Recent Posts

Education

abandonedschoolThere has been some “discussion” as to just what’s going on with campaign financing in the race for citywide seats on the Minneapolis school board. This really makes things obvious. It’s a press release from ACT for Education. I don’t have a hyperlink, but I do have permission to quote wholesale.

 

New campaign finance reports out today show that three out-of-state billionaires and a New York millionaire have contributed $248,000 to the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund (MPEF), and its affiliated groups the 50CAN Action Fund, and the Students for Education Reform Action Network Fund (SFER). 94 percent of the MPEF money comes from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Connecticut billionaire Jonathan Sackler, California billionaire Arthur Rock, and New York millionaire Adam Cioth.

MPEF has a s*itload of gall, putting “progressive” in its name. You can view the rest of this extremely enlightening document by clicking “READ MORE,” below.
 
This, from MinnPost, has links to all of the various fundraising reports.

 
Yes, out-of-state billionaires are trying to smother Minneapolis with the deformer, anti-public schools agenda. Period.
 
The following sentence is an example of “reasoning from fact.” Privatizing/corporatizing American public education is a terrible concept, and a huge preponderance of evidence bears that out in practice. Again, period.
 
…READ MORE

{ 1 comment }

kline3Pretty damn bad. I’m passing along this great article. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) is running for reelection, and his Democratic opponent is Mike Obermueller.

 

Behind schedule or not, Kline’s stiff-arm comes as no shock. He’s played behind the scenes for most of his career, preferring to quietly legislate away from cameras and microphones.
 
Besides, it’s just a reporter approaching him, not someone allied with the for-profit college industry. If the latter were the case, Kline would not just have time for lunch. He’d most likely block out the rest of his day to bond over tumblers of moderately priced scotch.
 
As Kline disappears behind the elevator doors, so goes the biggest obstruction to reforming for-profit colleges in America, an industry grown fat and sweaty on the taxpayers’ dime, while leaving students paralyzed in debt and working part-time at CVS.
(City Pages)

Education and health care are the worst possible places for incompetent greedhead for-profits and “competition.” Anyone who doesn’t get that by now could well be intellectually beyond help, at least on public policy.
 
Update: Obermueller has announced that if elected he will make dealing with this a priority.
 

Second district congressional candidate Mike Obermueller announced his proposal to crackdown on the predatory for-profit college industry today. The proposed legislation is geared to ensure schools are as invested in their students’ education as their own bottom line.
 
“It’s been made clear that the for-profit industry is simply not doing an acceptable job of producing a high quality education,” said Obermueller. “Worse, these schools have been abusively targeting prospective students, using various lies and distortions of the truth to recruit them.”
 
“To these bad actors, veterans are walking dollar signs,” said Obermueller. “It’s disgusting to think that these schools have been targeting our veterans’ tuition benefits without any intention of providing them with a real education. But unfortunately, current regulation is set up in a way that incentivizes these schools to go after veterans. This is an easy thing to change, and I would expect to find broad bipartisan support for this measure.”

Comments below fold.
 
…READ MORE

{ 2 comments }

Minneapolis at-large school board candidate Iris Altamirano issued this statement about recent negative campaigning:
 

A recent negative mailing and negative campaign calls we’ve seen and heard about, in the past week are more examples of what I’ve been saying throughout our campaign: We need a new conversation about education in Minneapolis because the situation for our kids is too urgent. Negative campaigning does not move us in that direction. Our campaign has been focused on bringing people together and building a collective vision for all Minneapolis kids to have opportunities to succeed. I will continue to campaign with integrity, respect for all perspectives, and with the deep belief that we must move beyond the polarized framework of this debate and put children at the forefront of this conversation.

An independent group, Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, has been supporting Altamirano and Don Samuels, and running a negative campaign against Rebecca Gagnon. Pardon me going through basics again, but I was reminded while doorknocking this weekend that there are voters who respond to questions about local elections with something like, “We have local elections this year?” I think that’s a hint. I’ve also been informed that “at-large” is a bit jargon-like. So, “at-large” means citywide, as opposed to districts. If you didn’t know, just pretend. No one will know. Non-Minneapolitans, hang on through this hyper-local stuff, because I’ll shortly mention something that might interest any politics geek.
 
Minneapolis has three at-large seats and six districts, elected for four-year staggered terms in even numbered years. So three districts and one at-large member are elected in presidential years, and the other three districts and two at-large seats are elected in midterms.
 

For the two at-large seats, the top four candidates in the primary go to the general election. The top four were Ira Jordain, Iris Altamirano, Rebecca Gagnon, and Don Samuels. All four self-identify as DFLers. Gagnon finished first in the primary, with Samuels a close second and Altamirano a close third, clustered in the 20’s range. Jordain came in a bit under 6%. Gagnon and Altamirano are the DFL endorsees. Regarding RCV, we don’t use that in even numbered years, just odd numbered years when the whole ballot is local races.
 
One interesting thing about this particular race is that even though Republicans might top out at 25% of the vote in Minneapolis, that still means one voter in four is Republican. When I’m at their door clipboard in hand, I don’t waste time trying to persuade them on partisan races, figuring I’m not going to win them over anyway, but in the school board race, they’re having to pick the most acceptable DFLers. That means it’s still worth finding out what they care about, and looking for a way to win their vote. So when I realize I won’t win them over to Franken or Dayton, I switch to school board. It’s a very different dynamic than the partisan races. It’s also a common problem for Republicans in local races in Minneapolis. We had a Republican mayoral candidate last year, but some city council races were all DFL.

{ 0 comments }

I could be wrong. If I’m right, then I have to admire the cleverness of a certain group of Don Samuels’ supporters, even if, as the title implies, there’s something coldblooded about it.

 

A new organization has sprung up for this election season, the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund. They put out a mailer promoting the candidacies of Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano for the Minneapolis at-large school board seats. Altamirano is one of the candidates endorsed by the DFL. Samuels is not. The other DFL endorsee is Rebecca Gagnon. Voters might be fooled by the effort MPEF is making to hook together Altamirano and Samuels. The images below are a mailer MPEF sent Minneapolis voters (click to enlarge). Some voters have received a robocall supporting Samuels and Altamirano while bashing Gagnon. I didn’t receive one myself and don’t know of anyone who caught who made the calls, but the content sounds roughly the same as the MPEF web site. The mailer is positive about the supported candidates, but the robocall and web site are pretty negative. The web site tries to tie Gagnon to the unproven rumors about State Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden. Pretty nonsensical rumors unless someone believes the senators are politically suicidal (denying funding to the Minneapolis public schools? Remember that saying about extraordinary claims…), but MPEF says, “The Star Tribune and MinnPost also have reported on claims…” and yes, someone made claims, those outlets reported that someone made claims, so true as far as it goes. Other than that attack on Gagnon, it’s all generic “every child can learn” sort of stuff said by all school board candidates everywhere.
 

MPEF mailer image 1   MPEF mailer image 2

 
So what’s the strategy? It’s more than knowing the word “progressive” plays well in Minneapolis. The trick is Samuels doesn’t need to beat both endorsees. Since there are two positions, he just needs to beat one. Apparently the strategy is to hook him to one endorsee, giving the impression he’s the other endorsee, while simultaneously hitting the other endorsee with a negative campaign. That may explain why Samuels didn’t seek the DFL endorsement, which he never would have gotten for any public office, but instead attempted the same sort of ambush campaign Matt Entenza tried in the auditor primary: keep quiet until filing so opponents aren’t expecting anything, and then hit hard with a well-funded negative campaign. The brilliance of this strategy is it would have worked equally well whichever candidate MPEF chose to support or attack. Whether there was a reason or a coin flip, MPEF chose to make it appear Samuels is running with Altamirano, even though they’re not similar candidates, and I’ve yet to hear anyone in Altamirano’s campaign have a good word to say about him.
 
…READ MORE

{ 5 comments }

gadflyI ran across this cool website with this cool article, which is a must click and read if you’re interested in education policy at all. (There are four candidates for two-at-large seats: Rebecca Gagnon, Ira Jourdain, Don Samuels, and Iris Altamirano. Gagnon is an incumbent; she and Altamirano are DFL-endorsed. Samuels is very much preferred by the corporate “education deformer” movement.)
 

Now, a distinction must be drawn between this rigorously documented “hard money”, which campaigns raise and spend directly, and the “soft money” independent expenditures made by outside groups that have no limits or reporting requirements. How’s this working out for (Samuels)? Pretty nicely. I’ve written before about the influx of ideologically-driven, out-of-state money into our (formerly local) school board race; this is the post-Citizens United crap that we have to put up with, and it’s troubling that it doesn’t meet Samuels’ definition of “corrupt money”…
 
No one can be sure exactly how much money these plutocrats are spending in their bid to buy our local election, but Samuels seems to be saying he needs it because of all the money being spent on Altamirano’s behalf. There’s a big difference, though: while Samuels boosters are billionaires and their foundations who evidently view our city as a little terrarium for them to experiment on, Altamirano’s “soft” expenditures are coming from, well, us.
(Don’t Samuels!)

A lot of progressive bloggers, including some whose work I downright admire, tend to repeat the claim that there is no difference between the overall performance of traditional public schools and charters. They don’t seem to be doing their homework on that. For example, a new study shows that charters are substantially worse than public schools in Chicago. Another study has the same general result for the Twin Cities.
 
Comments below fold.
 
…READ MORE

{ 3 comments }

MN-02: Kline screwing veterans on student loans

by Dan Burns on October 20, 2014 · 1 comment

271_19344293946_1831_nFrom a guy who makes an awfully big deal of being a high-profile veteran, himself.
 

The Star Tribune article points out the problem, but again, John Kline is not mentioned. John Kline is not asked. John Kline is not held accountable.
 
And why should he be?
 
Because John Kline gaveled down a possible fix to this problem by adding GI loans to the 90/10 rule for college loan money. The 90/10 rule requires colleges and universities to not exceed 90% of their loan funding from government sources. Currently, GI loans are not counted and thus the For Profit Colleges target veterans into programs that often lead nowhere in regards to getting a job.
 
The fix was discussed – but John Kline did not EVEN ALLOW DEBATE on the proposal. As committee chair, he, and he alone, was able to gavel this down, at his discretion. A move that directly benefits his For Profit College donors.
(mnpACT!)

This is pretty good:
 

 

{ 1 comment }

The importance of local races

by Eric Ferguson on October 15, 2014 · 5 comments

Before she was in Congress, Michele Bachmann was a state senator, and before that, pertinent to the title of this post, she was on her local school board. The fact I don’t have to explain who she is might demonstrate the importance of that one school board race.

 
It might appear at this point that the importance of local races is stopping crazy people from getting their start in elective office. Not that I’m saying everyone in local elective office is crazy. Just the Republicans. Yes, that’s an overgeneralization. Not all are Bachmann-wannabes. Local offices are, however, the primary bench for candidates for higher office. My impression, which I hope is wrong, is that Republicans are well aware of this while Democrats largely ignore local offices. I mean that in terms of turning out on election day, researching candidates prior to seeing their names on a ballot, and of course in actually running for office. It’s too late to do anything about the last one for 2014, but there’s still time for the first two. We concede these races to Republicans at our peril, as they get to build a bench of people with electoral office while us, not so much.
 
That’s without even thinking about how local officials do their jobs and affect our lives, apart from their future electoral possibilities. They don’t get national media coverage, much, but when they do, it highlights the effect they can have; the school board in Jefferson County, Colorado, for example. Think the Democrats and independents who skipped last year’s election regret it now? Know how often this happens and we never hear about it? Me neither.
 
And just to not overlook the obvious, Ferguson, MO: a mostly black and Democratic city, a mostly white and Republican city council, and really low turnout in local elections. Though not equally low across partisan and demographic groups. Think that might explain some things?
 
Then there’s the effect of the explosion of dark money. We worry about the presidency and Congress being bought, but I’m thinking we saw in 2012 that there’s a limit to how much spending in a presidential race does any good, and I’m skeptical about its benefits beyond a certain point in US Senate races too, but down the ballot is different. It takes little money to swamp a local race. I’m thinking of that referendum in Columbus, Ohio, to raise local taxes to fund the Columbus Zoo. It failed when supporters were surprised and grossly outspent by Koch brothers money, which was used to tell voters their taxes would double when the actual increase was something like 1%. The referendum failed because the Kochs, despite having no connection, just felt ideologically offended and saw a chance to beat a tax increase with a bit of money and a bit of lying, and that was in a big city. Think of the anecdotes you’ve heard of some mayor getting on getting on the bad side of some special interest, and the low spending local race is suddenly hit with massive outside money, like Richmond, CA, where the mayor has $22,000 while his opponent has $1.3 million, courtesy of Chevron:
 

We’re having a hotly contested race the two at-large school board seats in Minneapolis and it’s drawn a little national attention for the fight over, depending on how you view it, expanding charter schools or privatizing public education. It’s again the exception that proves the rule, because what was the last Minneapolis election to get any national media? There was laughter at our 2013 mayoral race because our combination of an open seat and a $20 filing fee drew in 30-something candidates, but otherwise, that’s it for attention. And that’s in a city the size of Minneapolis. The only time I can recall St. Paul’s elections being noticed was when nominally DFL Mayor Randy Kelly endorsed George Bush in 2004, so some national media were watching as he got blown out in 2005. Those are the only instances I know of for cities the size of Minneapolis and St. Paul, so how much can we count on the media telling us about our own local races?
 
The answer is “not much”.
…READ MORE

{ 5 comments }

abandonedschoolFour candidates won the primary in order to run for two at-large seats. Rebecca Gagnon, an incumbent, and Iris Altamirano are DFL-endorsed. Ira Jourdain is another. The other is Don Samuels, who is regarded by many as an ally of the corporate movement that seeks to undermine public schools.
 

In the aftermath of a failed 2013 bid for mayor, former Minneapolis city council member Don Samuels is running for a spot on the school board. If he wins, he will undoubtedly be able to thank the extensive financing and canvassing support he’s received from several well-heeled national organizations, such as the Washington, D.C.-based 50CAN, an offshoot of Education Reform Now called Students for Education Reform (SFER), and various people associated with Teach for America, which has been called a “political powerhouse” for its growing influence in policy and politics beyond the classroom.
 
These groups often project an image of grassroots advocacy but are in fact very well-funded, often through the support of extremely wealthy hedge fund managers and large philanthropic foundations. Together, they and like-minded “education reform” proponents have dramatically, but not necessarily democratically, altered how public education works throughout the United States…
 
So what might out-of-state investors hope to gain from helping Don Samuels get on the Minneapolis school board?
 
The answer may lie in the well-documented, billionaire-led push by education reform proponents to privatize the nation’s public school system. This is often accomplished through efforts to expand “school choice” through district and charter school competition, with the accompanying goals of weakening or eliminating both teachers unions and democratically elected school boards. The infamous Koch brother-funded “American Legislative Exchange Council,” or ALEC, has also used its political muscle to push pro-charter bills through state legislatures across the country.
(Sarah Lahm/In These Times)

And here is another must-read article, from Salon: “The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies.” Enjoy the great writing and despise the reality presented, all at once.

 
If you’re in Minneapolis and support public schools, don’t go defeatist. Deform candidates have been having their butts electorally handed to them on a regular basis, nationwide. When it even happened in OklahomaOklahoma – you know it’s for real.
 

{ 13 comments }

abanschoolMost of this article is actually about Rolling Jubilee, if you want to find out more about that ultra-righteous endeavor.
 

(In September) the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a $500 million lawsuit against Corinthian, a corporation they have been investigating, as have various state attorneys general. Corinthian is charged with running a “predatory lending scheme.”
 
For-profit schools are notorious for preying on students from disadvantaged backgrounds and spending more on advertising and marketing than on teaching. For example, according to the CFPB, Corinthian paid other companies to temporarily hire graduates in order to inflate job placement statistics and tricked students into taking out private loans from the school itself.
 
“Part of the tragedy here is that most students who attend the Corinthian company schools come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and many are the first in their families to go to college,” a CFPB official said. “For these students, Corinthian too often turned the American dream of higher education into an ongoing nightmare of financial despair.” (A spokesman for Corinthian has disputed the claims made by the CFPB.)
(Truthout)

As chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has been the most high-profile, relentless congressional ally of predatory educators-for-profit. MN Political Roundtable notes how Corinthian is not his only big supporter in the industry being investigated.
 

And mnpACT! succinctly takes down Kline’s entire House tenure, here.
 

{ 5 comments }

Jeffco-Students-protest“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”  George Orwell

 

In what has become the newest front-line in America’s on-going Culture War, students in Jefferson County, Colorado, walked out of five different schools in the last week in protest over their school board’s recent heavy-handed actions. Teachers have been angered about a new ‘performance-based’ system for awarding raises to educators, while students are angry about a proposed Curriculum Committee that calls for promoting only ‘positive aspects’ of U.S. history and American heritage while de-emphasizing or avoiding historical material that encourages or condones “civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.”

 

In particular, students are horrified by an attempt by the Jefferson County School Board to use the proposed Curriculum Committee to ‘whitewash’ American history, including Colorado history, by expurgating or bowdlerizing certain historical events such as cover-ups of environmental crimes at Rocky Flats, Colorado, and the 1914 Ludlow Massacre of striking coal miners and their families.

 

In what has become the largest and longest protest of its kind, nearly 1000 students have joined in a fourth day of continuing protests that are being organized via Facebook and other social media.

 

The protests culminate a long period of mounting tensions in the school district after a majority of three conservative candidates were elected as a slate to the five-member Jefferson County School Board last November. Among other announced changes, including expanded support for charter schools, conservative members stated the board would implement a new ‘pay-for-performance’ compensation model for teachers that more closely adheres to a ‘market-based’ compensation model. That model would pay teachers based on performance evaluations and the market-value of their job, rather than on acquired skills, tenure and seniority.

 

The former Superintendent of Schools, 12-year veteran Cindy Stevenson, resigned from her post mere days after the Nov. 5 election that saw the conservative sweep, stating that her work was being impeded by the new board. A little more than two weeks ago, on September 9, in a unanimous vote of 180 union and non-union representatives, Jefferson County teachers issued a vote of ‘no-confidence’ in newly-elected School Board President Ken Witt. The no-confidence vote was taken after the board’s conservative majority in late August moved independently to restrict pay raises for 89 teachers deemed ‘partially effective’ or ‘ineffective’ in their jobs after rejecting an independent review that found the district’s teacher evaluation system too flawed to set salaries fairly.

 

Last Friday, September 19, two Jefferson County schools were forced to close due to more than 50 teachers calling in sick or taking a day of vacation. The following Monday, 100 students at Evergreen High School left their classes abruptly to protest the board’s actions at the school’s administration building, prompting similar protests at other county schools in the following days.

{ 1 comment }