Recent Posts


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 · 2 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.


Beating down the education deformers, Part 2

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2016 · 3 comments

CPD-National-Report-Meme-2(Part 1 here.)

Nothing critical or negative that I ever write about the charter/privatization movement in education is directed at charter school students, teachers, or staff. Their interests need to be best dealt with, first and foremost, during the transition away from charters, if and (hopefully) when that happens.
Maybe charter schools do have a place. My understanding is that the original intent was for them to supplement public schools by using special techniques with really challenging kids. And that they would therefore be relatively few, carefully regulated, completely non-profit, and accountable. But if indeed that was ever really the plan, it has for the most part long since been lost, at least in a large majority of cases. One thing that I have not done in the past, and should have, is emphasized the distinction between small community-based charters, which is what I mean by the ones that may “have a place,” and the charter chains.

But in any case, overall, the results of the charter movement, in its current form, have been bad and are getting worse. The Center for Media and Democracy released a comprehensive report late last year, that has been widely cited and shared because it pretty much lays it all out there.

Over the past year, CMD submitted nearly four dozen open records requests to the U.S. Department of Education’s “Office of Innovation and Improvement” and its counterparts in a dozen states to determine how much money was spent on charters, how agencies were monitoring the spending of American tax dollars, and how charters spent monies.
Our in-depth investigation reveals that the public is being denied crucial information about how their money is being spent on charters by federal and state governments, even though at least $200 million in fraud and waste by charters has been documented.

(Note the key qualifier “has been documented.” CMD didn’t investigate everything, everywhere. The actual amount of fraud and waste is almost certainly far higher. Incidentally, the newest federal education budget has a big chunk of cash for charters.)

Of course, it would be worth it if charters were really doing a great job, overall.


Beating down the education deformers, Part 1

by Dan Burns on February 10, 2016 · 4 comments

education2The important thing about the Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement for No Child Left Behind, is whether it will ultimately help or hinder the education deformers as they continue to pursue their loathsome ends. The fundamental long-term mission of vile greedheads is to turn schools everywhere into rote-drilling factories to be strip-mined for profit.

So, what about this bill?
One of the better, measured statements about ESSA comes from Monty Neil, the executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an assessment watchdog that generally opposes using standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers, and schools.
Neil acknowledges the first reason to support the bill is akin to what doctors do when a patient approaches them with a splitting headache: Stop the pain. ESSA certainly does that because not passing it will mean NCLB and its associated waivers would “continue to wreak havoc for at least another several years,” to use Neil’s words.
According to Neil, ESSA balances its flaws – maintaining the federal enforcement on states to use a battery of standardized tests to measure outcomes – with its strengths: recognizing the rights of parents to opt their children out of tests in states that allow it…
And a significant improvement in ESSA Neil fails to mention is the elimination of federal government requirements to use standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, a favored requirement of NCLB waivers pushed by the Obama administration.
In sum, Neil judges the new legislation to be “a modest step forward.”
(Campaign for America’s Future)

(You should read that whole article, as well as anything else you see by Jeff Bryant, who is perhaps the best contemporary researcher/writer on this issue. I’m relying heavily on his work throughout this series.)