Demand …Or Be Damned

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By Staff of Education Alchemy – I was invited by Kevin Zeese to contribute something to Popular Resistance a while back, to contribute a call for an action in response to current education reform policies, including but not limited to, any piece of fecal detritus spewed by Betsy Devos and company. I struggled to formulate a response to that request mostly because my feelings were two-fold: 1) I couldn’t generate any ideas not already being developed by others (i.e. call your state legislator, sign XYZ petition, speak up at PTA meetings etc etc…) and 2) I wasn’t sure where I stood in relationship to ESSA. Generally speaking, I am opposed to supporting ESSA because of the devil in the details (the ways in which it is opening the flood gates for private interests in the form of vouchers, charters and online providers). And yet, as Trump and the clown car call for the dismantling of the US Department of Education and eliminating federal mandates, I am instinctively opposed to that too- much in the way one might instinctively oppose having a nail driven into their eye (the way I feel about anything attached to Trump’s name or policies).

Want To See How School Choice Leads To Segregation? Visit Betsy DeVos’ Hometown

YouTube.com / City of Holland

By Jennifer Berkshire for Alternet – Here, two decades of the policies that the Trump/DeVos education budget now wants to take national, have resulted in white flight and school closures, leaving Holland’s poor and minority students segregated in the few schools that remain open. I traveled to Holland last week for the annual Tulip Time festival, a celebration of the city’s Dutch heritage. But along with Dutch shoes and swagger, the legacy of Michigan’s now two-decade experiment with school choice was on vivid display as well, and it wasn’t pretty. First, some background. During the endless runup to DeVos’ confirmation hearing last year, it was the Wild West-style school choice she’d pushed in Detroit that garnered most of the attention. But DeVos was also behind Michigan’s inter-district choice policies that, starting in 2000, disrupted neighborhood attendance zones, just as the Trump administration’s proposed budget seeks to do. In Michigan, school choice has become the new white flight as white families have fled their resident districts for schools that are less diverse. The most dramatic example of this may be in DeVos’ own hometown of Holland.

DeVos’s Education Budget Throws Students To The Loan Sharks

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By Brad Poling for Occupy – The Washington Post last week revealed a draft of the Education Department’s proposed budget, which it described as a “near final version of the bill.” The proposal, now confirmed, includes $10.6 billion in cuts to federal education spending, including $3.1 billion for teacher trainer, class-size reduction, and after-school programs for students. It’s not all cuts, though. Plans include $500 million to invest in charter schools, $250 million in voucher program expansion funding, and $1 billion to “push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.” Just one day after the Post’s report, additional details emerged to complete the bleak picture of the Trump administration’s plans. On Friday, the Education Department outlined plans to contract a single student-loan servicer to collect on its behalf. The announcement also hinted that the contract will go to one of three companies: GreatNet, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), or Navient. In a prepared statement, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended the change, stating that “the federal student loan servicing solicitation we inherited was cumbersome and confusing…

Philly Teachers Call Off Work In Bottom-Up Campaign

Philly teachers organized their co-workers to participate in a mass call-off day this May Day. Photo: Caucus of Working Educators

By Samantha Winslow for Labor Notes – Teachers and their unions turned out for May Day this year in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Oakland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Seattle. They held teach-ins at schools and pickets outside, and joined citywide demonstrations in solidarity with immigrant communities. Philadelphia teachers wanted to show solidarity with the day’s themes—but also make a statement to the city about their own contract struggle. They’ve gone four years without a contract and five years without a raise. They’ve suffered school closings, freezes on steps and lanes in the pay scale, layoffs of school nurses and counselors, and the privatization of substitute teachers. The state-appointed school board even tried to cancel their contract, though it was rebuffed by the courts. So, to create pressure on the district, a group of teachers organized their own protest. “We are finally taking some action, after five years of not doing much,” said Tom Quinn, a teacher at the city’s largest high school, where more than half of teachers took a “personal day” on May Day. The 11,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers didn’t authorize the action. Instead it was a rank-and-file group, the three-year-old Caucus of Working Educators, that enlisted 400 teachers from 24 schools to call off from work and join a series of May Day activities.

Diane Ravitch: Betsy DeVos Is A Monster The Democrats Helped Create

Opponents note DeVos' track record of opposing public schools, disregarding civil rights, and having no experience as a teacher or an agency leader. (Photo: Getty)

By Jacob Sugarman for AlterNet – $9.2 billion—that’s the amount the Trump administration plans to slice from the Department of Education, according to its latest budget proposal. The carnage includes deep cuts to teacher training, mental health, school arts, anti-bullying initiatives and countless other services, as well as the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which affects as many as 400,000 college graduates. Manning the guillotine is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has emerged as one of the Trump administration’s most reviled figures among Democrats; all 48 senators voted against her confirmation in February. What few are willing to acknowledge, however, is that their party’s embrace of the education reform movement helped make DeVos’ political career possible. Indeed her proposed voucher system, allowing parents to use public funding for private and religious schools, builds upon a school choice model introduced by Governor Bill Clinton and later championed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In an essay for the New Republic, academic and educational policy analyst Diane Ravitch traces how the Democrats went so horribly astray on education

School Choice Is A Scam In Segregated Neighborhoods

Photo by Marc Monaghan
Wendell Phillips Academy High School is a public school located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

By Jitu Brown for The Chicago Reporter – Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems not to hear the fierce protests of parents, teachers and school officials over school closings and charter expansion in New York, Chicago, Oakland, Detroit and other American cities. How else to explain her continuing tone-deaf comments praising the glories of school choice? In truth, school choice does not exist in most black and brown communities in the United States. That is why her words ring false and her promises sound empty to the people living in those communities. Whatever hope existed that DeVos would learn on the job and inform her boss, President Donald Trump, of the need to respect that history and build on the effectiveness of American public schools while improving them, has been dashed. During her confirmation hearings, DeVos was criticized for her lack of experience with and knowledge of the public education system. Her later words at the Brookings Institution exemplified someone in a position of great power, who just does not get it: “How many of you got here today in an Uber, or Lyft, or another ridesharing service? Did you choose that because it was more convenient than hoping a taxi would drive by?

Schooling For Myths And Powerlessness

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By Ralph Nader for The Nader Page – All over America, school children are completing another academic year before their summer vacation. This invites the questions, what did they learn and what did they do with what they learned? I’m not talking about their test scores, nor the latest fads in rebranding education, like the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum that de-emphasizes the first two thirds of the old mantra – reading, writing and arithmetic. Rather, I am questioning what they learned about their real-world surroundings, about preparing themselves for life as citizens, workers, consumers, taxpayers, voters and members of various communities. Not very much, sad to say. The same is true of my generation. Instead of receiving an enriching and well-rounded education, we were fed myths. All societies perpetuate lavish myths that enable the few to rule over the many, repress critical thinking and camouflage the grim realities. Our country was, and remains, no exception. In school we learned that our country was number one, the greatest in the world. We sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” in music class.

Education Activists Create Viral Videos

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By Anthony Cody for Living in Dialogue. Short, punchy films with a message have become one of the most powerful ways the movement to resist high stakes tests has spread the word. You might have seen parents from New York speaking from the heart about their experience, about what has driven them to resist and opt out of these tests. Some of them have been shared and viewed thousands of times. It is not easy to create a video that spreads like wildfire across social media. The message must be clear, the voice authentic, the speaker eloquent. Viewers have to not only watch it, but be motivated to share. For these reasons, creating a successful video of this sort is like catching lightning in a jar. The Network for Public Education has a project underway that hopes to do just that. Two weeks ago, several hundred people spent part of their Sunday in a warehouse in the Gowanus district of Brooklyn, participating in the first phase of an experiment in social media.

Graduating Students Boo Betsy DeVos During Commencement Speech

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By Andrew Emett for Nation of Change – During a university commencement speech on Wednesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received a cold reception as hundreds of graduating students stood up and turned their backs to her while booing throughout her speech. Trump adviser and former contestant on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Omarosa Manigault also received boos from the students in protest against the Trump administration. While attending the graduation ceremony at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault briefly stood up on stage when hundreds of students began booing and shouting in disgust. In Omarosa’s defense, university President Edison Jackson rebutted, “You don’t know her. And nor do you know her story.” As Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approached the podium to deliver her commencement address, approximately half of the graduating class immediately stood up to turn their backs to her while booing her speech. The crowd could also be heard cheering at one point after a man reportedly pumped his fist in the air as security escorted him out of the building.

11 Ways Chicago Is The Beating Heart Of The Disastrous Charter School Agenda

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

By Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet – Chicago’s public school system has become a showcase for the negative effects of K-12 privatization, according to a new report that tracks how the city replaced struggling local schools with dozens of charters that didn’t perform better, yet deprived traditional schools of funds, students and public accountability. The report, “Closed by Choice: The Spatial Relationship between Charter School Expansion, School Closures and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools,” tracks 108 charter schools that opened between 2000 and 2015, a period when Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was shutting struggling schools, cutting district funding and reducing staff. It details and confirms what many charter critics have long said, that lobbying from pro-privatization forces swayed the city’ political leaders to impose top-down reforms that riled neighborhoods, undermined traditional K-12 schools, increased segregation and did not lead to schools with better academic results. Perhaps most insidiously, the report describes in great detail how the CPS system aggressively shut down struggling schools in neighborhoods where student numbers were dwindling, while allowing better-funded charters to open up nearby…

Newsletter: The State Of The Union And Movement

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. The United States is a failing empire: the domestic economy has fallen to a level equivalent to a developing nation for most of us while the stock markets, especially for weapons-makers, are at record levels. It has taken decades for the US to get here. Long-term mis-leadership created the environment where a “Make America Great Again” presidential candidate, whose fame came from being a reality-TV star and someone who put his name in giant gold letters on every business he ran, could con his way into office in large part because he is not a politician. Trump’s election woke a lot of people up and sparked new levels of activism. As we reach the one-hundredth day of this new administration, it’s a good time to reflect on the state of the union and of the movements for peace and justice.

Newsletter - The People's Plan For Transformation

Jason Hargrove / Flickr

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. It is important to understand that we arrived in this situation by, what Moyers described as “careful long-range planning and implementation…consistency of action over an indefinite period of years…” By understanding this plan, we can realize that we can design a way out of it. This includes seeing through the propaganda and exposing the truth; not allowing ourselves to be divided into issue-based silos or taken off track by the agenda of a plutocratic political party; and organizing not just to resist, but more importantly to demand the changes we require in our communities and on the planet. Popular Resistance is one of the conveners of The People’s Congress of Resistance, a grassroots effort to build resistance and collaboration in our communities to solve the crises at hand and create a better world. One of the purposes of the conference will be to plan the future of the resistance movement and determine how we can work together more effectively. It’s time for the people to create a plan for the transformation we need.

The Student Debt Crisis Is Exploding

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By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. The level of student loan debt has risen to $1.5 trillion and defaults are more than 40% and rising. U.S. student loan debt has grown to overwhelm all other categories of non-housing consumer debt in this nation. Underneath the crisis are rising tuition costs, a predatory student loan industry and an absence of consumer protections for students. What is the student debt movement to do? Of course the Biden bankruptcy protections should be repealed but that is not enough. We need a complete student loan debt forgiveness program. These debts are ill gotten gains and should be forgiven. If the government refuses to forgive these debts, people must rise up together and refuse to pay any student loan debt. The people have the power to end this injustice and must mobilize to do so. A student loan debt jubilee, whether mandated by law or put in place by the people, will bring economic freedom to tens of millions, end their debt servitude and allow them to participate in the economy. It will be a significant economic stimulus, but more importantly it will end an injustice.

Taxpayers Spent 100s Millions More For Inferior Charter Schools

Flickr/ Leigh Blackall

By Steven Rosenfeld for Alternet – A blockbuster report detailing how California’s charter school industry has wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars by opening and building schools in communities that don’t need them and often end up doing worse than nearby public schools, is a nationwide warning about how education privateers hijack public funds and harm K-12 public schools. “This report finds that this funding [building, buying, leasing] is almost completely disconnected from educational policy objectives, and the results are, in turn, scattershot and haphazard,” the report’s executive summary begins. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent each year without any meaningful strategy. Far too much of this public funding is spent on schools built in neighborhoods that have no need for additional classroom space, and which offer no improvement over the quality of education already available in nearby public schools. In the worst cases, public facilities funding has gone to schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies and others that have engaged in unethical or corrupt practices.”

Right-Wing Think Tank Trying To Bring Down The Indian Child Welfare Act. Why?

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania (c. 1900) was one of many boarding schools sponsored by government and religious groups to “civilize” Indian children that had been taken from their families and communities.

By Rebecca Clarren for Investigate West – On the wall above his desk, attorney Timothy Sandefur keeps a copy of The Liberator, a 186-year-old abolitionist newspaper that features an etching of a slave auction on its masthead. Sandefur is the vice president for litigation at the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, a nonprofit right-wing think tank with a donor roster that includes the Mercer family (Donald Trump’s biggest campaign contributors) and Donors Trust, a dark-money funnel for the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and others. Goldwater is largely known for its efforts to limit regulation, promote tax cuts, expand school choice, and advance private-property rights. Recently, the Goldwater Institute has stepped into an entirely different legal arena…