California: Educator Explains Why John Chiang Is Best Candidate for Governor


In 2018, California will elect a new governor to replace Jerry Brown. Brown has been an ally to the charter industry, which has been allowed to proliferate with minimal accountability. This great blue state has put the future of public education at risk. Major funders—California’s Silicon Valley billionaires and of course Eli Broad—are all in for charters and privatization. Netflix founder Reed Hastings gives millions to the California Charter Schools Association, and he has asserted that elected school boards should be replaced by thousands of autonomous charter schools. Absent supervision and accountability, corruption is predictable.

Tom Ultican, who left Silicon Valley to become a high school teacher of physics and math, writes here about the governors’ race.

The candidate with the most money is Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco. He has received campaign contributions from Silicon Valley, like Trump friend Peter Thiel. Strangely, he received the endorsement of the California Teachers Association, although Newsom publicly said that he was neither anti-teacher nor pro-teacher. His money comes from charter supporters, but Newsom will have the troops supplied by CTA.

CTA has to d3cide whether it will have a seat at the table or will be on the menu. The Vergara case demonstrated how eager the tech entrepreneurs are to destroy unions and teachers’ rights.

Tom Ultican explains why he, as an educator, will support State Treasurer John Chiang.

Chiang has collected the second largest pot of funding, Not from Silicon Valley billionaires, but from mostly Chinese-Americans.

Ultican writes:

“Because of the relentless attacks on public schools and educators, candidate views on education are key. Many self-styled “progressive democrats,” have adopted education positions attacking teachers’ unions and promoting privatization (Rahm Emanuel, Corey Booker, Antonio Villaraigosa). Some position statements promulgated by Chiang’s campaign:

In 1988, California voters approved Proposition 98, which requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be spent on K-12 education. Unfortunately, while Proposition 98 was meant to create a constitutional “floor” for education spending, it has turned into a political ceiling. As a result, California is grossly under-invested in public education.”

“We also must protect the collective bargaining rights of our educators, classified employees, professors, early childhood educators and child care providers. It is critically important that the people who interact with our students and children every day have a seat at the table and a voice on the job to advocate for the best conditions possible for our children to learn.”

“We must also increase both the quantity and quality of California’s early childhood education programs and assure free access for all working families.

“We also know that small class sizes are the key to improving student learning. We need to expand the Class Size Reduction program so our students have every opportunity to learn.”

“Cities and states across the nation are jumping on board and are finding innovative solutions to provide two free years of community college. California needs to find a way to get to that place, where we make community college free while ensuring students are on the right path through participation and graduation.”

“To reclaim the promise of quality education, we must ensure that children and their families have access to wraparound services to meet their social, emotional and health needs.”

Read about the candidates. If you vote in California, be informed.

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Emily Talmage: Beware The Philanthrocapitalists’ Big New Plan

Bill Gates has a big new idea. He has gotten together with a few other big-time philanthropists and created a pool of $500 Million, with which they plan to solve the really big problems in health, education, and economic opportunity. They call their collaboration “Co-Impact.” One of the collaborators is Jeff Skoll, who was one of the producers of the public school-bashing hitjob “Waiting for Superman.”

Emily Talmage is not happy about what’s coming from this group. She sees it as yet another attempt by the super-elites to impose their will on the rest of us, who lack their money and power.

Let us stipulate: no one elected a Bill Gates and his friends to remake social policy. Sure, Trump is busy dismantling and shredding social policy, but who put Bill in charge? One thing we can say about the richest man in America: Every one of his interventions into American education has failed. There is no reason to believe he has learned anything from the slow collapse of VAM and the catastrophe of Common Core. To the contrary, he is still propping CCSS up with new millions, although it’s very name is mud.

Emily writes:

“Gates is one giant, gnarly tree in an dark, overgrown forest of private “givers” who are dead-set on remaking our nation into something reminiscent of a feudalistic society.

“I say it’s time to investigate the whole rotten system that’s allowing this to happen.

“Seriously, folks. This just can’t be okay.”

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The More Difficult Conversation We Need to Have About Sexual Assault

Immediately after Leeann Tweeden came forward with the story about what Al Franken did to her on a USO tour back in 2006, the conversation turned to whether or not he should resign (or be forced to resign) from his Senate seat. Apparently he’s not going to do that right now. But I agree with what Rebecca Traister said on “Real Time” Friday night (4:47-6:06).

The question about punishment is driven by the media when something like this happens. The outcome is totally predictable: everyone goes into their partisan corners and we fight it out on those terms. Nothing really changes because everyone knows the script and easily slides into their position.

In order to truly tackle the way that the power differential between men and women plays out in the sexual arena, there is a much more difficult conversation we need to have. Here is how Traister talked about that:

It’s about the culture that empowers white men to abuse their power in a million ways, from villainous predators to the fact that there is a sense of humor that we all understand in this culture that if a woman’s asleep, it’s funny to gab her tits.

That is precisely why I highlighted the back-and-forth between Franken and Tweeden after this incident was exposed as a powerful case of restorative justice. The victim in the situation judged that the perpetrator had done some soul-searching and came to understand that what he’d done was wrong. He apologized and she accepted. Tweeden went on to say that this is how the culture begins to change.

That is a whole new kind of conversation that we’ve never had on this topic before. It’s complicated and not easy, especially given the fact that sexuality is still something most of us aren’t comfortable talking about.

The other thing Traister did in that short quote up above is that she alluded to the million ways that our culture enables men to abuse their power. She suggested a progression from the way it is embedded in a sense of humor to the actions of villainous predators. When divorced from political partisanship, we’ve typically been able to identify the behavior of villainous predators as wrong. As we scale back to the less obvious ways that power is abused, it becomes more difficult to identify, precisely because it is more embedded in our culture.

That is where the conversation becomes more challenging, because it requires listening and self-reflection. There are those who can’t identify what Franken did that was wrong and there are those who lump his behavior in with that of Roy Moore and simply want him punished. Neither of those responses allows for the kind of conversation that will be required for real cultural change.

One of the risks of not having this conversation is that we could very well be on the verge of a successful exploitation of this topic by political operatives. Immediately after I heard about the Franken story, I tweeted this:

After Franken, I’m guessing the floodgates will open when it comes to members of Congress. Be careful with who you assume might be next. Also, this scenario is ripe for political exploitation. Could be a bumpy ride for awhile.

— Nancy LeTourneau (@Smartypants60) November 16, 2017

Since Tweeden told her story, there has already been one attempt to pile onto Franken by a woman named Melanie Morgan. Luckily, her story was so lame that almost no one picked up on it. But Erin Gloria Ryan is right to be concerned.

I’ve been worried that we’re cruising toward the #MeToo moment’s trip wire, the point where a public’s over-credulity means that opportunists could exploit the movement and bring it all crashing down, worse off than before. And then stories of sexual misconduct will again be relegated to cocktail hours and DM’s—feminist ghost stories women share with each other with the knowledge that the demons that torment us still lurk in corner offices.

Brian Beutler explains how our media narratives are ripe for that kind of exploitation.

Unfolding against the backdrop of the post-Weinstein revolution, the Moore scandal exposes the conservative propaganda machine in the ugliest and most discrediting possible fashion. But these cultural changes are all but destined to collide with one another in the opposite direction, in a way that exploits both the beneficence of the “believe women” campaign, and the even-handedness of the mainstream media. It is a collision we as a political culture are not equipped to handle, the consequences of which are almost too awful to contemplate.

We’ve seen how Steve Bannon played the mainstream media on the Clinton Cash lies. Anyone who thinks he (and others) won’t exploit this situation in an attempt to destroy their enemies wasn’t paying attention when Bannon rounded up Bill Clinton’s victims for a pre-debate press conference after the Access Hollywood tape emerged to discredit Trump.

What will be required going forward is that we avoid a knee-jerk emotional reaction (either defensive of condemning) to allegations in the future. Instead, a thoughtful response that is willing to err on the side of believing the victims, but also weighs the evidence carefully will be required. When stories are credible, having the maturity to engage in the kind of conversation Traister was referring to is the only way to move forward in the direction of cultural change.

None of that will be easy and, frankly, I agree with Beutler that our political and media culture are not equipped to handle it. So as I tweeted, we’re probably in for a bumpy ride.

One of the things that I can promise you is that those of us here at the Washington Monthly are committed to a thoughtful response and the difficult conversation. I hope that we can be a reference point for you during the bumpy ride ahead.

If you value the role we play, there is a wonderful opportunity for you to ensure that we’ll be able to continue our work. Today we begin our holiday fundraising drive and, thanks to the Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the MacArthur Foundation, every dollar you contribute will be matched. That means that you can double whatever it is you are able to give. Click on this link or the banner below to do so, and remember that your donation is tax deductible. Thanks from all of us at the Washington Monthly for your support!

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Arthur Goldstein: It Is Not Fair to Gut ESL instruction

Arthur Goldstein is a veteran high school teacher of English and English as a Second Language.

He warns here that New York State is harming students whose native language is not English by reducing the time allotted to teaching them English. He calls on the State Board of Regents to reverse this policy.

“High school can be rough. Our children and students are frequently insecure, uncertain, and grasping to find their way in a new and unfamiliar environment. Some students have to deal with not only that, but also the fact that they don’t speak English.

“For most English Language Learners (ELLs), one safe haven has been their English classroom, where a teacher understood their special needs and made sure no one made fun of their inevitable errors and struggles with a new language. But the most recent revision of Commissioner’s Regulation Part 154, which governs how English as a second language (ESL) instruction is distributed, has largely withdrawn that support system. For example, beginning ELLs who formerly took three classes daily in direct English instruction may now have as few as one.

“Instead of ESL classes, New York State purports to blend English instruction into other courses. For example, in the daily 40 minutes that an United States-born student has to study, say, the Civil War, ELLs are expected to study both the Civil War and English. So not only do they get less English instruction, but they also get less instruction in history than native speakers. Principals may see it as a win-win. They can dump ESL classes, add nothing, save money, and hope for the best.

“I don’t know about you, but if I went to China tomorrow, I’d want intense instruction in Mandarin or Cantonese before I ever attempted opening a history book. I want the best for my students, and that includes as much English instruction as possible. Expecting children to master history before being able to order a pizza or even introduce themselves is remarkably short-sighted, reflecting total ignorance of language acquisition.”

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Burris and Cimarusti: How “The DeVos Effect” Can Affect the Elections in 2018

Carol Burris and Darcie Cimarusti of the Network for Public Education argue here that the candidates who forcefully stand up for public schools and speak out against privatization will win in November 2018.

Their evidence is the Elections of 2017.

Start with the remarkable results in Virginia.

“The most important race of 2017 was the hotly contested race for the governor of Virginia, in which a strong public education advocate, Democrat Ralph Northam, faced off against Republican Ed Gillespie. Gillespie fully embraced the entire DeVos agenda — charter expansion, online virtual schools, home schools, and vouchers in the form of tax credits and education savings accounts. There was not an inch of policy daylight between Gillespie and DeVos.

“This should come as no surprise. Gillespie received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the DeVos family, including a donation from the Secretary’s husband, Dick DeVos. Americans for Prosperity, which is controlled by the Koch brothers, launched a digital video in which a charter school leader criticized Northam for being the vote that stopped the neo-voucher “educational savings accounts.”

“Northam, who was supported by the teachers union, has been a strong and consistent supporter of public education. As stated on his website, “Ralph took tie-breaking votes to protect Virginia’s public education from being raided with unconstitutional private school vouchers and to keep decisions about public charter schools in the hands of local school boards.”

“The election of Gillespie would have been a game changer for public education in the Commonwealth. Virginia is one of a handful of states that allow charter schools to only be authorized by local school boards. In Virginia, charters are subject to the same transparency guidelines as public schools in the state. There are only eight charter schools in Virginia, much to the chagrin of charter advocates.”

Northam, who calls himself a “friend of public schools,” will keep privatization out of the state and instead work to strengthen and improve Virginia’s public schools.”

Friends of public schools will win. Democrats who abandon public schools will not be able to take advantage of “The DeVos Effect.”

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Remembering Byrd’s Rule

America celebrates this year the centennial of President John F. Kennedy, whose achievements, idealism, and charisma inspired generations of Americans. But at a time when our political system faces its most fundamental challenge since the Civil War, it is one of Kennedy’s colleagues in the Senate and a fellow centenarian—Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia—whose legacy is equally, if not more, relevant today.

Byrd believed that our political system and our freedom rested on a strong Congress—and particularly a strong Senate—to balance the executive, check the tendency of presidents to overreach and, as he put it, “do battle over politics, policies and priorities.” The frequently-mentioned “Byrd Rule,” for example, perhaps the senator’s most famous and enduring procedural legacy, ensures that budget measures are not misused for far-reaching legislative aims. Byrd would have been shocked by Donald Trump’s presidency and appalled when the Senate fails to fulfill its duty as the principal check on the president. If there is anyone that Congress needs now, it’s a leader in the mold of Byrd, whose respect for process, deliberation and the institution of the Senate would be a welcome counter to the freewheeling chaos of the current White House, and the radical, right-wing policies of the Republican House of Representatives.

Byrd’s record is by no means unblemished. Early in his political career, he belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and in the first years of his Senate tenure, he waged a shameful fourteen-hour filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the moral touchstone of the Democratic Party, and probably the greatest legislative achievement in our country’s history. Over the years, however, he earned a reputation as an ardent champion of progressive causes, ultimately joining such liberal lions as Sen. Philip Hart (D-MI), Edmund Muskie (D-ME), Eugene McCarthy (D-MN)—with whom he entered the Senate—and Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

In 1991, the Senate’s consideration of the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court exploded when law professor Anita Hill came forward to accuse Thomas of sexual harassment. The deeply polarized Senate was ultimately unmoved by Hill’s charges. Only one senator changed his position on the issue: Byrd, who had previously indicated that he intended to support Thomas’s nomination. On the Senate floor, Byrd said that he had found Anita Hill to be completely credible. He condemned Judge Thomas for injecting racism into the hearing: “A black woman was making a charge against a black American male. Where’s the racism?” Eleanor Holmes Norton, the representative of the District of Columbia, wrote to Byrd expressing appreciation:

Your extraordinary, analytical, powerful, moving remarks…were simply unmatched. All during the hearing I (and I’m sure, millions of other women) felt as abandoned as Prof. Hill had been. During the debate, you single-handedly retrieved what respect remains for the Democrats.

In his last years, Byrd became best known as an outspoken opponent to the invasion of Iraq. Mother Jones called Byrd “the octogenarian statesman from West Virginia [who rails] against the mendacity and militarism of the Bush administration, raising a bold if lonely voice in defense of our civil liberties and our national character.” MoveOn.org reprinted Byrd’s anti-war statements addresses on its website and paid for reprints in full-page New York Times ads.

The route to those heights was an extraordinary American story. Byrd was born in North Carolina in 1917 as Cornelius Calvin Sale, the fifth child of a woman who died in the great influenza epidemic within a year of his birth. After her death, Sale was adopted by his aunt, who renamed him Robert Carlyle Byrd, and took him to Bluefield, West Virginia.

Byrd’s father worked in the coal mines, moving from one mining community to another, and Byrd was educated in two-room schoolhouses without electricity. As a teenager, he worked in a gas station, as a produce boy, and as a butcher; eventually he ran a grocery store. In his late 20’s, he taught Sunday school, attended college part-time, and became active in politics. Hard-working and attentive to the community, Byrd was elected to West Virginia House of Delegates in 1946, to the U.S. House in 1952, and then to the Senate in the Democratic landslide of 1958.

Byrd seemed destined to be no more than a tireless advocate for the interests of his impoverished state. But his personal growth was astonishing: going to law school at night, endlessly reading history and politics, spending so much time on the Senate floor that he was mistaken for the Sergeant at Arms. By 1967, Byrd became the Secretary to the Democratic conference, the number three position in the Democratic leadership, and parleyed that minor position into real power, becoming, according to the Washington Post, “the man who runs the Senate during most of its nine to five hours.” In 1971, he defeated Ted Kennedy to become Democratic whip and then defeated Hubert Humphrey to become Senate majority leader in 1977.

Throughout his rise and leadership of the Senate, Byrd believed that senators owed it to their constituents to bring their wisdom, expertise and independent judgment to the challenges facing the nations; senators served “with presidents, not under them.” And he believed in “regular order”—that legislation that resulted from hearings, committee consideration, extended debate, and a robust amendment process would produce bipartisan legislative results that would receive broad public support. In Byrd’s view, “Congress’s primary purpose lies in its unique capacity to publicly, and under the hot lights of full media scrutiny, sort through competing interests. Congress alone can deliberate, reconcile, apportion public treasure, and forge laws, compromises, solutions and priorities which are compatible with our general national objectives and which promote the public good.”

Putting those beliefs into action, Byrd helped ensure that the Senate would serve both as a strong check on—and a vital ally of—the president. During the Watergate hearings, for instance, Byrd’s persistent questioning of FBI Director L. Patrick Gray caused Gray to admit that White House counsel John Dean had lied in denying White House involvement. “The toughest and most brilliant questioning came from Senator Byrd,” NPR’s Nina Totenberg observed. Senator William Proxmire praised him as “the unsung hero of Watergate.”

On the other hand, Byrd worked with President Jimmy Carter, Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker, and House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, Byrd in a period of major legislative accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy. Byrd led the Senate through an agonizing and searching two-year debate over the principal pillars of Carter’s national energy policy—perhaps the most complex legislative undertaking until the Affordable Care Act—which ultimately passed the Senate in late 1978. He played a pivotal role in the financial rescue of New York City.  Byrd also helped President Carter face up to an issue that five presidents had managed to avoid: the need for a new treaty to ensure access to the Panama Canal. Byrd, initially opposed to “giving back our canal,” studied the case for the treaty, and became its leading advocate, joining with Baker to win its narrow approval after an epic legislative battle. In its annual survey of America’s political institutions (before it moved on to ranking colleges), U.S. New and World Report moved the Senate’s ranking sharply upward that year, saying: “Never since this magazine began, the survey has the Senate ranked 3rd in national influence. Credit for that dramatic shift belongs to Byrd.”

Byrd’s belief in process and procedure was also why he was a key player in producing and enacting the Budget Control and Impoundment Act of 1974. He recognized that if Congress could not produce an overall budget, it would inevitably cede power to the executive branch. He was willing to tolerate a Budget Act that established procedures that were an exception to the normal Senate rules. But when Byrd saw the reconciliation procedure being abused by the Reagan administration, he moved quickly to limit the use of reconciliation by ensuring that it could only be used for budget purposes and not for “extraneous” matters. The “Byrd rule,” by which the parliamentarian would decide if legislative provisions were consistent with the Budget Act or extraneous to it, would complicate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s life 32 years later as he tried to end run normal Senate procedures.

For Byrd, process was a safeguard against partisanship—among Democrats as well as Republicans.

During the Clinton presidency, for example, Byrd remained adamant that the administration’s proposed health care legislation, spearheaded by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, could not fit within the budget, no matter how liberally the rule that bore his name was interpreted. Neither partisan considerations nor vital importance of health care legislation could justify short-circuiting the process by ramming the legislation through the Senate.

In 2002, Byrd mounted his extraordinary opposition to what he believed to be the indefensible rush to invade Iraq. Once a hawkish patriot and strong supporter of the Vietnam War, Byrd’s growing doubts about President Lyndon Johnson’s credibility and failed policy led him to vow that he would never give a “blank check” to any president to wage war. Byrd believed that the open-ended authorization to President Bush to wage war against Iraq at a time in place of his choosing “amounted to a complete eviscerating of the congressional prerogative to declare war, and an outrageous abdication of responsibility.”

While harshly criticizing Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Byrd reserved some of his harshest words for “the supine Senate,” which rushed to vote on the authorization weeks before the off-year elections. Byrd later wrote:

We had been swept away by campaign fever. Some high-priced pollster had apparently convinced the Senate Democratic leadership that we could ‘get the war behind us’ and change the subject to the flagging economy, where the election prospects would appear more favorable to the Democrats. What nonsense.

Byrd died in 2010, at the age of 92. He would have been saddened as the Senate further dissolved into partisan obstruction and dysfunction during the Obama presidency, and appalled when Majority Leader McConnell refused to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Byrd would have understood Donald Trump’s appeal to “Rust Belt” states like West Virginia, but shocked that Trump was elected president. Writing about the awesome responsibility of the presidency, Byrd opined: “Such a burden cannot be borne with distinction and grace minus that particular amalgam of intellect, values, morals and ethics we call character.”

He would have noted that the Senate’s special responsibility would be to act as a check on an inexperienced, incompetent, potentially authoritarian president. Byrd would have been pleased that the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees seem to be steadfastly moving ahead to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, including possible collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, and supporting the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He would have admired the courage and independence of Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain. He would have derived satisfaction that the “Byrd rule,” which he applied even-handedly to all administrations, played a part in thwarting the Republicans’ outrageous effort to remake the health care system and inflict harm on millions of Americans by circumventing the normal legislative process. And he would have hoped that future generations of Senate leaders and senators would choose to follow the example he set, ensuing that the Senate would be a bulwark against one-man (or woman) rule, and one-party rule.

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Technical Foul: Trump Goes There Again

It’s as though demonstrating class would cause him physical pain.

President Donald Trump directed a message at LaVar Ball on Twitter on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Ball downplayed the President’s role in helping Ball’s son, LiAngelo, and two other UCLA basketball players return to the United States safely after they were arrested in China for shoplifting.

“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal,” Trump wrote. “I should have left them in jail!”

Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017

The back-and-forth between Trump and LaVar Ball stems from a situation in Hangzhou, China, earlier this month. LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were arrested for shoplifting items, including sunglasses, from three stores while in the country to play a game against Georgia Tech.

While experts in Chinese law told USA TODAY Sports that the trio would probably not face severe punishment, Trump posted on Twitter that they were in line for “10 years in jail” before he intervened. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday that he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, about the situation on the players’ behalf. The trio returned to the United States less than 24 hours later and apologized in a press conference Wednesday.

Trump had the option of simply ignoring LaVar Ball’s dismissal of his role in freeing the UCLA players; he wouldn’t be the first person to simply ignore Ball. Trump chose otherwise, for fairly obvious political reasons: he figured that attacking supposedly ungrateful African-Americans would maintain his popularity among his most devoted followers. Ball is being attacked for the same reason Colin Kaepernick was attacked by the 45th President: he’s a convenient target.

Trump’s base undoubtedly thinks he “should have left them in jail.” Their hatred fuels Trump; their resentment is the force that gives him power. Imagine dealing with three (or even seven?) more years of this. Imagine hearing similar rhetoric from Roy Moore if (when?) he wins the US Senate seat Jeff Sessions vacated.

This Thursday, give thanks for the anti-Trump resistance movement. It’s hard to imagine our country remaining stable without it.

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