Bad News from Dallas: Businessman and Corporate Reformer Wins RunOff Election for School Boar

Diane Ravitch's blog

Dustin Marshall, the businessman who sends his own children to private school, was re-elected to the Dallas school board in a run-off election against parent Lori Kirkpatrick.

The result was a significant reversal from May’s three-way race between Marshall, Kirkpatrick and Richard Young. Kirkpatrick almost won the seat outright, beating Marshall by 291 votes, but falling 23 votes shy of the required 50 percent threshold.

Kirkpatrick’s election would have flipped the board. Marshall’s election keeps it where it has been, in the status quo grip of fake reformers.

It always comes down to turnout.

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DeVos-created Amplify GR to host meeting June 29 on development plans in Southtown

Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to ideologically driven organizations, such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has been a leader in opposing marriage equality in the US. More importantly, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation regularly funds groups like the Acton Institute, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, all of which support neoliberal economic policies that harm working class families and communities, like the neighborhoods being targeted in the AmplifyGR plans.

After Doug DeVos and Mike VanGessel speak at the June 29 AmplifyGR meeting, there will be a presentation of the development plans, “followed by the opportunity for neighborhood residents and business owners to ask questions and learn how to stay involved in the ongoing planning in the community by the City of Grand Rapids and AmplifyGR.”

This last sentence suggests that what is being developed is more or less a done deal and that the June 29 meeting is designed merely to inform people what they will be doing. Let’s face it, a meeting that only lasts 90 minutes, includes comments from politicians, Doug DeVos and the CEO of Rockford Construction, followed by a presentation of the AmplifyGR project, won’t allow for much time for people to speak up. In reality, the June 29 meeting is a managed meeting, like so many other meetings led by developers, and is not really designed for public input, rather it is just to create a perception that they want to hear from the community.

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The DeVos-created organization, AmplifyGR, will be hosting a meeting on June 29, from 6 – 7:30pm at the Living Word Church, located at 1534 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.

In the past two weeks, we have posted two stories about the DeVos/Rockford Construction plans to re-develop parts of Southtown.

In our May 29 article, we primarily provided information on the meetings and planning that AmplifyGR has been participating in, meetings that have largely been limited to planners and policy makers. The May 29 article also provides details of the vision that the DeVos/Rockford Construction tandem has for parts of the southeast area of Grand Rapids.

On June 1st, we reported that AmplifyGR had canceled a scheduled meeting they were invited to that was being hosted by GR Homes for All. That meeting was cancelled in part because of the fact that AmplifyGR was clearly presented as a DeVos-created entity, something that…

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It’s Time For Some Real Push-Back About Violence Caused By Guns.

It’s Time For Some Real Push-Back About Violence Caused By Guns.
by mikethegunguy
I’m going to make a prediction that my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community won’t like but it needs to be said nonetheless. And my prediction goes like this: Unless and until the advocates for reducing gun violence get it together and start slugging it out toe-to-toe with the pro-gun gang, the possibility that we will see a significant decline in gun violence will remain somewhere between nothing and nil. Let me give you an example.

I’m going to make a prediction that my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community won’t like but it needs to be said nonetheless. And my prediction goes like this: Unless and until the advocates for reducing gun violence get it together and start slugging it out toe-to-toe with the pro-gun gang, the possibility that we will see a significant decline in gun violence will remain somewhere between nothing and nil. Let me give you an example.

kim             Last week the boys in Fairfax posted a story about Kim Kardashian’s latest attempt to inject a little reality into the debate about guns. Basically she called for more restrictions on people who are convicted of a misdemeanor, or have been served a temporary restraining order; in other words, closing some of the loopholes which allow an awful lot of dangerous people to legally get their hands on guns.

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Michigan Parents for Schools Legislative Update – K-12 Budget Update: Saving face, at a cost |

MIPFS Legislative Update
June 12, 2017
K-12 Budget: Saving Face, At A Cost

Dear Friends,

Well, they cut a deal. In return for a nebulous agreement on a “framework” for shifting new public school employees entirely to a 401k-style retirement plan, Gov. Snyder was allowed to rejoin negotiations over the budget. Literally the same day, a House/Senate conference committee passed a “compromise” version of the School Aid budget for fiscal 2018. As you might expect, it’s a mixed bag.

I put “compromise” in quotes because, of course, this budget isn’t a compromise among all the groups supporting our schools. It’s a compromise forged by the majority leadership of the House and Senate designed to get enough votes to pass. As such, it includes elements of the bills passed by each chamber. Alternative perspectives – such as those of parents – were not welcome.

I invite you to read on for details of what we know so far. (This article is also on our website.) A more detailed analysis of the impact of this budget will be published on our web site soon.

Steve Norton
Michigan Parents for Schools

The biggest news – and also the most confusing – is that Gov. Snyder and legislative leaders agreed on a “tentative framework” under which the state school pension system, MPSERS, would be phased out but not closed. Apparently, future hires would face higher costs if they opt in to the hybrid pension system, but would receive higher employer matching if they choose a straight 401k account. This avoids formal closure of the pension plan, which would automatically trigger huge added costs to cover its future obligations under current accounting rules.

However, no details of this arrangement are available, and until they are, we can have no idea of the eventual costs of this plan. At the moment, it looks like a way to kick the can (and the costs) down the road and until after the next elections while saving face today. One thing does seem certain: whatever the costs are, they will be borne by our schools and children alone (taken solely from the School Aid Fund) and not shared evenly across the state.

Otherwise, the school aid budget has few surprises. Some key features:

  • Districts will receive an increase between $60 and $120 using the 2x formula (where lower-funded districts receive the larger amount).
  • Funding for “at-risk” pupils (under Section 31a) will be increased, though less than sought by the Governor. Eligibility will be expanded to all economically disadvantaged students, and for the first time districts with higher funding will be eligible for the funding, though at much lower levels.
  • Funding for the State School Reform Office (the state’s school takeover arm) was eliminated in the conference report. Funding for the Dept. of Education’s alternative “partnership” programs was left to be decided at a later date.
  • A $100 million line item to help pay down retirement system expenses, taken off the top before per-pupil funding is determined, was retained in the conference report. The Senate had proposed scrapping it and using it to increase foundation allowances, giving a huge benefit to charter schools and leaving many districts actually worse off in the end.
  • Requires the state Dept. of Education to bid out and adopt a state summative test for math and English language arts in grades 3-7 that takes no longer than 3 hours. Also requires MDE to bid out and identify at least two computer adaptive tests in math and ELA that provide results within 48 hours.

The budget reflects the fact that all state funding for community colleges – the full $398 million, up from the partial $260 million this year – will be paid from the School Aid Fund. When combined with partial support of the state university budget, higher education expenses take almost $634 million from the School Aid Fund before K-12 spending is decided.

The conference report also sets aside $295 million of SAF funds (and a smaller amount from the state’s general fund) to pay for the initial costs of changing the school employee retirement system. This essentially exhausts the balance expected to be left in the School Aid Fund at the end of this year.

The Governor proposed some interesting measures, most of which were struck out by the legislature, such as:

  • reducing cyber charter funding to 80% of standard levels;
  • a cap on “shared time” programs where public school employees offer non-core classes in private schools;
  • a $50 per pupil bonus for high school students to reflect the higher costs of those programs;
  • provisions to help districts with declining enrollment;
  • funding for a voluntary school drinking water testing program; and
  • funding to finish training for participants in teacher evaluation systems.

Instead, the legislature retained some items cut by the Governor and added some of their own:

The conference report also included House proposals to penalize school districts which sue the state in court (regardless of the outcome) and to withhold 5% of state aid if a district negotiates a contract which includes certain prohibited subjects (even though those provisions would not be enforceable under current law).

Generally speaking, however, you won’t hear much about these other provisions – especially those which were cut or protected from the Governor’s cuts. And that is on purpose, because that is how the game is played.

Source: K-12 Budget Update: Saving face, at a cost | Michigan Parents for Schools

Kansas Legislature Overrides Brownback Veto: Raises Taxes, Passes New School Funding Formula

Ehrenfreund reminds us that Brownback called his tax reform, “a ‘real-live experiment’ in conservative governance. Yet the economic boom Brownback promised has not materialized, leaving the state government perennially short on money and forced to reduce basic services.” “Last year, Kansas’s gross domestic product increased just 0.2 percent, federal data show, compared to 1.6 percent nationally. That was an improvement for Kansas, though: At the end of 2015, the state was in what many economists would describe as a recession, with the economy contracting two quarters in a row.”

Brownback, however, remains unrepentant. In a late report John Hanna, covered Brownback’s news conference following the legislature’s override of his veto: “Republican Gov. Sam Brownback says the income tax increases legislators enacted over his veto will be bad for the long term health of the state’s economy. The governor said during a news conference Wednesday that he believes the increases will slow job growth and discourage companies from moving to Kansas.”

Nick Johnson, the senior vice president for state fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, disagrees with Brownback: “Governor Brownback promised the tax cuts would be a ‘shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,’ but reality has been far different. Rather than spur a boom, the Brownback plan merely gave a tax-cut windfall to the rich and raised taxes on many lower income people while sending the state’s finances into a tailspin. Kansas’ finances are now in crisis. State reserves are drained, and Kansas faces a $900 million budget shortfall. Two bond rating agencies have downgraded Kansas due to its fiscal problems, and the state’s education system and other crucial services have suffered as the state struggled to afford to invest in people and communities. Kansas’ five year experiment shows us what happens when we try to tax-cut our way to prosperity.”

I guess the members of the Kansas legislature noticed, and finally did something to begin correcting the problem.

janresseger | June 9, 2017


Something stunning happened on Tuesday night in Topeka.  John Hanna of the Associated Press reports: “Kansas legislators Tuesday night repudiated the tax-cutting experiment that brought Gov. Sam Brownback national attention, with even fellow Republicans voting to override his veto of a plan reversing many of the income tax reductions he’s championed…. The state will increase its personal income tax rates and end an exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. Legislators expect the changes to raise $1.2 billion in new revenue over two years to close projected budget shortfalls totaling $889 million through June 2019…. Under the new tax laws, Kansas will return to having a third income tax rate for its wealthiest filers, something cuts in 2012 eliminated. The top rate will be 5.7 percent, as opposed to 4.6 percent now.”

Even before passing the tax hikes—in the wee hours of Tuesday morning—the Kansas legislature…

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Marketing Tool – Swag Boxes

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on the second draft of her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

Live to Write - Write to Live

Loot Crate, Bark Box, Snack Fever, whatever your interest, I’m pretty sure there is a swag box out there for you. What’s a swag box you ask? A swag box is a monthly subscription service that delivers a box full of goodies catering to a specific area of interest and often organized around a theme. Book related swag boxes cater to readers of mystery, YA, Inspirational, Jane Auston, Sci-fi and Romance, among other genres.

Recently, I caught up with Jeannie Lin, Ever After Box creator. The Ever After Box is a monthly subscription service, curated by romance writers for romance readers. Jeannie and her partners Shwantelle Madison and Amanda Berry, are multi-published in the romance genre.

How The Ever After Box Started

In 2015, the three women were discussing the rise in popularity of subscription boxes. It seemed there was a subscription for every interest, so they decided to…

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