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Education

School deformers will not relent, regardless

by Dan Burns on July 27, 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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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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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.
 
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From US Uncut on Facebook:

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts:

If President Barack Obama has his way, the nation’s taxpayers would not help finance a new arena
proposed for the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team.

Nor would taxpayer-financed, tax-free bonds be used to help finance a new stadium being discussed in St. Louis for the NFL Rams, or in Oakland for a new complex aimed at keeping the area’s professional football, baseball and basketball franchises from leaving town.

An obscure item in the president’s new budget would put an end to the longstanding practice of states and cities using tax-exempt bonds to finance professional sports arenas, a practice that costs the U.S. Treasury $146 million, according to a 2012 Bloomberg analysis.
Dennis Zimmerman, an economist who worked for the Congressional Budget Office and is now director of projects for the American Tax Policy Institute, is a longtime critic of the financing. He said the president is right in proposing to eliminate the subsidies that benefit often wealthy professional team owners.

“I’m glad he put it in the budget,” Zimmerman said. “Tax-exempt bonds are supposed to be for state and local infrastructure” and not private business.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker in January proposed funding a $470 million arena for the Bucks with the help of $220 million in state bonds as part of his budget plan.
Walker said that without a new arena, the Bucks would “likely leave Wisconsin in 2017, costing the state nearly $10 million per year in income tax collections alone.”
The proposal is drawing criticism from conservatives such as the Wisconsin chapter of the free-market group Americans for Prosperity. State director David Fladeboe said the group is “disappointed that the (governor’s) budget still plans to use public funds on the Milwaukee arena.”

Laurel Patrick, Walker’s spokeswoman, said that until Congress acts, the governor is undeterred.

Yup, the corruption has to be pretty bad before even fellow conservatives working for another arguably competing Walker donor / politician “buyer” objects.

 

This is what thinly veiled public corruption looks like (imho).

 

Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that there would be no quid pro quo, direct or indirect, between the owners and the newly minted candidate for president, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker?

 

Good for President Obama that he is at least attempting to block this kind of extortion by rich sports team owners of the public and public officials.
 
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Conservative governance, conservative policies are epic failures.  They rely on blind, unquestioning, cultish ideology, without regard to actual outcomes, bottom lines or facts.  They deny reality, in the hopes that saying something is true will be enough to make it true.

 

Yesterday, one of these failed conservative governors, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, promoted his failed leadership of Wisconsin as success, something it is very definitely NOT.   Let’s look at a few of the many ways in which Wisconsin is NOT thriving under Scott Walker or conservative policies.  Walker is running for the GOP presidential nomination on the basis of his success in Wisconsin.  And “God”; because conservatives like to invoke God when they lie, to give them legitimacy as a means of hiding they are lying.  Or maybe the Koch brothers;  Walker may have confused God and the Koch Brothers. Like Michele Bachmann, and other candidates, Walker hears voices in his head and believes that it is God and not his own over-arching personal ambition up for sale.

 

Infrastructure is one of the most fundamental and essential functions of state government.  Infrastructure along with the educational level of your workforce, are the two most important drivers of state-level economic development and growth.  Walker’s administration and the conservative dominated Wisconsin legislature, in their efforts to govern on the cheap, so as to give every possible financial advantage to the wealthiest 1%,  is the 3rd worst nation for the condition and safety of their roads and bridges.

 

A press release from Wisconsin Congressman Pocan from July 10, 2015:

 

71% of the state’s roads are in need of repair

Washington, D.C – U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) released a troubling Department of Transportation report detailing the urgent need to improve infrastructure in Wisconsin. A staggering 71 percent of the state’s roads are rated as being in poor or mediocre condition. This puts Wisconsin in the bottom three states for road conditions in the country. With Governor Scott Walker set to sign a budget which further reduces state investment in transportation projects, now is the time to take immediate action to ensure the current patch of Highway Trust Fund does not expire on July 31st.
“Building roads and bridges are core functions of our government,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “Once again, Gov. Walker has failed to provide critical investment to programs that matter most to the people of Wisconsin.”
“Republicans in both Washington and Wisconsin are jeopardizing public safety and economic growth by failing to provide adequate funds for transportation needs,” continued Rep. Mark Pocan.

The driving force of every capitalist economy is a large, healthy middle class; demand and consumption drives our economy, including economic growth.  Under conservatives led by Gov.  Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s middle class is not thriving, it is shrinking, the worst decline  of any state in the country, and a significant result of the war on Unions and everyday citizens by Walker and conservatives.  THIS is one of the reasons Wisconsin is one of the worst state level economies in the nation.  Depending on which statistics, Wisconsin is 38th or 44th in job creation.  This represents policies which intentionally redistribute wealth and income upwards to the wealthiest and privileged few, in action.

 

From the Madison Capitol Times in March 2015:

 

Report: Wisconsin worst in nation on shrinking middle class

If you feel like you’re working harder for less money, it’s not your imagination.
Wisconsin ranks worst among the 50 states in terms of a shrinking middle class, with real median household incomes here falling 14.7 percent since 2000, according to a new report.
The Pew Charitable Trust report showed Wisconsin with the largest decline in the percentage of families considered “middle class,” or those earning between 67 and 200 percent of their state’s median income.
In 2000, 54.6 percent of Wisconsin families fell into the middle class category but that has fallen to 48.9 percent in 2013, according to U.S. Census figures compiled by Pew.
All other states showed some decline but none as great as Wisconsin’s 5.7 percent figure.

If you are consistently among the worst — and Wisconsin is among the wort by multiple metrics — you are not as a governor, you are not as an example of conservative ideology, a success.  You are a failure lying to people, misrepresenting yourself as a success.

 

For contrast, the Hill announced yesterday that under the Obama administration, the national deficit is down $455 Billion-with-a-b.  This is an example of a genuinely successful democratic leader, applying successful outcome based policy rather than ideology driven and schismatic policy to correct the problems created by the last Republicans when they had control at the federal level.  The contrast is profound.

 

White House projects deficit to fall to $455B for 2015

The federal deficit is estimated to tick down to $455 billion by the end of the fiscal year in September, according to the Office of Management and Budget’s mid-session review released Tuesday.
As a share of the economy, the shortfall would equal 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
“Under the President’s leadership, the deficit has been cut by more than two-thirds as a share of the economy, representing the most rapid sustained deficit reduction since World War II, and it continues to fall,” OMB Director Shaun Donovan wrote in a blog post.
The new projected deficit would be nearly $30 billion less than the government’s red ink in 2014 and $128 billion less than administration’s 2015 deficit prediction back in February.
OMB’s mid-session review updates the administration’s estimates for spending, revenue and the deficit over a 10-year period.

Even with the most trivial matters, Republicans are wrong, and Republicans LIE about the factual numbers, misrepresenting their success. A recent example is the clown prince of the Republican candidates, Donald Trump, the same man who paid people to show up at his announcement as a candidate while proclaiming a huge turn out of people who loved him and were excited he was running. The turnout was not large, and it was not apparently of people who in fact were actual supporters. Continuing the exaggerations (no numbers on who might have been paid to show up) in Arizona, Trump proclaimed he was drawing larger crowds than the legitimate grass roots support for lefty Bernie Sanders. The reality is that Senator Sanders has drawn crowds of 15,000 people while Trump only filled a venue that holds less than 5,000. There were no 15,000 Trump supporters; there were 4,200 — and it is unknown how many of those were paid to attend, given the crowd claims when Trump first announced his candidacy.

 

From abc 15:

 

Phoenix Fire says capacity rules not broken after Trump tweets officials broke fire code

Trump tweeted Sunday morning that city officials “don’t want to admit that they broke the fire code by allowing 12-15,000 people in the 4,000 code room” on Saturday.
Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump
Convention Center officials in Phoenix don’t want to admit that they broke the fire code by allowing 12-15,000 people in 4,000 code room.
8:18 AM – 12 Jul 2015    614 Retweets

He followed the statement by another tweet stating that the convention center allowed everyone to come inside so they wouldn’t be left outside in the heat.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump  

Phoenix Convention Center officials did not want to have thousands of people standing outside in the heat, so they let them in. A GREAT day!

Phoenix Fire Department says City of Phoenix Fire Prevention Specialists set the capacity for the room at 4,200 people.
The fire department reportedly closed the doors once they reached capacity.
“No rules or codes were broken and no one was in danger at any time,” Deputy Chief Shelly Jamison says.
According to Phoenix Fire, a Fire Prevention Specialist is an expert on large events and are assigned to specifically enforce large-capacity events such as Comicon, Super Bowl Fan Fest, rallies and other.

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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.
 
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Congress to take up NCLB renewal

by Dan Burns on July 6, 2015 · 4 comments

thosewhocanbutton400This week, both the U.S. House and Senate are scheduled to take up reauthorization of federal No Child Left Behind legislation. The original NCLB has been on the whole a bad thing, because it has led to emphasis on rote learning, endless standardized testing, and those being used as a basis for an endless flood of reprehensible, craven, shameless attacks on public education, especially on public school teachers. Unfortunately, not just by right-wingers.
 

Here’s a solid summary, from Education Week, of some of the big issues at stake. (The link says “subscription” on Google, but I didn’t have any trouble accessing it.) And the following notes what conservatives are really after.

 

Conservative groups want to include the A Plus Act amendment, a block grant that allows states to receive federal money without any strings attached. It’s likely to be considered next week, since it is seen as the premier amendment for those concerned with federal overreach. States would send proposals to the secretary of education to assure the U.S. Department of Education that they had certain safeguards in place. Those would include fiscal control procedures, include accountability to parents and other taxpayers and provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged students…
 
On the other side of the debate over ECAA (the Every Child Achieves Act, the would-be rewrite of NCLB), 33 civil rights groups signed a letter two weeks ago saying they don’t think the legislation empowers the U.S. Department of Education enough. The concern is that if there isn’t enough oversight over states, disadvantaged children’s progress won’t be adequately monitored. They want more accountability on student outcomes, data on all student groups and an increased focus on inequities between schools. Otherwise, they say it does not “fulfill its functions as a civil rights law.”
(Think Progress)

One suspects that the real reason RWNJs want to lessen federal involvement as much as possible is so that red states can use public schools to “teach” the likes of creationism, patriarchy, and Reagan-worship. (Conservatives, including corporatists, are absolutely desperate to “dumb down” the next generation of voters, starting immediately.) But they’re unlikely to get away with that, at least to that extreme.

 
For me, the big thing to watch is to what extent the final bill favors private schools and charters at the continued expense of traditional public schools. I’m not optimistic.
 
(Interestingly, Minnesota substantially cut standardized testing during the last legislative session.)
 
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Conservatives MUST GO

by Dog Gone on June 13, 2015 · 1 comment

These are factual figures. Conservatives are lousy at governance (a gross understatement), and especially poor at economic policy and foreign policy — and those two are both closely connected to our failed energy policy. To see the actual statistics on how bad these obsessive ideology failures really are, see the graphic, from Occupy Democrats on Facebook.

 

Conservatives still believe the debunked nonsense promoted by right wing economist Art Laffer — who is currently the personal architect of the failed government tax policy in Kansas.  Tax cuts do not increase revenue, increase job growth or increase growth of GDP.

 

From Fact and Myth:

Do Tax Cuts Increase Revenues? No, Tax cuts do not Increase Revenue
“The Bush tax cuts led to 50 consecutive months of job growth…It’s demonstrably proven that tax cuts increase revenues” – Rush Limbaugh

The argument that tax cuts create or increase revenue is an old myth that simply refuses to go away. The logic behind this argument is that cutting taxes will stimulate spending (since investors now are  now encouraged through reduced tax rates) that will result in GDP growth.

This growth in GDP will result in increased tax revenues so significant that they will more than offset the drop in tax revenues that result from a lowered tax rate. The inverse to this is that increased taxes lower tax revenue by discouraging investment, which in turn lowers tax revenues so drastically, that they offset the added increase coming from the tax rate increase.  One of the reasons Republicans and other self-ascribed fiscal conservatives are able to get away with this is, is the superficially plausible argument that the Reagan and/or Bush tax cuts grew the economy and created revenue. To understand the fallacy of these arguments, it is necessary to understand economic growth during business cycles and over a long period of time, and how this affects tax revenues.

Correlating Tax Increases and Decreases with Revenue

By conveniently pointing to places where tax cuts were enacted at or around the time of a recovery or boom, tax cut advocates argue that tax cuts increase revenue.  The problem with this is that the revenue increases following the Bush and Reagan tax cuts are dwarfed by the revenue increase following Bill Clinton’s tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

In fact, as a percentage of GDP, post-Reagan & Bush tax cut revenue falls below the 1965-2005 average. In other words, revenue increased because the economy was recovering/growing, and the tax cuts have little (probably nothing) to do with growth in GDP.  If anything, these tax cuts actually lowered revenue increased from what they would have been otherwise.

So the real question to ask is this: how much revenue did these tax cuts cost us?

 

Half of the right wing are evangelicals. The other half embrace them and make common cause with them, which places the same blame on their shoulders.

 

From CBS news earlier this year :

White Evangelicals are half of GOPprimary voters
 
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We need change in public school funding

by Dan Burns on June 10, 2015 · 0 comments

schoolAnd a couple more education items. This first one is actually quite a complex issue. As the article describes, it’s not just a red-state/blue-state thing. And the ultimate fix is an end to poverty and all that it entails.
 

Fairness in school funding is “the sleeper civil rights issue of our time,” says Leadership Conference on Civil Rights president Wade Henderson. But it’s clear from a new report by the Education Law Center that this issue comes with a loud alarm: In many states around the country, the children who need the most support in order to succeed in school are actually getting the least.
 
Not only have states been generally slow to restore the cuts to public school funding that they made during the 2007-2008 economic downturn, but there are often extreme disparities between the per pupil spending in wealthy school districts and low-income districts.
 
“In Vermont, Wyoming, and North Dakota, high-poverty districts receive only about 80 cents for every dollar in low-poverty districts, while in Nevada high-poverty districts receive a startling 48 cents to the dollar,” the report said. Eleven other states had “regressive” funding patterns, 10 states had no significant difference in funding between low-income and high-income districts, and 15 states had “progressive” funding practices that resulted in low-income districts receiving more per pupil than higher-income districts.
(Campaign for America’s Future)

This one’s infuriating:
 
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