Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Israel, the U.S. and Guns

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 4:10 PM

In Israel you can buy 50 bullets a year. That's it. And only if you're a licensed gun owner. That number jumps to 100 bullets if you're also a security guard.

Of the 8.5 million people in Israel (the number doesn't include the 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza), about 135,000 of them have gun licenses — more like 100,000 if you remove the security guards. Most of the licenses are for 9 mm pistols.

So why is our "Second Amendment above all else" crowd implying Israel is a model for rampant gun ownership in the U.S.?

Mike Huckabee and Wayne LaPierre have claimed in the past few days that the security guards Israel places in front of schools are the reason the country doesn't have the kind of shootings we do. People in Israel beg to differ. They say the guards are there to protect against the very real threat of terrorism. The country doesn't suffer from the kind of regular, random, out-of-nowhere shootings we have in this country, in schools or elsewhere. One reason is, they have far stricter gun laws.

An article in the New York Times describes Israel's gun laws. Anyone who scoffs and shouts "FAKE NEWS" because the article is in the Times is an idiot. Do your own research and see if the Times reporting bears out. I did, for a column I wrote in the Northwest Explorer in 2012 following the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting. The situation hasn't changed significantly since then.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Education of Bill Gates

Posted By on Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 4:09 PM

  • Courtesy of wikimedia
Bill Gates made billions and billions of dollars in the field of computer technology, helping to transform the world in the process. He's an innovator. He's a disrupter. He's the savviest of savvy businessmen. He's been successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams of success or avarice.

So Gates thought, why not put his entrepreneurial genius and hundreds of millions of dollars a year to work innovating and disrupting and transforming the field of education? How hard can it be?

Pretty hard, he discovered.

Gates has been pouring money into his educational experiments in this country since 2000. Overall, I'd give his efforts a grade of C. Not much help, no grave harm. I'd give what he's learned about education a B. He now understands he doesn't know as much about education as he thought he did.

Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter answering The 10 Toughest Questions We Get. Question #2 is, "What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on U.S. education?" Their answer employs the couple's usual upbeat tone, but the efforts they describe are less than encouraging, especially given that, "Our foundation spends about $500 million a year in the United States, most of it on education."

A few telling excerpts from their answer:
"One thing we learned is that it’s extremely hard to transform low-performing schools."

"We have also worked with districts across the country to help them improve the quality of teaching. . . . But we haven’t seen the large impact we had hoped for."

"How did our teacher effectiveness work do on these three tests? Its effect on students’ learning was mixed."

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Trump's Education Budget Proposal

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 2:28 PM

Trump's budget proposal isn't just being called DOA—Dead On Arrival. It's being called DBIA—Dead Before It Arrived—since the congressional budget deal he signed means some of his proposals were outdated before they were printed.

But nothing Trump proposes, or says, or does, no matter how ridiculous or mendacious, can be considered dead so long as congressional Republicans buckle and bend the knee whenever it's time to show some independence. They're like a character in The Sopranos saying, "Sure I hang around with Tony Soprano sometimes, but I'm my own man. I know when to say no." Uh huh. Sure you do.

So let's look at Trump's DOA, or DBIA, proposals for the education budget, because everything that comes from his mouth or his tweets or his office matters, to the shame of his weak-kneed enablers.

Trump proposes to cut about 5 percent, or $3.6 billion, from education spending.

First, the education budget losers. Here are programs which would end.
• $2 billion for teaching training and class size reduction efforts. Gone.
• $1.2 billion for after-school programs. Gone.
• $400 million for districts to use for a variety of purposes including health-related programs and improving access to technology. Gone.
• $340 million to help get low-income and first-in-their-family students prepare for college. Gone.
• $250 million for states to develop preschool programs in low income areas. Gone.
• $190 million for grants supporting reading programs. Gone.
• $140 million for educational research programs. Gone.
• $73 million for pairing academic programs with health and related services. Gone.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Unpacking a Great Hearts Charter School's Hair Braiding Story

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 2:59 PM

When I first read about a 12 year old African American student being sent home from Teleos Preparatory Academy because his hair was braided, I dismissed it as little more than a dress code, or hair code, story.

Teleos charter is part of the Great Hearts charter chain which has 23 schools in the greater Phoenix area. The schools say what clothing and hair styles are acceptable in their handbook, and if students violate the rules, they're sent home. At Great Hearts, boys aren't allowed to have shaved heads, Mohawks, rat’s tails, pony tails, or braids. They also can't have long hair or dye their hair in non-natural colors.

Yawn. Next education story, please?

As the story developed, I realized I was suffering from a case of white blindness. All the other prohibited hair styles are societal statements or personal fashion choices, and reasonable people can debate whether or not they're appropriate in a school setting. But hair braids are part of an African American cultural tradition, and to deny that hair style is to disrespect the traditions and culture of a group of people who have suffered disrespect and far worse since they set foot on this continent. So this is more than a generic dress code issue. Hair braids for an African American male are a different matter entirely from the other prohibited choices.

After first defending the school's actions to the press, the superintendent of Arizona's Great Hearts charters reversed course and issued a statement saying the student is welcome at the school, braids and all. "This event has triggered an internal review," the statement said, "to determine what changes may be needed to ensure this policy is sensitive to the cultural diversity we are proud to have in our academies."

Great Hearts deserves credit for doing the right thing in this case. But there's more to the Great Hearts story which puts this example of racial insensitivity in perspective.

Much like the BASIS charter school chain, Great Hearts charters generally have a rigorous academic curriculum and cater to high achieving students. In most of their Phoenix-area schools, the vast majority of the students are Anglo and Asian. The one exception is Teleos Preparatory Academy where the student's hair braids became a problem. Teleos is 6 percent Anglo and 1 percent Asian. Most of the other students are African American and Hispanic.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Radical-Sounding Education Funding Proposal From an Un-Radical Source: Arizona Town Hall

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 4:05 PM

A billion dollars. That's on the high end of the figure you hear when people talk about increasing Arizona's K-12 funding.

Governor Ducey came in at one-tenth of that, $100 million. At the latest Koch brothers summit, Ducey said to the assembled multi-millionaires and billionaires, “I didn’t run for governor to play small ball. I think this is an important idea.” But that "important idea" in his pitch for campaign cash wasn't public education. It was private school vouchers, which are near and dear to the Koch network's hearts and wallets. When it comes to increasing public school funding, Ducey plays the smallest ball he can manage and still call himself "the education governor" with a straight face.

But education groups and a sizable number of business leaders say, if we're going to give our teachers a reasonable wage and provide the needed resources for our students, it's going to take an extra billion dollars in this budget and every budget in the future.

So who is this radical group that recommends we add $2 billion a year to the school budget? And a one-time allocation of $1.3 billion to make up for past budget shortfalls? And get rid of the law requiring a two-thirds majority in the legislature to increase taxes so all it takes is a simple majority to add to our revenue base?

All those radical proposals come from a not-so-radical group of participants in the 110th Arizona Town Hall held last November. The Arizona Town Hall's topic changes each year. For 2017, it was "Funding preK-12 Education." Community town halls were held in 15 locations around the state, each attended by a few dozen to a hundred participants, and each group submitted a report with findings and recommendations. Then in November, about a hundred people representing community members, business people and educators gathered for three days at the Hilton Hotel in Mesa. (The Hilton venue is an indication of the un-radical nature of the organization, as is the makeup of its executive committee, which includes wealth advisors, realtors, engineers, and even Lea Marquez Peterson, recent CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and current Republican candidate for the CD-2 House seat occupied by Rep. Martha McSally.)

The Town Hall produced a 17 page report explaining why Arizona's current education funding is inadequate and what needs to change. The crowdsourced set of recommendations does a better job of recognizing what it will take to meet the financial needs of our K-12 public schools than just about any other document I've read, including its understanding that we need to get rid of the two-thirds majority the legislature needs to get a tax hike through the legislature.

 Here's the short version of the report's recommendations.
"In simple terms, we need to invest at least $1.3 billion (to be updated to reflect the current need) on a one-time basis – and at least $2 billion annually, with annual increases for inflation in the future – to position our preK-12 education system to meet the educational goals that we have identified for it."

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The TUSD Board Should Publicly Affirm Judge Tashima's Ruling

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 10:08 AM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
The governing board of the Tucson Unified School District has an educational, and moral, obligation to officially acknowledge the importance of Judge Wallace Tashima's ruling that ARS 15-122 was unconstitutional because it was the product of racial animus directed at the students, teachers and administrators involved in the district's Mexican American Studies program, and it was a violation of their right to freedom of speech.

Instead, the board voted down a resolution which declared that teachers have been freed from the racist restrictions which forbade them from using elements of the dismantled MAS program. The three members who formed the majority made a wrongheaded, possibly even shameful, decision.

Let me give the board majority the benefit of the doubt and assume they misunderstood the meaning of Judge Tashima's ruling. He didn't rule on the value of the MAS program itself. His ruling said the state legislature and the Department of Education used unconstitutional means to suppress the educational rights of a minority group. It was part of a long, proud tradition of our country moving toward granting civil rights to individuals and groups regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. In this case, the issue was racism. Thanks to the ruling, the racists lost. That's what the victory is all about.

And that's what the governing board needs to acknowledge, publicly and formally. It should state that the judge's ruling is an affirmation that the education of Tucson Unified students should not be dictated by racists, that the district will decide what it believes is the best way to give its students the best possible education, and it will always strive to respect their civil rights and their right to freedom of speech.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Koch Brothers Emerge (a Little) From the Shadows, Part 2: Connecting Some "Education Reform"/Privatization Dots

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 5:00 PM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
Part 1 of this two part (or maybe three part) series tracked the purposeful stealth of the Koch Brothers since the 1970s when they began their push to change the country's politics and economic policy, until their cover was blown a few years ago, and the brothers decided, if you can't fight it, flaunt it. They adopted a more public persona, even going so far as to let reporters into the inner sanctum of their donor summit a few days ago, where Governor Ducey spoke about how much he loves his expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, and how that expansion is threatened by Proposition 305 which is scheduled to go before the voters in November. He loves his vouchers almost as much as he loves tax cuts, and almost as much as our "education governor" loves fighting against significant increases to K-12 funding. The fact that the Kochs and their donor networkers love those things as much as Ducey loves them makes the governor' reelection campaign coffers very, very happy.

I was browsing through education news last week and came across an op ed in the Houston Chronicle praising Education Savings Accounts, which is the generic name for what our legislators have redubbed Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. As I looked to see who wrote it, I experienced a simultaneous sensation of familiarity and surprise. The author is Matthew Ladner, who I know well from long arguments we carried on in the comments section of my posts when I wrote on Blog for Arizona and Ladner was a vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute. The surprise came when I read the bottom of the op ed and found out he's now "the senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute." I knew Ladner had left GI, but last I heard, he was working on policy and research at Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. Since I don't see him mentioned on the current FEE website, I guess Ladner isn't wearing hats in both places. It looks like he's left Jeb for Charles Koch.

The employment and adventures of Matthew Ladner create a series of connected dots where the last dot connects back to the first. Taken together, they offer a revealing snapshot of the very formidable, very influential, very affluent "education reform"/privatization movement.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Koch Brothers Emerge (a Little) From the Shadows, Part 1: Target, Education

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 5:30 PM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
What does the word "education" mean when Doug Ducey calls himself "the education governor"? The answer is coming, but it'll take me awhile to get there. Have patience.

When the Koch brothers, Charles and David, began their push to change politics and economic policy in the U.S. in the 1970s, an important part of their strategy was stealth. Spend millions of dollars, they decided, hundreds of millions of dollars, but stay in the background. Create and help fund multiple organizations, think tanks and college centers, all with lovely sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation and The Freedom Center, to help push their version of libertarianism into the center of American life in a determined effort to make this country a better place for the obscenely rich to live—but keep the Koch name out of it. Hold huge donor summits in posh resorts, but don't let the reporters in. Only allow the Koch name into the spotlight when donations are made to causes like cancer research or New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Things have changed over the past few years. The brothers been outed. Their names are regularly featured in the media and Democratic campaign pitches, and people have figured out ways to sneak recorders into their secretive donor summits. So they've emerged from the shadows, a bit, anyway. The spider web of interconnected groups they fund still have the same lovely, Koch-free names, but the Kochs have been forced to give in to the inevitable.

Case in point: The Koch brothers' three-day donor summit in Indian Wells, near Palm Springs, which ended Monday. They let reporters in, with the understanding that they could report on the proceedings but not reveal the names of the 500-plus donors at the summit without the donors' permission. Reporters, however, were allowed to reveal the names of politicians on the guest list, which included two governors: Matt Bevin of Kentucky and our own Governor Doug Ducey.

At the summit, the Koch network announced plans to spend at least $20 million to make everyone love Trump's massive tax cuts for the rich (which included the occasional bone thrown to the non-rich, until the bones go away in a few years). They also plan to spend $400 million on the 2018 midterm elections, more than the RNC, the NRA and the Chamber of Commerce combined. Ducey, a shining star in the Koch firmament, is certain be a recipient of their campaign largesse. A little will be donated directly to his campaign and reported in the light of day, but most it will be in the form of dark money.

On another related front, the Koch brothers plan to dismantle the country's current system of public education and replace it with something more to their liking.

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