The Worst Two Weeks Ever For a First-Term President?

Exactly two months ago, I suggested that Donald Trump might have just had the worst week ever for a first-term president. With the benefit of hindsight, the events leading to that conclusion seem pretty mild in comparison.

FBI Director Comey had announced that a counter-intelligence investigation was underway that included whether or not the Trump campaign had colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election. He also refuted Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped by the Obama administration. Later in the week, the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to get enough votes in the House.

I was thinking about all that when I reflected on what has happened in the last two weeks. Here’s a quick rundown:

May 9 – Trump fired FBI Director Comey while he was leading an investigation of the president’s campaign.
May 11 – In an interview with Lester Holt, Trump admitted that the Russian investigation was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey.
May 15 – We learned that Trump had leaked highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador.
May 16 – We learned that Comey kept a memo of his meeting with Trump in which the president asked him to stop the investigation into the activities of Michael Flynn.
May 18 – Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced the appointment of a special prosecutor.
May 19 – We learned that in the meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, Trump bragged that firing Comey relieved him of “great pressure” in the Russia investigation.
May 22 – We learned that Trump asked the Director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency to help “push back” against the FBI investigation and to “publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.”

These things have happened in such rapid succession that each story barely has time to get its legs before the next one breaks. So it is important to stop and take a moment to recognize the significance of what is happening. Is this the worst two weeks ever for a first-term president? Will Trump’s time in office be one record-breaking “worst week” after another? An affirmative answer to both of those questions is not a difficult argument to make. The speed at which this is all going downhill should be sounding alarms for the entire Republican Party.

That is the context in which to place this report from Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen:

Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with ZERO significant legislative accomplishments. Privately, they realize it’s political malpractice to blow at least the the first nine of months of all Republican rule, but also realize there’s little they can do to avoid the dismal outcome.

In fact, they see the next four months as MORE troublesome than the first four. They’re facing terrible budget choices and headlines, the painful effort to re-work the health care Rubik’s Cube in the House (presuming it makes it out of the Senate), a series of special-election scares (or losses) — all with scandal-mania as the backdrop.

There is also this from Sean Sullivan:

It’s a simple question, but for Republicans in Congress, it’s not an easy one.

Do you trust President Trump’s judgment on major decisions?…

Flake was one of a dozen Republicans from across the ideological spectrum asked this week to reflect on Trump’s judgment. Most of them weren’t eager to address the subject head-on. They diverted and demurred. They paused contemplatively before answering. Some grew visibly uncomfortable. Others declared their conviction in Trump — but then qualified their words or expressed confidence in the people around him. Only one of those interviewed — Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — offered an unqualified yes regarding Trump himself.

There are multiple ways that Donald Trump has and will continue to do damage to the presidency, the country and our leadership around the globe. But the one thing we can pretty much count on is that, unless something major changes, it won’t be via legislation that passes Congress. Until the leadership gets a clue and tackles the Constitutional questions raised by this president’s actions, members of Congress are merely observers to the train wreck that is Donald Trump.

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DeVos: Supporters of Public Education Have “Chilled Creativity”

When Betsy DeVos spoke in Indianapolis, she took aim at critics of her desire to turn public dollars over to a free market of private and religious schools. The critics, she said, have “chilled creativity.”

Education secretary: School choice opponents have ‘chilled creativity’ – CNN

If anyone knows of any creativity that has emanated from religious schools, charter schools, cybercharters, or for-profit schools, could they inform us?

Is she not aware of the heightened segregation, stratification, and corruption that accompanies unregulated school choice? Is she unfamiliar with research?

Does this woman ever speak without insulting the democratically controlled public schools that educate nearly 90% of our nation’s youth? How did our nation get to be the most powerful in the world? Why doesn’t Secretary DeVos visit the schools of Finland, which are all public schools, where creativity and play and the arts are treasured. Does she think that other public services, like firefighting, law enforcement, parks, libraries, highways, beaches, etc. should be privatized?

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Comments on the Trump Higher Education Budget Proposal

The Trump administration released its first full budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 today, and it is safe to say that it represents a sharp break from the Obama administration’s budget proposals. The proposed discretionary budget for the Department of Education is about $69 billion, $10 billion less than the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. Below, I offer brief comments on three of the key higher education proposals within the budget, as well as my take on whether the proposals are likely to be enacted in some form by a Republican-controlled Congress that seems fairly skeptical of the Trump administration’s higher education policy ideas.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness would no longer be available for new borrowers. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) was first made available in 2007 in an effort to encourage individuals to work in lower-paying nonprofit or government jobs. This plan allows students enrolled in income-driven repayment plans who annually certified their income and employment status to have any remaining balances forgiven after ten years of payments of 10% of discretionary income. However, the plan has been criticized due to its likely high price tag to taxpayers and because it provides far larger subsidies to graduate students than undergraduate students.

The Trump administration’s budget proposal would end PSLF for new borrowers as of July 1, 2018—and require all people currently on PSLF to maintain continuous enrollment in the program to remain eligible. This is likely to be a difficult hurdle for many people to clear, as a large number of students have been tripped up by annual recertification in the past. I’m glad to see that the Trump administration didn’t completely end PSLF for current students (as people reasonably relied on the program to make important life choices), but otherwise saving PSLF in the current form isn’t at the top of my priority list because of how most of the subsidy goes to reasonably well-off people with graduate degrees instead of low-paid individuals with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Prognosis of happening: Low to medium. This will generate howls of outrage in The New York Times and The Washington Post from groups such as the American Bar Association and the National Education Association, but there is a reasonable argument for at least curtailing the amount of money that can be forgiven under PSLF. A full-fledged ending of the program may not happen, but some changes are quite possible as quite a few members of Congress are upset with rising costs of loan forgiveness programs.

Subsidized loans for undergraduates would be eliminated, and income-driven loan repayment periods would change. Undergraduate students can qualify for between $3,500 and $5,500 per year in subsidized student loans (meaning interest is not charged while they are in school), with the remainder of their federal loans being unsubsidized (with interest accumulating immediately). The Trump administration would end subsidized loans, with the likely rationale that the interest subsidy is not an efficient use of resources (something that is hard to empirically confirm or deny, but is quite plausible).

The federal government currently offers students a menu of income-driven loan repayment options, and the Trump administration proposed to simplify these into one option.  Undergraduates would pay up to 12.5% of the income over 15 years (from 10% over 20 years for the most popular current plan), while grad students would pay up to 12.5% for 30 years. Undergraduate students probably benefit from this change, while graduate students decidedly do not. This plan hits master’s degree programs hard, as any graduate debt would either trigger a 30-year repayment period for a potentially small amount of additional debt or push people back into a standard (non-income-driven) plan.

Prognosis of happening: Medium. There has been a great deal of support for streamlining income-driven repayment plans, but the much less-generous terms for graduate students (along with ending PSLF) would significantly affect graduate student enrollment. This will mobilize the higher education community against the proposal, particularly as many four-year colleges are seeking to grow graduate enrollment as a new revenue source. But potentially moving to a 20-year repayment period for graduate students or tying repayment length to loan debt are more politically feasible. The elimination of subsidized loans for undergraduates hits low-income students, but a more generous income-driven repayment program mainly offsets that and makes that change more realistic.

Federal work-study funds would be cut in half and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant would be eliminated. The federal government provides funds for these two programs to individual colleges instead of directly to students, and colleges are required to provide matching funds. The SEOG is an additional grant available to needy undergraduates at participating colleges, while federal work-study funds can go to undergraduate or graduate students with financial need. Together, these programs provide about $1.7 billion of funding each year, with funds disproportionately going to students at selective and expensive colleges due to an antiquated funding formula. Rather than fixing the formula, the Trump administration proposed to get rid of SEOG (as being duplicative of Pell) and halve work-study funding.

Prognosis of happening: Slim to none. Because funds disproportionately go to wealthier colleges (and go to colleges instead of students), the lobbying backlash against cutting these programs will be intense. (There is also research evidence showing that work-study funds do benefit students, which is important to note as well.) Congressional Republicans are likely to give up on changing these two programs in an effort to focus on higher-stakes changes to student loan programs.

In summary, the Trump administration is proposing some substantial changes to how students and colleges are funded. But don’t necessarily expect these changes to be implemented as proposed, even if there are plenty of concerns among conservatives about the price tag and inefficient targeting of current federal financial aid programs. It will be crucial to see the budget bill that will go up for a vote in the House of Representatives, as that is more likely to be passed into law than the president’s proposed budget.

[Cross-posted at Kelchen on Education]

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Betsy DeVos Poses in Ad for Christian School that Does Not Accept Students with Disabilities

Our 2018 budget makes a historic investment in America’s students.

— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) May 23, 2017

Christian school @BetsyDeVosED is visiting in her #trumpbudget ad doesn’t accept special education students……
Jennifer Berkshire (@BisforBerkshire) May 23, 2017

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May 24, 2017


Contact: Durand Bailey

Cell (404) 668-1611






AMP summer series High rezATLANTA, GA – The Atlanta Music Project (AMP) Summer Series, a music festival and school, has announced its second annual concert series with an opening night performance featuring the Grammy Award-winning Harlem Quartet. Praised for its “panache” by The New York Times, the Harlem Quartet made its public debut in 2006 at Carnegie Hall. Since then the New York-based ensemble has performed throughout the U.S. as well as France, the U.K., Belgium, Panama, Canada, and in South Africa.

The Harlem Quartet will perform on Friday, June 9, at 7 p.m. at Sylvan Hills Middle School in the Sylvan Hills neighborhood of Southwest Atlanta. The program will include jazz and Latin standards by Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Billy Strayhorn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 458 “The Hunt” and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20. The concert is free and open to the public.

The AMP Summer Series concert series continues on Wednesday, June 14, when the faculty of the AMP Summer Series will share the stage with students in a side-by-side concert. Monday, June 19, brings an evening of chamber music, featuring instrumental and vocal ensembles. Conductor Verena Lucia-Anders leads the AMP Summer Series Festival Choir in its final concert on Wednesday, June 21, and conductor Jason Ikeem Rodgers leads the AMP Summer Series Festival Orchestra on Thursday, June 22.  All concerts are free and begin at 7:00PM at Sylvan Hills Middle School.  

AMP Summer Series concerts are produced by the Atlanta Music Project in an effort to bring free, high-quality musical performances to underserved neighborhoods, featuring not only internationally renowned musicians, but also accomplished student musicians from southwest Atlanta neighborhoods and beyond.

Launched in 2016, the AMP Summer Series is a tuition-free, three-week summer music festival and school, the foundation of which is three weeks of intensive orchestral and choral music instruction for 115 experienced middle school and high school-aged students. Students receive group lessons with AMP teaching artists, participate in master classes and workshops and perform in orchestra and choir. MailChimp is a major sponsor of the 2017 AMP Summer Series.  The AMP Summer Series is inspired by the great American summer music festivals, such as the Aspen Music Festival, the Interlochen Music Camp, and the Brevard Music Festival. The AMP Summer Series is a program of the Atlanta Music Project, a year-round tuition-free after-school music program for youth based in underserved neighborhoods of Atlanta.

About the Harlem Quartet

The Harlem Quartet, praised for its “panache” by The New York Times, is “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent,” says the Cincinnati Enquirer. The quartet’s mission is to advance diversity in classical music, engaging young and new audiences through the discovery and presentation of varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers.

Since its public debut in 2006 at Carnegie Hall, the New York-based ensemble has performed throughout the U.S. as well as in France, the U.K., Belgium, Panama, Canada, and in South Africa, where under the auspices of the U.S. State Department they spent two weeks on tour performing concerts and participating in outreach activities. The Quartet completed the Professional String Quartet Residency Program at New England Conservatory in 2013, and participated in NEC’s string quartet exchange program in Paris, working extensively with violinist Günter Pichler.

In addition to performing on chamber music series around the world, Harlem Quartet has collaborated with such distinguished performers as Itzhak Perlman, Ida Kavafian, Carter Brey, Paul Katz, Fred Sherry, Anthony McGill, Paquito D’Rivera, and Misha Dichter (with whom the quartet made their Kennedy Center debut in February 2013). Harlem Quartet has also worked closely with jazz legends Chick Corea and Gary Burton, with whom the quartet recorded the album titled “Hot House.” Following a concert tour of twenty-five major cities, the Harlem Quartet’s recording with Corea and Burton entitled “Mozart Goes Dancing” won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in February 2013. The winning ensemble will continue their “Hot House Tour” in Japan in June 2014.

The Harlem Quartet has been featured on WNBC, CNN, the Today Show, WQXR-FM, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. In 2009 they performed for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House and appeared Christmas morning on NBC’s Today Show. They made their European debut in October 2009 performing at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and returned to Europe as guest artists and faculty members of the Musica Mundi International Festival in Belgium. Harlem Quartet is regularly featured at jazz festivals around the world, including the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City, Montreal Jazz Festival, and Miami Nice Jazz Festival.

About the Atlanta Music Project

Founded in 2010, the Atlanta Music Project provides intensive, tuition-free music education for underserved youth right in their neighborhood. Now in its seventh year of programming and serving 250 students at five sites, AMP provides all its students with an instrument, a teaching artist, classes and numerous public performance opportunities. AMP does not hold entrance auditions – the only requirement is a commitment to attending all classes. AMP’s programs include: the AMP Orchestra; AMPlify, the choral program of the Atlanta Music Project; the AMP Academy, which provides advanced musical training to AMP’s most talented and dedicated students; and the AMP Summer Series, a music festival and school. AMP’s young artists have performed at Atlanta’s most prestigious venues, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Spivey Hall, and the Rialto Center for the Arts. In 2015 Clayton State University established the Atlanta Music Project Endowed Scholarships, providing college scholarship funds for AMP students. In 2016 the White House named AMP one of the top 50 after-school arts programs in the nation. AMP is the recipient of the prestigious 2016 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders award.





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Jennifer Berkshire: The Massachusetts Charter School That Banned Black Hair Braids Backs Down

Jennifer Berkshire reviews here the recent uproar created by Mystic Valley Regional Charter School’s policy of banning certain black hair styles. This is known as #braidgate.

The charter has many problems. It does not listen to its “customers.” It has been the source of numerous complaints from parents, teachers, and students. Usually, it ignores the complaints, can.

Berkshire recites some of the more notorious recent controversies. And also the kinds of complaints that come up again and again.

But Mystic Valley is the largest charter school with the longest waiting list in the state. Does anyone care if it punishes children harshly? Does anyone care about the complaints of exclusionary admissions? Does anyone care that a teacher was fired $6,000 when he said he would not return the next year?

In this brave new world, high test scores excuse all kinds of behaviors, including racism.

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Arthur Camins: Trump’s Education Budget is “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”

Arthur Camins, writing at the Huffington Post,analyzes the Trump-DeVos education budget and declares it to be “cruel and unusual punishment,” targeted to harm the nation’s neediest children.

He writes:

“President Trump’s budget proposal violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The crime it punishes is not being wealthy, healthy and deserving of tax cuts. Budgets are values statements. Trump’s first full education budget proposal is no exception. Its $9.2 Billion or 13.6% cut in the spending level approved by the already spendthrift conservative Congress also violates the values of most Americans. Bigly. It cuts programs that help most children in order to fund programs to help a few children– and facilitate tax cuts for the wealthy.

“As a citizen, lifelong educator and grandfather, I am appalled. We have schools not just to benefit individual children. Effective, humane, well-funded, equitable schools make for a better society. With its emphasis on privately governed charter schools and vouchers to attend private schools, Trump’s budget says that somehow parents’ individual decisions about education are automatically better than democratic community decisions. Choices by either individuals or groups are neither inherently good nor bad. That is a function of the values that guide them. The foundational value of Trump’s education budget is, “Just look out for yourself.” Most of us, I think, reject that dystopian idea.”

Trump and a DeVos say they want to help every get a better education, but they know schoice will not do that.

“Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and their supporters do not want to spread charter schools to provide more effective education to more children than in neighborhood public schools. We already know that they will not.

“They don’t want charter schools to compete for students with public schools because such competition leads to innovative improvements. They don’t want to replace democratic- with private-governance of schools because it is more efficient, or more responsive to students needs, or results in better decision-making, or is less vulnerable to corruption. We already know that the opposite is the case.

“They do not want to replace taxpayer funded public education that enrolls the vast majority of local children with tax credits for vouchers to attend the private school of their parents’ choosing because it will lead to a more equitable education for all students. We already know that it will not.

“They do not want to shift targeted federal education funds into block grants to states because it will result in better outcomes for all children. We already know that it will not.

“In fact, education policies that rely on market forces and individual choice have always had only three goals: Profit for individual investors, the protection, and enhancement of the privileges of the few, and legalized segregation. Make no mistake. Republicans have no intention of increasing education funds at the local or state levels. That would violate their core values: Keep as much of their wealth as possible. Pay as little in taxes as they can get away with to help other folks. Pander to people who want a religious or segregated education on the public’s dime.”

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