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Education

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:
 

 

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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”.
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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.

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From their web site:
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

 

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 307 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2013, and many more go unreported. The 10 most challenged titles of 2013 were:

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Check out the frequently challenged books section to explore the issues and controversies around book challenges and book banning. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

 

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Freedom to Read Foundation; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; National Association of College Stores; PEN American Center and and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

 

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Check out the frequently challenged books section to explore the issues and controversies around book challenges and book banning. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

 
Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Freedom to Read Foundation; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; National Association of College Stores; PEN American Center and and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

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Bill Maher, John Kline, Mike Obermueller and student debt

by Eric Ferguson on September 16, 2014 · 2 comments

As interesting as it is that Bill Maher picked one of our congressmen, Rep. John Kline, CD2, for his #FlipADistrict contest, the reasoning is interesting. He explained it on his Sept. 12 Real Time with Bill Maher. The bit I refer to starts around 2:40, where Maher said the issue of student debt inspired most of the votes for Kline, and then he tore into Kline’s record:
 

 
Student debt is a huge issue for young adults. If Democrats want young adults to vote, something they’re less inclined to do than older age groups in any sort of election, then we can only help our cause by addressing their biggest issue. Judging from Holly’s post yesterday, Kline’s opponent, Mike Obermueller, has already taken that advice. However, this doesn’t apply just to Democrats running specifically against the representative sometimes described as “Rep. John Kline, (R – for-profit education industry)” (and with pretty good reason). It applies to all Democrats, obviously more so those with more more young adults, but are there any Democrats with no young adults whose likelihood of turning out is concerning? GOP outreach has been a joke, if it’s been there, even though I gave the GOP some friendly advice. I don’t normally care to help the opposition, preferring to let them continue when making mistakes, but I told them to reach young voters on student debt in hopes of making some progress on the issue. Partisan opportunity is just the consolation prize. For now, looks like a consolation prize will have to be enough. However, that consolation prize is just an opportunity, not a win.
 
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sadelephantI found out about this from an article in MinnPost. It was conducted by the Morris Leatherman Company, for the Association of Metropolitan School Districts. I’m not familiar with the polling outfit. Apparently it’s new, though it incorporated an established firm. Mostly the poll is about schools, and like other polls that ask a broad range of questions it has both pleasing and displeasing numbers for supporters of public schools and the educators therein. Many of those questions are in the category of “difficult to poll” (by which I mean that small differences in how questions are presented can, and often do, lead to big swings in responses). But in the general context of this website, note that they also asked a few questions about the election. The solid leads for Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Gov. Mark Dayton are consistent with other polling, and that leads to the eyebrow-raiser, on page 19 (PDF), which shows D+8 for the MN House of Representatives.

 

If that’s for real, DFLers will win a lot of seats. I’m not buying in with abandon, or anything like it, unless I see plenty of independent confirmation in other polling. But I obviously do think it’s worth noting. (I also didn’t see whether any kind of voter screen, “Registered,” “Likely,” whatever, was applied. Though given Minnesota’s turnout, that matters less than in most other places.)
 
We know that the electorate is drifting leftward, in most of the country, and that there’s nothing that anyone (especially conservatives, and their corporate media allies) can do about it (not that any politically rational person wants to). We don’t know how fast. What with having experienced my share of the frustration that is probably inevitable for anyone serious about left politics in the contemporary U.S., I’ve been refusing to let myself believe that it’s happening at anything other than an agonizingly slow and fitful rate. But I could be wrong. The next two elections, I suppose, will tell the tale.
 

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Minnesota primary election liveblog

by Dan Burns on August 12, 2014 · 15 comments

11:10 – Hagedorn will win his race, Whelan romped in Otto-esque fashion in hers, and I’m headed for seven hours or so of the dreamless. Thank you to everyone who stopped by.
 
10:49 – Don’t mean to flip anyone out, Steve Simon will win, but something strange went down in the DFL Secretary of State primary.
 
10:43 – With 75% reporting it looks like Jeff Johnson will be the GOP gubernatorial candidate in November. He’s ahead of Kurt Zellers 30 to 24.5. But it’s a dismal showing for the party’s endorsed candidate.
 
10:10 – About 37,000 votes were cast Since I’m pretty sure one could vote for multiple candidates in the Minneapolis School Board race, I don’t know how many voters actually showed up, and Ira Jourdain beat Doug Mann for the fourth and final spot in November by 50 votes. I don’t know whether Mann can get a recount or not. Also, Applebaum did win 44B, but only by 37 votes over Tony Wagner.
 
10:00 – With almost 50% reporting the GOP governor thing is not over. Johnson 31, Zellers 24, Honour 22, Seifert 20.
 
9:50 – With almost 40% reporting in MN-01 Jim Hagedorn has about a 60-40 lead over the endorsed candidate, Aaron Miller.
 
9:41 – Matt Entenza has conceded the auditor’s race. I’m quite interested, though, to see whether that 70% spread continues to hold. If so, it will be, among a lot of other things, an indicator that the “sulfide mining uber alles!” crowd doesn’t have anything like the political heft that they (and corporate media) claim that they have.
 
9:37 – With all but one precinct reporting Rebecca Gagnon, Don Samuels, and Iris Altamirano will advance to the Minneapolis School Board general. It will be determined when that last precinct reports, whether Ira Jourdain or Doug Mann will as well.
 

9:30 – With almost 30% reporting Johnson is holding steady at about 1/3, with Zellers next at 24% and Honour in the low 20s. Also, it looks like Jon Applebaum will triumph in 44B.
 
9:15 – With all precincts in those districts reporting Phyllis Kahn and Jenifer Loon have won.
 
9:03 – 83-17, with almost 12% in. Jeff Johnson leads the GOP governor race, with almost precisely one-third of the vote.
 
8:21 – Only 1 % reporting, but it may be worth noting that Rebecca Otto is off to an 85%-15% lead.
 
Races of particular interest for me include:
 
– Otto/Entenza
– GOP governor
– Kahn/Noor (DFL60B – Minneapolis)
– An “embarrassment of riches” tripartite DFL primary in the west metro (Wagner/Tollefson/Applebaum – 44B – Minnetonka, etc.)
– Loon/Kihne (R48B – Eden Prairie)
– Minneapolis School Board at-large
– Hagedorn/Miller (R-MN01)
– And, mostly for perverse amusement, a Republican primary in the north metro featuring two real pieces of work, Abby Whelan and Justin Boals (R35A – Anoka, etc.)
 
I usually go to the SoS website for the latest. If that gets balky, as has been known to happen, CBS Minnesota has been prompt and reliable.
 

I’ll be back starting around 8:30, give or take.

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Aerial_photo_of_downtown_Minneapolis(Update: I was wrong about this. School board elections are non-partisan, and both candidates will be on the general ballot in November. There is no primary.)
 
Three Minneapolis school board districts have elections this year. Districts 1 and 3 are uncontested. District 5 has two candidates, and since both are DFLers, next Tuesday’s primary is for the prize. Nelson Inz beat Jay Larson for DFL endorsement, with 73% on the first ballot.
 

Nelson Inz.

 

Inz believes he has an understanding of the issues facing public schools “from being on the ground and in being in the classrooms,” he said, “and being in daily contact with students.” Trained in adolescent Montessori education with an IB in three different disciplines, he currently teaches at Great River Montessori High School, a charter school in Saint Paul. There he has served on the board and has acted as chair of the personnel committee.
 
Because Inz has worked in both public schools and charter schools, he said he believes he understands the ongoing debate between which types of schools are best for students and the state. And in his campaign, he said he wants to highlight student-centered education.
 
With holistic student-centered education, the education needs to be more of a priority than the testing, he said. That doesn’t mean that testing isn’t important, but kids need a mix of tools to keep them engaged in learning, he said. In addition, Inz said he feels that the district needs to focus on lowering class sizes and reducing the reliance on testing and narrowing curriculum. “You have to have some testing, obviously,” he said, “but you can’t base your entire educational philosophy on limited results.”
(TCDP)

Jay Larson.

 

Larson said he’s very supportive of teachers and their unions and that he believes in organizing and giving others a voice. Growing up in the North St. Paul, he said teachers really helped him through his parents’ divorce, and became heroes to him.
 
These days, as a parent, Larson has an impressive track record as a volunteer and organizer. When Larson and his wife, Sara, first moved into District 5, in the far southeastern portion of Minneapolis, Larson said that no one sent their kids to the surrounding public schools. It was just assumed, he said, that the schools in their area, such as Keewaydin and Wenonah, were not any good; instead, many kids in District 5 were going to charter schools or other nearby school districts. There was even talk, Larson added, that Keewaydin Elementary School would soon be closed.
 
But Larson has been committed to sending his own kids to public schools, he said, especially after Wenonah and Keewaydin merged into Lake Nokomis Community School in his neighborhood.
 
He began attending community meetings about the need to expand the Keewaydin building, he said, and was “amazed by other parents’ passion and unwavering support” for Lake Nokomis Community School. This reinforced his idea that “community schools are the backbone of a neighborhood,” he said.
(TCDP)

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