan was supposed to work in White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. “At the heart of the plan to defend school segregation, for instance, stood a revolutionary scheme called the ‘private-school plan.’ In 1953, a full year before Brown, Governor Talmadge advanced a constitutional amendment giving the General Assembly the power to privatize the state’s entire system of public education. In the event of court-ordered desegregation, school buildings would be closed, and students would receive grants to attend private, segregated schools.”

Given the racist origins of vouchers, advocates of privatization have had to do two things: obscure the fact that the pro-privatization movement is backed primarily by white conservatives, and emphasize the support of African American and Democratic lawmakers where it exists.

In 2000, Howard Fuller founded the Black Alliance for Education Options. The group was largely funded by John Walton and the Bradley Foundation. Walton, a son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, contributed millions to the Betsy DeVos-led All Children Matter organization, including a bequest after his death in a plane crash in 2004.

A report by People for the American Way questions whose interest was being served in the partnership between the Alliance and conservative foundations. The summary of the report reads, “Over the past nine months, millions of Americans have seen lavishly produced TV ads featuring African American parents talking about school vouchers. These ads and their sponsor, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), portray vouchers as an effort to help low-income kids. But a new report explores the money trail behind BAEO, finding that it leads directly to a handful of wealthy right-wing foundations and individuals that have a deep agenda — not only supporting the school voucher movement, but also backing anti-affirmative action campaigns and other efforts that African American organizations have opposed or considered offensive.”

Black was more blunt, describing vouchers as “The Right’s Final Answer to Brown” and tracking the history of vouchers from die-hard segregationists to the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to attach vouchers to federal legislation in 1981. The article stated, “The problem was, vouchers were still firmly (and correctly) associated with die-hard segregationists. Memories of white “massive resistance” to integration remained fresh, especially among blacks, who had never demanded vouchers — not even once in all of the tens of thousands of demonstrations over the previous three decades.”

The article continues, “Former Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett understood what was missing from the voucher political chemistry: minorities. If visible elements of the black and Latino community could be ensnared in what was then a lily-white scheme, then the Right’s dream of a universal vouchers system to subsidize general privatization of education, might become a practical political project. More urgently, Bennett and other right-wing strategists saw that vouchers had the potential to drive a wedge between blacks and teachers unions, cracking the Democratic Party coalition. In 1988, Bennett urged the Catholic Church to ‘seek out the poor, the disadvantaged…and take them in, educate them, and then ask society for fair recompense for your efforts’ — vouchers. The game was on.”

In this winning formula, vouchers or “scholarships” are advertised as the only hope for under served and urban minority children. Those who dare to defend public education from voucher schemes are, ironically, implied to be racist. Glossy brochures published by the DeVos-led entity All Children Matter show smiling faces of little children as well as those of the African American and Democratic politicians who have joined the campaign. Kevin Chavous, a former D.C. city councilman who takes credit for “shepherding” vouchers in D.C. and New Orleans, served as senior advisor to All Children Matters and now leads the BAEO and sits on the board of the DeVos-led AFC and Democrats for Education Reform.

All Children Matter was fined $5.2 million dollars in Ohio for breaking campaign finance laws, and lost an appeal in early 2010. The fine has not been paid. The DeVos-led organization also received bad press due to a fine in Wisconsin for failing to register their PAC as well as complaints in other states. In 2010 the entity began working under the name American Federation for Children (AFC) and registered new affiliate PACs across the nation, just in time for the 2010 elections.

The 2010 effort included a state that was not even included in Dick DeVos’ list of potential targets when he spoke to the Heritage Foundation in 2002 — Pennsylvania. An affiliate of AFC registered a PAC in Pennsylvania in March 2010 and less than a year later a voucher bill, SB-1, was sponsored in the Senate.

Throughout this well-coordinated campaign, the Pennsylvania press never once mentioned the name Betsy DeVos.

The Religious Right Foot Soldiers
The strategy in Pennsylvania in 2010, like efforts in other states, benefited from years of previous efforts to build alliances in the voucher movement. The conservative policy institutes have limited reach in the general public. In order to win the battle for hearts and minds, a larger public relations effort is required. The Religious Right fills this role with their tremendous broadcast capability and growing access to churches and homes. The partnership between free market fundamentalists and social conservatives is often contentious, but they share a common goal — to end secular public education. The free marketers object to the “public” aspect while the Religious Right objects to the “secular” component of public education.

A significant forum that brings together free-market power brokers and Religious Right leaders is the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive group that has met several times annually behind closed doors since 1981. Richard DeVos described CNP as bringing together the “donors and the doers.” This partnership gives the Religious Right access to major funders, including Richard Mellon Scaife, who are not social conservatives.

Many of the free-market think tanks are secular, but there is a trend toward merging free-market fundamentalism with right-wing religious ideology. The Acton Institute is described by religious historian Randall Balmer as an example of the merging of corporate interests with advocates of “dominion theology.” Dominionism is the belief that Christians must take control over societal and government institutions. The Acton Institute funds events featuring dominionist leaders including Gary North, who claims that the bible mandates free market capitalism or “Biblical Capitalism.”

Betsy DeVos has served on the board of Acton, which is also funded by Scaife, Bradley and Exxon Mobil. A shared goal of this unlikely group of libertarians and theocrats is their battle against environmental regulation. One of the Acton Institute fellows leads a group of Religious Right organizations called the Cornwall Alliance, which is currently marketing a DVD titled Resisting the Green Dragon. The pseudo-documentary describes global warming as a hoax and claims environmentalism is a cult attacking Christianity. Another shared goal of the free marketers and Christian dominionists is eradicating secular public education.

Gary North explains why getting students out of public schools is key to the Christian dominionist camp. “So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

And the Christian Right has been busy enacting this vision. One of the first goals of the Christian Coalition was to take control of 500 local public school boards, and it’s a strategy the Religious Right has continued. One prominent example is Cynthia Dunbar, one of the members of the Texas State Board of Education which made controversial changes to the state’s social studies curriculum in 2010. Dunbar, who was advised by right-wing self-styled “historian” David Barton, is author of One Nation Under God and has described sending children to public schools as “throwing them into the enemy’s flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.”

In addition to getting Trojan horses on school boards, the Religious Right has played a significant role in disseminating anti-public school propaganda and forming alliances to support vouchers for private schools. Family Research Council (FRC), one of the entities funded by the Prince and DeVos families, documents the effort in Pennsylvania to cultivate a partnership between Protestants and Catholics who wanted public funding for their sectarian schools.

The data accompanying proposed bill SB-1, indicates that the majority of the public school funds that will be spent on vouchers will pay tuition for students already enrolled in private schools. In Milwaukee 80 percent of voucher program schools are religiously affiliated, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In Cleveland, 52 percent of the students in the 29 Catholic diocesan schools are using taxpayer-funded vouchers, according to the Plain Dealer.

FRC’s Web site includes a 1999 speech by one of Pat Robertson’s biographers, in which he describes the school choice alliance in Pennsylvania of Protestant and Catholic leaders along with the Commonwealth Foundation and REACH Alliance. Commonwealth is a state think tank funded by the Scaife foundations. REACH Alliance is the statewide pro-voucher activist organization funded by the DeVos-led Alliance for School Choice (now also renamed American Federation for Children). This alliance is further described in the speech as forming “ties to black legislators based in Philadelphia, including Dwight Evans. This was big news for the Pennsylvania education reform movement because Evans is a powerful legislator and community leader.”

Evans would indeed become key to expanding vouchers in the Philadelphia area, and he and state Senator Anthony Williams (not to be confused with the D.C. mayor by the same name), both Democrats, serve as directors of the BAEO.

The Battle for Pennsylvania
By the 2010 election, the groundwork had been laid and the heavy artillery brought into the state of Pennsylvania. First, a PAC was registered in March 2010 by Republican strategist Joe Watkins under the name Students First. Affiliated with the DeVos and Chavous-led AFC, the PAC shared the name with the organization founded by Michelle Rhee, a star of the popular pro-privatization movie Waiting for Superman. The Web site of Students First PAC touts the African-American Watkins’ experience as an adviser to a president and pastor. There is no mention of the fact that the president was George W. Bush. The bio also neglects to include Watkins’ ties to the Republican Party or his role in attack ads run on Fox News against presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
Students First PAC received over $6 million in donations for use in the 2010 elections, much of that donated by three mega-donors whose names were unfamiliar to most Pennsylvanians. The three mega-donors, Joel Greenberg, Jeffrey Yass and Arthur Dantchik, also contributed over a million dollars to the AFC-affiliated PAC in Indiana and $6,000 dollars each to the gubernatorial campaign of Scott Walker. The Indiana PAC total was raised to almost $6 million by a few contributors, including Betsy DeVos herself and several Walton family members. Most of that money did not stay in Indiana but was distributed to affiliated PACs in six other states, including over a million sent back to Pennsylvania’s Students First.
Much of the Students First money went to the long-shot gubernatorial campaign of Anthony Williams. Williams lost in the primaries, but he brought statewide attention to his primary campaign cause — school vouchers. Among Students First’s millions of expenditures was a $575 payment for conference registration to the Council for National Policy.
Pennsylvania press did not pay much attention to the background of the donors of the unprecedented millions pouring into the election in support of a single issue, describing them simply as supporters of school choice. Greenberg serves on the board of the Betsy DeVos-led AFC; Yass on the board of the pro-privatization think tank Cato Institute; and Dantchik on the board of the Institute for Justice, which describes itself as a merry band of libertarian litigators and is perhaps best known for its battles against affirmative action. It’s funded by Koch, Bradley, Olin, Scaife and Walton foundations and has now become a champion of school vouchers. The organization was credited by Dick DeVos in his 2002 speech as serving a significant role through challenges to the Blaine Amendments in numerous states, which disallow public funds to be spent supporting religious schools.
Money continues to be spent on attack ads against both Republican and Democratic senators opposed to SB-1. The Scaife-funded Commonwealth Foundation has created a webpage to pressure wavering Republicans. The Koch-funded FreedomWorks sponsored mailers attacking Republican state Senator Stewart Greenleaf. The mailer is headlined, “There’s a battle in Harrisburg over our children’s future. Who will win? Our children or the powerful teacher’s union?” A Students First PAC mailer attacks Democratic state Senator Daylin Leach as opposing the bill because, “he is listening to teacher union leaders who oppose SB-1 and have contributed a fortune to people like Leach.”
Much of the Indiana PAC money was also used in media campaigns, including funds sent to Florida for media purchases. AFC was the sole funder of a pro-voucher group that ran ads in Jewish publications attacking Dan Gelber, a Jewish candidate for Florida attorney general who opposed vouchers. Full page “wanted ads” were purchased in Jewish publications accusing Gelber of “crimes against Jewish education.” Other ads purchased just prior to the election described Gelber as “Toxic to Jewish Education” in red Halloween-style letters.
Dick DeVos’ model for “rewards and consequences” as described in his 2002 speech, is at work in Pennsylvania, Florida, and elsewhere, and it’s a project funded by a few mega-donors. The voucher warriors with their unlimited funding are trying to create the absurd impression that they are the altruistic David in battle against the teachers’ union Goliath.
Betsy DeVos has announced that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are scheduled to speak at the National Policy Summit of the American Federation for Children on May 9. Walker wants to expand vouchers in Milwaukee despite the program’s failure, made clear by disappointing standardized test results. Walker’s response? To halt the testing. Pennsylvania voucher supporters have already taken care of the pesky issue of accountability by defeating an amendment that would require the students using vouchers to take standardized tests.
During the AFC’s summit, it’s doubtful there will be speeches about eradicating public education but there will certainly be public relations-produced media everywhere, showing the beautiful faces of the little children these voucher proponents are supposedly saving. And Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the voucher wars, will continue to advance a stealth campaign against American communities and working families — the battle to eradicate public education.


November 14, 2016

Rethinking Schools Letter: Dangers of New Era by the election of Donald Trump

Filed under: Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 7:59 am

Dear Rethinking Schools friends,

And so it begins. At a high school in rural Oregon, south of Portland, 30 to 40 white students celebrated Trump this week in front of a Confederate flag and taunted Latina/o students: “Pack your bags, you’re leaving tomorrow,” and “Tell your family goodbye.” Graffiti found in a Minnesota high school bathroom read, “#Gobacktoafrica Make America GReat again.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reports over 200 incidents of racist, sexist, and homophobic harassment and intimidation.

These are harbingers of the dangerous new era launched by the election of Donald Trump. And they underscore the importance of the work we have ahead.

But racist and xenophobic celebrations were not the only response to Trump’s election. In San Francisco, more than a thousand students walked out of class to join protest marches. As one student said, “We’re trying to inform people about white supremacy, racism, homophobia, everything.” And in the New York City high school where Rethinking Schools editor Adam Sanchez teaches, the art club hosted a “No Allegiance to White Supremacy” T-shirt-making gathering, while the Feminism and Black Lives Matter clubs held a joint emergency meeting to discuss the election. These responses are also harbingers: anticipating our schools and classrooms as sites of resistance to everything that Trump stands for. As in San Francisco, students in New York later took to the streets—marching more than 40 blocks from Union Square to Trump Tower. As did students at that Minnesota high school and throughout the country, from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Boulder to Des Moines.

Trump’s election is the single worst political event in our lives. And it’s right to mourn. But a Trump administration is also a call to action. For now, we need to listen to our students and create a space where they can talk, ask questions, and analyze what has happened. We can tell students that we will do whatever we can to make our schools—and our world—safe for them and their families. Part of that involves what we say and do in our classrooms and our schools, including how we work with students doing the taunting and writing the racist graffiti. And part involves the work we do within our unions and community groups, and the alliances we build with other justice-oriented organizations.

We will redouble our efforts to provide the teaching resources that help our students make sense of what is happening in our society, and how we got here. We have resources at Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project that look at other times when racial progress was rolled back by white supremacy. But social movements have made important progress during times that seemed hopeless, and we also have teaching materials that explore these.

There will be lots more to say—and lots more to do. For now, we simply want to thank you for the work you do that is more essential than ever and to assure you that we are in this together.

With love and hope,
Rethinking Schools editors and staff

(Photo by Lorie Shaull:

Image may contain: 5 people , tree and outdoor


Role of White Nationalists (KKK,Nazis and more) in the Trump Government

Filed under: Alt-Right,Racism,Trump — millerlf @ 7:59 am

This was written before the election. Stephen Bannon is now the Chief White House Strategist for TrumpHow Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists

Breitbart News is “the platform for the alt-right,” boasts Stephen Bannon.

Stephen Bannon,

Last week, when Donald Trump tapped the chairman of Breitbart Media to lead his campaign, he wasn’t simply turning to a trusted ally and veteran propagandist. By bringing on Stephen Bannon, Trump was signaling a wholehearted embrace of the “alt-right,” a once-motley assemblage of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, ethno-nationalistic provocateurs who have coalesced behind Trump and curried the GOP nominee’s favor on social media. In short, Trump has embraced the core readership of Breitbart News.

“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July. Though disavowed by every other major conservative news outlet, the alt-right has been Bannon’s target audience ever since he took over Breitbart News from its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, four years ago. Under Bannon’s leadership, the site has plunged into the fever swamps of conservatism, cheering white nationalist groups as an “eclectic mix of renegades,” accusing President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims,” and waging an incessant war against the purveyors of “political correctness.”

“Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it,” writes a former Breitbart News editor. “With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed.”

“Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it,” former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro wrote last week on the Daily Wire, a conservative website. “With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [technology editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism  as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

Exactly who and what defines the alt-right is hotly debated in conservative circles, but its most visible proponents—who tend to be young, white, and male—are united in a belief that traditional movement conservatism has failed. They often criticize immigration policies and a “globalist” agenda as examples of how the deck is stacked in favor of outsiders instead of “real Americans.” They bash social conservatives as ineffective sellouts to the GOP establishment, and rail against neo-conservative hawks for their embrace of Israel. They see themselves as a threat to the establishment, far bolder and edgier than Fox News. While often tapping into legitimate economic grievances, their social-media hashtags (such as #altright on Twitter) dredge up torrents of racist, sexist, and xenophobic memes.

Trump’s new campaign chief denies that the alt-right is inherently racist. He describes its ideology as “nationalist,” though not necessarily white nationalist. Likening its approach to that of European nationalist parties such as France’s National Front, he says, “If you look at the identity movements over there in Europe, I think a lot of [them] are really ‘Polish identity’ or ‘German identity,’ not racial identity. It’s more identity toward a nation-state or their people as a nation.” (Never mind that National Front founder Jean Marie Le Pen has been fined in France for “inciting racial hatred.”)

Bannon dismisses the alt-right’s appeal to racists as happenstance. “Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe,” he says. “Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that’s just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.”

A Twitter analysis conducted by The Investigative Fund using Little Bird software found that these “elements” are more deeply connected to Breitbart News than more traditional conservative outlets. While only 5 percent of key influencers using the supremacist hashtag #whitegenocide follow the National Review, and 10 percent follow the Daily Caller, 31 percent follow Breitbart. The disparities are even starker for the anti-Muslim hashtag #counterjihad: National Review, 26 percent; the Daily Caller, 37 percent; Breitbart News, 62 percent.

Bannon’s views often echo those of his devoted followers. He describes Islam as “a political ideology” and Sharia law as “like Nazism, fascism, and communism.” On his Sirius XM radio show, he heaped praise on Pamela Geller, whose American Freedom Defense Initiative has been labeled an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bannon called her “one of the leading experts in the country, if not the world,” on Islam. And he basically endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s primary challenger, businessman Paul Nehlen, who floated the idea of deporting all Muslims from the United States.

During our interview, Bannon took credit for fomenting “this populist nationalist movement” long before Trump came on the scene.

During our interview, Bannon took credit for fomenting “this populist nationalist movement” long before Trump came on the scene. He credited Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)—a Trump endorser and confidant who has suggested that civil rights advocacy groups were “un-American” and “Communist-inspired”—with laying the movement’s groundwork. Bannon also pointed to his own films, which include a Sarah Palin biopic and an “exposé” of the Occupy movement, as “very nationalistic films.” Trump, he said, “is very late to this party.”

At Breitbart News, one of the most strident voices for the alt-right has been Yiannapolous, who was banned by Twitter during the RNC for inciting a racist pile-on of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. Published back in March, his “Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt Right” featured an illustration of a frog taunting an elephant—the frog image being a meme white supremacists had popularized on social media. The piece praised the anti-immigrant site VDare, the white nationalist site American Renaissance, and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, as the alt-right’s “dangerously bright” intellectual core.

On the RNC’s opening day, Yiannapolous spoke at a “Citizens for Trump” rally. He also co-hosted a party featuring anti-Muslim activist Geller and the Dutch far-right nationalist politician Geert Wilders. Yiannopolous has proved to be Breitbart‘s most vitriolic anti-Muslim presence, erasing the distinction many conservatives draw between Islam and “radical Islam.” After the Orlando shootings, Yiannopolous told Bannon on his weekly radio show that “there is a structural problem with this religion that is preventing its followers from assimilating properly into Western culture. There is something profoundly antithetical to our values about this particular religion.”

Bannon has stoked racist themes himself, notably in a lengthy July post accusing the “Left” of a “plot to take down America” by fixating on police shootings of black citizens. He argued that the five police officers slain in Dallas were murdered “by a #BlackLivesMatter-type activist-turned-sniper.” And he accused the mainstream media of an Orwellian “bait-and-switch as reporters and their Democratic allies and mentors seek to twist the subject from topics they don’t like to discuss—murderers with evil motives—to topics they do like to discuss, such as gun control.” Bannon added, “[H]ere’s a thought: What if the people getting shot by the cops did things to deserve it? There are, after all, in this world, some people who are naturally aggressive and violent.”

On Twitter, conservative Breitbart critic Bethany Mandel says she has been “called a ‘slimy Jewess’ and told that I ‘deserve the oven.'”

Some Breitbart staffers who resisted the site’s transformation into a pro-Trump alt-right hub eventually resigned in protest. Several jumped ship after Corey Lewandowski, then Trump’s campaign manager, manhandled Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields at a rally. (The site appeared to side with Lewandowski, and staffers were reportedly told not to question his account.) Among the departing staffers were Fields, who now writes for the Huffington Post, and Shapiro, who has emerged as one of Breitbart‘s most vociferous conservative critics.

On Thursday, in the Washington Post, Shapiro upped the ante, describing the alt-right as a “movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism,” and Breitbart News as “a party organ, a pathetic cog in the Trump-Media Complex and a gathering place for white nationalists.” The reception he and another conservative Jewish Breitbart critic, Bethany Mandel, have experienced in the Bannonosphere is revealing: In May, when Shapiro, who became editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire after leaving Breitbart, tweeted about the birth of his second child, he received a torrent of anti-Semitic tweets. “Into the gas chamber with all 4 of you,” one read. Another tweet depicted his family as lampshades. Mandel says she has been harassed on Twitter for months, “called a ‘slimy Jewess’ and told that I ‘deserve the oven.'”

After Shapiro called out the anti-Semitism, Breitbart News published (under the byline of Pizza Party Ben) a post ridiculing Shapiro for “playing the victim on Twitter and throwing around allegations of anti-Semitism and racism, just like the people he used to mock.”

Back at the RNC, Bannon dismissed Shapiro as a “whiner…I don’t think that the alt-right is anti-Semitic at all,” he told me. “Are there anti-Semitic people involved in the alt-right? Absolutely. Are there racist people involved in the alt-right? Absolutely. But I don’t believe that the movement overall is anti-Semitic.”

In any case, Breitbart‘s conservative dissenters are fearful of what the Trump-Bannon alliance might bring. As Mandel puts it, “There’s no gray area here: Bannon is a bad guy. And he now has control of a major campaign for president.”

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Additional reporting was done by Kalen Goodluck, Josh Harkinson, and Jaime Longoria.

Harry Reid Calls Trump “a Sexual Predator Who Lost the Popular Vote”

Filed under: Resistance,Trump — millerlf @ 7:58 am

Read his no-holds-barred attack on the president-elect.

Sen. Harry Reid, on his way out as Senate minority leader, released a blistering statement condemning President-elect Donald Trump Friday morning. “The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America,” said Reid. Reid attacked Trump for inciting fear among a wide swath of Americans whom he insulted during his presidential campaign, including African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and the LGBT community.

Reid, the Democrats leader in the Senate since 2005, didn’t run for reelection this year and will be leaving Congress when his term expires in January. The election of Catherine Cortez Masto to replace Reid was one of the lone bits of bright news for Democrats this week. But Reid struck a dire note in his statement on Trump’s election, warning that the next president should not be normalized as just a regular politician now, and that the fear among these minority groups is “entirely rational, because Donald Trump has talked openly about doing terrible things to them.”

“If this is going to be a time of healing,” Reid says, “we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.”

Read Reid’s full statement below:

“I have personally been on the ballot in Nevada for 26 elections and I have never seen anything like the reaction to the election completed last Tuesday. The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America.

“White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear—especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans. Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America.

“I have heard more stories in the past 48 hours of Americans living in fear of their own government and their fellow Americans than I can remember hearing in five decades in politics. Hispanic Americans who fear their families will be torn apart, African Americans being heckled on the street, Muslim Americans afraid to wear a headscarf, gay and lesbian couples having slurs hurled at them and feeling afraid to walk down the street holding hands. American children waking up in the middle of the night crying, terrified that Trump will take their parents away. Young girls unable to understand why a man who brags about sexually assaulting women has been elected president.

“I have a large family. I have one daughter and twelve granddaughters. The texts, emails and phone calls I have received from them have been filled with fear – fear for themselves, fear for their Hispanic and African American friends, for their Muslim and Jewish friends, for their LBGT friends, for their Asian friends. I’ve felt their tears and I’ve felt their fear.

“We as a nation must find a way to move forward without consigning those who Trump has threatened to the shadows. Their fear is entirely rational, because Donald Trump has talked openly about doing terrible things to them. Every news piece that breathlessly obsesses over inauguration preparations compounds their fear by normalizing a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. Their fear is legitimate and we must refuse to let it fall through the cracks between the fluff pieces.

“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

“If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.”

November 9, 2016

Trump Wins: The David Dukes of the World Prevail

Filed under: General,Trump — millerlf @ 4:58 pm


Wednesday, 09 November 2016 By John Knefel, Truthout | News Analysis

The unimaginable has happened. The Nightmare Scenario, that thing that seemed impossible, has come to pass. The United States has played Russian roulette with itself and lost. It is difficult to find the words to capture just how profoundly awful this outcome is. Trump ran on a promise of deporting 15 million people and banning Muslims from entering the country. The immediate safety of those groups is very much in question.

Donald Trump has won the office of the President of the United States. After a 19-month campaign that encompassed the worst tendencies of the United States, it seemed possible that the worst outcome would not happen. Not so. This country now has a white supremacist as its president. Although Trump may have temporarily disavowed David Duke, make no mistake: The David Dukes of the world have won the day. There is no question who Trump is, and there never has been. To his accidental credit, Trump was incapable of hiding his sexist, racist, xenophobic impulses. He showed them to America, and the country said “yes.”

What Donald Trump has shown us is that the majority of American voters want a white supremacist in the Oval Office. He ran on an ethno-chauvinist platform that always intentionally excluded people of color from the basic promises of society, by definition. That is the terrible conclusion compelled by Occam’s razor: A vast number of the people who populate the United States want to be led by a white supremacist.

Americans are confronted now with the real issue of resistance. We have to resist.

What we all must understand is that there is no longer a worst-case scenario. The nuclear technicians who endorsed Clinton mean nothing now. Whistleblowers, under Trump: Good luck. And good luck to all the media outlets Trump’s good friend Peter Thiel wants to take an axe to as well.

We are in uncharted waters. Many critics have compared Trump to Hitler, but most have missed the mark. It’s been 92 years since Hitler’s failed beer hall putsch, also on November 8 and 9, 1923. That attempt to oust the national government failed, but it showed Hitler’s prowess and ultimately established him on the national stage in Bavaria. The failed coup landed Hitler in jail, but a sympathetic judge offered a lenient sentence, and by the mid 1920s Hitler was again agitating for the power on a platform that centered the annihilation of the Jews. Not enough Germans disrupted that project. The United States may well skip the stage of the 1920s and go right to the more mechanized stage of destruction.

With Trump at the helm, who knows.

The man has promised to deport 15 million undocumented people. He has promised to impose a ban on entering the country for Muslims. Let no one forget that he bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy.” What the lessons of early 20th-century fascism tell us, though, is that a dictator can be down but not out. Regardless of Trump’s terrifying rise, liberalism hasn’t had enough to say about the appeal of right-wing fanaticism. And still, when a human tells you of their plan to carry out a project of white supremacy through deportation, as Trump has promised for the United States, we would do well to listen to him.

Grotesque fascism has won the day. Years from now, a younger candidate may well be able to generate even more support among white women, a group Trump won, and still retain Trump’s devoted base and have a shot at continuing Trump’s administration.

Donald Trump is a fanatic, and his fanaticism takes the form of extreme narcissism most prominently. It’s true that his misogyny and racism go back decades, but even as late as 2012 he was pushing for immigration reform, contrary to his central animating campaign promise. He is terrifying as an executive, but he is not a true believer, at his core. However, his victory will pave the way for the rise of fascist leaders who are more tied to their “principles” than he is.

In fact, it turned out the US was susceptible to two distinct threats, both of which Trump embodied to a certain extent. One is the threat of the shrewd fascist, and the other is that of the true believer. Ezra Klein at Vox argued that the world produces all kinds of talented fascists, and that a more skilled politician could’ve won on Trump’s promises but with toned-down rhetoric. Well, apparently the United States didn’t require a shrewd fascist to win, just a simple demagogue. Perhaps a more skilled Republican could have also won the popular vote, or won by a greater margin, but that wasn’t necessary. Trump was shrewd enough.

Trump is a true believer, too: a believer in his own entitlement and also in the correctness of patriarchy and white dominance. Whether he will pursue his campaign promises with the dedication of a fanatic remains to be seen, but we know he sees the world as one in which rich white men should rule, and the rest should follow.

The country is at risk of falling prey not only to the skilled authoritarian, but also to the true believer fanatic: someone with Trump’s thirst for vengeance and totalitarian leanings, who also believes in the messianic righteousness of their platform, as opposed to just believing in themselves (as Trump does). The true believer is someone for whom the alt-right message boards are the unchanging gospel.

And these two types, of course, aren’t mutually exclusive. The alt-right may not be yet capable of producing slick politicians, but it has no problem producing fanatics. And whether a true believer rises through its ranks or a skilled operator rides the wave of alt-right enthusiasm, the threat is the same. Stephen Bannon — the man at the helm of Trump’s campaign and the force behind the conservative site Breitbart — is a true believer. Whether Trump carries out a true-believer program of maximal pain upon The Other remains to be seen, but if I were betting I’d say he does it.

To see the harm a true fanatic can do, one need look no further than the George W. Bush administration. Torture and any number of other cruelties were carried out in the name of protecting freedom. That the population at large never reckoned with these policies was just a side benefit. Trump, for his part, has promised to bring back waterboarding and worse. He has also pledged to kill the families of suspected terrorists.

The great unanticipated threat in this election was the latent authoritarianism of the United States citizenry. Early polls showed that the best indicator for Trump support was authoritarianism. The one thing that Trump did well was combine his branding with his politics, to make essentially a brand out of a political party.

The Republican establishment spent most of the primary waiting for the Trump bubble to burst. That never happened, and now the country has to deal with President Trump. The establishment has lost control but the party will unite, begrudgingly, and the very serious party operatives will have their way. Paul Ryan’s program of austerity will likely find a friend in President Trump, regardless of his early promises to protect the social safety net.

When I went up to Manchester, New Hampshire, on October 28, I spoke with a woman who, unprompted, explained her fondness for Trump to me. “He’ll fix the inner cities,” she told me. “He’ll teach them how to help themselves.” This condescending attitude is at the heart of so much white supremacy. Racism always presents itself as rational and reasonable, not as hate but as an expression of the “natural” order of things.

Trump has said some critical things about the invasion of Iraq. So what? Does anyone think that Trump will act restrained in the face of even the most manageable of national security challenges? His entire worldview is one of maximalist dominance. That’s why he admires Vladimir Putin so much. That’s why he has no problem being associated with “interesting quotes” from Benito Mussolini. He has already repeatedly promised to take ISIS’s oil, itself a simplification of liberal criticisms of Bush and Cheney’s Iraq catastrophe. He will likely meet with conservative thought leaders — who, it turns out, don’t much determine public thought — and promise them that yes, foreigners will respect America again. Just like when Gov. Chris Christie, Trump’s first establishment endorsement, said the sheer force of his personality would have stopped Putin from annexing Crimea, Trump will likely promise what the foreign policy establishment loves most: an amplification of US military dominance abroad.

The country has laid its claim. The rich white men will die before they share prosperity. Trump has won, and at best, the republic is not lost. But maybe it is. Maybe it was already destroyed years ago.


November 5, 2016

Is School Choice Wisconsin Head, Jim Bender, Accusing MPS Superintendent Dr. Driver of Only Caring About Money and Not Children in Her Proposed Reform Agenda?

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 9:43 am

Jim Bender states in WUWM interview comments, “They (MPS) want to become the only charter authorizer. They want to do that so they can capture cash flow, and count those students in their head count and generate revenue off those students… I don’t know that it’s any other purpose for improving education. I think it’s got a lot more to do with the bottom line.”

MPS Superintendent Introduces Aggressive Reform Agenda

11/4/16 WUWM

The superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools is putting forward some big ideas for change in her district. This week, Darienne Driver presented the MPS board with a slate of reforms designed to boost achievement.

Some of the most attention-grabbing ideas focus on improving student performance. They include a proposal to create a “network” of support and training for staff at for the lowest-performing schools. Dr. Driver also wants to develop an “Office of Black and Latino Male Achievement” that would work to close the achievement gap between those students and their peers.

And she wants to make organizational changes.

The most notable would be petitioning the state to make MPS the only entity in town that could charter schools. Right now, the district oversees about half of Milwaukee’s charter schools. The other chartering authorities are UWM and the City of Milwaukee.

Dr. Driver would also like to put all MPS schools on the same academic calendar, and mandate uniforms across the district.

The push for change and a kick-start to improvement is welcome. In general, immediate reaction is that people need more information before they can pass judgment.

“I and many other people are really, truly looking forward to hearing more of what the meat behind the titled components of this proposal are,” says Danae Davis, executive director of local organization Milwaukee Succeeds. “I hope that none of us throws darts until we know what it is that we’re talking about.”

A conversation has definitely begun about the scope of some of these ideas.

Dr. Driver has said she wants to see her turnaround plans implemented at all of Milwaukee’s lowest-performing schools – not just those in MPS, but at independent charter and voucher schools, too.

This idea of letting MPS create a template for struggling public, charter and private schools is bound to stir the pot.

“MPS at its core has a conflict,” says Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. “They are so desperate to keep market share, that they can’t afford to lose many more students, or their financial model implodes.”

“They want to become the only charter authorizer. They want to do that so they can capture cash flow, and count those students in their head count and generate revenue off those students. “I don’t know that it’s any other purpose for improving education. I think it’s got a lot more to do with the bottom line.”

But even Bender reiterated that we haven’t seen many details for these MPS proposals yet. He says he’s eager to learn more.

The district hasn’t released many details just yet. Some of the proposals might require changes in the law. For example, state Superintendent Tony Evers confirmed last month that would be the case if MPS wants to tweak its academic calendar.

WUWM has requested to see formal documentation of these proposals, but MPS has not yet provided that information. Reports say the district plans to release more details and a survey to staff and parents shortly.

“Superintendent Driver and the Milwaukee Board of School Directors are excited about the opportunities presented by the administration,” district leaders said in a statement. “We look forward to working together in the months to come and implementing programs that will continue our push to further improve outcomes and opportunities for our students.”

Dr. Driver introduced these plans on the heels of an announcement that the district is already improving.

Even though school report cards won’t be released until later this month, the state Department of Public Instruction confirmed that MPS will not be considered “failing” this year. It seems this has given Dr. Driver and her team the momentum to pursue a more aggressive reform agenda.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Driver wanted to introduce all of her ideas now, so that the board could talk through them one or two at a time, as the district moves into its budgeting season. That process commences later this year.

November 3, 2016

Driver unveils major improvement plans for MPS

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 6:46 am

Erin Richards , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel November 2, 2016

Saying that Milwaukee Public Schools has not effectively engaged children of color, Superintendent Darienne Driver is proposing a slate of major reforms, including mandating student uniforms, launching the school year in August and imposing principal coaching and potential staff changes at the lowest-performing schools.

If anyone was waiting for a mic drop from the superintendent, who is two years into her tenure and still shy of 40 years old, this might be it.

“I think we’re in the right mind-set for improvement and it’s time to kick it into action,” Driver told the Milwaukee School Board Tuesday night after she revealed the ideas, which also include creating an office of black and Latino male achievement. More details will be released to MPS staff and parents this week, with a district-wide survey going out Friday.

“We want to get as much feedback about this as possible,” Driver said.

Another twist: Some of the proposals cross the borders of MPS. Driver has called for turnaround plans to be put in place at all the city’s lowest-performing schools, including independent charter and private voucher schools over which MPS has no jurisdiction. Driver and Board President Mark Sain have also proposed that MPS become the sole authorizer of charter schools in the city.

“We know people may classify it as some type of takeover, but really, it’s about conversation,” Sain said Wednesday.

The sweeping proposals are a more dramatic set of ideas than MPS has offered in years, and many would say they are overdue. Only about 20% of district students are reading proficiently, according to the state exams. Graduation rates have dropped across all racial groups. Enrollment in conventional schools is declining.

Driver said MPS isn’t where it needs to be, but she’s also making it clear she wants the plan for tackling those challenges to be on the district’s terms. She rebuffed a plan by Republican lawmakers to wrest control of the district’s lowest-performing schools and put them under the control of the Milwaukee County executive. Now it appears MPS is going on the offensive with a more comprehensive strategy. In the wake of Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 reforms, superintendents and school boards have more authority to change school calendars and other work conditions without union approval.

Driver said introducing the proposals now will allow one or two per month to come to the School Board for consideration and public testimony through the end of the year and into early 2017, when they can flow into the district’s budget process and the state’s biennial budget process.

Driver’s proposals

Some of the proposals include:

Changes for the lowest-performing schools: New report cards will soon identify the latest lowest-performing schools in MPS. There are 53 that meet that definition now. Driver has proposed creating a network to support between 10 to 12 of the lowest-performing schools each year for the next three years, with up to 35 by 2018-’19. The “signature schools” would have a new hiring window in the spring, and then develop individual culture and instructional plans. Teachers would attend at least four days of extra training. Principals would get side-by-side coaching and meet with the superintendent monthly to talk about data.

“We’re proposing some different hiring practices for low-performing schools,” Driver said.

A unified calendar: All district schools would follow the calendar for International Baccalaureate schools, which start in mid-August and finish before the end of May. A June session would extend the year for five weeks for students who need to recover credits or earn additional credits.

Driver said one calendar could also save hundreds of thousands of dollars on busing and duplicative staff training.

State law requires public schools to start after Labor Day, but State Superintendent Tony Evers has pledged to ask the Legislature to change that for MPS. Even if it doesn’t, Driver said MPS could request a district waiver from the Department of Public Instruction.

School uniforms:  Driver said more parents are asking for uniforms, especially after some district schools implemented them this year. Uniforms are frequently a draw for parents who send their children to independent charter and voucher schools, though research is mixed on whether they have any effect on achievement. Driver said uniforms could also help identify MPS students in the community. Or more specifically, identify children who are not MPS students.

Schools could decide to opt out of the districtwide policy.

“One Milwaukee:” MPS is tiptoeing toward thinking more collectively about student achievement at all schools, including independent charter and voucher programs. Driver is looking to districts like Cleveland and Denver that have established mechanisms for holding all schools accountable, which include expanding high-performing schools and limiting low-performing ones.

That’s where the call for turnaround plans in the lowest-performing charter and voucher programs comes from. Driver said all schools should be judged by the same measuring stick.

Chartering authority: Sain, the School Board president, said MPS becoming the sole chartering authority in the city would reduce the frequency with which some people “shop” their proposals among the city’s three active chartering entities: MPS, the Common Council and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Currently, MPS authorizes about 20 charter schools, the city oversees nine and UWM oversees 12.

Sain said that as a sole authorizer, MPS could achieve “economies of scale” by providing support to all.

“The issue is, instead of opening up more schools, we need to have more conversations about how to fix what’s there,” Sain said.

The idea would require a change in state law at a time that the GOP-led Legislature has added authorizers in recent years, including giving such power to the MPS superintendent.

Sean Roberts, the head of Milwaukee Charter School Advocates, said Wednesday it’s worth talking about a citywide strategy for authorizing schools, but he opposes diminishing current options.

“Legislating the limitation of options that are working for students and families in the city would only serve to stifle innovation and quality,” Roberts said, adding that independent charter schools have shown stronger growth and achievement than district-operated schools.

Early literacy development: Milwaukee has about 50,000 children under age 5, and half live in poverty. Exposing all to quality early-literacy programs, potentially at stand-alone sites, would help make sure they’re all prepared for school, no matter what school their parents eventually send them to.

Contact Erin Richards at or 414-426-9838 or @emrichards.



November 2, 2016

The KKK Is Working To Get Out The Vote — For Donald Trump

Filed under: Elections,Fascism,Racism — millerlf @ 11:43 am
 Huffington Post Black Voices 11/1/16

With just a week until Election Day, the Ku Klux Klan appears to be ramping up its effort to get GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump into the White House.

Residents in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Louisiana have all reported finding fliers from the KKK outside their homes in recent days. The materials contain calls for people to vote and join the organization as it tackles hot-button social issues with exactly the level of contemplation you might expect from a racist hate group.

“Please join and help us take our country back,” reads a flier recently distributed in Madison, Alabama. “Black Lives Matter Black Panthers are telling followers to kill white people and police officers in the name of justice for the killing of Negro’s (sic) by policemen in the line of duty. These Negro’s (sic) were not innocent. They were thugs breaking the law, and standing up against police.”

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