Restore Reason

Of the People, By the People, For the People

The New Fourth Estate

I recently read that today’s youth can’t determine whether or not a story is factual or fictional. Some of this no doubt is because there is just too much information available and there is no consequence of disseminating false information. I had an interesting conversation with a smart, older millennial recently and she didn’t know the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) once required holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced. The policy was called the Fairness Doctrine and its intent was to ensure viewers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints. The FCC eliminated the Doctrine in 1987 and some believe its demise played a role in an increased level of party polarization.

Fast forward to 2016. We now have a President-Elect who tells outrageous falsehoods, (on TV no less), and then claims he didn’t say them. We have his surrogates who lied repeatedly during his campaign and continue to do so. We have Scottie Nell Hughes, Trump supporter and CNN commentator, who recently said “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts.” (Evidently, there’s no such thing as proper grammar either.) She followed that outrageous comment with “people believe they have the facts to back that [Trump’s tweets] up.” WHAAAAAAAT? No. Believing you have facts is not the same as well…ACTUALLY HAVING THE FREAKIN’ FACTS!!!

I believe if our democracy is to survive, we must find a way to once again agree on facts. Not on what to do with those facts–I’m not that delusional. Can’t we at least though, find a way to agree that the earth is round, it revolves around the sun, the gravitational pull of the moon causes tides, and climate change is real. Okay, okay, I know that last one is a bridge too far for now, but one can hope.

The media has been referred to as the Fourth Estate, but I wonder if it still holds that place. I offer that rather, money is the new Fourth Estate and the media (legacy media as some now call it) should be lumped in with bloggers and social media in the Fifth Estate. After all, Wikipedia defines the Fourth Estate as “a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized.” Ever since the Citizens United ruling, the power of money has been exponentially increased. It buys access, which buys influence, and ultimately, buys votes. Yes, we still have the potential power of the individual vote, but that power only works if the voters are well-informed and then actually vote!

Amazing, isn’t it, in this time of incredible access to information and connectivity, we are less well-informed and truly connected than ever? We are bombarded with “breaking news” 24/7/365 and scandals are stretched out until the next one comes along. Not only do we have a dizzying array of sources for our unvetted information, but, complicated algorithms increasingly tailor the “news” to our liking. Google and other search engines, along with all the forms of social media have no doubt, contributed immensely to our country’s polarization. Yes, a person can still be well-informed if they really work at it, but now, they can think they are but in reality, only be getting news that validates their viewpoints irrespective of the truth. Who should arbitrate what is “real” news? How do we determine what is actually factual? Maybe when teaching our kindergarteners how to read, we need to teach them how to differentiate fact from fiction. It will be a long process, but we cannot afford to ignore the need.

As we learned during this presidential election, if people don’t have faith in the legacy media, its influence is greatly reduced. And, I doubt anyone would argue that social media and Internet “news” sites had a real impact on the election. Interesting that Trump and his supporters frequently throw the accusation of “media bias” at legacy media, but seem to give free rein to the entirely unfettered, unvetted world of social media. One thing is for sure, the days of Walter Cronkite reporting the “way it was” once each day without embellishment or sensationalism are long gone.

I’m generally an optimist and try to remain hopeful. I’m not one of those who since the election, is predicting the end of civilization as we know it. Our nation is resilient and the pendulum swings both ways. No doubt though, we’ve witnessed a wide ass swing this time. How long it will take to swing back and what damage will be done in the meantime has yet to be seen. But, I do worry that if we can’t get back to agreeing that facts and truth exist and they aren’t the same things as opinions, we are in trouble. And, if we don’t have a functioning, effective media that the people trust to give them those unbiased facts, our very democracy is at risk. A free press is after all, one of the freedoms that sets us apart form so many other countries around the world.

A fully functioning press is dependent however, on a well-informed and engaged citizenry. A Democracy cannot function as a spectator sport. Therein lies the rub. We can’t just blame others for the current state of our politics and governance and walk away. We all have a solemn responsibility to engage. Thomas Jefferson said, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” As hyperbolic as it may sound, I believe it is the key to saving our democracy.

The Rest of the Story…

The editor of the Scottsdale Independent, Terrance Thornton, recently wrote, “the idea of choice has created a competitive public school marketplace.” I agree with his premise that school choice created competition, but add that competition is, by definition, a zero-sum game. For a charter school to “win” a student a district school has to “lose” both a student and the funding associated with that student.

Counter to what those who advocate for backpack funding would have you believe, the loss of a student is not without consequences for a district. This, since fixed costs (utilities, food, and transportation), consume almost 19 percent of per pupil funding in Arizona. In fact, Moody’s, the bond rating agency, just issued a report stating that “charter school expansion poses the risk that schools will not be able to adjust to the loss of revenue, since even if the student population drops at a district school, schools still must pay for costs like transportation and infrastructure.” And, oh by the way, don’t even get me started on the whole concept of “the funding belongs to the student.” I disagree vehemently and quote fellow blogger Peter Greene who writes, “the funding belongs to the taxpayer.” Amen brother!

In this competitive environment, district schools are forced to doing everything they can to well…compete, despite a funding level per-pupil that makes Arizona 48th in the Nation. That includes ensuring the public knows about their achievements. Even with the availability of social media, this takes money, which of course; district leaders would prefer to spend in the classroom. Unfortunately, marketing is one of the necessary “evils” of the competition forced on districts.

Thornton alleges that school board members “know very little about how the system works.” Not true. As a school board member, I am very aware of “how the system works” and I am continually impressed with fellow board members I meet from around the state. We take our elected but unpaid “jobs” very seriously and regularly attend training to keep up-to-date and learn more. The vast majority of board members are reelected to multiple terms by their constituents because they believe in the leadership they are providing.

I must say that some of the words Thornton chose seem to have a bias against district schools. For example, he wrote “established spending thresholds…allow a district to allocate funds…free from public scrutiny.” There is no expenditure of taxpayer dollars a district can legally make that is free from public scrutiny. Although at times the public must make official requests to see the information, transparency and accountability of taxpayer dollars is just one of the attributes that sets district schools apart from the commercial schools. In the case he described, the law was written to provide some procurement efficiencies (like a business would use) to ensure only those purchases above a certain level go through a public bidding process. He seems to imply that the use of commercial vendors to provide services to districts is a problem. That is though, exactly how a business would operate since usually, outsourcing a service that is not your core product is less expensive and more efficient than maintaining all those capabilities in-house.

Interestingly, commercial schools are often touted as being much less bureaucratic than district schools. It should of course, be easy to be less bureaucratic when there are very few, if any requirements to be transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. But, at least in the case of Arizona’s charter schools, their administrative expenses are double that of district schools. You read that right…charter schools in our state spend twice as much on administrative costs as district schools. How’s that for less bureaucracy?

As for the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley Unified School Districts “allocate to [their] communications department[s]”, I offer two questions. First, what is the average marketing expense for a business with an operating budget equal to that of these districts? Second, how much of this funding for these districts’ “communications departments” is actually for advertisement of teacher job openings, or to fund the maintenance of the district website (primarily for the use of district parents), or for the safety of students in the form of emergency notification services (as Thornton points out in his article?) And, while we are on the subject of funding allotted to “communications departments”, it might be worth noting the amount per student of that funding. At Paradise Valley Unified (PVUSD), the “communications” costs work out to be about $5.50 per student, while Scottsdale BASIS spent about $37 per student on marketing expenses, almost seven times as much as PVUSD. This despite the BASIS.ED CEO’s contention that “effective social media campaigns have gone a long way in promoting” their schools and that “the key is word of mouth.”

Finally, yes, BASIS enjoys a fair amount of academic success but so do many district schools around the state. In fact, in the 2016 U.S. News and World Report, half were charter schools (three of them BASIS) and half were district schools. As a news professional, I am sure Thornton is well aware there is always much more to any story. Too bad he didn’t feel the need to share all sides in this one.

 

 

 

Wishing doesn’t make it so

Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas just released her 2017 “AZ Kids Can’t Wait” education plan calling for pay raises to teachers, repairing school facilities and buying new buses. At the same time, business leaders such as the CEOs of PetSmart, Goodman’s Interior Structures, and Empire Southwest Caterpillar, are proposing a five-year funding phase-in of full-day kindergarten.

These are both laudable pursuits. We know Arizona has a critical teacher shortage, our school facilities are in need of repair and upgrade, and our busses are beyond old. We also know how critical full-day kindergarten is the to the long-term success of our students both in school and beyond. But, understanding the problem is only half of the solution. The other half, is providing the funding to make it happen.

In terms of the AZ Kids Can’t Wait plan, the bill is $680 million. That’s $200 million without strings attached; $140 million to boost teacher salaries; $60 million to increase rural transportation funding and help with teacher recruitment; and $280 million to begin to address district capital funding requirements. There’s nothing wrong with Superintendent Douglas’ plan, districts desperately need this help. At a press conference where she announced it, Douglas made it clear it isn’t her job to find the funding. “I don’t appropriate money“she said, and went on to make the point that, “the state has about $450 million in it’s ‘rainy day’ fund” and it is up to the governor and lawmakers to decide to spend it on education.

Business leaders don’t appropriate state dollars either, but they are pushing full-day kindergarten because they know it is critical to moving Arizona out of 48th in quality of education. Prior to 2010, state lawmakers recognized that as well and were funding it. Then, when times got tough; the GOP-led Legislature cut $218 million from the program on the backs of some of our youngest students. That price tag was from 2010; today’s bill for reinstating full-day kindergarten is estimated at $240 million.

The total cost of funding these requirements is almost $1 billion. What’s the chances our state lawmakers will work to fund what amounts to only about $100 more per Arizona K-12 district student? I wouldn’t give odds on it. Governor Ducey has promised to reduce taxes every year he’s in office and so far, he’s on track ($8 million for business in 2016 alone.) And, cuts continue to be made to district budgets such as the move from prior-year funding to current year funding for districts, one that will cost districts statewide a total of $33 million. Then, there is the $380 million cut to District Additional Assistance funding (soft capital monies for items such as textbooks, curriculum, technology, school buses and some capital funding.) Additionally, the six-tenths of a cent per dollar sales tax provided by Prop. 301 is set to expire in 2020. If not renewed, that would be another $624 million (2015 collection) loss to our districts.

The Governor and Legislature have made it clear that raising additional tax revenue is not going to happen. Given their position, there are only two ways they can deliver any of the badly needed assistance identified above. Either they take the funding from some other part of the K-12 budget or other important program (Department of Child Safety perhaps), or they push the funding requirement down to the local level.

In the case of full-day kindergarten for example, they likely would mandate the districts fund it with the budgets they already have. Of course, many districts are already funding the program by underfunding something else because they’ve deemed it so critical to a student’s success. A mandate from state lawmakers absent additional funding does nothing to help districts and in some cases, would hurt. As far as pushing requirements down to the local level, it is a good thing that 75 percent of the bond and override measures passed this year because locally funded support has become increasingly critical as Arizona districts try to deal with the deepest cuts in the nation in K-12 per pupil funding from 2008 to 2014.

We, the voters, have culpability in this mis-match of funding to requirements. A poll of Arizonans taken after Proposition 123 passed showed that 74 percent of registered voters think the state is spending “too little” on K-12 education. Sixty-three percent also indicated they’d support extending the one percent sales tax to help pay for it.

But, politicians don’t usually respond to what voters say, they respond to how they vote and this year, as in many years past, Arizona voters have reelected legislators committed to not raising taxes. Arizona voters must realize a per pupil funding level that places us 48th in the nation, isn’t going to allow us to significantly move the achievement needle statewide. David Daugherty, Director of Research at ASU’s Morrison Institute said it well. “If Arizonans want a bright, successful, fiscally strong future for the state, a top-rate education system must be its primary investment.” If we fail in this regard, he said, “the future will be far less attractive and everyone will feel the effect.” Voters must elect legislators that believe education is an investment in our future and that have the political will to do what needs to be done to effect real change. The choice is ours, but pretending to care and then not acting in concert with that care, is duplicitous at best.

Our Kids Have Given Enough!

God, I’m tired of the whole district versus commercial (private and charter) school debate.  But, I feel strongly that district schools should be our Nation’s first choice to educate the majority of our children. I will therefore, continue to fight for not only their survival, but also success.

Usually, that means I’m at odds with school choice proponents. Today though, I read a blog post by Robin J. Lake and found myself agreeing with much of what she wrote. Ms. Lake is the Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. In her piece titled “Will the New Administration Love School Choice to Death?” she writes “Our study of Detroit’s current choice environment, now at 50 percent charter schools, offers an important caution: choice alone is no panacea. In fact, ”School choice“, she writes, ”presented as a panacea is dangerous, both rhetorically and as policy.” She points out that in Detroit, charter schools slightly outperform district schools [I found dissenting stories about this], but their students are still some of the lowest-performing in the nation. Detroit school management is dysfunctional to say the least. There are a dozen different government agencies sponsoring schools without any coordination. This results in a parental nightmare with no one managing transportation, no one taking responsibility for closing low-performing schools, and no one making sure special needs students are well served.

Providing the complete package is one of the things district schools generally do well. They transport your child to and from school and they feed him or her breakfast, lunch and maybe even during the summer if need be. They provide both special need and advanced placement education, usually some sort of tutor support where required, and have a full range of programs such as sports, band, art, and much, much, more. And, most importantly, they take all comers, regardless of their socio-economic status, special needs, ethnicity, etc.

The real truth I have come to believe, is that no matter what school option (including district schools) one looks at, it takes sufficient funding, quality administrators and teachers, engaged parents and high expectations to produce real, positive results. It also takes an environment where if the child starts at a disadvantage in school and life, he or she can get help (especially if there is none at home) to rise above it. I once heard a presentation making the point how just one caring adult can make a huge difference in a child’s life. It struck me as incredibly sad to think that some children don’t even have that. That’s right…some children don’t even have one adult that cares about them.

When adults do care, good things usually happen. But, the more focused attention to a problem, the more likely the solution will be successful. Ms. Lake writes, “Choice is a powerful force, but it must be accompanied by thoughtful government oversight and supports for quality. There must be mechanisms to ensure that schools of choice serve the most challenging students. And there must be coordinated efforts across localities to empower parents with information, transportation, and other support systems. Without these efforts, families most often end up with a lot of choice and very little in the way of better options.” If there’s one clear lesson she has gleaned from the last 25 years of charter school implementation, she writes, it’s that “choice and competition are necessary but by no means sufficient to dramatically improve outcomes for students.”

I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Lake that, “To avoid choice becoming permanently polarized…scholars and advocates need to fight new programs that don’t promote quality and accountability.” They must advocate for policies that promote collaboration among school providers, ALL school providers, both district and commercial. They also must address equitable access for students with disabilities and other special needs and, maximize the effectiveness and accountability of any private voucher/scholarship and education savings account proposals.

And to her statement that “The new Department of Education should invest in strategies to prevent harm to students in districts facing major enrollment losses”, I say AMEN! Instead of fighting each other over who has the best answer, just imagine what we could do if we recognized there is good in all options and worked together for the best overall solution. Unfortunately, the pie is only so big and with the GOP fixation on tax cuts, it is getting smaller all the time. As long as the various school choice options are pitted against each other for resources, it is hard to see how we can work together for a better outcome. Something though, has to give and it damn well shouldn’t be our district school kids and their teachers. They’ve given enough.

Warning: School Choice Can be Hazardous to Your Community

Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Diane Ravitch’s Network for Public Education, recently wrote about the direction President-Elect Trump appears headed with education. “There are clear indications” she said, “that President Obama’s Race to the Top will be replaced with something that could be called ‘Race to the Bank’, as the movement to privatize education seems certain to accelerate.” Trump’s promise to redirect $20 billion in federal funds (most likely in Title I monies), is a good indication of that desire to accelerate. Of the redirect, Trump himself said, “Not only would this empower families, but it would create a massive education market that is competitive and produces better outcomes, and I mean far better outcomes.” Recent studies though, just don’t bear out those “far better outcomes” and although Congress previously considered redirecting Title I funds, they scrapped it with the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Nonetheless, Trump seems determined to press ahead as indicated today by his pick of Betsy DeVos, a forceful advocate for private school voucher programs nationwide, as his Secretary of Education.  And although his website claims that school choice is “the civil rights issue of our time”, the Nation’s leading public education advocate, Diane Ravitch writes, “school choice is not the civil rights issue of our time, as its proponents claim; it is the predictable way to roll back civil rights in our time.” Her words are born out by the fact that segregation in the United States is now the highest it has been since the early 1960s. And to that point, the Arizona Republic writes that vouchers, tax credits and charters are used “by those who least need help”, “siphon money from traditional district schools”, and “are thinly disguised workarounds that wealthy parents can use to keep their kids out of the district schools where students of color are in the majority.” Jeff Bryant, on educationopportunitynetwork.org, writes, “it’s hard to see how a system based on school choice – that so easily accentuates the advantages of the privileged – is going to benefit the whole community, especially those who are the most chronically under-served.” After all, we all know there are plenty of disadvantaged families who will likely never be able to access school choice options, partially because it really is schools’ choice. This reality plays out every day when commercial schools either don’t admit those students they don’t want or, weed them out early on.  The desire to not call attention to that truth may be part of the reason we’ve begun to see the rebranding of “school choice” to “parental choice.”

The real problem though is much more than semantics, but what school choice is actually doing to not only our district schools, but our communities as well. Julie Vassilatos, on chicagonow.com, writes that “choice” “quietly diminishes the real power of our democratic voice while it upholds the promise of individual consumer preferences above all else.” (It’s all about me.)  The picture she paints of school choice is this: no schoolmates in neighborhoods, children traveling several hours a day to/from school, and “very little political and residential investment in the heart of neighborhood communities.” The school choice model she contends, is “fracturing and breaking down local bonds among families and within neighborhoods.” Could it be that “divide and conquer” is what this is really about? Vassilatos seems to think so contending that, “Democracies require stable communities with strong institutions that are of, by, and for the community. Democracies are built on strong, stable localities.” School choice she claims, is gutting our communities and robbing our voices.

Meanwhile, Carol Burris points out that our Vice President-Elect, Mike Pence, shepherded such a time of gutting and robbing while Governor of Indiana. His voucher program created $53 million in school spending deficits in the last school year alone and the damage continues to this day. If school choice proponents get their way she warns, we could be looking at the same sort of disastrous full-frontal school choice implementation both Chile and Sweden are now trying to dig themselves out of.

We, as a nation, Burris says, need to ask ourselves two important questions. First, do we want to “build our communities, or fracture them?” Second, do we believe “in a community of learners in which kids learn from and with others of different backgrounds”, or do we want to further segregate our schools by race, income and religion. She contends that we cannot have both and that “true community public schools cannot survive school choice.” I agree with Carol, but it isn’t because the district schools can’t compete. Rather, it is because the deck is stacked against them and politicians and profiteers continue to pile on.

Robin Lake, of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which supports many school choice initiatives, said she believe there needs to be a focus on quality: “My fear is [that] a big ideological push for choice as an end, not a means, is a dangerous prospect. It’s not only dangerous for getting schools started that may not be effective, but it’s also dangerous for long-term politics.” Noah Smith on bloomberg.net, basically agrees, if from a different angle. “The evidence is clear that vouchers are a policy with underwhelming potential” he writes, and “if the U.S. cares about academic success, policy makers should focus not on turning the school system into a marketplace, but on reforming existing schools to improve their quality.

As Arthur Camins points out on HuffingtonPost.com, “there are better choices than school choice to improve education.” Unfortunately, those choices are not the path of least resistance for our politicians and our short attention spans make expediency a winning strategy. Too bad those who have no voice are the ones who will ultimately suffer the most.

Make America Broke Again – Millions of Trump voters to lose overtime pay

Imagine if we could redo the election with a different ballot:
For President of the United States. Vote for one.
O Donald J. Trump
O Yourself

The subtitle of the alternet.org story tags an enduring enigma: The mystery of why people vote against their own interest continues.

One of the Obama administration rules requires time-and-a-half overtime for workers earning less than $47,000. That, along with other rules, are scheduled to be ditched under the Trump administration. The result would be the loss of that overtime pay by 20,000,000 (yep – 20 million) workers who voted for Trump. Politico.com reports the details along with naming other targets for the GOtrumP ax.

House Republicans are currently in the process of making lists of regulations that fall within their time frame and could potentially be repealed early next year. One of the major ones they’re eyeing is Obama’s overtime rule that requires companies to pay time-and-a-half to employees who make under roughly $47,000.

The rule is set to go into effect Dec. 1 and will be a top priority for Republicans to reverse, multiple sources said.

I’m sure Trump will figure out how to blame Crooked Hillary.

Open Letter to Frederick Hess

I could barely get through your post on educationnext.org before I began formulating my response. This is not the first time I’ve wanted to respond to a post on this blog, but I definitely couldn’t let this one go unanswered. I read your blog because I try to ensure I am informed about education from a variety of opinions and viewpoints. But, as Daniel Moynihan said, “You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.”

In your post titled “Education Is So Far Left, It Can’t Really See the Right”, you condescendingly lay out the “blind spots” of those in “education.” Your interchange of “those in education” and “Democrats” as if there is no difference is your mistake #1. Although more teachers tend to be Democrats than Republicans, teachers are typically focused on their students in the classroom, not in setting education policy. I am a school board member and active in my state’s school board association. One thing I’ve learned in the past four years, is that those who serve with me are politically diverse and it is this diversity that ensures all viewpoints are represented. These governing board members are at the forefront of charting the course of education at the local level and they have many different ideas about how to do that. Its a great strength of the local control our system of district education offers. While I’m on the subject of ideas, I have a few others for you.

1. You write that those “in education spend so little time talking to or engaging with conservatives.” Don’t know where this comes from, but as I alluded to above, educators, administrators and school board members talk to all kinds of parents, community members and voters. They do this day in and day out. It is a big part of the “public” in public education.

2. Trump did not “narrowly lose the popular vote.” As of November 19th at 6:35am, Hillary Clinton was leading with the popular vote by 1.4 million, with 2.8 million votes still unprocessed in California. I recognize it doesn’t matter how many votes she got, Trump won the election. I just object to you making it sound like the popular vote was really, really close. It wasn’t.

3. You write that the obstructionism of Congress during Obama’s presidency was just “Republican majorities in Congress doing their job”, I say no. Congress’ job is to do the work the people sent them there to do, not to be the most do-nothing Congress ever.

4. You claim that equity is why “the Left gets out of bed each morning”, and I say damn straight, it should be one of the many reasons we all get out of bed. You know, like it says in the Declaration of Independence, “all men [and women–21st century update] are created equal…”

5. Really? You want to try to take the high ground on liberty? What about the Right’s fixation on telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies and telling gay people who they can marry? And as for community, public district schools (especially in rural areas) are often the hub of their communities and the focus on the privatization of education (as your blog does) risks destroying those hubs and the communities they serve.

6. Are you serious? “Overhauling collective bargaining in Wisconsin? Governor Walker was trying his damnedest to totally dismantle the ability of hard-working people to fight for their rights. Employees after all, typically seek collective bargaining when they are not treated fairly. If a business owner doesn’t want his or her employees to unionize, maybe they could just provide a fair wage and decent working conditions.

7. So you think the framing of race, ethnicity, and gender ”tears at the fabric of our republic and sows ill-feeling and tribalism?“ How about the framing of racism, misogyny, and bigotry? And by the ”suppression of religious freedom“, are you referring to the desire for businesses to not discriminate against customers because of their ”deeply held religious beliefs?” Its easy. If you don’t want to be forced to serve everyone, don’t apply for a business license from the government (of the people) to operate.

I personally believe we have more in common than not and I really wish we could focus on finding common ground versus tearing each other down. Unfortunately, recent events tell me it is going to be awhile before we have any real breakthroughs in that regard. The sad thing is though, we aren’t just hurting ourselves, but the children who are counting on us to work together to get this education thing right. When will we learn?

Why civil discourse is not possible in the era of President Trump

Let’s start with some definitions. I took a short-cut and asked the web about definitions of the term “civil discourse.” Here is what Google found for me.

Def. 1: An engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding.

Def. 2: Civil discourse is engagement in discourse intended to enhance understanding. Kenneth J. Gergen describes civil discourse as “the language of dispassionate objectivity”, and suggests that it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences. In Book III of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke contrasts between civil and philosophical discourse with the former being for the benefit of the reader, and the public good: (sic)

These definitions prompt some fairly obvious questions.

  • Does conversation with Trumpists – did it ever – “enhance understanding”? In this and all to follow provide concrete examples.
  • Do you feel respected by those who voted for Trump?
  • Does “The Donald” and his cabinet picks so far reflect “modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences”?
  • Do you think that engaging in “civil discourse” is likely to change Paul Ryan’s plans for the demise of our social safety net? Again, please provide your evidence for wanting it to be so.

As you have probably guessed, as a Democrat and progressive, I have no truck at all with the underlying belief that engaging in “civil discourse” will better the lot of the common woman (and man). I could write you a book on what all of Trump’s campaign promises mean for the general welfare and how the press gave that a pass and how “civil discourse” is bowing to Trump.

We are engaged in the fight of our lives (to paraphrase the head of the ACLU – I think). This is a zero sum game. You cannot both have Medicare and have Ryan’s Vouchercare. You cannot have the Dreamers on track for citizenship and deport all of them. You cannot provide universal health care and at the same time repeal Obamacare without a valid replacement.

Oh, silly me. I thought that my arguments might persuade those of you who think that the end product of “civil discourse” is some grand kumbaya. So let me direct your attention to this video of one woman’s final acceptance that she has every right to be seriously pissed about those Christian Republican Trumpists.

To show your listening skills, please spend the next 8 minutes and 44 seconds of your life listening this woman venting her feelings about how she is forced to see things from the perspective of those who care not about what she thinks or who she is. If you are a believer/practitioner in/of “civil discourse” and are not emotionally moved and cognitively changed by this video, then I regard you as not a fellow traveler in the great battle to come. You have every right as an individual to continue on your path of “civil discourse” but I will do everything in my power to lead progressives and other critical thinkers into the right fight, the fight of our lives.

Here is the link to the video. h/t Sherry Moreau

Bitter Pill to Swallow

Emotions have run very raw in my household since Tuesday night and this is being played out across my community and across the country as evidenced by the protests in our major cities. Many of my friends have greeted me on the verge of tears and I’m watching them go through at least three of the five stages of grief: denial, depression, and anger.

I feel many of these emotions along with a small amount of relief, that at least the election is over. Of course, that sword cuts both ways. The election is over so we at least have an idea of what’s to come, but we also must face the reality that President-elect Trump is on the verge of being the most powerful man (some might say child), in the world. We also know that there is little possibility we’ll continue to move forward (at least for now), on the issues that we Progressives hold near and dear. How much damage can a President Trump and his GOP-led Congress and Supreme Court, do to the environment, to civil liberties, to international relations, and to world peace?

The truth is that the Left isn’t just grieving, we are viscerally fearful. How much of the rhetoric Trump spewed over the last year will turn into reality? And even if he doesn’t pursue his hateful agenda, how will others use him to further their’s (McConnell, Bannon, Giuliani, Gingrich, etc.?)

Those who supported Trump are telling us Liberals to get over it. Just as we, when Obama got elected, told them to do the same. I don’t remember hearing back then though, that anyone had concerns about Obama with the nuclear codes. That’s the big difference now. Trump’s campaign staff did after all, in the last week of the presidential election, take away his access to his Twitter account so he couldn’t tweet something that might further damage his ability to get elected. His campaign staff did not trust him to tweet, it is no wonder the vast majority of us don’t trust him with our nuclear weapons.

Nonetheless, the system that has elected the past 44 presidents of the United States, elected Donald J. Trump to be the 45th. No matter how devastated I am about it, he is our President-elect. And, I’ve made a choice to accept that fact. I will not forgive or forget the disdain he has demonstrated for the vast majority of Americans. Neither will I push aside my concerns for what damage he can bring not to just our Nation, but the entire world. I’ve also chosen to understand though, that we all helped him get elected. “Wait just a damn minute” you say “not me!” “I donated to Hillary, had her yard sign outside my home, canvassed for her, made calls for her, and voted for her.” But, I ask, were you ever glued to MSNBC to watch for the next outrageous thing Trump would say? Did you find yourself thinking that his supporters were either just “haters” or to stupid to know any better? I am guilty of both of those.

My decision to accept that he is our president-elect does not mean I am rolling over. Quite the contrary. Even though it might seem that the United States of America is less and less a place “of the people, by the people, and for the people, we are still are the greatest democracy in the world. It is not time to move to Canada or to throw our hands up in despair. It is time to turn our angst and anger into action. Write your elected officials at all levels or run for office yourself or support like-minded candidates who do. Donate to volunteer for organizations that work on behalf of causes you are concerned about and write letters to the editor to express your concerns. And please remember, with Hillary winning the popular vote by 395,595, Donald Trump does NOT have a mandate from the people. What he does have, is the title of President-elect, granted him by the Electoral College.

Through it all though, remember that blame is not constructive and hate is not who we are. The nation is divided for a reason and we must deal with that reason. I believe it is because we collectively haven’t been focused on solving the problems most negatively affecting our people. Flint, MI for example, still doesn’t have safe drinking water, the loss of manufacturing has left many without the hope for a better life, the education of our children of color lags, and college debt has made it very difficult for many to realize their American dream. Who is responsible for fixing these problems? Ultimately, it is up to all of us. After all, we elect representatives to, well…represent us. By either our support or our acquiescence, we give them their marching orders. As long as we continue to reward their performance with reelection, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.

I’ll close with the point that, it wasn’t “a Trump insurgency, but a Clinton collapse”) as Jonathan Webber coined) that elected him.” Hillary lost because she got 10 million fewer votes that Obama in 2012, and 15 million fewer than in 2008. That is probably the most bitter pill of all to swallow. But swallow it I must and then I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and rejoin the battle to keep the American Dream alive for ALL Americans.

Failure is NOT an option!

Its 2:22 am and I can’t sleep. I was too worn out to stay up and watch the election results, but then woke up just in time to see the news that Hillary had conceded to Trump. I watched his victory speech, listened to the stunned pundits on MSNBC and then thought I’d go back to sleep. Well, that didn’t work out like I planned it. None…of…it!

So yeah, as the markets around the world are proving, these are tumultuous times and I’m worried. My eyes are wide open and I don’t like what they see. I understand this election was a referendum on an establishment that didn’t care enough to really listen to the concerns of many Americans. It was also though, one of fear and hatred and it brought to the forefront, all that characterizes the “ugly” American.

In addition to all the hateful rhetoric spewed by President-Elect Trump, I am concerned about his stance on public education. His vision for K-12 education is to: 1) immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice and says he’ll do this by reprioritizing existing federal dollars (just imagine the role district schools play in this reprioritization); 2) give states the option for backpack funding and favor states for grants that have maximum school choice; and 3) establish a national goal of providing school choice to all 11 million school aged children living in poverty.  It is easy of course to promise to fund something without being specific about where it will come from or and to promise you’ll provide school choice to the poor. After all, the definition of “opportunity” is “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” If the student can’t avail him or herself of the opportunity (because for example, he or she has no transportation to the school), it makes no difference how much “school choice opportunity” they’ve been given.

And yet, I have hope. This isn’t the first time our country has faced a crisis and it won’t be the last. Despite all the challenges our nation has experienced in its short 224 years of existence, the strength of our Constitution and the resiliency of our people have ensured we not only survive, but thrive.

I also have hope because as Diane Ravitch wrote, there were many “piece[s] of good news in the midst of a dark night.” The one she specifically referred to is that the voters of Massachusetts “overwhelmingly defeated Question 2, by a margin of about 62%-38%. This ballot issue would have permitted 12 charter schools to be added in that state every year in perpetuity. Despite the proponents spending at least $22 million, much of it from out of state donors, billionaires and hedge fund managers, the little guys rallied to save the say. Over 200 school committees passed resolutions against Question 2 because they understood every charter built would drain funding from the district schools…schools that in many cases are already the best in the nation. In Arizona, voters have yet to come to the realization of what the commercialization of our schools is doing to the 85% of Arizona students that choose district schools. The “horse” is definitely out of the “barn” and I’m not sure how we can coax it back in.

Of course, public (district) education advocates were certainly hoping to see more pro-district education candidates elected in our state. Unfortunately, when I looked at the results as of 11/9/2016 at 2:28:31 am, the counts in the Senate remained the same with 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The House, likewise, remained unchanged with 36 Republicans and 24 Democrats. But then I looked at the 9:04:43 am results and Daniel Hernandez had pulled ahead of Chris Ackerley and Mitzi Epstein had pulled ahead of Bob Robson to make the House 34 Republicans to 26 Democrats. I noted the Brophy-McGee versus Meyer race had tightened as well to less than one percentage point. Only 97.55% of precincts had reported at this point, so these results are unofficial.

I wanted to get a feel for what all this meant to the K-12 education in the coming 53rd Legislature so I did a very unscientific analysis. I first looked at the voting records of all the incumbents from the 2016 Friends of ASBA Educating Arizona guide. This guide shows which legislators voted with ASBA K-12 legislation in 2016. Based on my rudimentary review, the average percentage all legislators voted with ASBA was 62% of the time. Then I carried those numbers over for incumbents and gave newly elected legislators an average score based on how their Republican (60%) or Democratic (80%) counterparts had voted. This resulted in an average predictive score of voting with the ASBA position of 63 for the incoming 53rd Legislature.

I don’t know if my analysis has any real validity, I’ll leave that to the statisticians among us. What I do know is we probably shouldn’t expect too much change from the Legislature on K-12 education legislation. I’ve no doubt we’ll see an attempt to once again push through a full-blown expansion of vouchers (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) and tax credits to maximize the siphoning of tax dollars from district schools to commercial ones with no increase to the badly needed accountability and transparency. The GOP-led Arizona Legislature has made no secret of their intent to privatize public education, and voters continue to validate their position. Until we can get enough voters to speak with our votes on behalf of their community schools, they’ll continue to lose out.

It is easy to get disheartened and defeatist, but giving up won’t help the 85% of Arizona students choosing to be educated in our district schools. Now is not the time to “shelter in-place”, but to look for any silver linings we can find and build on them. There is much to fix in our schools, our communities, our state and our nation and it will take all of us working together to do that. So, today you can be afraid, you can be angry, you can be disappointed or depressed. Tomorrow though, is a new day and the work to support our district students and all those who work so hard to educate them, must continue. Buckle up; it’s got to be a hell of a ride because failure is not an option.

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Peregrinations

Travels and Observations of Two

GUEST TEACHERS USA

Professional and Committed to EXCELLENCE

Slanting to the Right

Blogging from a conservative perspective.

#AskSirMwangi

©SirMwangi 2016, All Rights Reserved

Christian Thomas Golden

What I love to do.

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

I don't break news, I fix it.

Patti's World

A blog to inform, inquire, and communicate

austin vivid photography

heather schramm-lifestyle photographer

deutsch29

Mercedes Schneider's EduBlog

educarenow

Educare- Latin, "To draw out that which lies within." Now- the only time we have. Thoughts on education by Bill Boyle. Thoughts expressed here are my own.

School Matters

K-12 education in Indiana

moderndaychris

an education reform blog

Cloaking Inequity

A blog focused on education policy and social justice

The Baggage Handler

I made the impossible easy in both worlds!

Arizona Education Network

Of the People, By the People, For the People

STORIES FROM SCHOOL AZ | RSS Feed

Of the People, By the People, For the People

The Arizona Democratic Party

Of the People, By the People, For the People

Of the People, By the People, For the People

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