Today's news -- August 11, 2017





How charter schools buy political support *

In Florida, the Miami Herald calls state ethics laws a “joke” for “failing to protect Floridians from legislators who profit from the charter-school industry in private life and have been actively involved in pushing — and successfully passing — legislation to fund for-profit private schools at the expense of public education.” The Herald names names. Representative Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah) serves on the Education Committee and the K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and lobbies to loosen restrictions on charter schools. He is also the chief operating officer of the Doral College charter, part of the for-profit Academica charter school network, that pays him a salary of over $100,000 a year. Richard Corcoran (R-Land O’Lakes) is speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. His wife is the founder of a charter school in Pasco County. Representative Michael Bileca (R-Miami) chairs the Florida House Education Committee. Bileca is executive director of a foundation that funds charter schools and a founder of one of its recipients. Diaz, Corcoran, and Bileca were leaders in a legislative effort to take millions of tax dollars away from public schools and reallocating money to fund the expansion of the charter-school industry. Stephen Dyer, a former Ohio state legislator, describes Ohio’s charter schools as a “national embarrassment.” Ohio’s $1 billion-a-year publicly financed charter industry has been plagued by years of financial scandal and poor performance. But in 2015 when an oversight bill was about to be passed the state’s legislative branch, it was withdrawn from consideration by House speaker Cliff Rosenberger (Republican-Clarksville). Rosenberger is a major recipient of charter school campaign donations. In Arizona charter schools routinely receive exemptions from state oversight requirements, despite a history of misusing tax dollars. They also receive over 25 percent of state education funds, although they only enroll 15 percent of Arizona’s school age students. The right-wing Republican governor of Arizona was accused by the even further right-wing elected superintendent of Arizona schools of establishing a “shadow faction of charter school operators” committed to “moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools.” The reasons for the lack of accountability and the disproportionate state funding are examined in a report by Arizonians for Charter School Accountability. Among other things, they found that Benjamin Franklin, a for-profit charter school, is owned by Arizona State Representative Eddie Farnsworth (R). In 2016, the charter school spent $155,106 more on facilities than on classroom instruction. It leases its schools from LBE Investments, a for-profit real estate company also owned by Farnsworth. Arizona has a state board that grants charter status to “qualifying applicants” and is supposed to “oversee charter schools.” The President of the board is a political lobbyist who defines her role as promoting school “choice” and “sponsoring charter schools,” not regulating them. The Board Vice-President is founder of a charter high school. Other members include the operator of a charter school, a charter school teacher, a lawyer for charter schools, a building company CEO who also serves on the Board of Directors for the local Teach for America chapter, and the CEO of a charter school network.


How charter firms bend the facts


Charter schools don’t tackle racism (Randi Weingarten mentioned)


When privatization means segregation on vouchers *

In recent weeks, the issue of private school vouchers has taken center stage in debates over the future of education. Policy proposals to use public funds for private school tuition vouchers have a long history, dating back to a seminal 1955 essay by Milton Friedman. Over the last 25 years, small voucher programs have been established in several states, including Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin, as well as in Washington, D.C. But the voucher issue took on a new urgency after the election of Donald Trump, given his campaign promise to establish a $20 billion national voucher program. When Trump unveiled his first proposed budget earlier this year, he partnered his program with massive cuts to existing federal education programs, taken largely from funding streams that support the education of students living in poverty. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, is a long-time partisan of vouchers and has been cheerleader in chief for Trump’s education budget cuts and proposed voucher program. Public education advocates have taken on the Trump-DeVos push for vouchers. The liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) issued two important research briefs, Vouchers Are Not A Viable Solution For Wide Swaths of America and The Racist Origins of Private School Vouchers. In her keynote speech to the American Federation of Teachers’ recent biannual education conference and in her Huffington Post column, AFT President Randi Weingarten addressed the “past and present” of school vouchers, condemning such programs as “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” Both CAP and Weingarten highlighted events around one of the five school desegregation cases that were rolled into the Supreme Court’s historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County. With the backing of Virginia’s powerful segregationist senator Harry Byrd, the white elite of Prince Edward County defied the Brown decision by closing the entire public school system and diverting public education funds into vouchers to be used at a segregated private academy that only white students could attend. As the battles over the implementation of Brown played out, African-American students were denied access to education for five years in a row. Prince Edward County thus stands as an exemplar of the post-Brown segregationist defiance of school integration and the pivotal role of school vouchers in that effort. An honest appraisal of the events in Prince Edward County poses a major challenge for voucher advocates. This history is thoroughly documented, both in historian Richard Kluger’s authoritative study of Brown and its aftermath and in two excellent scholarly books on the specific events in Prince Edward County, by Christopher Bonastia and Jill Ogline Titus respectively. There is simply no denying the historical connection between the birth of private school voucher policies and segregationist defiance to Brown. But Prince Edward County is only the beginning of the story. (Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García quoted)

School choice program raises questions about accountability


More Florida school districts vote to sue state over education law


Santa Rosa school board sides with superintendent over teacher contract


A community-driven school nears opening day in Orange


Where do achievement gaps come from?


A new kind of classroom: no grades, no failing, no hurry


Arizona school voucher expansion put on hold as opponents challenge new law


Health premiums to rise 3.7 percent for Georgia teachers, workers


DeVos says she didn't decry racism enough


DeVos closes civil rights complaints at faster clip than predecessor


Florida’s broken system for selecting utility watchdogs


Utah Uber driver dominates ideas for state Constitution


As Hurricane Andrew memories fade, state weakens building codes


The Trump Justice Department joins the GOP crusade to shrink the vote


Move people to where the jobs are? It’s not so easy, Mr. President.


Labor Department wants to reward financial advisers at the expense of consumers


With bank subpoenas, Mueller turns up the heat on Manafort


Trump says he was surprised by FBI raid of Manafort’s home


Manafort switching legal team as feds crank up heat on him


Congressional investigators want to question Trump's secretary in Russia probe


Trump says he has not considered firing Mueller, contradicting himself


Kushner fined for late financial report


Trump thanks Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats, infuriating State Department


Study: Trump’s actions are responsible for rising health care premiums


Bipartisan health policy coalition urges Congress to strengthen the ACA


Trump is courting disaster by abandoning Latino Obamacare enrollees


At town halls, Republicans have faced another round of anger over health care


Trump escalates criticism of McConnell as majority leader


Trump’s Twitter fury at McConnell risks alienating a key ally


Behind the Trump-McConnell feud


Trump attacks on McConnell bring rebukes from fellow Republicans


Trump plans to declare opioid epidemic a national emergency


Trump’s effort to blame Obama for the opioid epidemic


Programs that fight teenage pregnancy are at risk of being cut


Trump’s new immigration plan would make Americans poorer


White House vs. Democrats in tense standoff over judge picks


Penalties against polluters down 60 percent under Trump


Trump’s attack on science isn’t going very well


Trump says transgender ban is a “great favor” for the military


Trump’s military ban could hurt more than just transgender troops


Trump pick Clovis stoked birther conspiracy, called Holder a “racist black”


Trump escalates rhetoric on threat from North Korea


Trump says military is “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely”


Wrestling With North Korea, Trump finds perilous options


Does Trump believe nuclear war is inevitable?


Tap down Trump rhetoric on North Korea


McCain releases strategy for Afghanistan, preempting and rebuking Trump


Wall Street’s “fear gauge” skyrockets as tensions rise with North Korea


Gorka publicly shuns Tillerson’s effort to scale back North Korea red line


Gorka, the West Wing's phony foreign-policy guru


Here’s the memo that blew up the NSC


Pent-up Trump lets it rip on vacation


“When you … think you’re controlling him, things like this happen”


Trump has been making ominous threats his whole life


Breitbart's war on McMaster bites Bannon


Trump D.C. hotel turns $2 million profit in four months


Report: Secret Service spent $13,500 on golf cart rentals for Trump trip


Republicans are increasingly antagonistic toward experts. Here’s why that matters.


Indiana: GOP limits early voting in Democratic areas, expands it in Republican ones


2016 confirmed as planet's hottest year


New studies and new catastrophes give climate change deniers a lot to deny



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