Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump afraid to face NAACP. Sends underling. Group stands firm on charters.

NAACP 2017
The racist character of the current White House (aptly named for its lack of black faces) became even more apparent when Trump turned down the NAACP's invitation to address its 2017 convention. Instead DT sent his beleaguered underling, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to represent the face of this administration. The results weren't pretty.

As you might expect, Rosenstein got a "chilly reception" when he repeated Trump's racist garbage about black crime and urban "carnage" and tried to downplay the current mayhem in the Justice Dept. with his boss, AG Jeff Sessions at the center of it.

POLITICO reports:
Rosenstein used his six-minute address to pay homage to Trump by citing one of his most polarizing speeches: the inaugural address where he railed against "carnage" in the streets of America.
"In President Trump’s inaugural address, he said that Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands," Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein got a tepid reaction from the group, with organizers exhorting the crowd to give him more applause both as he took the stage and as he wrapped up.
 "Our goal is not to fill prisons. Our goal is to save lives," Rosenstein said, as his comments were interrupted by a smattering of applause.
Nothing of course, could be further from the truth. Trump's goal has been precisely to fill the prisons with black, Latino and immigrant bodies. Especially the now burgeoning industry of private prisons whose owners are among his biggest campaign contributors.

   “Stop talking to us about the mythology of black crime," Rev. William Barber II said as many in the audience stood and cheered. "If you’re going to talk to us about black crime, talk to use about the Wall Street criminals that never get charged."
Many of those who addressed the convention Tuesday railed against the Trump administration and its efforts to repeal Obamacare.
"Stop texting lies. Stop telling lies. Stop turning people against each other with lies," said Barber, a leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina. "Until you stop, we can’t move.”
"It gets dark sometime, but let nothing break our spirit," Rev. Jesse Jackson told the group. "Stand up. March up. We will outlast Trump and we will outlast this dark night."
Charter schools...

A NAACP task force that spent several months traveling the country learning about charter schools released a report Wednesday with the group’s conclusions. The report comes less than a year after the civil rights organization passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the growth of charter schools last October. The new report calls on the NAACP to create a plan of action and a new coalition of groups to push back on charter schools’ lack of accountability and transparency.

The report notes that while charter schools were created to act as labs of innovation and share their best ideas with public schools, “this aspect of the promise never materialized.”

While making some concessions to some of its pro-charter affiliates, the organization, which has been under tremendous pressure from the administration and powerful corporate "reform" groups to retreat, appears to be standing firm on calling for more charter accountability and restraints on the expansion of privately-run charters.

According to the Baltimore Sun:
The NAACP is calling for tighter restrictions on charter schools and the elimination of for-profit charters as part of a broad array of actions leaders want to see taken on the local and national level to improve public education for children of color.
 In calling for more accountability, the NAACP wants local school districts to be the only body that can approve, or give a charter to, a new school. That restriction already exists in Maryland, which is one of the few states with charter laws that require all charter schools to be part of local school systems.Many states allow other entities, such as universities, to decide whether a school should be permitted to operate as a charter.
Huffington Post reports:
 During a time when the Trump administration is working to expand the number of charter schools in the name of civil rights, the symbolic importance of pushback from the nation’s oldest civil rights organization looms large. The report recommends the full elimination of for-profit charter schools. For-profit schools aren’t allowed in a number of states, but are prevalent in Michigan, the home state of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. 
“The widespread findings of misconduct and poor student performance in for-profit charter schools, demands the elimination of these schools,” says the report.
More to come on this.

Monday, July 24, 2017


"Nothing about this White House communications department was ever about communicating. On the contrary, it has always been about deception, concealment and equivocation." -- Charles Blow, NYT 

Hap Bryant, National Teachers Academy parent
“We are fighting over scraps." -- WBEZ
Cory McCartan, president of the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers.
Unions aren’t just for factory workers or truck drivers; they are for anyone who wants to have a voice in his workplace. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can transform the labor movement from an ossified relic of the last century into a powerful engine for the social and economic change that this country desperately needs. -- Letter to NYT
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten 
 “Make no mistake: This use of privatization, coupled with disinvestment, are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation." -- AP Wire
LA Kauffman
Why have so many articles, blog posts, and tweets invoked the resistance without acknowledging who is doing most of the day-to-day work of resisting? -- Guardian
Natalie Moore 
Don’t let OJ Simpson blind us to black victims of injustice. -- Guardian 
Steven W. Thrasher
For the past decade, leading Democrats like Obama, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Senator Cory Booker have trumpeted charter schools (and their disdain for unions, regulation and government enforcement of civil rights protections). They paved the way for the Devos-Trump education nightmare. -- Guardian
Peter Cunningham @PCunningham57 Replying to @mikeklonsky
I have yet to hear any ideas from you about anything. -- Twitter
Mike Klonsky
Listen up --

Full Transparency
Above the Law

Saturday, July 22, 2017

DeVos in Twitter war with AFT

Does this mean, no more school visits together with Randi and Betsy?

Jack Roskopp at Detroit Metro Times reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos "is taking a note from her boss by firing back at her critics on Twitter".
The AFT teacher's union sent out a tweet today saying "@BetsyDeVos says public $ should invest in indiv students. NO we should invest in a system of great public schools for all kids." This prompted DeVos to tweet back at the union with a series of tweets that don't exactly add up. 

AFT responds.
I admit, it's not much of a war. For those who have a hard time making any sense of this tweetspat,  let me try and break it down. Under the direction of Betsy DeVos, the DOE has become little more than an engine for driving school privatization, religious fundamentalism, racism and gender discrimination. Trump's appointment of DeVos to oversee this country's public education system threatens a roll-back of every hard-won gain by the Civil Rights Movement in the past 70 years.

DeVos and her new OCR chief, Candice Jackson are waving the "civil rights" banner as a rationale for private school vouchers, to "liberate" individual students from public ("government") schools.

DeVos claims she wants to focus on civil rights claims "individually" rather than on institutional racism and discrimination, thereby ignoring this country's legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation and their impact on public education.

The AFT, as you might expect wants the OCR to maintain its focus on systemic violations of civil rights like it was under the Obama administration. Without getting into the issue of whether or not the previous administration actually took up the desegregation fight, in this battle, the union is right.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The IL Gov's Race: I don't like Kennedy.

To be honest, I just don't like this guy. 
Needless to say, dumping Rauner is our main goal in next year's race. But until then, I'm trying to sort out the gaggle of Democrats running in the primary. The way things look now, any of them --or Dave the cable guy -- could beat the billionaire incumbent, even in this, the most expensive gov's race in history.

Chris Kennedy is definitely not my favorite among the Dems running for governor. Yes, I know the Kennedy name still puts lots of liberals in nostalgia mode and the name alone may be enough to beat Rauner.

But to be honest, I just don't like the guy. It might have something to do with the way he tried to use his power as head of the U of I Board of Trustees and family wealth (president of the Merchandise Mart) to tarnish the career of my friend and former UIC colleague, Distinguished Prof. of Education, Bill Ayers over something "uncivil" Bill supposedly wrote 40 years earlier about Kennedy's father.

Then there was matter of Kennedy denying a UI teaching job to Prof. Steven Salaita over his tweeting critically about Israel. It was a move that ended up costing the scandal-ridden, cash-strapped university more than $2M in settlement and legal costs and the university president her job.

That kind of pettieness and propensity for taking revenge on critical writers, educators or journalists, belies the progressive line Kennedy is pushing now. Reminds me too much of Trump and Rauner. 

So I couldn't help chuckle while reading this. 

Capitol Fax's Rich Miller:
"Chris Kennedy spoke at the Mom+Baby governors candidate meet and greet yesterday. I didn't see anything on his Twitter page about it, but I'm told about 30 moms and 10 kids had to wait at least half an hour for him to arrive. And it went downhill from there."
And this...
 He was a hot mess. Shirt barely tucked in. He had on biking shoes. He spoke about Trump the entire time. Crazy! 
It was embarrassing. He misquoted stats that our members corrected him on. He got called out on lack of supporting single payer and marijuana legalization. He also starting talking education inequity and misspoke on the cps funding. It was nuts. Story here
Finally, Kennedy won't show his hand on hot-button school reform issues like charters and vouchers. Why not? Makes me suspicious.

Kennedy is welcome to come on Hitting Left and try and prove me wrong. We've already had candidate Ald. Ameya Pawar on and State Sen. Dan Biss will be our in-studio guest on August 4th. Others may soon follow.

It would be nice if there was at least one woman running.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

DeVos has turned her Office of Civil Rights into its opposite

Under the direction of Betsy DeVos, the DOE has become little more than an engine for driving school privatization, religious fundamentalism, racism and gender discrimination. Trump's appointment of DeVos to oversee this country's public education system threatens a roll-back of every hard-won gain by the Civil Rights Movement in the past 70 years.

DeVos in turn, has named Candice Jackson to head the Office of Civil Rights and turned that office into its opposite. It should be renamed, the Office of Maintaining White Male Supremacy. Jackson's recent comments normalizing campus rape are but the latest indicators of the direction the DOE has taken in regards to civil rights enforcement. DeVos has also slashed OCR budget, basically neutering the office when it comes to enforcement.

DeVos claims she wants to focus on civil rights claims "individually" rather than on institutional racism and discrimination, thereby ignoring this country's legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation and their impact on public education.

What this means in practice is often giving equal weight to or favoring the complaints of individual white men who feel discriminated against by race-based affirmative actions; to Christian fundamentalists who feel that civil rights laws impinge on their religious practices; and to men's rights groups who feel oppressed by feminists or by women who have accused them of rape.

All has brought DeVos into direct conflict with Sen. Patty Murray, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. who's among 34 Democratic senators who signed a letter which read:  "You claim to support civil rights and oppose discrimination, but your actions belie your assurances."

They gave DeVos a deadline of July 11 to provide a list of all open Office for Civil Rights cases involving a transgender student, open cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment, and cases that have been closed or dismissed since Jan. 1. DeVos ignored the deadline.

DeVos is also being sued by IL Atty. General Lisa Madigan and 18 other state attorneys general who want the DOE to hold for-profit schools (like Trump Univ.)  accountable for unscrupulous practices/ These include lying about accreditation and job placement, and luring millions of Americans to enroll in programs that ultimately leave them trapped in a lifetime of paralyzing student loan debt.

The problem with the Dems' is that the Department under Obama's appointee, Arne Duncan, was also weak on civil rights enforcement, especially in the area of school desegregation. Duncan proclaimed that he was opposed to "forced integration" recalling memories of 1950s southern segregationists. Other appointees, like former Asst. Sec. Peter Cunningham, have been outspoken in opposition to school desegregation being a front-burner issue.

It's telling that Sen. Murray and her Democratic colleagues never mention race or racism, English language learners, or students with disabilities in any of their polemics with DeVos and confine their criticisms almost entirely to issues of gender and transgender discrimination.

A serious blind spot.

Monday, July 17, 2017


"We want the USGA to dump sexist Trump because women and men deserve to make sure that they are safe and that sexual predators are not considered ambassadors of sports." -- Protesting Trump at U.S. Open
Catherine Rampell
Everything is a distraction from something much, much worse. -- Washington Post 
Walt Gardner 
It's so easy to scapegoat teachers' unions for all the ills afflicting public schools ("State of the Teachers Union," The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.
But what these critics don't admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong?  (Correlation is not causation.)  Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means. -- Reality Check
 Jessica Valenti
 Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise from DeVos, who appointed Candice Jackson as a civil rights official in the education department – a woman who denounced feminism and claimed she was a victim of discrimination for being white. -- Betsy DeVos enabling rape deniers 
Fired Rauner staffer
“We fought for the governor [to hijack the state budget for two years] with our very last breath only to find out he was planning to fire us anyway. We gave him everything, blood and guts, and this is what we got. A kick out the door.” -- Sneed
Trevor Timm
 The Robert Mueller special counsel investigation into Trump and Russia could take years to complete. And it probably won’t directly lead to Trump himself being indicted. Mueller is likely to submit his findings on Trump himself to Congress for action rather than bringing an indictment. And if people really think Republicans are going to impeach Trump, they are kidding themselves. -- Guardian

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Grifters

With school out and Trump and his grifter family sucking up all the media energy, it's been hard for this blogger to stay focused on education politics. Talking (on Hitting Left) and writing about even the hot ed issues, like charter schools, vouchers and testing madness, while the country is facing its worst constitutional crisis in half-a-century, sounds to many of my readers (rightfully so) like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It brings me little satisfaction or relief.

Like most of us, I've increasingly been turned into a spectator on RussiaGate, staring at times in disbelief, with eyes glazed over at CNN or MSNBC, spitting out invectives at the TV screen while the grifter family saga plays out with never-ending cast of talking heads. It's a parade of  Trump and anti-Trump lawyers, former and current CIA operatives, Republican pols abandoning ship, Democrats with little to offer except "we not Trump in 2018", and so forth -- dredged out to normalize political criminality and the greatest redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top, in history.

Where is this going? How do we as a nation, extricate ourselves from the rule of the most corrupt, anti-democratic regime since the Nixon era. Trump won't resign like Nixon. If he did, no Pence presidential pardon could save him and his grifter family from prison and loss of their empire because Pence himself is culpable. They all go down together.

Maybe pack all the grifters into Air Force 1, land at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow and request political asylum ala Edward Snowden? Not likely.

Impeachment? Possible, especially after Mueller's committee releases its findings. But that could take years.

25th Amendment? A "liberal fantasy" writes Politico's Jeff Greenfield. He's right.

Electoral strategy? Most likely, but problematic. Mid-term elections are coming up with a chance for Dems to take back the House and Senate. If this happens, Trump and his grifter family are toast. If not, 2020 seems like a sure bet. The problem is a Democratic Party split in half between neo-liberals and progressives, with nothing to offer the poor and working class on the most important issues. The DNC leadership continues to direct it's main blow at the Sanders left instead of the Republicans.

Check out Howard Dean, now, according to The Intercept, working for a health care lobbying firm to attack Bernie Sanders on single-payer.

"We're not Trump" may do it without the left. Or not.

Third party politics continues to be a bad spoiler joke with Greens (whites), liberal libertarians, and others invisible between elections. No base.

National Tenant March
A DISTRACTION? Some of my readers argue that all this Russomania is just a distraction, keeping us from talking about the important things like health care, education and racism. They have a point. But flipping the script for a minute, it's also meant death for the Republican agenda, ie. killing Obamacare, tax-"reform", etc... It has also left Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos, isolated and cowering over at the DOE.

Not to say there isn't great damage being done, especially a roll-back of civil rights gains won in the '60s. This includes restricting voting rights, which can only help Repugs in 2018 and '20.

Sound depressing? Snap out of it, I tell myself. As I'm writing this, thousands of tenants and housing rights activists are converging on Washington, D.C., for a National Tenant March. The march is protesting Trump’s "war on the poor", particularly his proposed $7.4 billion cuts to HUD, or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing in the United States. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is among the scheduled speakers.