"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The Red Wave That Wasn't

I am liking the headlines this morning.  The Daily Beast: We Don't Know Who Won Yet, But Republicans LostSalon says: What Red Wave--Democrats Are Surging.

If I were a guessing man, which I am, I would say Dems end up with 51 U.S. Senators.  House? I don't have a guess yet, but the Dems have real shot at retaining the majority.  If they don't, the T**** Party will hold a slim majority.  

And Lauren Boebert, you ask? Too close to call, but she is still behind this morning.  

Let's face it: T****ists had their asses handed to them yesterday by America's voters, and if that were not enough, Mother Nature has its own metaphor for Donald this morning.  Mar-a-Lago has been ordered to evacuate, as Hurricane Nicole seems determined to smash into southern Florida.

And so I present to you a screen capture I snapped two days ago at 538 Blog, which shows us, once again, why you can't believe the corporate media with their corporate polls and corporate polling aggregators.  I say, get a life, Nate Silver!!!



Saturday, November 05, 2022

Remember Kansas!

A few days before the August 2 vote in to decide the future availability of abortion in Kansas, the pollsters at the highly touted 538 Blog were predicting that a woman's right to control her own health decisions would go down in flames.  Some polls showed advocates for banning a woman's choice up by 8 points, and 538 had the anti-choice contingent ahead by four points, 47-43.  

The same thing is happening now, as the prognosticators are foretelling a T****ian takeover of both the Senate and the House next Tuesday.  According to the media echo chamber, the Dems peaked way too early, and T****ists have been gaining momentum in recent weeks.  

So what happened on August 2 back in Kansas?  In a record turnout for the state, Kansans beat down the effort to eliminate abortion rights in the state by a whopping 18 points! 

We have already seen a record turnout in early voting this Fall for the mid-term election, and we are likely to see a record set on Tuesday for any national election--presidential or otherwise.  Michael Moore has not wavered in his prediction of a Blue wave.  I think he is right.  

Don't despair.  Get busier.  Make calls, knock doors, wave your signs on street corners.  On Tuesday, take someone to vote who would not be able to vote otherwise. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

No Person of Conscience Can Sit Out this Midterm Election

from Common Dreams:

Democracy and the very principle of a Society of Equals are on the ballot—and, yes, it's about the Economy too.
 

Alan Minsky

The 2022 midterm election represents a unique and historic opportunity to protect our democracy and our right to equality before the law against an unrelenting offensive being waged by the reactionary right.

We must mobilize now and vote for democracy, equality before the law, and economic policies that support the vast majority of Americans—by voting for Democrats in the midterms.

In an unprecedented move, the Democratic Party has committed itself to altering the Senate filibuster to pass voting rights, protect democracy, and codify Roe v Wade—but to do so they must maintain a majority in the US House and gain two seats in the Senate for a majority of 52.

If the Republicans prevail, the opportunity to achieve these essential ends will be lost, possibly forever. For if the Democrats do not control Congress, there will be no checks on the Republicans who will use the next two years to implement laws in states across the country to pervert the electoral process to their advantage—with a goal of insuring continued Republican rule.

As I will argue below, we arrived at this place because of the tremendous degree of wealth inequality that has developed over the past four decades, which is not conducive to democracy but oligarchy—and our democracy is the best weapon we have to correct this egregious imbalance that is at the root of our seemingly interminable political crisis.

Therefore, we must mobilize now and vote for democracy, equality before the law, and economic policies that support the vast majority of Americans—by voting for Democrats in the midterms.

Simply put, there can be no false equivalences on these matters. Read the voting rights legislation that the Democratic Party is committed to passing: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the election-related components of the For the People Act.  All of it is straightforward common sense, designed to improve the operation of US elections, facilitating greater participation. None of it restricts voting or corrupts the process in a partisan manner.

Of course, these laws will achieve something else equally important. They will block the various ways that Republicans plan to pervert elections to their benefit—by purging voting rolls, by limiting access to voting, putting up barriers to registration, establishing arcane rules about how votes are processed, and even how elections are finalized—and this is to say nothing of widespread Republican support for Trump's Big Lie and the embrace of Authoritarian despots like Hungary's Victor Orban by Republican elites, including Tucker Carlson, arguably the most influential pundit in the country.

The difference between the two parties is night and day. Voting rights were one of the great achievements of the 1960s civil rights movement. However, the Right-wing Supreme Court turned its back on that historical accomplishment with its hideous 2013 Shelby County ruling.  The John Lewis Voting Rights Act re-establishes the central tenets of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Even if no other matter were on the ballot this year, surely this is enough cause for every person who wants to live in a just, democratic society to cast a ballot this fall.

Similarly, the Democrats commitment to codifying Roe v Wade and re-establishing, by an act of Congress, a woman's right to control her own body as the law of the land should itself be cause for every person who believes in equality to vote Democratic—let alone the fact that it will literally save the lives of countless women.

I'm a Gen Xer, raised in the wake of second-generation feminism and the Roe decision. I do not know a single person who does not, as a matter fact and nature, accept the full equality of women and the right of all people to control their own bodies. Yet today this is not the law of the land. Who can possibly accept this? What kind of moronic troglodyte thinks that the State should rule over women's bodies? And why would anyone not vote if they understood that their vote would reverse this tyranny?

C'mon people. Wake up! If you're reluctant to vote Democrat in your local congressional race because the nominee is not the progressive you supported in the primary, you must recognize that you are not voting for the candidate in this election you are voting for a woman's right to choose and the preservation of democracy. Plain and simple. Sitting out this election is a sin against all that progressives, and people of conscience, have fought for over the past century and a half.

In recent elections, the Democrats mobilized unprecedented millions of Americans through fear of Donald Trump—now, the message is positive: elect Democrats to Congress in 2022 and they will make history, passing laws that will secure our democracy and ensure equality.

As a Progressive Democrat, I know well the recent history of broken promises by establishment Democrats, so I've done my due diligence, reaching out to Senators and Senate candidates. I can report that other than Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, all 47 returning Democrats are committed to supporting a filibuster “carve out" to pass voting rights and codify Roe v Wade. Incoming Vermont Senator Peter Welch feels the same, as do the Democratic nominees for Senate in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida. We need two of those five candidates to win (though all five would be great), combined with holding onto the House majority, to secure the passage of these historic bills.

With two glorious acts of Congress we will have set back the 60-year reactionary counter-offensive against the Civil Rights Movement and the rights of women like never before! It will be a glorious day for everyone in America and around the world who believes in Democracy and equality; and who has watched in horror as anti-democratic forces have gained strength around the world over the past decade. “No Pasaran!" we will declare! This is, and will remain, a democratic society with equality for all under the law!

On top of that, and of almost equal importance, is the fact that when the Democrats use a filibuster carve-out to overturn the rulings of an activist, politicized Supreme Court, it sets a powerful precedent that the Congress will no longer take a back seat to the courts in determining the law of the land when the two are in conflict.  Indeed, the Constitution is clear about the primary role of Congress—and by extension the people who elected Congress—in establishing laws.  By overruling the Shelby and Dobbs rulings—and confirming the 1965 Voting Rights Act and Roe v Wade—Congress itself will be asserting the country's commitment to democracy over autocracy, as embodied by a Supreme Court captured by the reactionary right.

But have no illusions, this has to happen now, in this election, or the opportunity will likely be lost! The Senate map for the 2024 election cycle is daunting, with Democrats defending 23 seats and the Republicans only 10.  The prospect of Democratic gains in the Senate in 2024 are next to nil—and Democrats need to control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency to pass this historic legislation. Two years of inaction, let alone four, when the right-wing courts are rampant seems unfathomable.  So, no matter whether your local Democratic candidate is a progressive champion or a milquetoast moderate, there's only one way to vote in 2022 (unless you don't give a damn about democracy or equality).

The 2022 midterms are indeed a moment of truth—so, why is this not a landslide? On the one hand there's the age-old problem of a Democratic Party unable to channel urgency or passion (perhaps because the “moderate" wing of the Party has been more interested in being stewards of the status quo than champions of the people), but on the other there's the reality of a turbulent economy. On both fronts we need to emulate Bernie Sanders, who is barnstorming the country in the final two weeks like no other politician in the country.

On economics, I am not na├»ve. I understand the insidious, vertigo-inducing impact of inflation on poor, working, and middle-class households—and the tendency to blame the incumbent party for economic woes. However, much like with the crisis of democracy and equality, the Democrats should be able to rout the Republicans on this matter because, as Bernie always highlights, only the Democrats have popular, positive proposals.

There are three main categories to address concerning inflation: 1. How to provide relief for besieged Americans 2. How to combat the immediate causes of inflation and 3. How to address the long term causes. On all three fronts the Democrats can run circles around the GOP.

First, only the Democrats will push through popular relief measures like the reintroduction of a $600 childhood tax credit, which would seriously help working households suffering because of inflation (and, of course, reduce child poverty).

Second, the Republicans would never touch the equally-popular Democratic proposal for a windfall tax on corporations, whose excessive profits are a major contributor to current inflation.  Not only will this measure force businesses to lessen their gouging of consumers, but the money raised by the tax can be paid directly to poor, working and middle-class households.

Lastly, the Democrats should be crowing about how, unlike Trump, they have passed no fewer than three major pieces of legislation (the Infrastructure Act, the Chips act, and the Inflation Reduction Act) that are revamping US manufacturing—and thus address one of the main causes of the current inflation: the supply-chain breakdowns that have plagued America and the world since the onset on the pandemic. Democrats should be shouting from the rooftops that they are the Party, not the Republicans, who are already bringing back high-wage manufacturing jobs to the US and helping make America immune to the higher costs created by broken supply chains.

Combine these three points about inflation with the urgency of protecting our democracy and equal rights for all citizens and, even at this late hour, these midterms should be a landslide for the Democrats—but, in closing, I want to take it one step further.

As mentioned briefly above, I think the roots of the right-wing's current offensive against American democracy lie in the cavernous divide in wealth distribution that has grown over the past four decades.

The United States now stands apart from every other rich industrialized democracy in the world in the “Gini Coefficient"rankings, which measures a country's degree of wealth inequality.  In the latest ranking, the United States ranks as having the world's 46th worst level of wealth inequality.  The next worst of the prosperous democracies is Italy, conspicuously ranked at 92nd (giving the, perhaps-accurate, impression that the USA is twice as bad in this regard as any other comparable country).  Indeed, the non-USA rich democracies are clotted together among the better third of nations - from East Asia, Australia/NZ, Canada, and Western Europe.

You don't have to be a political scientist to get the message, per the crisis of American democracy. The USA is ranked alongside countries with either failed or fledgling democracies or that have no democratic tradition at all—clearly, democracy doesn't fit with countries with USA levels of wealth inequality.  The reason for this is equally obvious: when a few people own everything in a society, they don't want to bother with interference from the people.

As you can see, we have a problem on our hands.  Fortunately, the democratic tradition runs deep in American society—but it's up to us to save it, right now.

After all, even when it comes to redistributing wealth, it's hard to see how that can be achieved in the United States unless through democratic action (combined, no doubt, with the labor movement, which itself requires support through the democratic process).

Without our democracy, American society will truly be adrift. Now is the time to save it at all costs—and then let's set about using it right—getting money out of politics, supporting the labor movement, protecting the environment, taxing the wealthy, fully funding public education, establishing universal single payer health care, passing a $15 minimum wage, building a just society, fulfilling Dr. King's vision.

None of that is on the horizon, unless we short circuit the right-wing's assault on our democracy and our rights. That has to start now—with this election.

Vote and tell all of your family, friends, and co-workers to vote too.

Let's win this thing and get to work for the people and the planet!


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Thursday, October 27, 2022

NAFSCE Condems "exclusionary narratives that deploy divisive tactics”

 

EDUCATION ADVOCATES JOIN FORCES TO CONDEMN GROWING DIVISIVE RHETORIC IN SCHOOLS, POLITICS

The National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement and 20 other organizations seek to reclaim family engagement as an essential strategy for equity

ALEXANDRIA, VA (October 26, 2022) - The National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE), the nation’s first professional membership association focused solely on advancing family, school, and community engagement, condemns what it calls “exclusionary narratives that deploy divisive tactics” to misrepresent family engagement as a strategy to pull communities apart, rather than bring them together. In a powerful public statement to launch its “Healing the Growing Divide” initiative, supported by 20 other education organizations, NAFSCE points to a “current political narrative which misrepresents family engagement” characterized by “an array of polarizing discussions which have divided the school community - placing families, teachers, administrators, support staff, community organizations and others on conflicting sides.”

“This is contrary to what family engagement is,” the statement goes on to say. “We believe that authentic family, school, and community engagement does not seek to alienate any families or students from receiving an inclusive and culturally responsive public education.”

NAFSCE’s “Healing the Growing Divide” initiative seeks to reclaim family engagement as an essential strategy for advancing equity and inclusion. Instead, in a growing number of communities and school districts, efforts to ban books, alienate certain families and students, marginize teachers, and diminish the professionalism of educators have resulted in a misrepresentation of family engagement as a strategy designed to drive a wedge between the many stakeholders whose very collaboration is essential to student success. Specifically, NAFSCE points to:

  • Using one group of families to speak out on issues that explicitly attack or exclude other students and families.

  • Using families as watchdogs against educators instead of as partners.

  • Forcing educators to explicitly exclude or to stifle the inclusion of students and families, particularly marginalized communities, due to their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or in other discriminatory ways, through the curriculum being taught, restrictions on curriculum, the language they are allowed to use, or through other teaching practices.

NAFSCE and its partners are calling on supporters to speak out against narratives and tactics that divide and exclude. Signing onto the statement and similarly urging others to stand for authentic family, school, and community engagement are:


20th Legislative District, Illinois

The 1647, Inc.

Children’s Equity Coalition

Coaction Collective

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation

The Education Trust

The Federation for Children with Special Needs

The Flamboyan Foundation

Learning Heroes

MAEC, Inc

National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment

National Family Support Network

One Green Apple, LLC

Parent Education For Exceptional Children 

Parent Institute for Quality Education

The Parents’ Place of MD

Parents for Public Schools of Greenwood & Leflore County

Reachwell

[Ohio] State Support Team Region 7

 

Others can sign the statement of support by visiting nafsce.org/page/HealingtheGrowingDivide. Additionally, NAFSCE is calling on supporters to share their own stories and experiences about how family and community engagement has helped to reconcile conflict and advance equity, diversity, and inclusion. A link to share stories is available on their website, as well.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Michael Moore Predicts . . .

For three weeks now, I’ve written a daily missive to you giving you the facts and the truth (as I see it) about our chances to win big in the Midterm elections. The majority of these have been written while I was in bed recovering from Covid-19. It’s hard to write while lying down and typing for hours at a time on a phone. I miss my Blackberry, I miss the beautiful blue screen of WordPerfect. I don’t miss my Commodore 64.  

Two things I’ve noticed from the reaction you all have been sending me: 

1) The majority of you have enthusiastically joined me in my belief that we are going to crush these traitorous coup-supporting Republicans who have stripped women of basic human rights and seek to destroy the rest of a Democracy that is seriously hanging on by a thread; and

2) The rest of you are in full panic attack mode. Instead of believing in my fact-based optimism, you think I might have rose-colored glasses on. You want to believe I’m right, but you’ve bought into the pundit and pollster orgy of “analysis” about how the Republicans are now “surging” and that the country has turned against the Democrats who seem to have happily given us record inflation, rampant crime and trans restrooms in every elementary school. 

“Mike, I hope you’re right, but I’m afraid you’re not” is the line everyone in this second group writes to me.

But the majority of you are fired up and working as hard as you can to get out the vote. You are convinced that we can pull this off. You aren’t “hoping” we win — you are making sure we are going to win. You know the Trumpsters are indeed traitors for staging a violent coup attempt to overturn our 2020 presidential election (while hanging Mike Pence and killing Nancy Pelosi in the process). You know these Republicans won’t stop until Trump is back in the White House. Which would mean the end of the U.S. as we know it. 

I understand the rest of you are scared shitless. Hey — so are we! In the past week, the media has been force-feeding us nonstop hourly reports of the Republicans “pulling ahead,“ and reporting that now the American people are convinced that the Democrats and Joe Biden personally are to blame for the temporarily high gas prices, the outrageous costs of Halloween candy, the Black men (!) who are going to mug you and the starving American babies in need of formula that Biden must be hoarding somewhere. 

These stories are then followed by new polls showing Americans abandoning Democratic candidates and pledging to vote for Republicans who had wrecked the economy under Trump, blundered the response to Covid-19 which left one million Americans dead, and continue to propagate the Big Lie that Trump actually won the election and Joe Biden is not the true president. These same Republicans, who seek to ban all abortion, who want to end same-sex marriage, who supported Trump’s two trillion dollar tax break for the rich — well, according to the press and the pundits, they have an excellent chance to do well on November 8th. 

So I see why you are starting to believe the new Conventional Wisdom. Especially when it is delivered to you by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the PBS Newshour and our friends on MSNBC and CNN. They can’t all be wrong. They mean well. They do important work. 

But we’re a nation now trained not to use the critical thinking lobe in the brain God and/or nature gave us. And so as soon as the Times says, “Voters See Democracy in Peril, but Saving It Isn’t a Priority”, we start to shake, our hearts race, tears well up and we immediately buy the new story — even though I, your humble narrator, have given you 24 big facts, 24 real truths to the contrary — plus singing to you in the middle of the night a Midterm lullaby! — while  providing you a logical roadmap to our midterm Blue Tsunami. 

And then this morning we wake up to this in the Washington Post: 

“Democrats fear the midterm map is slipping away: Polls in both the House and Senate show improvements for Republicans amid economic and crime concerns.” 

Yet, according to an NBC poll also this morning, a slight majority of Americans say they want the Democrats in control of Congress. And I am convinced that, if we all do our work in the next two weeks, we will have that majority in both houses.  

(Photo by Rafa Elias)

So why believe me? The guy in a ballcap with just a high school degree? The guy who tried to warn you in 2016, five months before the election, that Trump was going to win. Most howled and denounced me for stating what to me, living in the Midwest, was sadly obvious. It was like running down the middle of the street with my hair on fire screaming “Bloody murder!” but few would listen. I even made a quick documentary called “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” where I risked my life to try and convince a few hundred Ohio Trump supporters that they could both “not like Hillary AND vote for her!”. I soon realized that that form of complex thinking was not possible for this group of MAGA Americans. Nonetheless, it was the #1 most-watched piece of television on iTunes for eight weeks (“The Walking Dead” was #2). I’d like to think I helped to close the gap ‘cause in the end Trump only won because he got an average of two votes more per precinct than Hillary did in Michigan. Yes, you read that right. Two votes per precinct, two people who just stayed home on Election Day, two people you forgot to remind to vote, two people per precinct who didn’t use iTunes because they liked Vudu instead. 

So I’d like to finish by addressing those of you who are terrorized and depressed because the media has you convinced your fellow Americans are now back on the Trump bandwagon. 

Let’s go over the one main fact that should guarantee the winning of ANY election:

There are more of us than there are of them! By the MILLIONS!

  • Democrats have won the popular vote in 7 of the last 8 presidential elections. 

  • Amongst 33 states and territories who let you affiliate with a party when you register to vote, there are currently 48 million registered Democrats vs. 36.4 million registered Republicans. 

  • There are also 35.3 million registered independents. And a recent WSJ poll has Democrats with a 38%-35% edge over Republicans among independents.

  • The vast majority of Americans agree with us on ALL the major issues — legal abortion (62%), climate crisis (75%), minimum wage (62%), paid family leave (70%), legal marijuana (91%), unions (71%), Medicare for all (69%), Equal Rights Amendment for women (78%), mass incarceration, tax the rich (80%), free college (58%), free pre-K+ (71%), stopping voter suppression, LGBTQ+ rights (71%), take money out of politics, more gun control (70%), etc. 

The people are already with us — by a wide margin. So how can we lose?

By failing to get out the vote — a vote that is ours if we want it.

Are we going to let that happen? We can’t just talk about it. We have to DO IT. 

What did each of you do this weekend to guarantee a victorious turnout on November 8th (and to get people out now in the states where early voting is taking place)? If you weren’t able to do anything, may I ask you to do a favor for me? 

There are only 2 weekends left before the election. Will you send me a personal, private email and tell me what you may be able to do and/or aregoing to do in each of these next two weekends to get out the vote? It can be anything! Just drop me a note at mike@michaelmoore.com. If it helps, make this written commitment to me of what you will do in these next 16 days. It can be as simple as reminding your cousin to vote. Or helping your grandma. Or taking five people with you to the polls — and then to lunch or dinner afterward. Sign up with Grassroots Democrats HQDemocratic Volunteer CenterDemocratic National Committee, or Sunrise Movement to do phone banking from home. Or drive to Pennsylvania or Nevada or North Carolina or Ohio for a couple days of door-to-door campaigning. 

But I want you to write me and tell me what you’re going to do. It’s all private. I won’t post anything. I just want to know I’m not doing this by myself!

Some of you have written me to ask “What if you are wrong?” Well, the only way I can be wrong about the Blue Tsunami is that if all of you do nothing. If you want me to suffer that embarrassment(!), then just do nothing to bring out the vote. One person wrote me and asked, “If you are wrong and we lose, will you post an apology?” Ha! How can I apologize for the millions if we fail to do our job? If we lose, it won’t be on me, it’ll be on all of us. So let’s not let that happen. Let’s prove ourselves right! Let’s turn the “hope” of us winning into actual winning! 

It really is this simple. Your small action can make all the difference. It’s a real joy to be doing this with you.

And now let me leave you with this…

“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." 
     
— Anne Frank

Sunday, October 02, 2022

How to Make Sure Christian Nationalist Charter Schools Stay Out of Your State

For now, Larry Arnn and the Christo-fascists of Hillsdale College have retreated from Tennessee after local citizens in three different counties showed up to say "we don't want your Bircher propaganda schools here."

The other reason for the hasty retreat has to do the enduring scrutiny of Governor Bill Lee's central role in plans to turn over taxpayer funds to establish and maintain the re-education schools intended to radicalize the next generation of anti-democratic authoritarians at public expense.

But you can bet that Hellsdale will be back knocking on Nashville's door after the election if the hereford-pestering Bill Lee is re-elected as governor of the state.  So how do you keep the pseudo scholar at Hillsdale out of the state?  

Get to work electing a decent man, Dr. Jason Martin, who supports public funds for public schools, citizens' rights to make their own health care decisions, expanding health and dental care to those who now qualify for Medicaid funds that are blocked by TN Trumpists, and the renewal of American democracy to include everyone, regardless of disability, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or religion.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Michael Moore: I Have Never Felt This Optimistic | Real Time with Bill M...

So if you are sick and tired of

--stacked SCOTUS decisions that take away the established legal rights of citizens to make their own health decisions, love decisions, and voting decisions;

--fascist politicians deciding which books your children can check out from their school and public libraries;

--billionaire ideologues choosing a white-washed version of history for your children that ignores the research of historians, educators, and curriculum specialists;

--white nationalists who seek to replace the teaching of science with religious dogma;

--racist authoritarians enacting plans to elect political puppets hostile to the concept and practice of constitutional democracy and the rule of law;

Then, get out your checkbooks, put on your walking shoes, sign up to volunteer, and get five other people to the polls to vote--five who would not do so, otherwise. WE CAN DO THIS!

And take 5 minutes to view this video clip:

Thursday, September 22, 2022

KIPP DC School Allows Five-Year Old to Leave School Unaccompanied

 In 2021, a KIPP DC school allowed allowed a 9-year old boy to leave school without an adult.  While his mother waited on the outside where a staff member was supposed to bring him, according to school protocol, the boy was left to roam and to exit another door.  While crossing the street, he was hit by a car and mortally injured.  After months of suffering, the boy died.

The boy's mother recently filed a $50 million lawsuit for negligence.

Yesterday, another KIPP DC parent was asking tough questions about another example of negligence by, yet, another KIPP DC school.  Seems this time around the school once again broke protocol and allowed a 5-year old girl to leave the building and the premises alone after school.  The child was found on his grandfather's front porch by a neighbor.

Apparently, having $80 million of the taxpayers' money in the KIPP DC bank accounts does nothing to make sure children are safe or cared for.

Friday, September 16, 2022

KIPP DC Audit Adds to Disturbing Picture of Financial Mismanagement

In light of remaining unanswered questions related to the embezzlement at KIPP DC of over $2.2 million over an 18 month period (see here and here), the latest available audit raises additional concerns about KIPP DC's ability and commitment to financial transparency and competence.

KIPP DC was flagged in December 2021 for what independent auditors referred to as a "significant deficiency."

KIPP DC Public Charter Schools and Affiliate
Schedule of Findings and Questioned Costs (Continued) Year Ended June 30, 2021

Section II. Financial Statement Findings

 
Significant Deficiency
Finding 2021-01—Search for Unrecorded Liabilities

 
Criteria: Based on the principles contained within auditing standards generally accepted in the United States and Government Auditing Standards, management is responsible for the maintenance of internal control over financial reporting with the objective that financial statements are accurate under generally accepted accounting principles.

 
Condition: During our search for unrecorded liabilities, we noted construction in progress activity incurred through June 30, 2021, that was not recorded or properly accrued for at June 30, 2021.
 

Cause: Management did not have adequate controls implemented around the review of construction contracts and commitments to ensure costs incurred, but not yet invoiced were properly accrued for.
 

Effect: The error unreported assets, specifically property and equipment, and liabilities by approximately $5,209,000.
 

Recommendation: We recommend management develop additional controls over the review of construction contracts and commitments to ensure all costs incurred are properly recorded in the correct period.

 
Views of responsible individuals: Management agrees with the finding and recommendation. See corrective action plan for further information (p.8).

Given the fact that KIPP DC's net assets in 2019 were over $144,000,000, with over half of that in cash or assets that could be readily turned into cash, it would seem that some oversight would be forthcoming.  

Except, of course, that KIPP DC's corporate board is in place as a protection racket rather than public accountability for the billions of public dollars that KIPP DC, Inc. has garnered.

 


 

The Columbia University Con Feeds the U.S. News Con

The Columbia University Con Feeds the U.S. News Con

James Horn, PhD

Every year U.S. News publishes its historically dubious rankings of America's private and public colleges and universities, rankings that are based upon unverified data provided by the institutions that are being ranked. While the rankings should be considered worthless by the parents, kids, and counselors who use them to make education decisions based on faked numbers rather than real human needs and wants, the rankings are worth lots and lots to the institutions that use massaged stats in order to jack up tuition costs that bring in millions of very real dollars. 

Colleges and universities, whether ivy league of bush league, then use the free money obtained from unsuspecting parents and students to fund the insatiable management bureaucracies that dwarf the full-time faculties at Columbia University, for instance, which last year deceived its way to a #2 U.S. News ranking. 

Today a Columbia undergrad pays over $65,000 for tuition and fees and another $20,000 for room and board.

In a rare example of education justice, last year the Dean of Temple University’s Richard J. Fox School of Business and Management was apprehended after years of using fake data to run up U.S. News rankings for Temple's virtual MBA program to #1.  Temple's cash cow was growing very fat until last November, when Dean M. Moshe Parat was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy, and in May of this year sentenced to sent to serve 18 face-to-face months in a brick and mortar federal prison for his actions.

The recent exposure of Columbia University's fakery has upended its steady slither up the U.S. News rankings from #18 to #2, and today the Guardian has an updated story featuring Columbia math professor, Dr. Michael Thaddeus, who exposed the charade.  It's well worth your read.

Professor Thaddeus says he had been radicalized by his three years (2017-2020) as Chair of the Math Department at Columbia, where he learned the extent of the bloated management fiefdom at Columbia and the strategies of subterfuge and secrecy that the Administration uses to keep faculty and students in the dark. The results over the past 20 years of ginning the rankings have had real impacts:

“It’s clear that the growth of university bureaucracies and administration has been a major driver of the cost of higher education growing much, much faster than inflation. We now have about 4,500 administrators on the main campus, about three times the number of faculty, and that’s a new development over the past 20 years,” he [Thaddeus] said.

Wouldn't it be interesting to do some research on these kinds of real numbers for other colleges and universities?

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Tough Questions Remain After $2.2 Million Stolen by KIPP DC Technology Director, Part 2

According to KIPP DC's top-heavy bureaucracy, unnamed individuals found out the $2.2 million was missing from their $140+ million pot "during a routine review" in December 2021.  As noted in Part 1, this came 20 months after KIPP began writing a steady stream of checks for thousands of tablets, laptops, software, and services that were never delivered, or even ordered. One month later, the ringleader of this scam, Kevin Ward, committed suicide. 

Now the question arises: did any KIPP employee contact Mr. Ward about the imbalance in the technology ledger prior to his suicide in January 2022? Another question Mr. Ward can no longer answer: did any employee of KIPP, besides himself, financially benefit from his thievery from the public purse? And finally, what kind of accounting system allows $2.2 million to be spent with nothing to show for it for more than a year and a half?

According to an anonymous KIPP DC spokesperson, the system had enough tech resources to make sure that students had the epuipment they needed soon after the Covid lockdown began in early 2020:

A KIPP DC spokesperson said despite never receiving technology from Ward’s fraudulent orders, students learning from home during the pandemic used devices purchased from other vendors. Within the first few weeks of the pandemic, middle and high school students received devices that had already been in KIPP DC’s inventory.

So this introduces another question: if KIPP DC inventory was sufficient to satisfy tech needs during Covid virtual school period, why did KIPP DC approve the orders for thousands more tablets and laptops?? Who approved these expenditures??

Will the Washington Post or even a DC local TV station ever ask all these questions?  Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Tough Questions Remain After $2.2 Million Stolen by KIPP DC Technology Director, Part 1

Per usual, corporate media has done a poor job in uncovering the facts surrounding the grand larceny committed by KIPP DC's Senior Director of Technology, Kevin "Scooter" Ward.  Had the federal government not filed a civil lawsuit last week to recover the real estate, cars, motorcycles, art, sports memorabilia, and cash that Ward ripped off over a period of 18 months, we probably would not know about the heist. 

You see, KIPP DC never publicly reported this massive embezzlement, even after Mr. Ward committed suicide in January 2022, just about a month after KIPP DC reportedly noticed that millions of dollars had been spent with nothing to show for it.

Only because of the federal complaint, we now know that between April 2020 and August 2021 Ward was able to place phony orders through a phony company for computers, software, tablets network services, and other information technology services for more than $2.2 million. 

Even though KIPP DC never received a single tablet, computer, or software item, KIPP DC promptly wrote checks to the phony tech company, Tenret Tech, which was created by Ward.  

 

For 18 months, checks were deposited to bank accounts owned by Ward, which he used as his personal piggy bank to buy all sorts of fun stuff, including a Ducati motorcycle, two Teslas, and an Alfa Romeo.

Did no one at KIPP DC wonder why none of the thousands of laptops and tablets were ever received?  Did KIPP not need all the technology that the charter chain wrote checks for during a pandemic when kids were doing virtual school?  Does KIPP DC have so much of the taxpayers' money that $2.2 million spent with nothing to account for it just doesn't matter?  Maybe.

According the KIPP DC's latest publicly available 990, KIPP DC had $149,488,630 in assets in 2020.  That's a remarkable stash for a non-profit corporation with 18 schools and 7,000 students.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of "Tough Questions Remain After $2.2 Million Stolen by KIPP DC Technology Director"


Thursday, September 01, 2022

Columbus Teachers Union Strike Wins Big for Students, Parents, and Teachers

 From Common Dreams:


Teachers Union in Ohio Went on Strike for Students—and Won

"More than 4,000 of our members stood strong on the picket line, our community joined the fight, and we won victories" on multiple issues, said a Columbus Education Association spokesperson.

KENNY STANCIL

Students, teachers, and support staff in Ohio's largest school district returned to the classroom on Monday after the Columbus Education Association won a new contract and ended its weeklong strike.

"Students... are the most important investment in this entire nation."

Gathered at the local minor league ballpark on Sunday, CEA members voted 71% to 29% to approve a three-year contract with Columbus City Schools that satisfies most of the union's demands, which revolved around improving students' learning environments and opportunities.

"We are so excited to get back to where we belong—our classrooms—doing what we do best: educating our students and shaping the future of our great city," CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes said at a press conference.

As The Columbus Dispatch reported, the agreement includes:

  • A contractual guarantee that all student learning areas will be climate controlled no later than the start of the 2025-2026 school year, including installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in buildings currently without HVAC, and in buildings that currently only have partial HVAC;
  • Reductions in class size caps in all grade bands, lowering the number of students in every classroom by two over the course of the contract; and
  • The first-ever limitations on the numbers of buildings assigned to each elementary art, music, and physical education teachers, with scheduling intended for one specialist per subject area per building.

"It is important to remember that just ten short days ago, at our last bargaining session before the strike, CEA was told 'no' on guaranteed air conditioning and heat in every building, 'no' on class size reductions in middle and high schools, and 'no' on improved access to art, music, and P.E. at the elementary level," said Fuentes.

"More than 4,000 of our members stood strong on the picket line, our community joined the fight, and we won victories on all three of these issues," she noted.

In addition to much-needed improvements to learning and working conditions, the roughly 4,500-member union—representing teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, and other education professionals—was able to secure better pay and benefits.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, the new contract includes:

  • A 4% raise each year of the three-year agreement;
  • The first-ever contractual limitation on the number of CEA positions that can be outsourced to out-of-town corporations, "thereby ensuring that our students are educated by experienced professionals from our local community"; and
  • A paid parental leave program for teachers.

The new pact is the result of CEA's first strike since 1975. A whopping 94% of members voted to authorize a work stoppage last Sunday after monthslong negotiations with Columbus City Schools, which the union accused of "walk[ing] away from the bargaining table," collapsed just ahead of the start of the fall semester.

The district's 47,000-plus students spent the first three days of the academic year online. The school board held a special meeting to ratify the contract at 8:00 a.m. CT on Monday, about 30 minutes after students at some schools began in-person instruction.

On Sunday, Fuentes stressed that teachers and support staff nationwide are "tired of settling for the status quo." She expressed hope that CEA's victory will motivate other workers and communities to take action to defend public education from the longstanding and intensifying attacks that have led to increasingly understaffed and ill-equipped classrooms.

"They need to put more of an investment in our students because they are the most important investment in this entire nation," said Fuentes. "It starts here but we want to keep it going."

Monday, July 25, 2022

Why White Nationalist, Larry Arnn, Says Professional Teachers Are the "Dumbest"

In 2011 the neo-conservative website, Human Events, published its list of the ten most harmful books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.  Coming in at #5, right between The Kinsey Report and Das Kapital, was Democracy and Education by John Dewey.  While it may be obvious why wealthy white supremacists would flag Marx and Kinsey, why John Dewey, you may ask.  

The giveaway is in the title, of course, because Dewey's posited that the American democratic aspirations made explicit in the Bill of Rights and other founding documents might be achieved only through the practice of democratic living, which would include, of course, democratic schooling. 

Rather than modeling an embryonic form of democratic living, as Dewey would have schools do, elite paternalists like Arnn want schools to promote an extreme conservative mash-up of protestantism, capitalism, and jingoistic patriotism.  And since 2011, conservatism has become even more narrow, more strident, and more hostile to public institutions that promote democracy.  

The conservative movement has known for decades that the inevitable browning of America and the continued secularization of the Western world would eventually endanger America's 400-year rule by white protestant male elites, and so it comes as no surprise to see Arnn's employer, Hillsdale College, pushing hard to 1) seed its right wing corporate charter schools in as many parts of the country as possible, and 2) attack, diminish, and smear the concept and practice of public education whenever possible.

Before coming to Hillsdale College as President, Arnn spent 15 years as President of the Claremont Institute (1985-2000), which is the intellectual home of John Eastman, who most recently provided the "legal" argument upon which the 2001 Trump insurrection was based. Today Hillsdale serves as a training ground for future Institute "scholars" like Eastman and his fascist collaborators at Claremont.  

This closed circuit between Claremont and Hillsdale that Arnn now oversees constitutes the politically-indecent pseudo-intellectual circle jerk that remains one of the leading threat to American democracy and the rule of non-sectarian law in this country.

Arnn also serves as education advisor to Tennessee's governor, Bill Lee, who you will see in this video sitting quietly on the stage and sipping from his water bottle as Arnn entertains a closed-door meeting of like-minded crusaders with the most outrageous insults and lies about teachers, teacher preparation, and public education in general.  

Since Arnn's comments last month, Lee has said nothing to repudiate Arnn's insults. Last Wednesday Lee did say that he has conversed with Arnn since then, and that "he talked, and I listened." Sounds about right.