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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Sanctuary Movement Rapidly Growing, Thanks to Trump

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 4:00 PM


The Sanctuary Movement has grown from 400 to 1,100 congregations nationwide since Donald Trump’s election.

Sanctuary congregations aid immigrants and the immigrant community in a variety of ways, including hosting legal clinics, advocating against and taking actions to stop deportations and housing immigrants in danger of deportation.

“ICE is attacking us as leaders and activists at the local and national level,” said Ingrid Encalada Latorre, an immigrant and activist currently in Sanctuary in Colorado. “They don’t want us to lead, but they won’t silence us because we too have rights as immigrants in this country.”

In the months after Donald Trump’s election, the number of congregations offering sanctuary to immigrants under threat of deportation doubled from 400 to 800 nationwide. The movement continues to grow, across 25 states. And the number of Sanctuary coalitions have grown from 12 to 40 since 2016, according to a new report, “Sanctuary in the Age of Trump,” released by a coalition of faith leaders, including Rev. Alison Harrington, a pastor in Tucson’s Southside Presbyterian Church.

The blue states have active Sanctuary coalitions. - THE AUTHORS OF "SANCTUARY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP"
  • The authors of "Sanctuary in the Age of Trump"
  • The blue states have active Sanctuary coalitions.

North Carolina currently has more people in sanctuary than any other state, with five. And their movement continues to grow, with six more congregations working on becoming sanctuary churches and more calling each day, said Rev. Julie Peeples, senior pastor at Congregational United Church of Christ, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“It is really growing rapidly here,” Peeples said. “My congregation and I continue to be inspired by the courage and strength of those in sanctuary and their leadership. They are teaching us how to love our neighbor and how to honor our nation’s pledge of ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

The report also says that it’s no longer just cities with large immigrant population that have congregations in the Sanctuary Movement, but more rural areas with a recent influx of immigrants, in states like North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia.

Congregations gave sanctuary to 37 people facing deportation, in 2017. Nine received some sort of temporary reprieve from deportation. Today, there are 36 people in public sanctuary, nationwide, according to the report.

Thirty-seven people that went into Sanctuary in 2017. Nine of them retrieved some sort of reprieve from deportation. - THE AUTHORS OF "SANCTUARY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP"
  • The authors of "Sanctuary in the Age of Trump"
  • Thirty-seven people that went into Sanctuary in 2017. Nine of them retrieved some sort of reprieve from deportation.

The Sanctuary Movement has grown in direct response to the ramping up of deporting immigrants whose only crime is being in the country illegally, many of whom were registered with Homeland Security and allowed a stay of deportation under the Obama administration, given they participated in routine check-ins with ICE.

In 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton released a series of immigration directives that came to be known as the Morton memos. These memos limited the immigration enforcement to a subset of convicted criminals, as well as blocking immigration enforcement to crime victims, witnesses and “individuals pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints,” a measure that allowed immigrants to report crime without fear of deportation.

Today, ICE searches these people out, although they are well known to the government and have complied with their regular check-ins. The new report details the arrests of several immigrants with deportation stays who are immigrant rights activists, including immigrate-rights activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained during a routine check-in meeting with ICE officials in Manhattan, on Jan. 11.

Ragbir was one of a number of immigrants vocal in the movement arrested by ICE in January. His arrest sparked protest that ended with 18 arrests, including two members of the New York City Council.

On Monday, Jan. 29, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ordered his release, saying his detention was “unnecessarily cruel.” He is still facing deportation.

“I am appalled to see the growing attacks on immigrant leaders,” said Ragbir’s wife Amy Gottlieb. “Ravi was detained at a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE, even though nothing had changed in his legal case. It is clear that he is targeted because of his outspoken challenges to our unjust immigration system. It is devastating to see my husband and so many others locked up in county jails, their liberty taken away from them, while private companies and others profit from our suffering.”

The faith leaders who contributed to the report said they plan on expanding the movement in the Southwest and Midwest and hosting trainings and strategy meetings.

“Sanctuary is needed more than ever,” the report says. “People of faith from many traditions recognize the increased need for Sanctuary as the harsh anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-black and anti-Muslim policies come to life under the Trump Administration.”

“Sanctuary in the Age of Trump” also details stories of several immigrants who and sought sanctuary, more examples of ICE ramping up intimidation tactics, and 10 policy recommendations.

  • Danyelle Khmara

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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Phoenix Police Department Will Work on Communicating Better During Protests

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 3:33 PM

  • Courtesy Photo

The Phoenix Police Department said they're working on better communication, regarding the launching of pepper ball ammunition and tear gas into protestors during President Donald Trump's August 2017 rally, according to a PPD internal review released on Jan. 29.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona responded by saying PPD "did not protect the First Amendment rights of protesters and caused many people to go home with cuts, bruises, and other injuries."

"There are many videos of officers attacking protesters with pepper spray and projectiles at dangerously close range," said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody in the press release. "It is shocking and disheartening that the department determined this excessive use of force was justified."

Brody also asked whether the police could have used less volatile methods such as better
amplification equipment to announce "adequate orders before using chemical irritants," why they denied using foam batons on protestors and why the prolonged delay in releasing the report.

"Chief Williams has said that her officers made sure everyone went home safely," Brody said. "The truth is many peaceful protesters went home with injuries caused by her officers. The police are supposed to ensure people can fully exercise their First Amendment rights. On this occasion, the Phoenix Police failed to do that."

Police Chief Jeri Williams wrote in the internal review that communication could be improved on, adding that the police did what they could, and there were minimal injuries and little property damage.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

'Lynching in America': An Excellent, and Horrifying, Educational Resource

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 4:18 PM

For K-12 and college-level teachers who want to educate themselves and their students on the subject of lynching, which, it hardly needs saying, is one of the most vile and horrifying parts of this country's post-Civil War history, the site Lynching in America, created by the Equal Justice Initiative, is as thorough a portrayal as you are likely to find. It includes a lengthy report on the history of lynching, as well as audio stories, a video exploring one family's experiences, interactive maps, even lesson plans for teaching about the topic.

I learned about the site from an NAACP magazine I receive along with my membership, which I began soon after Trump was elected.

Non-educators who want to know more about the topic will find the material valuable as well. However, I have to admit, I've only scanned the site. I find it too unsettling to see pictures or even read detailed descriptions of this horrific part of our history. I don't think teachers below the high school level would use the entire site with students, though it would certainly give the teachers the background to discuss lynching with younger children if they felt it was appropriate. I also imagine teachers using this material would warn students about the nature of the contents and give them alternative ways to fulfill class assignments.

Here's how the "About" page describes the site and its purpose.
The Equal Justice Initiative believes we need to change the narrative about race in America in order to advance our collective goal of equal justice for all. As part of this work, we extensively researched the period between the Civil War and World War II, when over 4,000 African Americans were lynched in this country. We published our findings in the report Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date. Many racial terror lynchings, however, went unreported and their victims remain unknown.
The entire report is included on the site.

Much of the funding for the organization and this project came from Google, which has contributed $2.5 million to EJI.

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Humanitarian aid worker charged with felony for giving migrants water, food and blankets

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 1:05 PM

A humanitarian aid worker is being charged with a felony after giving blankets, clothes, food and water to migrants crossing the desert. The group he volunteers with, No More Deaths, says the arrest was retaliation for a recent report on Border Patrol agents destroying life-saving supplies in the desert.

Scott Warren, an Arizona State University professor, was arrested on Jan. 17, near Ajo, at a location called “the Barn.” According to court documents, Border Patrol was surveilling the building when they saw Warren pull up in his vehicle and enter.

Along with Pima County Sheriff's Deputies, Border Patrol later knocked on the door and found two undocumented migrants inside, who said they found the location online as a place of refuge. The migrants said that Warren had given them supplies to survive for three days.

Warren’s official charge are “transportation of illegal aliens for profit,” and they were made eight hours after No More Deaths, or NMD, released a report detailing Border Patrol’s destruction of water, food and blankets left out for border crossers.

From 2012 to 2015, NMD distributed over 31,500 gallon jugs of water in the Southern Arizona desert, and more than 86 percent was used, according to the report. But roughly 3,500 gallon jugs of water were slashed, kicked over or poured out. The report included videos of Border Patrol agents vandalizing gallons of water, removing blankets and puncturing canned food.

The area where Warren gave supplies to the migrants is in a deadly stretch of desert where 45 percent of human remains from migrants who died in the desert while trying to reach the U.S., were found in 2017, according to NMD.

Before the year 2000, human remains were found in the desert, on average, once a month. But after 2000, remains were found every three days. The climbing number of people perishing in the desert appears directly related to a ramping up of the Border Patrol policy Prevention Through Deterrence, which closed down entry points in populated areas and pushed migrants into more remote areas.

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Dreamers Still in Limbo After Dems Cave Over Shutdown

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 9:09 AM

People marched for Dreamers, in Tucson in September 2017, when Trump announced an end to DACA. Activists continue the fight today, with the March 5 deadline approaching and little tangible progress being made in Congress. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • People marched for Dreamers, in Tucson in September 2017, when Trump announced an end to DACA. Activists continue the fight today, with the March 5 deadline approaching and little tangible progress being made in Congress.

Democrats in Congress ended the short-lived government shutdown, on Monday morning, which could have leveraged a fix for DACA. But instead, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer settled for a vague promise from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote by Feb. 8, once again leaving 3.6 million Dreamers, about 800,000 of which have legal status under DACA, in limbo.

At first, the shutdown gave local DACA recipient Ana Laura Mendoza a bit of hope that Congress would finally do something, but now she’s just frustrated by the “lack of action from both parties,” she says. “Democrats are full of empty promises and rhetoric… Once again, it was made public that our lives are not as important as they claim.”

During Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he promised the day he took office, he would end DACA. Although he didn’t do so until almost eight months into his presidency, the DACA recipients’ purgatory began the day he was sworn in.

Mendoza says combatting the drawn-out emotional struggle is the worst part. She just wants to know if she’ll have legal status or not, either way. A second year political-science major at the University of Arizona, she’s unsure if she’ll be able to fulfill her aspirations of law school. She’s unsure if all the effort of college will even matter: What good is a degree if you’re not allowed to work?

Earlier this month, a federal judge order the Trump administration to temporarily continue allowing DACA recipients to renew their protected status. Mendoza was one such Dreamer, who didn’t make the cut for the previous deadline the administration had set. Nonetheless, she has mixed feelings: happy she and others like her could renew but upset for the prolonged uncertainty.

Without a fix for DACA, Mendoza will lose her work permit right as she’s finishing her bachelor’s. She will also lose her driver’s license, not to mention the ability to walk out her front door without the fear of being deported.

CNN reported on Tuesday that Sen. Schumer was rescinding a recent proposal to the White House, which included funding for a border wall in exchange for Dreamer protection.

“President Trump’s unwillingness to compromise caused the Trump shut down and brought us to this moment,” Schumer said in a televised speech.

On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA”—making the GOP leadership’s “promise” on a DACA fix seem all the more obsolete.

As far as Mendoza is concerned, she can’t get behind the idea of any compromise that includes border security measures.

“It’s so easy for us to be used as pawns,” she says. “I’m not OK with allowing one part of my community to be attacked while another is safe… It’s not just legislature that’s being decided. It’s who gets to thrive and who gets to hardly make it.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Comparative Look at TUSD's AzMERIT Scores

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 10:26 AM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Back in September, I promised to create a comparison of Tucson Unified scores on the 2017 state AzMERIT test with similar schools in other districts, because I was unhappy with comparisons between Tucson's district and neighboring districts with wildly different demographics. I spelled out how I planned to approach the comparison before I looked at any of the data, and I've stayed true to my basic design.

I compared elementary schools with similar racial and economic characteristics in Tucson, Sunnyside, Flowing Wells, Douglas, Nogales and Yuma. Since very few of the other districts had schools with fewer than 60 percent of their students on free or reduced lunch, I only compared schools with F/R lunch percentages of 60 percent or higher. All the districts other than Flowing Wells have a high percentage of Hispanic students.

I compared the districts' passing percentages with one another using all the schools I looked at. I also divided the schools into four groups based on the number of low income students, using the percent of students on free or reduced lunch as the measure—60-69 percent, 70-79 percent, 80-89 percent and 90-99 percent—and compared the districts' passing percentages within each of the four groups.

Here are the overall findings:
• When looking at the passing percentages of all the schools, Tucson, Douglas and Sunnyside have identical passing percentages in Language Arts. Douglas and Sunnyside have slightly higher passing percentages than Tucson in Math — by 3 and 5 percentage points. Yuma, Nogales and Flowing Wells have significantly higher passing percentages than the other three: 8-14 percent higher in Language Arts, about 10 percent higher in math.

• When looking at the schools in the four categories based on income levels, Tucson's passing percentage is significantly lower than the others in the 60-69 percent F/R lunch category. The gap between Tucson and the other districts decreases as the number of low income students increases. In the 90-99 percent category, Tucson's passing percentage is about average.

• Tucson schools have significantly more variation in their passing percentages than other districts, with schools among the lowest and highest in all four categories.
I also looked at the passing percentages for Hispanic students in the schools. The comparisons were close enough to what I found when I looked all the students that a separate analysis of Hispanic passing percentages doesn't yield significantly different results.

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