Self-Serving Public Servants – Trump, DeVos and the Rise of the Plutocrats

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-2-47-00-pm

 

This election cycle we have witnessed a subtle change to our political landscape – and it’s probably not the one you’re thinking about.

 

It’s not that Republicans have gained control of a large chunk of our government. It’s not that racists, anti-feminists and xenophobes have been emboldened by their Presidential pick winning the highest office in the land. It’s not even that the Democrats have been exposed as weak, blind and cheaply bought.

 

Well, it’s not just those things.

 

There’s something deeper and even more unprecedented going on here.

 

It used to be that the wealthy bribed politicians to do their bidding. Now the wealthy are becoming the politicians.

 

I don’t mean just millionaires. They’ve always been willing to fill an elected office. I mean the mega-rich. I mean billionaires. The Crassuses, The Midases, the Astors, The Rockefellers.

 

Sure, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have always used their offices to enrich themselves. They enter the houses of government as moderately middle class but leave with pockets bursting and the opportunity to snag even more riches in the future as corporate lobbyists for the industries they were supposed to be regulating.

 

But now people aren’t making their fortunes in Washington. They’re entering the ring already in possession of obscene wealth. And they’re using it out in the open to tell the rest of us what to do.

 

 

This is a profound change in the Trump administration. It’s a change signaled by the President-elect, himself, and those he’s picked to serve on his cabinet of billionaires.

 

Until recently, Trump was no politician. He was a conman and reality TV star. He was the rich child of a rich man who spent his inheritance buying stuff, went bankrupt, and then called himself a businessman.

 

To help aide him in his deceptions, he used his fortune to purchase politicians. He famously donated to Hillary Clinton in 2008. Why? Because she represented his interests.

 

Now Trump has forgone the middlewoman. He’s taken the stage, himself. He isn’t pushing his interests forward by giving money to some accepted establishment figure. He is pretending to be that establishment figure, himself. More accurately, he’s pretending to be a maverick. After all, he was the guy who was going to Washington to drain the swamp – yet all he’s done is import more alligators, vines and toxic swamp water.

 

And he’s not alone. He’s championed other wealthy puppet masters to do the same.

 

Look at his pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

 

Her entire career consists of bribing lawmakers so they’ll enact market-driven education policies that benefit herself and other members of her exclusive country club. Huge corporations, hedge fund managers, corporate raiders preying on public schools – everyone gets a piece. Her and her family of privileged religious fanatics and warmongers have pushed for unregulated charter schools, vouchers for tax funding of religious and private schools, and the spread of Common Core for all. None of it affects her or her children who never attended public school. It’s all a matter of ideology and profit so entwined that even she probably doesn’t know which is which anymore.

 

To be Secretary of Education used to require a knowledge of… things, not a sizable bankbook. It used to require some years of experience in the area of education or government. You had to be a teacher or run a school or a district. You had to have at least served in some major capacity as a public servant, as a governor or senator.

 

DeVos has done none of these things. Neither has Trump, in fact. But both have given money to so-called establishment political figures to do what they want. And the same could be said for most of his cabinet picks.

 

In effect, the Trumpsters have pulled down the curtain between Oz the Great and Powerful and the man pulling the strings. They aren’t hiding behind the anonymity of their donations anymore. The rats have crawled out of the woodwork and are doing the job, themselves.

 

It’s somewhat unprecedented.

 

One wonders what will happen if the trend continues. Will we see other wealthy figures take center stage? Will the philanthrocapitalists like Bill Gates run for office? Will the Koch Brothers take matching Senate seats? Will George Soros be appointed Supreme Court Justice? Is Mark Zuckerberg running for Governor?

 

It is very possible. This may be the age of the plutocrat. And the fascist.

 

It certainly shows a lack of fear on their part and a disdain for the voting public.

 

They used to think that we wouldn’t put up with this crap. They used to think that they had to preserve at least the facade of a democracy. Our public servants, we were told, are just little people like us, people of conscience who volunteer to serve the public good. It wasn’t true. Most of them were bought and sold – but now the wealthy aren’t even bothering with the act.

 

They have become so overconfident that they think they can stand out in the open and make the rules themselves – in person.

 

And we won’t do a damn thing.

 

Certainly there is no opposition party. The Democrats are almost as corrupt as the Republicans, and what’s more, they’re much weaker. After 8 years of President Obama, they’ve only lost more state houses, more governors’ mansions, more political offices and prestige. Whenever they’ve been in a position to actually oppose the plutocracy, they’ve mostly limited themselves to empty, symbolic gestures or even tried to mimic the worst behaviors of the GOP.

 

To be fair, there is a mounting insurgency within the Democrats lead by people like Bernie Sanders, Keith Ellison and (to some degree) Elizabeth Warren. But it is a nascent movement at present with an uncertain future. It certainly isn’t worrying the plutocrats unchained.

 

The real wild card here is you.

 

Yes, you.

 

What will you do now that those ruling the world have come out of the shadows? Will you submit to their dominion or will you rise up and fight?

 

That is the question to which no one yet knows the answer. And it is the only opposition that can take back our government, our freedoms, and our democracy.

 

You and me. We make up the numerical majority. When do we get a say? When will we have had enough of being ruled? When will we reject the lottery of birth? When will we rise up and take back what’s rightfully ours?

School Privatization Turns Business Into Predator and Students Into Prey

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-3-37-08-pm

The mother sea turtle struggles to shore to lay her eggs.

 

A typical clutch includes anywhere from 50–350 eggs, which the mother hides under the sand. Her sole contribution to their future complete, she swims away.

 

They incubate underground for 50-60 days. Then just at dusk, the tiny sea turtle hatchlings emerge and struggle their way to the waiting sea and surf.

 

Well they try to get to the sea. Most of them don’t make it.

 

Predators are always lurking in the shadows to pluck up these movable hors d’oeuvres. Sea gulls, crabs, small fish – all are waiting to enjoy a meal of fresh baby sea turtle.

 

It’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive into adulthood.

 

Is that really the model we should be using for our public schools?

 

Because – make no mistake – it is exactly the kind of thing the market-driven model of education is based on.

 

The idea goes something like this: schools should be run like a business. Parents and students should choose between educational institutions, which would then compete for their budget allotments.

 

Some schools would thrive but most would fail – just like in business, athletics or other competitive pursuits. And while these fledgling schools struggle to make ends meet, predators will be waiting in the wings to benefit from their failure and perfidy.

 

To be fair, it’s a model that works well in many circumstances. In business, it ensures that only the best enterprises stay open. In sports, it translates to athletes striving to give there all to prove superiority over competitors.

 

But if we look at it through clear eyes, it’s obvious that this is really just the same as baby sea turtles struggling to get to the ocean. Many will compete. Few will win.

 

That’s a terrible way to run a school. Think about it.

 

We don’t want only our best students to get an education. Nor do we want only our best schools to provide one. We want all schools to provide the best education possible to the highest number possible. Clearly some schools will be better than others. That can’t be helped. However, we can maximize the quality of the education each provides. We can ensure that none fail.

 

That isn’t what the market-driven approach does. It forces schools to compete for their very existence. They have to spend a considerable amount of time and money attracting students to enroll. That’s time and money that doesn’t go to education. It goes to advertising.

 

Moreover, any school that attracts a surplus of students can choose which ones its wants to enroll. The choice becomes the school’s – not the parents’ or students’. In fact, administrators can turn away students for any reason – race, religion, behavior, special needs, how difficult it would be to teach him or her. This is much different from traditional public schools. There, any student who lives in the district may attend regardless of factors such as how easy or difficult he or she is to educate.

 

Another major change with this approach is how these schools will be run. Many of these institutions will be operated privately without the input of a duly-elected school board, without transparency for how they spend tax dollars, without even the guide rails of most regulations.

 

Like in the charter school sector, these schools will get almost free reign to do whatever they want. And we can see the results of this bold experiment already. The predators are lining up to make a meal of their students.

 

Corporate interests offer to run charter schools while cutting services and increasing profits. In fact, administrative costs at charter schools are much higher than at traditional public schools. Students lose, the market wins.

 

Moreover, many charter schools provide a sub-par education. To put it more bluntly, they do things that would be impossible for public schools to do. One in Philadelphia literally transformed into a nightclub after dark. Another funneled profits into the CEO’s personal bank account to be used as a slush fund to buy gifts and pay for rent at an apartment for his girlfriend. Another CEO used tax dollars to buy a yacht cheekily called “Fishin’ 4 Schools.” A study found that cyber-charters provide almost less education than not going to school at all. Even brick and mortar charter schools can close on a moments notice leaving students in the lurch.

 

It’s a Darwinian model made to benefit the predators, not the prey. It’s a boon for any unselfconscious businessman who doesn’t mind getting rich stealing an education from children.

 

By contrast, our traditional public schools are modeled after something else entirely. Instead of offering various kinds of school competing with each other, they provide one basic type that is shielded from predation.

 

In short, public schools are modeled after primate childcare practices – not the egg-laying habits of reptiles. Primates usually have a very limited number of offspring per pregnancy – often just one. Unlike sea turtles, they don’t just lay their eggs and leave their offspring to their own devices. Primates provide excellent care and nurture for their child making sure it is safe from those that would hurt it.

 

This is exactly what public schools do. They provide one basic kind of school. The public gathers twice a month with an elected school board to decide how the school should be run. Most functions of the school are open to public view as are expenditures, documents, etc. And there are regulations that stop the most extreme practices that put students at risk.

 

Public schools aren’t perfect. Neither are primate parents. But the model is child-centered where the goal is all about what’s best for the next generation – every member of that generation.

 

In short, the entire debate about school choice really has little to do with choosing this or that school. It’s about choosing a style of education – public or private, primate or reptilian, one that favors prey or predator.

 

Deep down, the public knows this. That’s why school vouchers have never passed a public referendum despite obscene spending from advocates. That’s why the money behind school choice is almost entirely from the same would-be predators who would benefit from opening our tax dollars and our children to such harm.

 

The media churns out the myth of failing schools and this has had a damaging effect on public perception of public education in general. However, when you ask people about their neighborhood school, opinion is generally high. People like their schools the way they are. Ninety percent of American students attend public school and that’s just the way we like it.

 

We aren’t about to take a chance on a system that instinctually reminds us of neglect. For school choice advocates, it really comes down to ideology. They hate anything public. They hate government in all its forms and wish for the freedom to do as they wish.

 

They wish for the freedom to be a predator – a predator of children.

Why Schools Should NOT Be Run Like Businesses

school-closures

America loves business.

 

We worship the free market. Nothing is more infallible – not reason, not morals, not even God.

 

Money is the true measure of success – the more you have, the better a person you are.

 

This perverted ideology has taken over much of American life. Where we once cared about our country, justice and fair play, today it has all been reduced to dollars and cents.

 

Every problem can be answered by business. Every endeavor should be made more business-like. Every interaction should be modeled on the corporate contract, and every individual should try to maximize the outcome in his or her favor. Doing so is not just good for you, personally, but it’s what’s best for everyone involved. And this dogma is preached by the high priests of the market who claim that as they, themselves, get wealthier, one day we too will reap the same rewards – but that day never seems to come.

 

These principles are articles of faith so deeply ingrained that some folks can’t see past them. They have become the driving force behind our country and much of the world. Meanwhile, most people get ever poorer, our environment gets increasingly polluted and everything is up for sale.

 

One of the last holdouts against this market-driven nightmare is the public school system.

 

We still have widespread educational institutions run democratically at public expense dedicated to providing every child with the tools and opportunities to learn.

 

They’re not perfect. Far from it. But they enshrine one of the last vestiges of the America of our grandparents. Democracy and justice are the system’s core values – not profit, expansion and market share.

 

However, our schools suffer from disinvestment. Since we’ve segregated the rich from the poor into privileged and impoverished neighborhoods, it’s easy to provide more funding and resources to wealthy children and less to poor ones. That’s the main reason why some schools struggle – they haven’t the resources of the Cadillac institutions. Whenever we look at school spending, we look at an average allotment never bothering to consider that most of that money goes to children of the wealthy and much less to poor kids. Nor do we consider that more than half of our public school students live below the poverty line. Public schools strive to overcome the barriers of poverty, but the way we fund them ensures many of them are burdened by these same factors.

 

 

To make matters worse, our federal and state governments have allowed huge corporations to profit off our schools through an industry based on constant standardized testing and then selling schools the remediation materials to pass the tests. That’s all Common Core is – a more efficient way to market text books and test prep materials regardless of their inherent value (or lack thereof) to students. The same people criticizing public schools for being untouched by a business ethic often ignore how much they have already been brutalized by free market capitalism and the profit motive.

 

In any case, despite all these encumbrances, these problems are all surmountable. Doing so only requires us to go in the opposite direction away from the boardroom and the Wall Street subprime bubble. We need to work intrinsically for the good of each student. We need to see them as ends in themselves and not just incidentally for how much profit they can generate.

 

Unfortunately, such a solution is inconceivable to those in power. It goes against everything in which they believe. Too many Americans have been converted to the cult of the market so that the only solution they can support is to double down on what’s not working – to turn public schools even further into a business.

 

It’s absurd. Not everything benefits from being sold for a profit. Imagine if your spouse suggested running your marriage that way. It would turn you both into prostitutes selling yourselves at ever cheaper rates while any self respect, dignity and love disappeared.

 

Some things just are not for sale. Would you give up your deepest held convictions because doing so might help you turn a profit? Today I’m not a Christian, I believe in Baal because he’s got a bigger market share. Today I’m skeptical about gravity because the Acme Parachute Company is offering a bonus to jump out of the tenth floor naked.

 

Only fools let themselves be manipulated in this way. And that’s exactly what corporations and big business are trying to do with our public schools. Make no mistake. These are our institutions – they belong to us – yet privateers see a way to gobble up tax dollars while downgrading the services provided. They want to play us all for suckers even if it means leaving the next generation of poor and middle class children in the lurch. The only thing that matters to them is making bank.

 

They say we should run schools like a business? What kind of business exactly?

 

There are many different kinds of free enterprise. A coal company runs much differently from a restaurant, for example.

 

Public schools are nothing like any for-profit business. Sure, historically we’ve had a small percentage of private schools, but our country has never survived on an education system that is wholly private. By definition, the model does not work for everyone. That’s what the term “private” means – belonging to one person or group and not another. Our schools traditionally serve everyone. No single business in the country does that day-in-day-out. Perhaps we could find some new paradigm that would fit public schools, but let’s not pretend we can take some business model that already exists and apply it willy nilly. At the start, this mindset is naive at best.

 

Second, most businesses fail.

 

Most public schools succeed. They have a proven track record. Why are we going to jump to a model that builds its success on the failure of competitors?

 

Competition means there will be winners and losers. That’s fine in sports. It’s even fine in most goods and services. There’s not so much at stake. If I go to a bad restaurant, I have a bad meal. No big deal. I just go somewhere else tomorrow. If I get a bad education, there is no do over. I’m screwed.

 

That’s just not acceptable. Would you bet your life on opening a new restaurant? Would you bet your child’s education? Schools might not live up to your expectations, but the system isn’t set up from the outset so that some of them will eventually crash and burn.

 

Third, businesses get to choose their raw materials. If you’re making pizzas, you buy the best grains, cheese, tomatoes, etc. But public schools don’t get to choose their students. They have to teach even those who are more difficult to instruct. They accept kids with special needs, kids who’ve been abused, who live in poverty, who are undernourished, etc. And that’s how it needs to be.

 

If we were to follow the typical business model where the goal is merely profit, we would try to find ways to weed out these difficult students and make them someone else’s problem. In fact, that’s exactly what many privately-run charter schools and vouchers schools do. If they want our tax dollars, they shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against our children. We should be seeking to stop such nefarious practices, not universalize them.

 

Finally, businesses are not essentially democratic. Corporations are beholden to their shareholders and businesses are beholden to their founders. Who, exactly, fits that role if we model our school after a business?

 

Public schools are run by democratically elected school boards. Privately run charter and voucher schools often are run by appointees. They aren’t beholden to the public who provide the tax dollars they need to operate. They are beholden to the limited group of people who would profit from them economically.

 

This is a terrible model for public schools. It gives very little back to the taxpayer. It gives less value to the student.

 

Should we run our schools like businesses? Not if we value students and taxpayers more than the handful of investors looking to profit off our dime.

The Child Predator We Invite into Our Schools

th

There is a good chance a predator is in the classroom with your child right now.

He is reading her homework assignments, quizzes and emails. He is timing how long it takes her to answer questions, noting her right and wrong answers. He’s even watching her body language to determine if she’s engaged in the lesson.

He has given her a full battery of psychological assessments, and she doesn’t even notice. He knows her academic strengths and weaknesses, when she’ll give up, when she’ll preserver, how she thinks.

And he’s not a teacher, counselor or even another student. In fact, your child can’t even see him – he’s on her computer or hand-held device.

It’s called data mining, and it’s one of the major revenue sources of ed-tech companies. These are for-profit business ventures that produce education software: programs to organize student information and help them learn. They make databases and classroom management tools as well as educational video games and test prep software.

As schools have relied more heavily on technology to enhance lessons, they’ve invited big business into a space that is supposed to be private.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student privacy, but it also gives school districts the right to share students’ personal information with private companies for educational reasons.

Companies are supposed to keep test scores, disciplinary history and other official records confidential. They’re not supposed to use them for their own ends. But the law was written in 1974 before the Internet went mainstream or many of these technologies were even conceived.

It’s unclear exactly who owns this data or whether FERPA protects it.

For every child utilizing these programs, there’s a good chance their data has been put into a portfolio with their name on it. That portfolio could be sold to advertisers and other business interests so they can better market their products to young consumers. With this information, these companies are turning children into guinea pigs so they can improve the profitability of their products.

Let me be clear. It’s not that technology is essentially evil. There are many ways in which it can be used to enhance student learning when provided under the supervision of a trained educator. But the current laws offer little protection for children and parents from rampant abuse by the ed-tech industry.

In most cases no one explicitly gives permission for student data to be shared. No one knew it was even happening.

This is an area that is almost completely unregulated. Hardly anyone is investigating it. After all, why should they? It’s just harmless big business. It’s just corporations we invited to the party; we may even have paid them to be there.

Individual school districts could write privacy protections into their contracts with ed-tech corporations, but few do.

According to a nationwide study by the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University, just 7 percent of the contracts between districts and ed-tech corporations barred the companies from selling student data for profit.

Few contracts require companies to delete sensitive data when they are done with it. And just a quarter of companies clearly explain why they need personal student information in the first place, according to the same study.

To make matters worse, the publicly stated privacy policies of these corporations can be extremely dense and full of provisos. You may need a lawyer specializing in this field to truly understand what they’re promising to keep private and what might fall under a loophole.

For instance, even if a company promises not to share student information for nonacademic reasons, it can farm out some of its services to third party companies that have no such compunction about student privacy. These third party vendors or even the primary ed-tech company can put cookies on your child’s computer or device that continue to gather data on her and report back on it indefinitely. Moreover, even if the ed-tech company is diligent about protecting student privacy, that policy can change without notice and without parents being notified. For instance, many of these ed-tech companies are rag tag start-ups that are just hoping to be purchased by a bigger organization. In that case the privacy policy will almost certainly alter, possibly without notice.

Data mining isn’t exclusive to education software applications. If you’ve ever passed up a product on-line and then immediately saw an advertisement for that product on a different Website – congratulations – You’ve been data mined. Many of the applications adults use every day in their virtual lives practice this to some extent – Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc. However, there’s a difference between an adult user who enters into virtual relationships with eyes wide open and a child just completing the classwork her teacher assigned in school.

But even beyond the philosophical difference is the extent to which our children are being data mined. No where is it more pervasive than in our schools.

A really efficient ed-tech firm can collect as much as 10 million unique data points on each child, every day. That’s exponentially more than Facebook, Google or Netflix collect on their users.

Moreover, the ed-tech industry hungers for even more data on our children.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a $1.4 million research project to provide middle-school students with biometric sensors designed to detect how kids responded on a subconscious level to each minute of each lesson. Like Common Core State Standards – Gates’ attempt to force uniform academic standards on the nation’s public schools – data mining is all about turning real children into information. Intelligence and knowledge are reduced to numbers. Biological functions, heat indexes, even eye movements are tabulated as a function of a salable commodity – your child.

In the not too distant future, ed-tech companies could sell information about which prospective job applicants or college students have the proper aptitude to be successful. In some ways, this is just an extension of the ways standardized tests like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) are used to unfairly label students worthy or not of a post-secondary education. However, those tests are taken by high school juniors and seniors. The coming data mining boom would judge children based on their performance all the way back to kindergarten or even pre-kindergarten.

As usual the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is already planning for this dystopian nightmare. The conservative lobbying organization has drafted a model bill to make this a reality.  If picked up and offered in any state legislature, the bill would set up a central database for student records and allow colleges or businesses to browse them in search of potential recruits.

In addition, these student portfolios could allow corporate vultures to prey on customers vulnerable to particular sales pitches. For instance, young adults who had struggled at math in high school would make dandy targets for high-priced payday loans.

In the meantime, hedge fund managers and other investors are pouring money into the ed-tech market. More than $650 million flowed into technology firms serving K-12 and higher education each year for the past three years. That’s nearly double the $331 million invested in these markets in 2009. The national market for education software and digital content is nearly $8 billion, according to the Software & Information Industry Association.

Yet there is little evidence these applications are truly helpful in educating children. Even the technology-loving Gates Foundation, found in a national survey that only 54 percent of teachers thought the digital tools used most frequently by their students were effective.

Let’s get something straight: the reason most of these firms exist is not education. It is spying on children. It is stealing their valuable data for corporations’ own ends.

The ed-tech market is intimately entwined with the latest fad in education policy – Competency Based Education (CBE).

This has come to mean teaching and assessment conducted online, where students’ learning is continuously monitored, measured, and analyzed.

However, the goal seems to be replacing big end of the year standardized tests with daily stealth assessments. In this way, it would be more difficult for parents to refuse testing for their children. It would hide the ways in which a standardized curriculum narrowed student learning to the very basics. It would hide how children’s every tiniest action is being used to judge and evaluate their schools and teachers. And this information of dubious validity could be used to close public schools and replace them with shoddy but more profitable charter schools.

Education historian Diane Ravitch talks about a meeting in August of 2015 with The State Commissioner of Education in New York, Mary Ellen Elia, and several board members of New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a highly successful state opt out organization.

She says:

 

“At one point, Commissioner Elia said that the annual tests would eventually be phased out and replaced by embedded assessment. When asked to explain, she said that students would do their school work online, and they would be continuously assessed. The computer could tell teachers what the students were able to do, minute by minute.”

The plan has been laid bare. Our students privacy has been compromised and is being used against them. If big business has its say, our children will be forever pawns in a system that reduces them to data and profit.

That’s not what public school should be about.

It should be a place centered on learning not earning.

It should be a place that values the student and not her data.

It should be a place of creativity, imagination and wonder.

But as long as we allow ed-tech companies to run unregulated in the shadows, it will always be susceptible to these dangers.

The only one who can stop these predators in your child’s classroom is you.

We Are All Chicago Schools – More Layoffs, Less Help for Other People’s Kids

ct-rahm-emanuel-forrest-claypool-private-schools-20160505

 

“Fuck those kids.”

 

 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel couldn’t have been clearer if he’d said the above.

 

 

Chicago Schools Chief Executive Forrest Claypool couldn’t have made his priorities clearer if he’d given Chicago’s parents the bird and told them to “Kiss my ass.”

 

 

The Chicago Board of Education – made up of members all of whom are appointed by the mayor – decided to layoff 1,000 teachers and staff at the city’s public schools just a month before opening day. Sure, some may keep their jobs through reassignment, but hundreds will be unemployed.

 

 

This after a recent history of closing more than 80 schools and slashing thousands of jobs. Just last February, the district laid off 62 employees, including 17 teachers. In January, it laid off 227 staff members.

 

 

This begs several questions: How many teachers and support staff can Chicago Public Schools afford to lose? What exactly is this doing to its students? How is it affecting their future prospects to be taught by a skeleton crew?

 

 

The city’s leaders don’t give a shit.

 

 

And why should they? These aren’t their kids!

 

Emanuel’s children attend University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools, a private institution. Claypool’s kids go to Francis W. Parker, a private school in Lincoln Park. Even Gov. Bruce Rauner’s six kids don’t go to public school. They’re all grown.

 

So this doesn’t affect them. Nor does it affect any charter school kids. Not a single one of these 1,000 cuts will occur at a city charter school.

 

It’s just the traditional public schools, those schools where approximately 85% of students are Latino or African-American. Just those schools where 87% of the children come from low-income homes. Just those schools where 12% of kids are reported to have limited English proficiency.

 

Yeah. Fuck those kids.

 

And the worst part is that it’s not necessary. Chicago doesn’t have to continue to abandon its neediest children.

 

When you’re in a family, you make sacrifices for your kids. If funds are tight, you make cuts elsewhere or maybe you even take another job. Anything to make sure you’re providing your children with the best.

 

But Chicago’s leaders aren’t interested in doing any of that for these kids because they just don’t care.

 

Otherwise they could find the money. The teachers union suggests declaring a TIF surplus and reinstating a corporate head tax. The city isn’t exactly a wasteland. Wealthy developers are looking to build yet Emanuel has no intention of inconveniencing them by making them pay a fair share of taxes. Instead, the full burden falls on the city’s working families. And he calls himself a Democrat!

 

There’s always enough money for projects leaders care about. For instance, there was no problem finding $250,000 to pay a law firm where Claypool and his handpicked general counsel, Ron Marmer, both formerly worked. Marmer still has financial ties to the firm! So cut a check to Jenner & Block LLP? YES! Ensure kids have all the teachers they need? HECK NO!

 

Strangely there’s $27 million hiding in the seat cushions to open a new charter school for the University of Chicago. The Woodlawn Campus of the University of Chicago Charter School will be part of the development around the newly-planned Obama Library. It’s a fitting symbol of the President’s legacy – a brand new privatized educational facility while a few blocks away traditional public schools molder in ruin.

 

Meanwhile, Gov. Rauner holds the state education budget hostage. Illinois lawmakers could only agree on a 6-month state budget in June. Republicans expressed concern about the state being responsible for bailing out Chicago Schools. It’s not our problem, they seem to think. Well of course not. These aren’t your kids.

 

It’s the same swindle we see throughout the country. Refuse to pay for public schools – especially the schools serving poor brown kids, and then shrug. “Look at the impasse,” they shout, hoping voters are too stupid to realize it’s an impasse created by these lawmakers, themselves! It’s a textbook disaster capitalism move, approved by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other conservative think tanks. But Rauner can at least be forgiven for being a proud Republican. This is, after all, the behavior progressives expect from GOP lawmakers.

 

What about Democrats like Emanuel? This isn’t the way progressives are supposed to act. They aren’t supposed to favor privatization over public schools. They aren’t supposed to fawn on big business and promise tax cuts, tax shelters, and every other kind of tax avoidance.

 

Some might say it’s just Emanuel. After all, for a Democrat he sure pals around with a lot of conservatives. He and Rauner are best buddies. When Emanuel earned his fortune, he was an investment banker, and one of his best clients was Rauner. They go out to dinner and even spend vacations together. Sure they occasionally criticize each other in public, but behind closed doors the ideological differences just melt away.

 

What about the rest of the Democrats? Surely they don’t agree with Emanuel’s tactics. They made sure to keep him away from the Democratic National Convention – out of sight, out of mind.

 

But if the party is really so opposed to these policies, where is the condemnation from party leaders?

 

I haven’t heard a peep from the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, about these layoffs. Have you? She’s the de facto leader of the party and she’s got nothing to say about this. What does that tell you about her priorities?

 

Sure she’s cozied up to the two biggest national teachers unions who liked her so much they didn’t even need to consult the rank and file before endorsing her in the primary. Ronald Reagan had the support of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) right up until he declared their strike illegal and demanded they return to work. Will Clinton, too, turn against union teachers once she’s used them for their vote in November?

 

But you know what? Forget Hillary. Where’s Bill? Where’s Tim Kaine? Where’s Barack and Michelle Obama? Where’s Joe Biden? Where’s Al Franken? Where’s Cory Booker?

 

We have to get beyond labels like Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. Almost all of them are neoliberals. They all believe essentially the same things.

 

And as proof I offer the deafening silence offered against Emanuel in Chicago.

 

He’s hurting school children.

 

But no one in power gives a fuck.

The Agony of Being a First Time Undecided Voter

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 4.20.26 PM

 

Is there anyone else out there like me?

 

I’ve never been an undecided voter before. I’ve always known early which candidate I’m supporting and why.

 

But this election has my head spinning. One minute I’m ready to vote for Hillary Clinton to stop Donald Trump. The next I can’t live with myself if I do that and am willing to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein even though she has very little chance of winning.

 

And so on back-and-forth, hour-to-hour. The only thing I’m certain of is that I will never EVER vote for Trump.

 

Is there anyone else out there like me?

 

This seems to be the new reality.

 

I’d rather have Hillary as President than Trump, but I’d rather have another option than either one.

 

It’s agonizing. I can’t sleep. I toss and turn.

 

I hop into bed thinking I’ll just vote Hillary and then wake up passed midnight feeling disgusted with myself. I say I’ll vote Stein and go back to bed only to wake up an hour later with grave doubts about letting Trump win and how he’ll destroy the fabric of the country.

 

Those of you who have made up your minds, be thankful. You have a certainty many of us do not share.

 

Almost half of registered Democrats voted for Bernie Sanders in the Primary. You need us. And now that Hillary Clinton is the nominee, we have to decide – What do we do now?

 

These seems to be our options:

 

1) Vote Donald Trump. Let the nation burn. Let him deport 11 million people and build a wall to keep others out. Embolden all our hidden racists, xenophobes, sexists, homophobes and narcissists. Watch the economy take a nosedive just like many of his businesses did into chapter 11. Watch the Russians laugh it up as the US enters a period of isolationism and cedes power to strongmen across the globe.

 

No. That’s just not acceptable to me.

 

2) Vote Hillary Clinton. Defeat Trump but champion all of the neoliberal policies you fought against in the primary. Vote for a supporter of the prison industrial complex. Vote for a war hawk. Vote for someone who may do some good but will almost certainly support the TPP, someone who will continue to giveaway our national wealth to big business while doing very little to help the middle class. Watch as our schools are privatized, de-unionized and closed.

 

That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

 

3) Vote Jill Stein. Support a candidate who embodies all the progressive values you fought for during the primary. Vote for action against climate change. Vote to forgive all student debt. Vote to destroy corporate education reform. Vote against unnecessary wars of choice. But have very little chance of any of these policies actually being enacted. And increase the chances of a Trump Presidency. After all, she probably won’t even be on the ballot in some states! How can you win if you aren’t an actual choice!?

 

That’s hard to accept, too.

 

4) Don’t Vote for President. Vote for progressives on down ticket races but leave the presidential race blank or maybe even write in Bernie’s name. Send a message that you won’t accept the two-party system. But again increase the chances of President Trump and really who is going to be paying attention to this highly symbolic gesture? What will it get you really?

 

No. Not acceptable.

 

These seem to be most of the options. I’m certainly not going to vote Libertarian or for one of the other third party candidates.

 

So which is the best option?

 

Damned if I know.

 

I go back and forth between Hill and Jill.

 

My biggest problem with Dr. Stein is that there just doesn’t seem to be a clear path to victory. No one other than George Washington has ever won a third party bid for President. Even Ralph Nader who got millions of votes ended up not winning a single district or a single electoral vote.

 

I’m also disturbed by talk among Green Party members, even Stein herself, saying it doesn’t matter if they win. They just want to have a good showing. They just want to increase the power of the Green Party for the next election cycle and show the establishment that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

 

I’m all for that, but a Trump Presidency is too high a price to pay for it.

 

If Jill Stein could provide a clear and believable path to victory, I would vote for her in a second. I would campaign. I would do everything I could to help her win. But as it stands this isn’t even a Hail Mary. It’s not like throwing the ball from one end of the field to the other hoping for a touchdown. It’s like throwing the ball from the parking lot, from the highway, from a neighboring state!

 

However, voting for Clinton is repugnant.

 

She represents everything I want to change about American politics. She is the establishment, the status quo.

 

The best argument in her favor is that she’s not Donald Trump. Voting for her lets us survive as a nation for four more years. Things will be bad but manageable.

 

As a public school teacher, under Clinton I can expect more support for charter schools, more standardized tests, more corporate school reform. But under Trump it will probably be worse. He is the founder of Trump University, after all. He doesn’t just support school privatization. He actually started a privatized school – if you can call it that. And he doesn’t want just charter schools – he wants vouchers.

 

Pragmatically, I’d rather have Clinton. But morally it feels like a betrayal of all my ideals.

 

And that doesn’t even take into account how terrible the Democratic National Commission conducted the primary.

 

The recent leak of private emails from the DNC paints a picture of favoritism. The party unequivocally worked with the media against Sanders. (And, no, it doesn’t matter so much who leaked these emails and why, if they’re authentic.)

 

Add to that the widespread allegations of voter suppression in the primary match-up between Clinton and Sanders. In districts that leaned Bernie, voters had to face long lines. Voters registrations were mysteriously changed or they were purged from the rolls so they couldn’t vote for him. Bernie rallies were held in over-packed stadiums while Hillary’s were in much smaller venues – yet the results in these areas somehow favored Clinton. Exit polls consistently showed Bernie winning but the actual votes somehow went to Hillary. Meanwhile the media falsely painted the picture of Clinton inevitability even calling the election for her before all the votes were in.

 

It is hard to prove that all this subterfuge was enough to sway the election against Bernie. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. However, it is naive to think it didn’t help Hillary to some extent. Maybe quite a lot.

 

And after all that, I’m supposed to vote for her!? How? The party didn’t support my right to vote unless it was for the establishment choice. But now I’m supposed to actively help these same people gain more power!?

 

Please excuse me if I find that difficult.

 

So there we are. I just can’t decide. And I would venture to guess there are many more out there just like me.

 

To those who have decided one way or another, I’d like to offer some advice when dealing with the rest of us:

 

1) Don’t call us names. I’ve been called delusional, privileged, sexist, stupid, ridiculous, etc. And may I say that it doesn’t help convince any of us to be ridiculed? In fact, it actually turns us further away from your point of view. And it shows you to be somewhat hysterical. The right choice is by no means obvious.

 

2)Lay off the scare tactics. If you want to convince someone not to vote for Trump, by all means talk about how terrible he would be as President. If you want to convince someone to vote for Hillary, the horror stories won’t cut it. We need more than that. I’m sure Hillary Clinton has positives. Lead with those. Give us good reasons to vote for her and not just against her opponent.

 

3) If you want us to vote Green, tell us how Stein can win. We don’t want purely symbolic victories. We need to defeat Trump. Don’t regale us with how screwed up the system is. We already know that. Tell us how voting Green will help reverse it.

 

Have patience with us. Being undecided is not a comfortable position to be in.

 

We’re all in this together. We all want the same things. It’s just we don’t all agree how to achieve them.

The DNC is Giving Trump the Greatest Gift of All – a Weak Opponent

Donald-Trump-Hillary-Clinton

The latest polls have Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 15 points.

No, not a Fox News poll.

This is from Nate Silver, the FiveThirtyEight numbers wizard who correctly called both the 2008 and 2012 elections. He says if the race were held today, Trump would win the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire, thereby assuring an easy victory.

Some will say this is just an inevitable boost in the numbers coming as it does right after the Republican National Convention. But need I remind you that the convention was chaos? The speaking roster was dominated by Trump’s family and a never-ending cavalcade of D-list celebrities. It reads more like the cast of the next Celebrity Apprentice than the best and brightest of one of our nation’s two major political parties.

And don’t forget Trump’s own acceptance speech. They’re coming to get you and only I can save you! Trump 2016!

THAT’S what you’re saying gave the Republican nominee a boost!? It should have hurt not helped him!

But let’s put that aside for a moment. Clinton has never polled well against Trump.

Occasionally she has topped him in polls in the past, but rarely more than the margin of error! Usually Trump comes out on top.

No. Hillary Clinton is a terrible challenger in this match-up.

Why?

There is one common factor during this election season that goes beyond political affiliation. People want change.

It’s one of the reasons Barack Obama won. He was seen as the change candidate. Heck! It was his campaign slogan! Hope and Change!

Unfortunately, he didn’t really deliver. Instead of a revolution, he gave us fiddling around the margins. Whatever the reasons for that – Republican obstructionism, his own centrism – it only frustrated the electorate further.

The economy stinks. There are endless wars. Yet the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. People are so starving for change today they are even willing to vote for fascism to get it. Because that’s what Trump offers. It’s change alright. Not good change. Not positive change. But at least things will be different under President Trump. The status quo will alter. America will be “great again” just as Germany became great again in the 1930s by doing a lot of the same xenophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic things Trump champions.

You can see a similar thirst for revolution with the Democrats. We, too, have a change candidate but it’s not Hillary Clinton. It’s Bernie Sanders.

He offered voters a return to the New Deal of FDR. He offered the kind of Democratic Socialism that saved our country from the Great Depression, gave us the strength to win WWII and became the greatest super power the world has ever known.

How does this poll against Trump? It’s devastating. Bernie beats Trump in almost every poll. He always has.

Why does Bernie do so well while Hillary doesn’t? Clinton is not seen as a change agent. She is the status quo. She is politics as usual. She is at best like Obama – fiddling at the margins. At worst she’s a neoliberal hawk that will make things worse – though probably not as bad as Trump.

So what can we do? Democratic Primary voters chose her over Bernie.

Or did they?

The recent leak of private emails from the DNC paints a picture of favoritism. The party unequivocally worked with the media against Sanders. (And, no, it doesn’t matter so much who leaked these emails and why, if they’re authentic.)

Add to that the widespread allegations of voter suppression in the primary match-up between Clinton and Sanders. In districts that leaned Bernie, voters had to face long lines. Voters registrations were mysteriously changed or they were purged from the rolls so they couldn’t vote for him. Bernie rallies were held in over-packed stadiums while Hillary’s were in much smaller venues – yet the results in these areas somehow favored Clinton. Exit polls consistently showed Bernie winning but the actual votes somehow went to Hillary. Meanwhile the media falsely painted the picture of Clinton inevitability even calling the election for her before all the votes were in.

It is hard to prove that all this subterfuge was enough to sway the election against Bernie. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. However, it is naive to think it didn’t help Hillary to some extent. Maybe quite a lot.

So what we have is a presumptive nominee who can claim no legitimacy. Sure Bernie has done the classy thing and endorsed her. But it’s easy to see why his supporters have a hard time accepting that Clinton will do even a fraction of the things Bernie would as president.

So we’re left with a very weak Democratic nominee against Trump.

And this is not voters fault. This is not because Bernie supporters are just stubborn or should just get over it.

In our capitalist system, presidential candidates are products. We are the consumers. And the Democrats have floated an inferior product. It’s not enough that Trump is worse. Because there are other choices.

No one wants to take third party candidates seriously. We ignore the Green Party and the Libertarians because we say these interlopers can’t win. And there are plenty of good reasons why that may be so. However, the existence of these other options in light of a weak challenger on both the Democratic and Republican side all but guarantee each will get significant support.

It doesn’t matter if Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have little chance of winning. They will serve as spoilers for the major parties. Who will take the most?

Well, hard-core conservatives can find much to like in Hillary Clinton. Many of them are lining up to join her ranks. However, Bernie supporters find little to recommend them on Trump’s side. He is the antipathy of everything Bernie stands for. However, Jill Stein is very inviting. If anything, she’s more progressive than he is.

As such, look for the third party option to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. In fact, had Sanders been the nominee, the Democrats could have looked forward to many independents joining the ranks. They overwhelmingly favor Sanders but not Clinton. And there are more independents than either Republicans or Democrats.

So here we are.

There is next to no chance at this point that the Democrats won’t nominate Clinton. She will almost definitely be the standard barer against Trump.

And it leaves him with a huge advantage.

If he wins, it won’t be the fault of disaffected Bernie voters. It will be because of the cynical hubris of Democratic Party leaders.

The seeds of the Trump Reich have been sown right here.