Recent Posts


It’s still tough for many new graduates

by Dan Burns on June 10, 2016 · 0 comments

graduatesThe purpose of this is mostly to pass along a recent EPI report, for anyone who is interested.

Young high school and college graduates were hit hard in the Great Recession. While young graduates’ economic prospects have brightened in recent years, they still face elevated unemployment rates and stagnant wages. Many groups—including young graduates of color, as well as young high school graduates entering the workforce—face particularly difficult economic realities…
The vast majority (65.8 percent) of people age 24–29 do not have a college degree. Access to good jobs for these individuals is especially critical, as stable employment allows them to build a career or pay for further schooling.
(Economic Policy Institute)

The fundamental problem is that in the last 35 years, give or take, real access to opportunity and resources has become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Namely, those of the parasitical plutocrat/warmongering class. Changing that is going to take a while.
Young people understanding what the real problem is, is part of that. Fortunately, it seems as though many do. They need to show up and vote, every time.


New report on charter school fraud

by Dan Burns on June 8, 2016 · 0 comments

school2Unfortunately, few elected officials from either major party seem interested in prioritizing the need to do something about this issue in particular, much less about the overall efforts to undermine and corporatize public education in general. That needs to change. I have to admit that I for one do not have a magic wand to wave to that effect.

Two years ago, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) issued a report demonstrating that charter schools in 15 states—about one-third of the states with charter schools—had experienced over $100 million in reported fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement since 1994. Last year, we released a new report that found millions of dollars of new alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools had come to light, bringing the new total to $203 million. This report offers further evidence that the money we know has been misused is just the tip of the iceberg. With the new alleged and confirmed financial fraud reported here, the total fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools has reached over $216 million…
The number of instances of serious fraud uncovered by whistleblowers, reporters, and investigations suggests that the fraud problem extends well beyond the cases we know about. Based on the widely accepted estimate of the percentage of revenue the typical organization loses to fraud, the deficiencies in charter oversight throughout the country suggest that federal, state, and local governments stand to lose more than $1.8 billion in 2016, up from $1.4 billion in 2015. The vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud.
(Center for Popular Democracy)


Business as usual for Minnesota lege GOP

by Dan Burns on May 4, 2016 · 0 comments

mn_capitolA couple of current examples.

The American Energy Alliance, a prominent conservative energy group, said (April 27) it is backing a push in state legislatures across the United States to bar funding for work on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
This effort has already proved successful in several states this spring, including Virginia, Wyoming and Colorado, where lawmakers passed budget bills restricting money for state agencies to plan for the federal climate change regulation. Similar budget language is currently being floated in at least four other states, including Minnesota and Missouri…
And in Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said the Supreme Court stay “does nothing to diminish our resolve in Minnesota to keep moving forward on clean energy initiatives, including the development of our state’s Clean Power Plan,” the Legislature is also moving forward with a bill to bar funding for compliance work with the rule unless the stay is lifted.

A proposal to boost spending for so-called “student support services” will get a look in final budget negotiations as the end of the legislative session nears.
Advocates say the need for more counselors, social workers and other support workers is critical in Minnesota. But heading into negotiations, the DFL-controlled Senate and GOP-controlled House are far apart on the issue.
The Senate wants to set aside $13.1 million for matching grants to help schools hire more counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses and drug addiction counselors. The House doesn’t want any money for the idea so far — its bill calls for studying the proposal and reporting back next year.


Vile deformer scum target Minnesota teachers

by Dan Burns on April 18, 2016 · 0 comments

abandoned2Yeah, I rarely adorn my posts with titles like that. I’m generally more about just passing along information, and letting other people, who are better bloggers than me anyway, do the righteous hyperbole. But this one is worthy.

A group of parents backed by a national nonprofit say Minnesota’s teacher tenure laws perpetuate the state’s academic achievement gap between white students and students of color.
The group on Thursday filed a lawsuit that challenges Minnesota laws that make it more difficult to fire teachers once they’ve been employed for more than three years. The suit was filed in Ramsey County district court…
The state teachers’ union president Denise Specht said in a statement that the contested laws “protect teachers from discrimination and arbitrary punishment, including for speaking out about the learning conditions in their schools.”
Specht said the laws “explicitly do not protect ineffective teachers.”

I did a bunch of blogging recently about efforts to destroy public education, and replace it with rote-learning mills to be strip-mined for profit. In the longer term, the intent is also to take control of curricula, and imbue young people with the purported glories of continued plutocratic, warmongering rule. That’s the right wing’s only chance, really, in the longer term, because young voters certainly aren’t buying that odious, failed, corrupt, reactionary crap, now.


What Minnesota schools need is not deform

by Dan Burns on April 6, 2016 · 0 comments

thosewhocanbutton400This first blockquote is from a succinct, yet definitive, summation of what’s been happening nationwide.

Education is in crisis because of the calculated effort to turn it into a business with a bottom line. Schools are closed and opened as though they were chain stores, not community institutions. Teachers are fired based on flawed measures. Disruption is considered a strategy rather than misguided and inhumane policy. Children and educators alike are simply data points, to be manipulated by economists, statisticians, entrepreneurs, and dabblers in policy.
Education has lost its way, lost its purpose, lost its definition. Where once it was about enlightening and empowering young minds with knowledge, exploring new worlds, learning about science and history, and unleashing the imagination of each child, it has become a scripted process of producing test scores that can supply data.
Education is in crisis. And we must organize to resist, to push back, to fight the mechanization of learning, and the standardization of children.
(Diane Ravitch/AlterNet)

Here’s what that’s led to in Minneapolis:


In my experience, the right fears socialism without properly knowing what it is, and without correctly identifying who or where socialism works well. That would include nations like Denmark, which is a hybrid capitalist/socialist state.

I attended the Republican caucuses held March 1st; the leadership warned about the DIRE possibility of  BECOMING DENMARK.  No one would elaborate on what part of resembling Denmark was so fearful, it was an accepted wisdom without any reference to reality.
What reality? THIS reality.


The report found that inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness —
a stark finding for rich countries like the United States, where rising
disparities in income, wealth, health and well-being have fueled
political discontent.


Denmark is a very successful nation, a very small nation relative to the United States – surely no one is concerned about physical national shrinkage? Trump and Rubio have demonstrated the right has a size phobia…

Our differences with Denmark underline the political issues and pressures driving the 2016 election cycle.


It is also a nation that is widely regarded, including by its own citizens as less corrupt, as being economically more successful as measured by GDP – it is strongly business friendly.  It is more successful in terms of educational outcome, of health care outcomes (including cost management), in terms of life expectancy, but also in terms of pro-family policies and infrastructure safety, and energy policy.  The average citizen is far more affluent and has far more economic and social mobility than the citizens of the US. The Danes also demonstrate more sincere family values in their national policies regarding supporting family life and coherence.

Corruption is, ultimately, the cause of wealth and income inequality, and responsible for it continuing.


Critics can hardly call the Danes godless heathens; the state religion is evangelical Lutheranism.  Rather I would prefer to see the US retain the freedom of religion guaranteed by no state religion being established.  But the nation has remarkable religious tolerance, arguably more than that shown by the conservative evangelicals who are Islamophobic.


schoolI had not been aware of, and was taken aback by, a note in something I read to the effect that enrollment at Minnesota’s state colleges and universities has been in decline. So I looked into it. This has the numbers, with charts and graphs. Enrollment peaked in 2010 and has been falling since.

Economic fears and job layoffs drove more students to college during the recession, where they polished old skills, obtained new ones, or worked on their degrees as they waited for the employment market to loosen.
(Bring Me The News)

The article goes on to note that cost and student debt issues are the other big drivers. Efforts are being made, at least by activists, to fix those, but large-scale change is unfortunately going to take some time.
I get that traditional four-year (at least) college isn’t for everyone, by any means. But I still don’t think that fewer people going, overall, is anything other than a negative, under any circumstances.


Beating down the education deformers, Part 5

by Dan Burns on March 7, 2016 · 3 comments

teachers(This is the last part. Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 here, here, here, and here.)
I’ve been meaning for a while to do a series of blog posts like this, in order to try to really nail down where we’re at vs. the deformer-privatization/profiteering movement.
The result is, I don’t know who’s winning in the battle vs. the deformers, or whether it even makes sense to call it a “battle.” I don’t know whether the Every Student Succeeds Act will in fact help, hurt, or make little difference. (Here’s more on that.) I don’t know of a quick, easy way to clean up the charter movement and cut it (way) down to size. I don’t know how to readily fix the funding gap. And so forth.
Or, rather, I do know how to fix those things, and so do you: get better people into power, and keep them there. I just don’t know how, in practical reality, to consistently make that happen. Which isn’t surprising, given that it’s been one of the key problems of all of human history, everywhere.
I also know that a lot of people are fed up with deform. For example:


Beating down the education deformers, Part 4

by Dan Burns on February 29, 2016 · 3 comments

abandoned2(Parts 1, 2, and 3 here, here, and here.)


For this particular progressive supporter of public schools – namely, me – at least, there is a big dilemma regarding the federal role in education. It has to do with to what extent the federal government should be involved in setting and enforcing educational standards and practices. And I must say that it is a topic that tends not to be discussed, beyond predictable and frankly superficial rhetoric, in most progressive media and forums devoted to education.
The concern is that as the federal role is lessened, conservative states and districts will feel more empowered to “educate” based on, for example, religious and market fundamentalism (the two in fact have a great deal in common, when it comes to benighted acceptance of dogmas that are clearly false), science denial, and Reagan-worship. In fact, raising as many kids as they can on that kind of crap, as opposed to knowledge and reason, is the only chance contemporary conservatives have of retaining any influence – political, social, and economic – in the longer term.

Conservatives, in effect, have been saying to the federal government, “We demand that you stop imposing your terrible standards and tests on our communities. It’s the states’ job to destroy critical thinking and curiosity, and we’ll do that with our terrible standards and tests, thank you very much.” If you’re a teacher, it may not make much difference if oppressive dictates originate in Washington, D.C., the state capital, or even the district office. The point is still that your skills as a professional educator, and the unique interests and needs of a particular group of kids, don’t count for much. ESSA remains the Eternal Standardization of Schooling Act.



Beating down the education deformers, Part 3

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2016 · 3 comments

abandonedschool(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

The following blockquote is from the best succinct description of the goals and tactics of the deformer/privatization movement that I’ve seen. It was originally published in the Washington Post.

The pitch
Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.
Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters — academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, iPads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)

Needless to say, corporate-controlled “legacy”/”traditional”/whatever-you-want-to-call-it media (the daily papers, the nightly news broadcasts, etc.) play a big, key part in all of this.