Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

June 12, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sunday Op-ed, “Plan to fix schools falls short”, Falls Short

Filed under: Privatization — millerlf @ 9:20 am

In Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there is an op-ed (“Plan to fix schools falls short” by Wright and Petrilli http://tinyurl.com/yayfej5v) that criticizes the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act. Their alternatives for schools, identified as low performing, is warmed over privatization: private charters, turnaround districts, receiverships and “innovation zones”. They offer Nashville and New Orleans as examples of these privatization “successes.” Once again neoliberal school “reformers” deny truth.    

Read the following articles:

New Orleans: http://tinyurl.com/yc6g8eof

Nashville: http://tinyurl.com/y7hk6oyk

 

 

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June 6, 2017

Trump’s Climate Withdrawal Is an Impeachable Offense

Filed under: Environment,Trump — millerlf @ 1:55 pm

Tuesday, June 06, 2017 By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout

When President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, he acted in concert with 22 Republican senators, who collectively receive $10,694,284 in contributions from the coal and oil industries.

These 22 senators wrote to Trump, asking him to pull out of the accord. The president and the senators put their own political and economic interests above the safety, security and indeed survival of the American people and the entire planet.

The climate accord is a landmark deal, in which 195 countries responsible for 95 percent of carbon emissions worldwide agreed to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow down global warming.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Under the pact, the Obama administration promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 29 percent lower than 2005 levels by 2025.

But according to the Rhodium Group, Trump’s new policies will only cut emissions 15 percent to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, considerably lower than the commitment made by the Obama administration.

The United States is the second largest purveyor of fossil fuels. China, which is first, and India, third, made significant commitments to cut their emissions as well. China is shutting down coal mines and plants and replacing them with solar plants and wind turbines. India is substituting solar panels for expansion of its coal companies.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a consortium of four European research organizations, determined that “without any further action, the [United States, under the Obama pledge] will miss its commitment ‘by a large margin.'” The 2015 Clean Power Plan, which would shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction on new ones, and replace them with new wind and solar farms, was one of the most significant programs in US climate action, according to the CAT.

But Trump signed an executive order in March, directing the Environmental Protection Agency to begin withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan.

Both China and India, on the other hand, are on track toward meeting their emissions goals, CAT found.

A study by the Grantham Research Institute concluded that the existence of the Paris climate agreement has caused dozens of countries to pass new laws requiring the use of clean energy.

The United States is now only one of three countries in the world that will not be party to the climate accord. Nicaragua did not join because the agreement wasn’t strong enough. Syria did not join because it is embroiled in a war and operates under a severe sanctions regime.

Withdrawing From the Climate Agreement Is a Political Offense

Trump’s withdrawal from the climate agreement constitutes an impeachable offense.

The Constitution provides for impeachment of the president when he commits “High Crimes” and misdemeanors. They include, but are not limited to, conduct punishable by the criminal law.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist No. 65 that offenses are impeachable if they “proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

“They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

“The Abuse or Violation of Some Public Trust”

No individual embodies the trust of the public more than the president, who is elected by the people. When the people choose their president, they are entrusting that person with their security, well-being and survival. The voters trust the president to act in their best interests and protect them from harm. By withdrawing from the climate agreement, Trump is violating the trust that “We the People” have placed in him.

Timothy Wirth, under secretary of state in the Clinton administration, told The Nation that Trump’s withdrawal from the pact was “a stunning moral abdication of responsibility to future generations.”

“Injuries Done Immediately to the Society Itself”

“We’ve watched Arctic sea ice vanish at a record pace and measured the early disintegration of Antarctica’s great ice sheets,” Middlebury College environmental studies professor Bill McKibben wrote in the New York Times. “We’ve been able to record alarming increases in drought and flood and wildfire, and we’ve been able to link them directly to the greenhouse gases we’ve poured into the atmosphere.”

In his analysis for Truthout, Dahr Jamail cites a recently published study showing that “the depletion of dissolved oxygen in Earth’s oceans is occurring much faster than previously believed.” Thus, he writes, anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) “is now recreating the conditions that caused the worst mass extinction event on Earth, the Permian mass extinction that took place approximately 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of life. Dramatic oceanic warming and acidification were key components of this extinction event, and these conditions align with what we are seeing today.”

Jamail adds, “Scientists have said that the US withdrawal [from the climate accord] could add up to 3 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis.”

If the climate continues to change at a rapid rate, society itself will be injured. As the glaciers melt and the oceans swell, the land will recede. Crops will die. Mosquitos will increasingly carry diseases. The Earth will be hit with massive floods, devastating heat waves and drought. Polar bears will become extinct. People will lose their lands, their homes and their lives. Indeed, life as we know it will come to an end.

“To refuse to act against global warming is to condemn thousands of people to death and suffering today and millions more tomorrow. This is murder,” Mark Hertsgaard wrote in The Nation.

A Crime Against Humanity

Moreover, by withdrawing the United States from the climate accord, Trump has committed a crime against humanity, which also constitutes a High Crime.

Trump has been aided and abetted in his crime against humanity by the following 22 GOP Senators: Inhofe (Oklahoma), Barrasso (Wyoming), McConnell (Kentucky), Cornyn (Texas), Blunt (Missouri), Wicker (Mississippi), Enzi (Wyoming), Crapo (Idaho), Risch (Idaho), Cochran (Mississippi), Rounds (South Dakota), Paul (Kentucky), Boozman (Arkansas), Shelby (Alabama), Strange (Alabama), Hatch (Utah), Lee (Utah), Cruz (Texas), Perdue (Georgia), Tillis (North Carolina), Scott (South Carolina) and Roberts (Kansas).

Crimes against humanity can be committed even without a state of war. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines crimes against humanity as “inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.” They must be “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”

Since taking office, Trump has mounted a methodical assault on the people of the United States. He has systematically endeavored to destroy the social safety net, including the rights to healthcare, public education and a clean environment, as well as the rights of workers, immigrants, women and LGBTQ people.

By withdrawing from the climate agreement and refusing to shoulder the United States’ share of responsibility for slowing climate change, Trump has intentionally committed an inhumane act that will ultimately cause great suffering to the people of the world.

Although the ICC cannot directly prosecute and try climate crimes, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC said in a policy paper last year that it would construe crimes against humanity more broadly to include “destruction of the environment” and make prosecution of those crimes a priority.

According to the Center for Climate Crime Analysis (CCCA), a new nonprofit established to support the ICC prioritization of environmental crimes, “Climate crimes are criminal activities that result in, or are associated with, the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG). The CCCA does not aim to criminalize GHG emissions per se. Most emissions are legal. However, a significant share of GHG emissions results from, or is associated with, conduct that violates existing criminal law.”

The CCA notes, “Climate crimes are often intertwined with other serious international crimes. As a result of this link, as well through their impact on climate change, climate crimes may represent a threat to international peace and security and potentially affect all of humankind and the very foundations of civilization.”

Richard Harvey, a specialist in international criminal and environmental law, told Truthout, “Given what the ICC prosecutor and the Center for Climate Crime Analysis consider environmental crimes against humanity, Trump’s attempt to renege on this international agreement is a clear invitation to his Big Carbon cronies to continue policies designed to consign humanity to the greenhouse gas chamber. Is that conspiracy to commit a crime against humanity? You be the judge.”

By pulling out of the climate accord, Trump “makes himself guilty of what looks like a grave crime against humanity, the planet Earth, and future generations,” Uffe Elbæk, former Danish minister of culture and leader of Denmark’s Green Party, said.

Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch calls the “system of destruction on a planetary scale … the ultimate ‘crime against humanity.'” He writes, “It is becoming a ‘terracide.'”

The House of Representatives Should Impeach Trump

It takes 51 percent of the House of Representatives to impeach the president. Republicans control a majority of the seats in the House. But imperiling the planet should not be a partisan issue.

The fact that virtually every other country in the world, as well as US states and cities, corporations and activists worldwide are taking steps on their own to slow the changing climate does not absolve Trump from his crime.

It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to vote for the impeachment of Trump.

Meanwhile, we must, and will, continue to build the global climate justice movement.

Marjorie Cohn

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

 

Wisconsin Association of School Boards: On School Funding

Filed under: Legislation,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 1:51 pm

John Ashley Statement on Assembly GOP School Funding Plan

The Assembly Republican school funding plan includes provisions we support and it is a positive sign that Assembly GOP legislators recognize the need to increase state aid for school districts. We appreciate and strongly support removing the “strings” of the healthcare cost shift mandate and how funding needs to be budgeted per school building to receive the proposed increases in per-pupil aid. The WASB also supports raising the low-revenue ceiling to help historically low-spending districts and increased funding for high cost special education aid. There are a wide range of other provisions included in the proposal that we are still reviewing.

However, we are concerned that this plan backs away from the governor’s proposed per-pupil categorical aid investments. The WASB does do not support reducing the governor’s proposed increase by $90 million.  The governor’s original proposal, for the first time in several budgets, provides nearly an inflationary increase in state aid to almost all school districts in the state.  We also have concerns with the proposal to cut $50 per pupil of state support for all districts and instead require a subset of districts to recoup this amount by asking their local property taxpayers to pay more, especially in small, rural communities.  While we support giving local school boards options, the financial burden under the Assembly GOP plan would fall entirely on those school boards’ property taxpayers during this budget cycle.

Overall, we hope legislators will support the governor’s investments in per-pupil aid at the $200 and $204 per pupil level while also supporting local control and incorporating the positive proposals from the Assembly GOP on the low- revenue ceiling.

-John H. Ashley is Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards

Amid state budget impasse, Wisconsin Senate leaders mull going it alone

Filed under: Legislation,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 11:21 am

MOLLY BECK, MARK SOMMERHAUSER and MATTHEW DeFOUR Wisconsin State Journal 6/6/2017

 

State Senate leaders on Monday raised the prospect of crafting their own state budget instead of working with the Assembly through the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee — a fresh sign of the growing budget divide among statehouse Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters this week’s talks on the 2017-19 spending plan could prove pivotal.

With less than a month left to the state budget deadline, GOP Senate and Assembly leaders and Gov. Scott Walker are at an impasse over how to spend money on schools, address taxes and plug a shortfall in the state’s roads budget of nearly $1 billion.

Fitzgerald said he hopes to avoid writing a separate budget from the Assembly. But, he said, “we’re in a rougher spot than I thought we were” if the budget committee doesn’t meet this week as Fitzgerald said he’s urging its members to do.

“Then it becomes a full discussion for the full Senate caucus as to where we’re going to proceed,” Fitzgerald said.

Speaking earlier in the day, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, budget committee co-chairman, said it remains to be seen if the panel will meet this week.

The typical state budget process starts with the governor’s proposal. It then goes to JFC, the state’s budget-writing committee, which adds and subtracts from his proposal. Sixteen lawmakers from both houses comprise the committee in an effort to find common ground and to build consensus between the two houses before the full Legislature votes on the budget bill.

July 1 is the deadline to have a new budget in place. If lawmakers and the governor fail to agree on one by then, current spending levels would carry over into the new fiscal year.

Fitzgerald said it would be “pretty easy” for Senate Republicans to develop their own budget. On two of the most high-profile topics, transportation and education, the Senate and Walker are aligned, Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald signaled his patience for budget talks is waning and he doesn’t want the process to continue into the new fiscal year.

“I want this budget done by 1 July,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve had more than enough time to debate and discuss this budget.”

Responding to the possibility the Senate would finish writing its own budget based largely on Walker’s blueprint, Nygren said: “Is that waving the white flag that they don’t have ideas? I don’t know.”

Assembly crafted K-12 spending plan

The separate-budget idea surfaced on Friday after Assembly Republicans released their own proposal on school spending late last week, which was immediately rejected by Senate Republicans who want to work with Gov. Scott Walker’s schools proposal.

“It can be done,” Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills and co-chairwoman of the budget committee, said Monday of writing a separate budget. “I hope we don’t have to do that.”

Walker said in an interview Monday with the Wisconsin State Journal that the “good news” is the Senate GOP caucus is “clearly on board” with his proposal, but he acknowledged what ultimately is passed could change.

“My hope would be that in the end, it certainly doesn’t have to be 100 percent like what I proposed, but that to me having more money for schools and more relief for property taxpayers are certainly two priorities for us that we’re going to keep pushing for,” Walker said.

Some GOP lawmakers have previously discussed separating transportation from the larger budget process. Nygren said any additional talks about breaking from the normal budget process “are news to me.”

The Assembly K-12 spending proposal called for, among other things, a smaller increase in the amount of money schools receive on a per-student basis.

But the “linchpin” of the proposal, Nygren said, is a provision that allows some school districts to raise more in property taxes, about $92 million, to pay for schools. Those districts are typically those that were spending less than the state average when revenue caps were instituted in 1993.

Darling said Friday that provision would be very difficult to do without new money to pay for it because Walker has said he won’t support a budget that raises property taxes above 2014 levels.

More details about the Assembly’s proposal will be released on Tuesday, Nygren said.

Several disagreements

The education proposal was the latest in a string of budget provisions Republicans in both houses have been unable to come to agreement on. How to fund roads, how much to lower property taxes and whether to self-insure state workers have also divided Walker and legislators.

Nygren said one of the biggest challenges has been the governor’s pledge to lower property taxes on a median-value home below what they were in 2014. Assembly Republicans have only committed to property taxes being lower than in 2016.

Additionally, many Republicans want to eliminate the personal property tax, which primarily affects businesses. Doing so would reduce funding for municipalities and school districts by $261 million a year. Some lawmakers want to get rid of Walker’s proposed income tax cut and reimburse local governments for the lost revenue.

Walker acknowledged in the interview Monday that the budget likely won’t be finished by the end of June. He noted that’s not unusual — the last state budget wasn’t signed until July 12.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Monday that schools can’t afford less money than what Walker proposed.

“Our schools can’t afford to shoulder more cuts while wealthy special interests benefit from massive tax giveaways,” she said in a statement.

Secret wrap-up budget motion not dead

Nygren said he expects the finance committee to once again employ a wrap-up, or “999,” budget motion at the close of this year’s budget-crafting process.

“It’s our intent to keep it limited as much as possible,” Nygren said.

Some key lawmakers said last month that in this budget, they were working to block use of the controversial maneuver, deployed in the past to add major policy changes to the state budget at the last minute with little or no public scrutiny. It was what lawmakers used two years ago just before the July 4 weekend to try to drastically limit public access to government records.

Top of Form

 

Wisconsin Assembly wants to cut $90M from Scott Walker’s school funding increase

Filed under: Legislation,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 11:19 am

MOLLY BECK Wisconsin State Journal 6/3/2017

 

The leaders of the state’s budget-writing committee are divided over a school funding plan Assembly lawmakers are considering that includes a $91 million cut to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $649 million spending bump for public schools.

The split signals another division among Republican legislative leaders on the most significant portions of the state’s next two-year budget.

Tensions have already led to an impasse among both houses and with Walker over the state’s next transportation budget, and Walker’s proposal for the state to self-insure state workers has been rejected by leaders of his own party.

Joint Finance Committee co-chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said Friday that Assembly Republicans have been drafting a plan for state spending on schools for 2017-19.

The plan would cut Walker’s proposed per-pupil funding increase and target more money to school districts that spend less than most others, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo prepared for Nygren and obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal.

Walker’s 2017-19 budget calls for an increase of $649 million for school districts on a per-student basis. The Assembly proposal would provide $90.8 million less for that funding source.

The Assembly also adds $92.2 million more in revenue limit authority for school districts that spend less than most others and adds $30 million more for the state’s general funding mechanism for schools than what Walker has proposed.

“It’s not a firm proposal. It’s a work in progress,” Nygren said. “I think the concept of it is something we generally support — to put more of our resources toward schools that have actually been held back over the years.”

But Senate Republicans oppose the idea.

“We are sticking with the governor’s (proposed per-pupil increase). That is non-negotiable,” said Senate Education Committee chairman and Joint Finance Committee member, Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon.

Olsen said Senate Republicans are not crafting their own K-12 spending plan.

Budget committee co-chairwoman Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, also said she will not support the Assembly’s proposal.

Darling said the $649 million increase that Walker has been crisscrossing the state for months to promote will be tough to change.

Multiple state funding sources

In Wisconsin, school districts receive the largest amount of their state funding through a general fund that distributes money through a formula that gives more to districts with more students with challenges, including those who live in poverty. Districts also receive money from several funding streams including through a certain amount per pupil, currently set at $250 per student.

Walker’s plan increases the amount of money schools get per student by $200 in the 2017-18 school year and by another $204 in the 2018-19 school year. Public school officials and advocates have widely supported the idea.

“Because of that positive support of that funding … (school districts) are not going to be happy if that is changed,” Darling said.

Darling and Olsen said they agree with the Assembly’s concept to give more money to low-revenue districts.

Lawmakers say such districts have been “locked in” at their low spending levels for decades because state lawmakers in 1993 imposed caps on how much districts can spend — a limit that is based upon enrollment changes, an inflationary increment, and each district’s revenue from the prior years, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

The Assembly’s proposal would increase the per-student amount by $150 in the 2017-18 school year and by $200 in the 2018-19 school year.

“The way the governor proposed it (the per-student increase) went to everybody, so I guess the differences comes down to if you believe there has been an inequity in the state over the last 24 years that the formula has been in place,” Nygren said. “At some point you have to fix it.”

Darling said she agrees that districts spending less than others because of state-imposed revenue limits set decades ago should be allowed to raise more revenue, but said that goal would likely require new money to accomplish. Walker has said he would veto any state budget plan that increases the tax burden on Wisconsin residents.

“I give them credit for looking at how to get money into the lower-spending districts and I agree with the strategy but I mentioned to them, usually you need new money,” Darling said. “Taking money away from other districts is usually a big issue. That will be a very tough call for most in our (Senate) caucus.”

The Assembly proposal also puts $30 million more than what Walker proposed in the state’s general funding formula.

Tom Evenson, spokesman for Walker, said the governor will review the proposal but is “committed to fully funding public education while enacting reforms that lead to continued property tax relief.”

 

May 25, 2017

Hearing on Gun-Free School Zones Law Repeal Bill Set for Next Wednesday

Filed under: Guns in schools — millerlf @ 3:13 pm

The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 169, authored by Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon, pictured), which would repeal the state’s gun free school zones law, among other provisions, on:

Wednesday May 31st
9:30 AM
Room 411 South, State Capitol, Madison

As mentioned, this bill would repeal the state’s gun free school zones law; allow individuals to obtain a “basic” concealed carry licenses without completing firearms training; require school boards to post school buildings and grounds to prohibit possession of firearms by carrying concealed weapon (CCW) license holders in those places; and reduce penalties for persons who possess firearms in school buildings and on school grounds in violation of such postings.

The WASB opposes this bill.   The bill would broaden the ability of persons to possess firearms on school grounds and school zones and would reduce the penalties for bringing firearms into school settings.

The WASB’s current resolution on weapons possession and schools reads as follows:

Resolution 6.11 (b) Weapons Possession

 (b) The WASB supports safe learning environments for all children, free of guns and other weapons. Further, the WASB opposes any initiatives at the state or federal level that would legalize any further ability for anyone, with the exception of sworn law enforcement officers, to bring a weapon or possess a weapon, including a facsimile or “look-alike” weapon, concealed or otherwise, in school zones or lessen the consequences for violation of existing safe school policies relating to guns and other weapons. Decisions about whether CCW licensees may possess weapons in school buildings must remain exclusively in the hands of the locally elected school board which governs the school. (emphasis added)

NPR report on school vouchers in light of Trump/DeVos attempt to destroy public education

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 8:23 am

The following links take you to the NPR reports. To listen to the radio interview go to the “listen” link at the top of the written NPR report. The first report (Link 1)  includes an interview with Howard Fuller and Wendell Harris. Fuller chooses to berate the NAACP. This is the same Howard Fuller that endorsed Betsy DeVos (Hear Fuller’s endorsement at: http://tinyurl.com/kusedpt)

Link 1:  http://tinyurl.com/kdxqztl

Link 2: http://tinyurl.com/ly5nc3u

Lessons On Race And Vouchers From Milwaukee

May 16, 2017 Claudio Sanchez

Howard Fuller (left) is one of the architects of the voucher program in Milwaukee; Wendell Harris led early opposition to vouchers.  LA Johnson/Getty/NPR

The Trump administration has made school choice, vouchers in particular, a cornerstone of its education agenda. This has generated lots of interest in how school voucher programs across the country work and whom they benefit.

The oldest school voucher program was created in Milwaukee in 1990 with a singular focus on African-American students living in poverty. This school year, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program issued nearly 28,000 vouchers for low-income kids to attend dozens of private and religious schools at public expense.

Over the years, though, most voucher recipients have performed no better academically than their public school peers. In some cases they’ve done worse. So who exactly is benefiting? It’s a question that has raised serious misgivings in Milwaukee’s African-American community. So much so that some of the city’s prominent black leaders today are divided.

Howard Fuller and Wendell J. Harris, in many ways, represent that split.

Harris is currently on the Milwaukee school board. As a member of the NAACP’s education committee in Wisconsin, he was one of the original plaintiffs who sued the state in 1990 in a failed effort to block vouchers.

NPR Ed

The Promise And Peril Of School Vouchers

Fuller, a professor at Marquette University, is one of the architects of the voucher program. He’s also a former superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools and founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national pro-voucher and school choice group.

Fuller’s support for vouchers is pretty straight-forward. He says most of Milwaukee’s African-American students are trapped in failing schools. These kids’ parents, says Fuller, should have the right to choose a better school for their children because very little else that the African-American community has fought for has helped rescue poor black children in need of good schools.

“After (Brown vs. Board of Education)”, says Fuller, “people thought that integration was going to lead to equal education for black kids. It didn’t. Since then, there’s a long history in Milwaukee to try and get poor black children educated.”

People back then, Fuller adds, “didn’t know just how far behind black children were, and there were administrators who didn’t want that data to get out. Some said it would give fodder to racists who believed that black children could not learn.”

Way before vouchers, Fuller says, black leaders in Milwaukee even proposed an all-black school district to address the specific needs of African-American children.

“People accused us of being racists, segregationists and on and on,” says Fuller.

After that idea was shot down, a proposal to give vouchers to black families took root. Fuller joined Polly Williams, an African-American state legislator from Milwaukee and a Democrat, to push a school choice bill through the Wisconsin Legislature.

Fuller and Williams envisioned a small program that would encourage the community to create more private schools for black children. But in 1995, when the Wisconsin Legislature allowed religious schools to come into the voucher program, some leaders, including Williams, felt that white people who ran the city’s private Catholic and Christian schools would take over the program.

“Which is exactly what happened,” says Wendell Harris, who had led the opposition to vouchers in Milwaukee.

“My argument with Howard Fuller is that Catholic and Christian schools used this opening to, in essence, save their schools,” says Harris. “If you set up a Christian academy and your main interest is to get a few hundred children to improve your [school finances] and you use Christianity as the draw, these schools have exploited persons’ beliefs for their own private gain,” Harris argues.

“In our community,” adds Harris, “a lot of people believe that if they can get their kids into a safe place so they can pray every day, they may be able to save their child’s life. Education is secondary.”

Howard Fuller disagrees that voucher proponents “exploit” black families.

“I’m in this to empower parents,” he says, “not to empower private or religious schools. I also didn’t get in this for people who already have money to get more money to pay private school tuition.”

But critics of vouchers say it’s only a matter of time before conservative lawmakers seek to lift the income restrictions on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Vouchers, Fuller insists, absolutely need to target poor black children, period. He says that’s why he was so puzzled when the NAACP late last year called for a moratorium on charter school expansion.

“There’s thousands of black parents who are going to exercise the best option for their children and they don’t care what the NAACP says,” Fuller argues. “The hypocrisy in America is that so many of the black leaders and policymakers who are adamantly opposed to choice, use it for their own children.”

But Harris, a prominent member of the NAACP in Milwaukee, says it’s the political agenda of the school choice movement that many black leaders oppose.

“You’ve had this marketing effort to demonize public school teachers and public schools for the last 25 to 30 years,” Harris says. “So black parents are convinced that public education is the problem.”

I ask Harris, “What do you say to the grandmother who’s raising five grandchildren and who says ‘I don’t want kids in Milwaukee public schools to fail, but I don’t want my grandkids to fail either?’ ”

“I feel that lady’s pain,” Harris responds. “She wants a safe place for her children where they can get the education they need. But private and public schools don’t play by the same rules.”

Harris argues that public schools have to take all children, including those with learning disabilities and behavior problems. Private and religious schools aren’t required to accept or retain them. And if they do, they’re not required to disclose their expulsion and suspension rates.

“The issue of public money with no oversight, I have a problem with that,” he says.

Fuller argues that the real issue here is parental choice, and in Milwaukee he says it’s working for black families. I remind him that the data from Milwaukee’s voucher program doesn’t support his assertion that vouchers are benefiting students in terms of their academic performance.

Fuller doesn’t dispute this but says test scores shouldn’t be the only metric with which to gauge the success of vouchers.

“What I’m saying to you is that there are thousands of black children whose lives are much better today because of the Milwaukee parental choice program,” he says. “They were able to access better schools than they would have without a voucher.”

Wendell Harris isn’t convinced, but concedes that vouchers are here to stay.

“We fought with everything we had” to stop vouchers, he says. “That battle is lost. What we have to do now is try and make this thing the best it can be to support our children.”

 

May 24, 2017

President 45 declares war on our children: education budget summary

Filed under: Trump — millerlf @ 9:21 am
Medicaid could lose $800 billion under Trump

The Federal Budget for FY2018 Released by White House

Summary:

In General

Earlier today, the Trump Administration released their full budget proposal for federal FY 2018, which will fund education programs in school year 2018-19. The president’s proposal requests $9 billion in cuts to federal education programs, reducing the budget of the U.S. Department of Education by approximately 13%.  Overall, the Trump Budget proposal seeks to balance the federal budget in ten years by substantially cutting both discretionary appropriations and entitlement/mandatory spending by $3.6 trillion, while increasing defense and security spending and assuming 3% annual economic growth.  Cuts to social safety-net entitlement programs [like TANF (welfare), SNAP (food stamps), SSDI (social security disability payments), and further cuts to the Medicaid program of another $610 billion on top of the more than $800 billion in Medicaid cuts in House health care legislation (H.R. 1628)] will have both direct and indirect consequences for low-income students and their families, as well as the public schools serving them.

Education Department Budget

As expected, any new K-12 funding in the budget proposal is directed to choice initiatives. The president’s request includes a new $1 billion public school choice proposal called FOCUS, and is described as a Title I open enrollment weighted student funding pilot program. It is important to note, however, that the budget request cuts traditional Title I formula grants to school districts by more than $575 million in order to help offset this new proposal. The budget request also includes $250 million for a new private school choice pilot program, and a $167 million increase for charter schools.

The significant K-12 education cuts in the budget proposal include the elimination of the 21st Century Afterschool program (-$1.2 billion) and the elimination of the Title II-A program for Effective Instruction (-$2.1 billion). The budget proposal also eliminates the new Title IV Academic Enrichment block grants (-$400 million) and the Striving Readers programs (-$190 million), which had been renamed Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants under ESSA.

Funding for students with disabilities under IDEA and English learners under Title III would remain essentially level, while Perkins CTE funding and Adult Education funding would absorb 13% and 16% cuts respectively.

Major Cuts in President Trump’s Education Budget Proposal

  • Title I Formula Grants to LEAs: -$578 million
  • Title II-A: -$2.1 billion (eliminated)
  • 21st Century Afterschools: -$1.2 billion (eliminated)
  • Title IV Academic Enrichment Grants: -$400 million (eliminated)
  • Striving Readers/ Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants: -$190 million (eliminated)

Major Increases in President Trump’s Education Budget Proposal

  • Title I FOCUS Choice Program: +1 billion (new and requiring a congressional authorization)
  • Private School Voucher Pilot: +$250 million (new under the Title IV Innovation Program)
  • Charter Schools: +$167 million (50% increase)

Proposed Infrastructure Plan

The FY 2018 Budget provides few details on the Administration’s national infrastructure planning.  The proposal retains the $1 trillion “target” that would be met with a combination of new Federal funding, incentivized non-Federal funding, and policies to expedite new projects (e.g., authorizing the start-up of the Keystone Pipeline).  Actual Federal funding would be $200 billion for a “suite of direct federal programs that will also help leverage the additional non-Federal investments.

Outlook

The massive cuts proposed in so many federal programs from medical research to the environment are receiving little support from many Republicans or Democrats.  Nonetheless, the FY 2018 Budget request along with the tax proposal and health care legislative represents a massive shift in federal priorities that will need to be actively and aggressively if we are to prevent them from happening.

 

 

May 15, 2017

The Promise And Peril Of School Vouchers in Indiana

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 2:12 pm

May 12, 2017 Heard on Morning Edition Eric Weddle Peter Balonon-Rosen Cory Turner

 

Teachers rallied at the Statehouse in Indianapolis in 2011 to protest Gov. Mitch Daniels’ attempts to curb collective bargaining, implement merit pay and create a voucher system that would send taxpayer money to private schools. Darron Cummings/AP Wendy Robinson wants to make one thing very clear. As the long-serving superintendent of Fort Wayne public schools, Indiana’s largest district, she is not afraid of competition from private schools. “We’ve been talking choice in this community and in this school system for almost 40 years,” Robinson says. Her downtown office sits in the shadow of the city’s grand, Civil War-era Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In Fort Wayne, a parking lot is the only thing that separates the beating heart of Catholic life from the brains of the city’s public schools. In fact, steeples dominate the skyline of the so-called City of Churches. Fort Wayne has long been a vibrant religious hub, home to more than 350 churches, many of which also run their own schools. Fort Wayne’s superintendent of public schools, Wendy Robinson, is not afraid of competition from private schools. While the city’s public and private schools managed, for decades, to co-exist amicably, that changed in 2011, Robinson says. That’s when state lawmakers began the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, a plan to allow low-income students to use vouchers, paid for with public school dollars, to attend private, generally religious schools. Six years later, Indiana’s statewide voucher program is now the largest of its kind in the country and, with President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos openly encouraging states to embrace private school choice, the story of the Choice Scholarship — how it came to be, how it works and whom it serves — has become a national story of freedom, faith, poverty and politics.

 

Our story begins in Fort Wayne, where the state now spends $20 million a year on voucher students, more than in any other district. This year, $1.1 million of that $20 million went to one private, K-8 school: St. Jude Catholic School. The story of St. Jude St. Jude opened its school doors in March of 1929. By 2011, when the state unveiled its voucher program, the school enrolled 479 students. That first year, a small number received vouchers: just 28. Then something happened to the program that began a remarkable shift, not only at St. Jude but across the state. Father Jake Runyon saw it happening and told his parishioners. “We’ve been seeing some financial troubles here at St. Jude Parish,” Runyon said in a formal presentation that was recorded in 2014 and posted on the church’s website. The parish was in its third straight year of financial losses.
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One big reason for the losses: The church was pouring money from its offertory into the school and neglecting repairs to its steeple and cooling system. Then, Runyon shared the good news: After an attempt by the state teachers union to kill the young voucher program, Indiana’s Supreme Court had found it constitutional, allowing families to spend public school dollars in private, religious schools. Not long after, the program was expanded dramatically to include children who had never attended a public school. Suddenly, many St. Jude students qualified. All they had to do was apply. “The effect on that this year,” Runyon told parishioners in 2014, “it would have been $118,000 of money we just left there, that the state of Indiana wanted to give me, and we weren’t able to take advantage of it.” Runyon’s presentation — since taken down from the church’s website — was a pitch for a new way of distributing financial aid to St. Jude students, one that would maximize the money coming in through vouchers and allow the parish to use more of its offertory elsewhere. When word of the plan reached beyond St. Jude, though, it appeared to confirm the greatest fears of public school advocates: that vouchers were a giveaway to the state’s cash-strapped religious schools at the expense of struggling public schools. This year, according to state data, nearly two-thirds of St. Jude’s students now receive public dollars to help pay for their private school tuition. Runyon, who is still Pastor at St. Jude, declined repeated interview requests. In the beginning School Vouchers 101 “Social justice has come to Indiana education,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said in 2011 after the state made several big changes to its education system. Among those changes was the new voucher program, capped at 7,500 children, to allow low-income students to use state education dollars to attend private schools. “The ability to choose a school that a parent believes is best for their child’s future is no longer limited to the wealthy.” Of the children in that first voucher class, 2011-2012, most had two things in common: They were low-income and had attended public school. “Public schools will get first shot at every child,” Daniels said back then in a speech to the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “If the public school delivers and succeeds, no one will seek to exercise this choice.” Daniels, who is now the president of Purdue University, predicted that the voucher program was “not likely to be a very large phenomenon in Indiana.” He was wrong. In 2013, Mike Pence succeeded Daniels as Indiana’s governor, and, within months, the now-vice president oversaw a dramatic expansion of the program. Lawmakers added new pathways for students to qualify, making the voucher more accessible to children who had never attended a public school. They also expanded the program’s reach to include some middle-class families.
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Voucher enrollment doubled in one year. “It’s actually grown almost exponentially as you look at the numbers,” says the law’s proud architect, state Rep. Robert Behning, a Republican. It’s also popular, according to a 2016 survey conducted by EdChoice, a group that advocates for vouchers and other forms of school choice. Today, more than 34,000 students are enrolled in Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program — 3 percent of students statewide. To qualify, parents have to meet certain income limits. For a full voucher, worth 90 percent of what a state would spend in a public school, a family of four can earn no more than $45,000 annually, but students whose parents earn up to $67,000 can still qualify for a half-voucher. And for children already in the program, their family income can rise to nearly $90,000 annually. The biggest headline from the program’s growth is this: Today, more than half of all voucher students in the state have no record of attending a public school. Exhibit A: Fort Wayne. “We’re not losing kids from our schools [to vouchers],” says Superintendent Wendy Robinson. “We’re now just having the state pay for kids who were never going to come here anyway.” In fact, Father Jake Runyon alluded to this in his 2014 presentation: “The vast majority of the people who qualify for the Choice Scholarships were already here,” he assured his Fort Wayne parishioners after the voucher program expanded. “So it’s not necessarily the case that we’re getting tons of new students. But it’s that a lot of the students are here.” Fort Wayne is a microcosm of what’s happening statewide, with tens of millions of state taxpayer dollars paying for children to attend private schools without, as then-Gov. Daniels had suggested, giving public schools “first shot.” Behning, the law’s tireless defender, argues that all parents deserve to choose their child’s school, even those who have traditionally opted out of the public system. “The intent of the program was to give parents choice,” says Behning. The parents of children in private schools, he says, “are taxpayers just like the parents in a traditional public school.” This shift in the program’s rules, begun by Pence in 2013, has led to a shift in student demographics as well. White voucher students are up from 46 percent that first year to 60 percent today, and the share of black students has dropped from 24 percent to 12 percent. Recipients are also increasingly suburban and middle class. A third of students do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals. While the program was once premised on giving low-income, public school families access to better schools, this year fewer than 1 percent of voucher students used a pathway, written into the law, that’s meant specifically for students leaving failing schools. “When you look at that trend data, it is alarming,” says Jennifer McCormick, the state’s new Republican superintendent of public instruction, and a former public school teacher. She says of the old narrative that vouchers were largely meant to help low-income students escape underperforming public schools: “That’s not necessarily the case” today.

(more…)

Diane Ravitch on Los Angeles School board Election

Filed under: Ravitch — millerlf @ 6:47 am
Will the Trump-DeVos Alliance Win Control of Los Angeles Public Schools?

“In the Public Interest,” an organization that keeps track of privatization of the public sector, points out that Trump and DeVos have a lot riding on the outcome of the school board election in Los Angeles on May 16.

Their allies have invested millions of dollars in gaining control of the school board so they can turn students and schools over to private hands.

If they can defeat Steve Zimmer and Irma Padilla in run-offs, they will be able to divert public funding to charter entrepreneurs and corporate charter chains. They will squash democratic control of public schools. They will send tax dollars to corporate entities that are neither accountable nor transparent. They will widen the reach of an unregulated industry that has been marred by scandal, theft, fraud, misappropriation of funds, and self-dealing.

Citizens of Los Angeles. Stand up for democracy and public education! Vote for Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla!

Peter Dreier: Who Are the Corporate Plutocrats Trying to Defeat Steve Zimmer in Los Angeles?

Peter Dreier, professor of political science at Occidental College in Los Angeles, warns that a cabal of billionaires are trying to defeat Steve Zimmer in order to take control of the public schools and privatize them. The vote on May 16 is in the national spotlight.

Can a handful of billionaires buy control of the nation’s second largest school district?

Before naming names, Dreier writes:

Some of America’s most powerful corporate plutocrats want to take over the Los Angeles school system but Steve Zimmer, a former teacher and feisty school board member, is in their way. So they’ve hired Nick Melvoin to get rid of him. No, he’s not a hired assassin like the kind on “The Sopranos.” He’s a lawyer who the billionaires picked to defeat Zimmer.

The so-called “Independent” campaign for Melvoin — funded by big oil, big tobacco, Walmart, Enron, and other out-of-town corporations and billionaires — has included astonishingly ugly, deceptive, and false attack ads against Zimmer.

This morning (Friday) the Los Angeles Times reported that “Outside spending for Melvoin (and against Zimmer) has surpassed $4.65 million.” Why? Because he doesn’t agree with the corporatization of our public schools. Some of their donations have gone directly to Melvoin’s campaign, but much of it has been funneled through a corporate front group called the California Charter School Association.

To try to hoodwink voters, the billionaires invented another front group with the same initials as the well-respected Parent Teacher Association, but they are very different organizations. They called it the “Parent Teacher Alliance.” Pretty clever, huh? But this is not the real PTA, which does not get involved with elections. In fact, the real PTA has demanded that this special interest PAC change their name and called the billionaires’ campaign Zimmer “misleading,” “deceptive practices,” and “false advertising.”

These out-of-town billionaire-funded groups can pay for everything from phone-banks, to mailers, to television ads. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez described the billionaires’ campaign to defeat Zimmer, which includes sending mails filled with outrageous lies about Zimmer, as “gutter politics.”

As a result, the race for the District 4 seat — which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley — is ground zero in the battle over the corporate take-over of public education. The outcome of next Tuesday’s (May 16) election has national implications in terms of the billionaires’ battle to reconstruct public education in the corporate mold.

The contest between Melvoin and Zimmer is simple. Who should run our schools? Who knows what’s best for students? Out-of-town billionaires or parents, teachers, and community residents?

Bernie Endorses Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla

The critical runoff election for school board in Los Angeles is Tuesday May 16.

There are two crucial races. One is Steve Zimmer Vs. Nick Melvoin. Melvoin has received millions from leaders of the charter industry, such as Eli Broad, Alice Walton, Michael Bloomberg, and Reed Hastings. He is the beneficiary of millions from people who do not live in Los Angeles.

The other is Imelda Padilla vs. Kelly Fitzpatrick Nonez. Nonez is a charter school teacher.

Steve Zimmer has been endorsed by Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles, and other current city officials.

He has also received the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders.

If you live in one of their districts in Los Angeles, please vote on Tuesday. The future of public education in Los Angeles depends on your vote.

 

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