Texas: Fort Bend ISD Tells State Leaders: Stop Starving Our Public Schools!

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called a special session of the legislature to try once again to ram through vouchers, a proposal that has been repeatedly rejected by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The State Senate is led by the voucher zealot and former talk-show host Dan Patrick; the House has responsible leadership that actually wants to help the public schools that enroll some five million children, who are the future of Texas. Every time the Senate endorses vouchers, the House blocks them. The House has proposed a budget increase to help public schools, but the Senate holds the budget proposal hostage to vouchers. Meanwhile, the public schools are hurting.

The Fort Bend Independent School District addressed the state’s leaders and lawmakers and said: Stop starving our public schools! The school board adopted a series of resolutions calling on legislators to improve school funding for public schools.


The resolutions criticize vouchers as a way of taking money away from cash-strapped districts, lambaste a proposal to require districts to provide teacher raises without funding them and urge lawmakers to pass school finance reform in order to increase the amount that districts receive in state funding.

Kristin Tassin, the board’s president, accused state leaders of taking money away from public schools to promote their political agendas.

“Our state leaders are claiming to support Texas teachers and students, but they are being disingenuous,” Tassin said.

In Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a special session, he proposed giving a $1,000 pay raise to all teachers, offering vouchers for special education students, forming a committee to study school-finance reform and allowing districts to have more flexibility in teacher hiring…

Vouchers have long been a touchy subject in Texas and nationwide. Essentially, vouchers allow parents to take money that the state would have spent educating their child in a public school and use it to offset the cost of tuition at private schools. While proponents of vouchers argue that they’re an innovative way to allow economically disadvantaged and special education students access to better educations, opponents say vouchers drain money from public schools and direct the funds to private schools that are not held to the same testing and accountability standards…

Tassin said many districts, including Fort Bend ISD, have already voted to approve pay raises for the coming school year and argue that mandating unfunded raises will further strain the district’s finances. Pay raises for teachers and employees have traditionally been considered a local matter.

Keep up the pressure from the grassroots. Vote only for legislators who support public schools, not those who want to take money from public schools that are already underfunded.

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Jersey Jazzman: The Summer of Choice Love

Jersey Jazzman, aka teacher Mark Weber, reviews the blossoming of choice-choice-choice this summer.

Behind it, he says, is a failure of honesty and will.

In recent weeks, we have been besieged with testimonials and heartening stories about choice.

“The clever thing about this construction is that anyone who challenges the narrative is immediately put on the defensive: Why are you against helping people get a better education? Why don’t you care about these children? It must be that you care about your own interests more than theirs…

“There is little evidence that the fraction of “choice” schools that appear to get better results do so because they are “innovative” in their educational practices. But the “choice” schools that do get gains all seem to have structural advantages, starting with resource advantages — gained through a variety of strategies — that allow them to offer things like longer days, longer years, smaller student:staff ratios, and extended educational programming.

“By all appearances, we seem to be able to adequately fund our schools in the affluent, leafy ‘burbs, even as we shrug our shoulders at the prospect of doing the same for urban centers enrolling many students who are in economic disadvantage. Millburn has what it needs; Newark does not. Gross Point has plenty; Detroit doesn’t. New Trier is fine; Chicago is not. Lower Merion thrives; Philadelphia withers.

“It’s a story that plays out across the nation. Somehow these affluent communities manage to scrape together enough to provide adequate educations for their children, even when burdened with unionized teachers and step contracts and democratically elected school boards. Somehow they manage to get their schools what they need without giving up transparency and governmental accountability and agency for all of their citizens through the democratic process.

School “choice” is the result of a failure of honesty and will.

“The failure of honesty comes from failing to fully acknowledge that structural inequities — inequality, chronic poverty, racism, inadequate school funding — lead to unequal educational outcomes. It also comes from failing to acknowledge that the advantages a select few “choice” schools have accrued to themselves are directly responsible for their outcome gains.

“The failure of will results from a failure to act collectively in ways that would move adequate resources to all schools where they are lacking, without giving up democratic governmental control.

“Neither Kristof nor Lemmon nor Hardy nor anyone else has given us any reason to believe that the only way to get more resources into schools that need them is to abandon governmental control. There is, however, plenty of reason to believe shifting school control to private entities will reduce transparency, student and family rights, and efficiency — both here and abroad.

“When children live lives free of want and attend well-resourced, government-controlled schools they do very well. Certainly, there are problems and room for improvement. But communities don’t need to give up control of their schools if the pre-conditions for success are in place.

“Instead of upending the entire system, why don’t we try that?”

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Watch How the House Republicans Jerk Around Their Base

The House of Representatives is supposed to return to legislative business today at 2pm. The wheels on their bus aren’t exactly turning smoothly so it’s hard to be sure what their plan is since it keeps changing. They’ve abandoned the plan I called the dumbest ever back on July 14th, to pass this year’s appropriations bills in one giant package that their members would not have even been able to read. Instead, they appear to have scaled that back to what they’re calling a “minibus” bill (as opposed to a omnibus one) that will only include defense spending, an Energy and Water bill that involves our nuclear weapons, the money for veterans, and funding for the border wall.

The border wall money is interesting for a few reasons. One is that it probably can’t pass through the House as a standalone item. Another is that it really ought to be a part of the Homeland Security appropriation bill, but that isn’t one of the bills that they’re planning on including in their minibus.  And a third is that they have what looks like a bit of subterfuge planned to ram the funding through despite the bipartisan opposition to the wall.

This all become (somewhat) clear during an exchange on the House floor last week between House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

During their Thursday colloquy on the House floor, Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., asked Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to explain the process under which the consolidated “minibus” appropriations bill would be considered.

McCarthy said that the minibus will be considered under a structured rule and that “we assume that there will be hundreds of amendments,” and that that is why he expects there will be late votes next week.

Hoyer asked McCarthy if he expects “we will bring the other eight [appropriations] bills to the floor in September.”

McCarthy replied: “I do intend to bring the rest of the appropriations bills through this floor and get them done to send them to the Senate.”

Hoyer noted that McCarthy mentioned earlier in the colloquy that the minibus would include funding for a border wall and that the Homeland Security bill is not in the appropriations package, and then asked him which bill the funding would be included in.

McCarthy said that the funding “will be an amendment made in Rules for the bill.”

Hoyer asked McCarthy to clarify as to whether the funding for the border wall would be an amendment automatically adopted as part of agreeing to the rule for the bill or if the amendment would be one made in order for floor consideration in the Committee of the Whole.

McCarthy said that he “can’t promise what the Rules Committee will do.” He continued: “The Rules Committee will find the right place to apply it, and we’ll be able to have the discussion on the floor.”

Hoyer said that he would hope McCarthy will make it known to the Rules Committee that “we ought to have that as a free-standing amendment, not incorporated in a rule that the vote for the rule or a vote against the rule is in of itself a vote on the wall itself.”

I don’t know if you understand that or not, but it looks like they’re going to try to sneak the wall funding into the rule under which the overall bill will be considered rather than having it actually included as an itemized appropriation. In a way, it makes no difference. But doing it this way helps members who oppose the funding make the argument that they never voted for it directly. It may also make it impossible to strike the funding out using an amendment, making the only way to kill the funding to defeat the entire minibus bill. Conversely, conservatives who don’t like the levels of spending in the four appropriation bills will be able to argue that they did vote for the wall funding. And this will be important to them because the funding will surely never pass in the Senate or become law.

Personally, while this is all opaque enough to defy understanding by all but the tiniest fraction of Americans, I don’t think legislating this way does anything but make people more cynical about politics. The so-called opponents of wall funding will actually vote to fund the wall. The budget hawks will vote for big spending with the excuse that they were trying to help Trump keep his wall promise. Everyone will understand, however, that the funding won’t actually materialize because Senate Democrats won’t allow it. So, the funding will be in the House bill (assuming it passes, which is not at all assured) but it won’t be in the final bill after it has been reconciled with the Senate version.

It’s a clever play that protects Republican lawmakers who want to avoid accountability, but the results are still unsatisfactory no matter how you look at it. Ultimately, the people will look at what actually happened (more spending) and what didn’t happen (a wall on the Mexican border) and conclude that the Republicans can’t keep their promises. When they try to find someone to blame, the Republicans will say “not me, it’s the other guy” and then say the Senate Democrats are responsible.

This is the way Congress has tanked their approval numbers over the last decade without a corresponding defeat for very many incumbents.

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ALEC’s Hilarious Report Card on The States

ALEC is the fringe-right American Legislative Exchange Council, which advocates for school privatization and elimination of unions, due process, and the teaching profession. Its hero is Betsy DeVos, who is working daily to bring ALEC’s extremist agenda into the mainstream.

ALEC publishes an annual report card on education, evaluating the states not by test scores or quality of education or results, but by the degree to which they have privatized their public schools and diverted funding to nonpublic schools.

The world according to ALEC is upside down.

The number 1 state is Arizona, even though it has low scores on NAEP and a very low high school graduation rate.

The number 2 is Florida, also with an abysmal graduation rate.

Number 3 is Indiana, where privatization reigns supreme, and spending is low.

The District of Columbia, one of the lowest performing districts in the nation, with the biggest achievement gaps, ranks number 6.

Far behind D.C. and other contenders is Massachusetts, with the nation’s highest test scores and a graduation rate of 89%.

Why, according to ALEC, the state of Alabama and the District of Columbia are far, far better than Massachusetts.

And even funnier, ALEC says the worst state in the nation is Nebraska. It has no charter schools, no vouchers. It has a graduation rate of 94%. Just awful!

The ALEC report card is the direct opposite of the Network for Public Education report card, which graded states in relation to their support for public schools. ALEC’s #1 state, Arizona, received an F. ALEC’s #51 state, Nebraska, came in second in the nation.

What a hoot!

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“Post-Trump Stress Disorder” Will Haunt Americans for Years to Come

A few weeks back, progressive Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) attempted to hit the brakes on impeachment talk in Democratic circles, suggesting that such chatter was far too premature. The odds of Trump being impeached and removed from office remain low: the chances of Republicans in the House and Senate holding Trump fully accountable over his Russiagate recklessness are about as good as my chances of getting married to Jennifer Lawrence, and even if the Legislative Branch changes hands in the 2018 midterms, it’s hard to see Democrats rushing to impeach Trump, due to the belief that Trump remaining in office would energize Democratic-leaning voters to turn out in force in 2020 in a way that, say, President Mike Pence wouldn’t. (Democrats would have been justified in attempting to impeach President George W. Bush in 2007 for his chicanery in steering the US into Iraq; it’s not too far-fetched to think that Democrats decided not to do so, in part or in whole, because they figured the sight of Bush continuing to contaminate the White House would ensure that the Democratic base would be, shall we say, fired up and ready to go on November 4, 2008.)

Whether Trump’s term ends in impeachment or a re-election defeat, the damage he has inflicted upon the American psyche will remain with us for decades to come. Just as the scars of the Nixon and Reagan years have never really healed, so too will the injuries inflicted upon the populace by the 45th President.

Last Friday was the first anniversary of Trump’s horrific speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Think, for a moment, about the voters who swallowed every lie in that speech whole, who took Trump at this worthless word, who believed that he was going to make America great again–and who victimized this country with their votes on November 8, 2016.

Even if Trump goes away via impeachment or a re-election loss, these voters will not go away, nor will the so-called cultural anxiety that led them to cast their vote for the Donald. Of course, there is real cultural anxiety out there–the cultural anxiety felt by the targets of Trump’s tirades.

The young American Muslim girl who just wants to walk to school without being harassed by someone who hates her hijab because Trump told them to will continue to have real cultural anxiety.

The businesswoman being groped by a supervisor who thinks Trump’s treatment of women was not pathetic but copacetic will continue to have real cultural anxiety.

The young black man who fears being pulled over by a cop who views him the way Trump viewed the folks who were wrongfully accused of the Central Park Jogger attack will continue to have real cultural anxiety.

The Mexican-American child whose parent was kicked out of the country by a government that prefers to have those who are brown not stick around will continue to have real cultural anxiety.

Even if Trump were to leave the White House tomorrow, he wouldn’t take the hate he has whipped up over the past several years with him. Trump, arguably more so than any post-Eisenhower Republican President who came before him, has erected a form of psychological Jim Crow in this country, making it virtually impossible for Americans to coexist across the barriers of identity and ideology.

It’s a grotesque guarantee that Trump will do his best to keep this country psychologically segregated once he’s out of office. The rallies will surely continue, designed to harass either a Democratic successor or a Republican successor deemed insufficiently right-wing. The tweeting won’t stop until he’s physically incapable of operating a smartphone. Every effort to move this country forward–on energy, on health care, on guns, on economics–will be assailed by the ex-president and his execrable partisans, aided and abetted by such outfits as the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

Once Trump leaves office, our long national nightmare will not be over. That’s the reason we have to stay woke.

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Lessons Learned, The Healing Within the Democratic Party Begins

The Democratic Party may seem deeply divided between its neoliberal and progressive wings (and yes, “neoliberal” is a real thing), that perception is mostly an artifact of social media on comments section wars. But that’s more appearance than reality.

In the real world, the progress toward unity and healing has already begun at the topmost levels of the party. Democrats in leadership have been seeing the polling data and the focus groups, and understand that the the party failed to articulate an adequate vision for how society and the economy should be structured. The handwriting has been on the wall for months now, including in the unity tours with DNC Chair Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders, as well as the open adoption of previously unthinkable progressive stances by presidential hopefuls like Kamala Harris, who just last week described the drug war as a “colossal failure.”

But at no point has the shift in the party been so obvious as in today’s remarkable comments by the normally moderate Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. In a wide-ranging interview on ABC’s This Week, he stated that the Democratic message of economics had been “namby pamby,” that a message revamp was necessary, and that blame for losing to a Republican candidate as unpopular as Donald Trump lay more with the party’s own failures than with Russian interference or any external force:

“We were too cautious, we were too namby-pamby,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week.” “This is sharp, bold and will appeal to both the old Obama coalition, let’s say the young lady who’s just getting out of college, and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump, the blue-collar worker. Economics is our strength, and we are going to get at it.”

Remember that Chuck Schumer is the one who famously said during the 2016 campaign that “for every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Hearing Schumer internalize and express the democratic socialist critique of the party’s messaging and targeting strategy is remarkable. He continued:

The New York senator said the new Democratic agenda, set to be unveiled on Monday, would include proposals to “just go after these drug companies when they raise prices so egregiously and people can’t afford these drugs” and a plan to “change the way companies can merge,” mentioning the cable, airline and gas industries.

“How the heck did we let Exxon and Mobil merge?” he said. “And that was Democrats.”

Indeed. The point here isn’t just that Democrats allowed their brand to be weakened in acquiescing to corporate malfeasance and consolidated power. He is also laying down a marker that Democratic candidates will be moving away from the “rising tide lifts all boats if we all love each other” pabulum, and communicating the more credible, effective and fundamentally true message that corporate power is the real villain in the decline of the American middle class.

Schumer also indicated a willingness to consider single-payer and other significant expansions of healthcare guarantees beyond just saving the Affordable Care Exchanges. This is particularly important, as single-payer advocacy has been one of the bitterest fault lines between the party’s progressive and moderate wings–especially in blue states like California.

Perhaps most controversially, in statements to the Washington Post, the Senate Minority Leader said the party needed to take responsibility for its own shortcomings in the 2016 election:

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview previewing the new plan. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

This is an incredible sea change for the leadership of a party that no more than six months ago still seemed intent on crafting a coalition of professional class and and minority communities with messages that focused almost entirely on social inclusion to the avoidance of sharp economic stances that might discomfit donors and wealthier Romney voters.

Ultimately, the data won out. Clinton SuperPAC Priorities USA’s own polling and focus groups showed the power of economic anxiety and disenchantment with the Democratic Party’s stances among Obama-Trump switchers and Obama dropoff voters. A Washington Post/ABC News poll from last week showed that voters feel the party represents little beyond simply resistance to Trump.

It has become obvious that the establishment Democratic Party disgruntled or lost faith entirely with millennials, white working class and even many minority voters, and that the minor gains made with comfortable suburbanite moderate Republicans were not even close to enough to make up the difference. Most millennials who supported Sanders did vote for Clinton in the end, but some did not–and their patience as housing prices remain out of reach, the drug war continues only barely unabated and student debt continues to pile on, will not be interminable. The white working class that always voted for Republicans is indeed bigoted and became even more so with Trump, but the white working class that voted for Obama twice and then shifted to Trump was strongly motivated by economic concerns. Clinton even lost ground with minorities against Trump, compared to Obama’s tallies against Romney.

Leadership now seems to fully grasp this. The party’s new slogan “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages” is an clarion callback to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, offering a realm of possibilities for a new social and potentially revolutionary social contract for the 21st century. Many progressives will be annoyed at the focus on “job retraining” programs and the “better skills” portion of the new slogan, and for good reason. But those are kinks that can be worked out over time.

The important thing to note is that the healing has already begun. Party leadership has taken many of the core critiques of the progressive insurgency to heart, and substantive fixes are being made.

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Lessons Learned, The Healing Within the Democratic Party Begins

The Democratic Party may seem deeply divided between its neoliberal and progressive wings (and yes, “neoliberal” is a real thing), that perception is mostly an artifact of social media on comments section wars. But that’s more appearance than reality.

In the real world, the progress toward unity and healing has already begun at the topmost levels of the party. Democrats in leadership have been seeing the polling data and the focus groups, and understand that the the party failed to articulate an adequate vision for how society and the economy should be structured. The handwriting has been on the wall for months now, including in the unity tours with DNC Chair Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders, as well as the open adoption of previously unthinkable progressive stances by presidential hopefuls like Kamala Harris, who just last week described the drug war as a “colossal failure.”

But at no point has the shift in the party been so obvious as in today’s remarkable comments by the normally moderate Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. In a wide-ranging interview on ABC’s This Week, he stated that the Democratic message of economics had been “namby pamby,” that a message revamp was necessary, and that blame for losing to a Republican candidate as unpopular as Donald Trump lay more with the party’s own failures than with Russian interference or any external force:

“We were too cautious, we were too namby-pamby,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week.” “This is sharp, bold and will appeal to both the old Obama coalition, let’s say the young lady who’s just getting out of college, and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump, the blue-collar worker. Economics is our strength, and we are going to get at it.”

Remember that Chuck Schumer is the one who famously said during the 2016 campaign that “for every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Hearing Schumer internalize and express the democratic socialist critique of the party’s messaging and targeting strategy is remarkable. He continued:

The New York senator said the new Democratic agenda, set to be unveiled on Monday, would include proposals to “just go after these drug companies when they raise prices so egregiously and people can’t afford these drugs” and a plan to “change the way companies can merge,” mentioning the cable, airline and gas industries.

“How the heck did we let Exxon and Mobil merge?” he said. “And that was Democrats.”

Indeed. The point here isn’t just that Democrats allowed their brand to be weakened in acquiescing to corporate malfeasance and consolidated power. He is also laying down a marker that Democratic candidates will be moving away from the “rising tide lifts all boats if we all love each other” pabulum, and communicating the more credible, effective and fundamentally true message that corporate power is the real villain in the decline of the American middle class.

Schumer also indicated a willingness to consider single-payer and other significant expansions of healthcare guarantees beyond just saving the Affordable Care Exchanges. This is particularly important, as single-payer advocacy has been one of the bitterest fault lines between the party’s progressive and moderate wings–especially in blue states like California.

Perhaps most controversially, in statements to the Washington Post, the Senate Minority Leader said the party needed to take responsibility for its own shortcomings in the 2016 election:

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview previewing the new plan. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

This is an incredible sea change for the leadership of a party that no more than six months ago still seemed intent on crafting a coalition of professional class and and minority communities with messages that focused almost entirely on social inclusion to the avoidance of sharp economic stances that might discomfit donors and wealthier Romney voters.

Ultimately, the data won out. Clinton SuperPAC Priorities USA’s own polling and focus groups showed the power of economic anxiety and disenchantment with the Democratic Party’s stances among Obama-Trump switchers and Obama dropoff voters. A Washington Post/ABC News poll from last week showed that voters feel the party represents little beyond simply resistance to Trump.

It has become obvious that the establishment Democratic Party disgruntled or lost faith entirely with millennials, white working class and even many minority voters, and that the minor gains made with comfortable suburbanite moderate Republicans were not even close to enough to make up the difference. Most millennials who supported Sanders did vote for Clinton in the end, but some did not–and their patience as housing prices remain out of reach, the drug war continues only barely unabated and student debt continues to pile on, will not be interminable. The white working class that always voted for Republicans is indeed bigoted and became even more so with Trump, but the white working class that voted for Obama twice and then shifted to Trump was strongly motivated by economic concerns. Clinton even lost ground with minorities against Trump, compared to Obama’s tallies against Romney.

Leadership now seems to fully grasp this. The party’s new slogan “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages” is an clarion callback to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, offering a realm of possibilities for a new social and potentially revolutionary social contract for the 21st century. Many progressives will be annoyed at the focus on “job retraining” programs and the “better skills” portion of the new slogan, and for good reason. But those are kinks that can be worked out over time.

The important thing to note is that the healing has already begun. Party leadership has taken many of the core critiques of the progressive insurgency to heart, and substantive fixes are being made.

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2tSUmCC