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Dan Burns

School deformers will not relent, regardless

by Dan Burns on July 28, 2015 · 0 comments

abandoned2About the only area in which I don’t agree with many other progressives, regarding the federal role in education, is federal standards. I’m seriously concerned that (largely) eliminating them would allow states run by right-wingers, who are generally confused and scared by real intelligence and knowledge as they lack both, to have schools teaching as little legitimate fact and reasoning ability as they can get by with, and spend the rest of their time trying to drill nonsensical, failed right-wing doctrine into kids’ heads.
 
I acknowledge that there is a strong counterargument. Namely, that the assaults on public schools enabled by No Child Left Behind, with its test-until-you-drop federal “accountability” provisions, are already resulting in that.
 
There really is a movement, mostly financed and run by the same kinds of despicable, greedhead parasites that have been f*cking up everything else that they touch for a long time now, to destroy public education in the U.S. The public, which loves public schools, seems unaware. I suspect that it’s a phenomenon similar to that regarding Social Security and Medicare, where people just refuse to believe that anyone would seriously want to destroy them. That they would is regarded as just cartoonish evil, like, to take a vaguely recollected name from my long-lost youth, Dick Dastardly. That’s a big advantage that the deformers have. And despite a lot of big negatives in the charter movement (which are not the fault of charter students or teachers), they’re still hard at it.

 

Should the onerous provisions imposed on schools by NCLB indeed be lifted, lots of struggling schools will breathe easier without the “failed” brand looming over their buildings. But if this new flexibility comes to pass, it’s no time to take a victory lap if you’re someone who believes teachers, parents, and students should have a voice in how their local schools operate.
 
As anti-democratic pressures appear to be easing on the federal front, they are ratcheting up in states across the country. In fact, the next form of education “reform” may be as bad or worse than what NCLB imposed…
 
The danger, in particular, comes in the form of new policies being taken up by an increasing number of states to create special agencies – usually made up of non-elected officials – with the power to swoop into communities, take over local school governance, and turn schools over to private management groups often associated with large charter school chains.
(Campaign for America’s Future)

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MN-02: Kline up to the same crap

by Dan Burns on July 24, 2015 · 0 comments

kline2A couple of recent items.
 

Meanwhile, after three years of public comment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s issued its first-ever coal ash rule in December … to be effective on October 14, 2015.
 
So with that as a backdrop, John Kline co-sponsored a bill to remove the rule’s national standard for drinking water protection and cleanup of coal ash-contaminated sites.
 
And the House voted on that bill (Wednesday) … in six votes … and each time John Kline’s side prevailed (meaning “Coal Man” won, clean water lost)…
 
The Kline-backed bill allows states to decide that groundwater contamination and other pollution need not be cleaned up — in other words, if the “mess” can be ignored or impacts other states, so what.
(MN Political Roundtable)

(In early July), Kline resumed his role as corporate manservant, rising up against President Obama’s proposal that would make nearly five million more U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay. According to the White House, overtime rules are in dire need of recalibration, since they easily allow companies to skirt paying overtime without much creativity…
 
Meanwhile, as the nation comes out of the (July 4) weekend, Kline will be far removed from the daily challenges of working Minnesotans and back inside the Beltway, enjoying his annual congressional salary of $174,000 that’s flanked by benefits for which the rest of us would donate a kidney.
 
After all, this is Kline’s world. We just get to work in it.
(City Pages)

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The loathsome lows of forced-birth zealotry

by Dan Burns on July 22, 2015 · 0 comments

prochoiceThe best thing I’ve seen about the puerile, despicable, craven attacks on Planned Parenthood.
 

What is happening here is profoundly different. GOP legislators and presidential wannabes appear to be coordinating attacks on Planned Parenthood with a group that may have violated numerous federal and state laws, including using secret videotaping (which is illegal in the State of California, where the taping took place) to surreptitiously record Dr. Deborah Nucatola, and now Dr. Mary Gatter, later dramatically altering both videos to make it seem as though they were saying things they never had.
 
The anti-choice groups with which the GOP has joined forces have a very long history of using lies and deceit to make claims about services and of creating “gotcha” videos that always turn out to be false, though the media continues to lap these up. They’ve made up their own “science” and disregarded medicine and public health to force doctors to provide and women to undergo unnecessary procedures, waiting times, and lectures, all in the service of a radical ideology. Their work to undermine basic public health advances endangers the lives of literally millions of people, including children. But “babies” and children are not really their concern, all protestations aside. They seek total control over sex and sexuality.
 
The most frightening aspect of all of this, however, is the degree to which deeply radical anti-choicers have infiltrated a major political party. These are literally domestic terrorists.
(RH Reality Check)

Yes, they are. And you have to wonder why legal authorities at all levels aren’t doing more to protect women’s rights.
 
In our general neck of the woods, North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat law was just blocked in court. A 20-week ban is “law” in Wisconsin; it will almost certainly be overturned.
 

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Cooper-Union-We-are-Students-Not-Customers-e1373664073701Not in a good way. The author of this is also an editor at GenYize.com.

 

This past March, (Minnesota Attorney General Lori) Swanson amended her consumer fraud lawsuit she filed against Globe University and Minnesota School of Business last July, to now include two additional counts: Unlicensed Lending and Usury. These two additional charges specifically involve the schools’ EdOp and StA loans. As stated in her lawsuit, “Defendants engage in unlicensed lending, charge usurious interest rates, and take aggressive action against students who fall behind on their institutional loan payments; preventing students from completing the program in which they are enrolled.” Swanson also asserts that these loans are “void” and “students are under no obligation to pay any amount owing and are entitled to recover all amounts paid.”
 
According to the case, Globe University and Minnesota School of Business also provided “misleading and incomplete information” to some students about their loan obligations for their institutional loans. In Minnesota, it is illegal to charge interest rates above eight percent, and as Globe Education Network president, Jeff Myhre admitted in his online rebuttal to my claims, their “StA loan starts at 12 percent interest…”
(Huffington Post)

Apparently Rep. John Kline (R-MN) determined that it was, well, prudent, not to take campaign money from Globe this past quarter. (Based on what’s reported. We don’t know about dark money, one way or the other.) He’s still the for-profit industry’s best bud.

 

Minnesota’s Most Reprehensible Congressman™ continues to pocket generous campaign donations from disgraced for-profit colleges, according to his recent second-quarter report filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). This coming at the time his conservatism is being questioned for supporting a bailout for students who attended fallen for-profit college Corinthian.
(City Pages)

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Daudt the incompetent disaster

by Dan Burns on July 21, 2015 · 1 comment

daudtThe real lesson of the 2015 legislative session in Minnesota is how it brought the reality of the Great Con to which American conservatism has long since degenerated, into bold relief. The GOP promised to “address the needs” of rural Minnesota – specifically, to reverse the alleged pattern of them being screwed over by “liberal” city slickers. Once they had a House majority, the priority suddenly became blowing the entire budget surplus, plus some, on tax cut welfare for the wealthy, the bulk of which would have gone to big-time property owners, many of whom don’t even live in Minnesota. The preceding has not been emphasized enough, imo, in most post-session “analysis.”

 
I’m pretty sure I saw somewhere that House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) nonetheless gave himself and his caucus an A-. (Talk about the Dunning-Kruger effect!) Many, as the saying goes, “beg to differ.”

 

“My heart is heavy with grief from the actions taken by the MN House Majority and some of the MN GOP Senators,” wrote Minnesota Tea Party Alliance president Jack Rogers on his Facebook page.
 
“Unfortunately, every house rep let us down in the final 48 hours,” commented Jake Duesenberg, the Tea Party’s executive director. “No tax cuts at all. Huge spending increases in public education and socialized health care.”
(MinnPost)

Quit laughing – the man’s heart is “heavy with grief!” In rational, reality-based, meaningful, constructive, socio-political discussion, what the hard right thinks is irrelevant, and I put it in here mostly just for a chuckle. Mostly. But it also shows that it’s not just progressive activists who are very displeased, though we on the left, who actually do represent strong majority opinion in this country, have a lot more legitimate, rational reasons to be.
 
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Senate passes NCLB revision

by Dan Burns on July 17, 2015 · 1 comment

schoolIt’s called the Every Child Achieves Act, and is possibly not far from what President Obama will end up signing. Though one can’t be too sure; you may well share my concern based on recollections of what can happen when he gets totally obsessed with making a deal. Any deal. Like what seems to be happening now with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But that’s another matter.
 

The Senate bill retains annual testing, but removes federal sanctions attached to test results. Any rewards or sanctions attached to test scores will be left to states. The Senate rejected private school vouchers; nine Republican Senators joined with Democrats to defeat the voucher proposal. The bill also strengthens current prohibitions against the Secretary of Education dictating specific curriculum, standards, and tests to states, as well as barring the Secretary from tying test scores to teacher evaluations. The bill repudiates the punitive measures of of NCLB and RTTT.
(Diane Ravitch)

First, though, there will be negotiations with the House involving what it passed, namely, Rep. John Kline’s (R-MN) Student Success Act. I haven’t seen anything yet to the effect that Kline plans to try to seriously insist that the Senate essentially adopt his bill, rather than vice versa as most observers seem to expect. But we’ll see. It could get complicated. Right-wingers feel that neither bill is conservative enough, as public schools in conservative areas still won’t be able to propagandize right-wing extremism as their primary function. Civil rights groups believe, with considerable justification, that neither has enough safeguards to keep disadvantaged children from being shorted. The White House wants more “accountability.” The negotiations could fall apart, and life will go on. Here’s more detail on all of this, from Mother Jones.
 
The Column has a story about the Senate having blocked Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) Student Nondiscrimination Act.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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GOP retirements from the Minnesota Senate

by Dan Burns on July 15, 2015 · 1 comment

mncapitol2As in, they won’t run for reelection in 2016, but will serve through the 2016 legislative session. There may well be others, from both parties, who have announced that they’re leaving. These are just two that I’ve happened to notice.
 

Senate District 35 is such a solidly Republican area, stretching across the Twin Cities’ northern suburbs, that several names have surfaced as possible replacements for Sen. Branden Petersen, who recently announced he is not running for re-election.
 
Those possible candidates include Republican party activists Andy Aplikowski and Don Huizenga, state Rep. Abigail Whelan and former state Rep. Kathy Tinglestad.
(MinnPost)

I’m sure I’m not the only progressive who mentally sighed with a sort of resigned disdain at the sight of that clown car list of would-be successors. The only chance for the Minnesota GOP to remain relevant for the longer term – that is, into the 2020s – is for them to move hard toward the center on the issues. And I mean the real center, where progressive views are supported on most issues, nationally, by 2:1 or better. That sure isn’t happening here.
 
Nor is it likely to happen with any Republican succession to “my” district’s senator, Dave Brown (R-Becker).
 

Princeton’s representative in the Minnesota Senate is calling it quits after the 2016 Legislative session…
 
“Our state faces many challenges and opportunities in the future, and as my job in the private sector demands more of my time, I believe at this juncture in my life it is appropriate for me not to seek another term in the legislature,” Brown said.
(Princeton Union-Eagle)

Both of these districts will be tough DFL pickups. They are R+7 and R+11, respectively. (If you’re into this Minnesota elections wonk stuff, save that link for the recently updated hPVI’s.) Lisa Fobbe did win Brown’s in 2008, because of a DFL wave year and a far-right indy candidate splitting that vote by just enough.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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Environment continues to take a beating

by Dan Burns on July 13, 2015 · 0 comments

scienceThese are all bummers. If you’re not in the mood for that right now, and I don’t blame you if you’re not, maybe move on and come back later.
 
In the entirely justified positive reaction to some recent Supreme Court decisions, it’s not getting all that much press that there was also a really bad one.
 

Power plants may continue to be able to emit unlimited mercury, arsenic, and other pollutants thanks to the Supreme Court, which on (June 29) took steps toward invalidating the first-ever U.S. regulations to limit toxic heavy metal pollution from coal and oil-fired plants.
 
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found fault with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, commonly referred to as MATS.
 
The EPA had been trying to implement a rule that cut down on toxic mercury pollution for more than two decades. But the Supreme Court majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the EPA acted unlawfully when it failed to consider how much the regulation would cost the power industry before deciding to craft the rule.
(Think Progress)

Another disconcerting study about groundwater supplies:
 
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Cooper-Union-We-are-Students-Not-Customers-e1373664073701I’m passing along a couple of recent items about for-profit colleges. The purpose of for-profit “educators” is to make money. The legitimate purpose of education is to create a more intelligent, knowledgeable, able populace. You’d have to be a moron to think that those two are compatible, based on “the markets” or some such imbecile nonsense.
 

For-profit colleges in Minnesota have been coming under increasing scrutiny in the past year.
 
The state Office of Higher Education has been sending out “secret shoppers” to see whether colleges are dealing honestly with prospective students. It’s starting to compare notes with the state Attorney General’s Office. Its new watchdog also is investigating an increasing number of student complaints.
(MPR)

I’m probably pushing it, here, but while in a positive, optimistic frame of mind one can get the impression that AG Lori Swanson and Gov. Mark Dayton intend to see that for-profits shape up or get run out of business, and that it’s unlikely to be the former. It’s not about a political attack on Rep. John Kline (R-MN). It’s just an understanding that Minnesota will be better off without these places.
 

Federal and state investigators have suspected the for-profit school of defrauding its students for years. But with protection from powerful members of Congress — like Burnsville Republican John Kline — ITT nonetheless flourished. The Carmel, Indiana corporation now has 57,000 students at 135 campuses, including Brooklyn Center and Eden Prairie.
 
Its specialty is using multimillion-dollar ad campaigns to carpet-bomb the vulnerable: poor folks, minorities, military veterans, and single moms, people unaware that a degree at half the price and with twice the respect can be had at the community college down the street.
 
ITT sells career fulfillment and a better life. The reality, however, is thousands of alums with lives unchanged — except for the crushing new burden of student loans.
(City Pages)

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abandonedschoolI suppose that this is a victory of sorts for Rep. John Kline (R-MN), though a feeble one with no staying power.
 

The House on Wednesday voted to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law, resurrecting a bill that Republican leaders were forced to pull from the floor earlier this year due to conservative opposition.
 
Passage fell narrowly along party lines on a vote of 218-213, with 27 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition to nearly derail it on the floor…
 
The Senate is currently considering a more bipartisan version of legislation to renew No Child Left Behind. If it passes, it will have to be reconciled with the more conservative House bill, which gives states more authority over education policy.
 
But even if Congress manages to negotiate a compromise, there’s no guarantee that President Obama will sign it, as the administration has expressed opposition to both the House and Senate bills.
(The Hill)

Because NCLB has been used to so relentlessly attack public schools and teachers, and federal standards like Common Core are part of that, some on the left join with conservatives to support the elimination of any such standards. I don’t agree with that. There need to be some means in place, so that schools in conservative areas can’t just teach the 3 R’s and propagandize conservatism the rest of the time. I’m not willing to abandon young people in those areas to that fate.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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