Saturday, July 22, 2017

DeVos in Twitter war with AFT

Does this mean, no more school visits together with Randi and Betsy?

Jack Roskopp at Detroit Metro Times reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos "is taking a note from her boss by firing back at her critics on Twitter".
The AFT teacher's union sent out a tweet today saying "@BetsyDeVos says public $ should invest in indiv students. NO we should invest in a system of great public schools for all kids." This prompted DeVos to tweet back at the union with a series of tweets that don't exactly add up. 

AFT responds.
I admit, it's not much of a war. For those who have a hard time making any sense of this tweetspat,  let me try and break it down. Under the direction of Betsy DeVos, the DOE has become little more than an engine for driving school privatization, religious fundamentalism, racism and gender discrimination. Trump's appointment of DeVos to oversee this country's public education system threatens a roll-back of every hard-won gain by the Civil Rights Movement in the past 70 years.

DeVos and her new OCR chief, Candice Jackson are waving the "civil rights" banner as a rationale for private school vouchers, to "liberate" individual students from public ("government") schools.

DeVos claims she wants to focus on civil rights claims "individually" rather than on institutional racism and discrimination, thereby ignoring this country's legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation and their impact on public education.

The AFT, as you might expect wants the OCR to maintain its focus on systemic violations of civil rights like it was under the Obama administration. Without getting into the issue of whether or not the previous administration actually took up the desegregation fight, in this battle, the union is right.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The IL Gov's Race: I don't like Kennedy.

To be honest, I just don't like this guy. 
Needless to say, dumping Rauner is our main goal in next year's race. But until then, I'm trying to sort out the gaggle of Democrats running in the primary. The way things look now, any of them --or Dave the cable guy -- could beat the billionaire incumbent, even in this, the most expensive gov's race in history.

Chris Kennedy is definitely not my favorite among the Dems running for governor. Yes, I know the Kennedy name still puts lots of liberals in nostalgia mode and the name alone may be enough to beat Rauner.

But to be honest, I just don't like the guy. It might have something to do with the way he tried to use his power as head of the U of I Board of Trustees and family wealth (president of the Merchandise Mart) to tarnish the career of my friend and former UIC colleague, Distinguished Prof. of Education, Bill Ayers over something "uncivil" Bill supposedly wrote 40 years earlier about Kennedy's father.

Then there was matter of Kennedy denying a UI teaching job to Prof. Steven Salaita over his tweeting critically about Israel. It was a move that ended up costing the scandal-ridden, cash-strapped university more than $2M in settlement and legal costs and the university president her job.

That kind of pettieness and propensity for taking revenge on critical writers, educators or journalists, belies the progressive line Kennedy is pushing now. Reminds me too much of Trump and Rauner. 

So I couldn't help chuckle while reading this. 

Capitol Fax's Rich Miller:
"Chris Kennedy spoke at the Mom+Baby governors candidate meet and greet yesterday. I didn't see anything on his Twitter page about it, but I'm told about 30 moms and 10 kids had to wait at least half an hour for him to arrive. And it went downhill from there."
And this...
 He was a hot mess. Shirt barely tucked in. He had on biking shoes. He spoke about Trump the entire time. Crazy! 
It was embarrassing. He misquoted stats that our members corrected him on. He got called out on lack of supporting single payer and marijuana legalization. He also starting talking education inequity and misspoke on the cps funding. It was nuts. Story here
Finally, Kennedy won't show his hand on hot-button school reform issues like charters and vouchers. Why not? Makes me suspicious.

Kennedy is welcome to come on Hitting Left and try and prove me wrong. We've already had candidate Ald. Ameya Pawar on and State Sen. Dan Biss will be our in-studio guest on August 4th. Others may soon follow.

It would be nice if there was at least one woman running.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

DeVos has turned her Office of Civil Rights into its opposite

Under the direction of Betsy DeVos, the DOE has become little more than an engine for driving school privatization, religious fundamentalism, racism and gender discrimination. Trump's appointment of DeVos to oversee this country's public education system threatens a roll-back of every hard-won gain by the Civil Rights Movement in the past 70 years.

DeVos in turn, has named Candice Jackson to head the Office of Civil Rights and turned that office into its opposite. It should be renamed, the Office of Maintaining White Male Supremacy. Jackson's recent comments normalizing campus rape are but the latest indicators of the direction the DOE has taken in regards to civil rights enforcement. DeVos has also slashed OCR budget, basically neutering the office when it comes to enforcement.

DeVos claims she wants to focus on civil rights claims "individually" rather than on institutional racism and discrimination, thereby ignoring this country's legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation and their impact on public education.

What this means in practice is often giving equal weight to or favoring the complaints of individual white men who feel discriminated against by race-based affirmative actions; to Christian fundamentalists who feel that civil rights laws impinge on their religious practices; and to men's rights groups who feel oppressed by feminists or by women who have accused them of rape.

All has brought DeVos into direct conflict with Sen. Patty Murray, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. who's among 34 Democratic senators who signed a letter which read:  "You claim to support civil rights and oppose discrimination, but your actions belie your assurances."

They gave DeVos a deadline of July 11 to provide a list of all open Office for Civil Rights cases involving a transgender student, open cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment, and cases that have been closed or dismissed since Jan. 1. DeVos ignored the deadline.

DeVos is also being sued by IL Atty. General Lisa Madigan and 18 other state attorneys general who want the DOE to hold for-profit schools (like Trump Univ.)  accountable for unscrupulous practices/ These include lying about accreditation and job placement, and luring millions of Americans to enroll in programs that ultimately leave them trapped in a lifetime of paralyzing student loan debt.

The problem with the Dems' is that the Department under Obama's appointee, Arne Duncan, was also weak on civil rights enforcement, especially in the area of school desegregation. Duncan proclaimed that he was opposed to "forced integration" recalling memories of 1950s southern segregationists. Other appointees, like former Asst. Sec. Peter Cunningham, have been outspoken in opposition to school desegregation being a front-burner issue.

It's telling that Sen. Murray and her Democratic colleagues never mention race or racism, English language learners, or students with disabilities in any of their polemics with DeVos and confine their criticisms almost entirely to issues of gender and transgender discrimination.

A serious blind spot.

Monday, July 17, 2017


"We want the USGA to dump sexist Trump because women and men deserve to make sure that they are safe and that sexual predators are not considered ambassadors of sports." -- Protesting Trump at U.S. Open
Catherine Rampell
Everything is a distraction from something much, much worse. -- Washington Post 
Walt Gardner 
It's so easy to scapegoat teachers' unions for all the ills afflicting public schools ("State of the Teachers Union," The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.
But what these critics don't admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong?  (Correlation is not causation.)  Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means. -- Reality Check
 Jessica Valenti
 Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise from DeVos, who appointed Candice Jackson as a civil rights official in the education department – a woman who denounced feminism and claimed she was a victim of discrimination for being white. -- Betsy DeVos enabling rape deniers 
Fired Rauner staffer
“We fought for the governor [to hijack the state budget for two years] with our very last breath only to find out he was planning to fire us anyway. We gave him everything, blood and guts, and this is what we got. A kick out the door.” -- Sneed
Trevor Timm
 The Robert Mueller special counsel investigation into Trump and Russia could take years to complete. And it probably won’t directly lead to Trump himself being indicted. Mueller is likely to submit his findings on Trump himself to Congress for action rather than bringing an indictment. And if people really think Republicans are going to impeach Trump, they are kidding themselves. -- Guardian

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Grifters

With school out and Trump and his grifter family sucking up all the media energy, it's been hard for this blogger to stay focused on education politics. Talking (on Hitting Left) and writing about even the hot ed issues, like charter schools, vouchers and testing madness, while the country is facing its worst constitutional crisis in half-a-century, sounds to many of my readers (rightfully so) like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It brings me little satisfaction or relief.

Like most of us, I've increasingly been turned into a spectator on RussiaGate, staring at times in disbelief, with eyes glazed over at CNN or MSNBC, spitting out invectives at the TV screen while the grifter family saga plays out with never-ending cast of talking heads. It's a parade of  Trump and anti-Trump lawyers, former and current CIA operatives, Republican pols abandoning ship, Democrats with little to offer except "we not Trump in 2018", and so forth -- dredged out to normalize political criminality and the greatest redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top, in history.

Where is this going? How do we as a nation, extricate ourselves from the rule of the most corrupt, anti-democratic regime since the Nixon era. Trump won't resign like Nixon. If he did, no Pence presidential pardon could save him and his grifter family from prison and loss of their empire because Pence himself is culpable. They all go down together.

Maybe pack all the grifters into Air Force 1, land at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow and request political asylum ala Edward Snowden? Not likely.

Impeachment? Possible, especially after Mueller's committee releases its findings. But that could take years.

25th Amendment? A "liberal fantasy" writes Politico's Jeff Greenfield. He's right.

Electoral strategy? Most likely, but problematic. Mid-term elections are coming up with a chance for Dems to take back the House and Senate. If this happens, Trump and his grifter family are toast. If not, 2020 seems like a sure bet. The problem is a Democratic Party split in half between neo-liberals and progressives, with nothing to offer the poor and working class on the most important issues. The DNC leadership continues to direct it's main blow at the Sanders left instead of the Republicans.

Check out Howard Dean, now, according to The Intercept, working for a health care lobbying firm to attack Bernie Sanders on single-payer.

"We're not Trump" may do it without the left. Or not.

Third party politics continues to be a bad spoiler joke with Greens (whites), liberal libertarians, and others invisible between elections. No base.

National Tenant March
A DISTRACTION? Some of my readers argue that all this Russomania is just a distraction, keeping us from talking about the important things like health care, education and racism. They have a point. But flipping the script for a minute, it's also meant death for the Republican agenda, ie. killing Obamacare, tax-"reform", etc... It has also left Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos, isolated and cowering over at the DOE.

Not to say there isn't great damage being done, especially a roll-back of civil rights gains won in the '60s. This includes restricting voting rights, which can only help Repugs in 2018 and '20.

Sound depressing? Snap out of it, I tell myself. As I'm writing this, thousands of tenants and housing rights activists are converging on Washington, D.C., for a National Tenant March. The march is protesting Trump’s "war on the poor", particularly his proposed $7.4 billion cuts to HUD, or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing in the United States. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is among the scheduled speakers.

Monday, July 10, 2017


“I’m here because I oppose how education in Germany is structured, that they’re training us to be workers and not thinkers.” -- Hendro Myrow, 18, a student in Hamburg.

Sydney Chaffee, 2017 National Teacher of the Year
Let’s work to ensure that education represents liberation. Let’s keep our ears and hearts open to our students’ brilliance, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Let’s envision education as a time machine that helps our students travel to worlds we have only imagined — ones that are built on ideals of justice and equity and collaboration. -- National Education Association 
47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar, candidate for governor in IL
Ald. Ameya Pawar
"You have to have a progressive income tax. We owe what we owe [to state pensioners] and if I'm elected, we will make good on that promise...We can't allow the pension system to go belly-up and by extension, to allow the city to go belly-up. I have always voted to protect pensions. I don't know that everyone in the race can say that." -- Interview on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Bros. 
Rahm Emanuel's big lie
“What’s very, very important for the people in Chicago, all of the taxpayers and all of the employees and employers, all four of our pensions — police pensions, fire pensions, laborers pension and municipal employees pension — you have a secure retirement now.” -- Chicago Tribune 
French President Emmanuel Macron as G20 ends
“Our world has never been so divided.” -- Washington Post 
Pope Francis warns G20 about 'dangerous alliances'
 "The G20 worries me, it hits migrants in countries in half of the world and it hits them even more as time goes by." He said the greatest danger concerned immigration, with "the poor, the weak, the excluded and the marginalised" juxtaposed with "those who... fear the invasion of migrants". -- Reuters
Sen. Rob Portman's code word for Jews?
 “We aren’t going to allow a handful of Socialists, many of whom are from New York, to disrupt our ability to serve the needs of the Ohio constituents who contact us in need of vital services every day,” -- Washington Post  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Will IL legislators have enough spine to override Gov. Junk's veto?

Today's funniest quote comes from Gov. Junk himself: "The people should come first in Illinois, not Wall Street."
Push comes to shove today in Springfield when a group of Republicans, facing right-wing death threats,  may stand with Dems and do the right thing by ending the state's budget nightmare. IL is now in its third year of operating without a budget, mainly because a sociopathic, ideology-driven governor has been able to use his veto power over the Democratic majority to try and bust the unions and dismantle the state's social services. 

Gov. Bruce "Junk" Rauner, in true Trumpian style, and with special enmity towards Chicago's working poor, has intentionally pushed the city as well as the state to the brink of bankruptcy. He's forced excessive borrowing to pay pension costs and operating expenses at exorbitant rates, thereby reducing credit ratings to "junk" status and lining the pockets of Wall Street banksters with billions in high interest payments for years to come. 

But with elections around the corner and Gov. Junk's approval ratings in the toilet, a group of 15 Republicans, not wanting to go down with the sinking GOP ship, may break ranks and vote today to override Rauner's veto and keep the state, at least for now, from going under. 

I predict they will.

Ald. Ameya Pawar
Tune in to Hitting Left tomorrow at 11 (Chicago time) on Lumpen Radio when our in-studio guest will be Ald. Ameya Pawar, one of the Democratic candidates in next year's governor's race. I'm sure he will have plenty to say about today's budget vote and its implications for the race.