Fine Article Takes You Inside the Oklahoma Teachers’ Walkout and Inside Red-State, Anti-Tax Politics

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Watching teachers walk out this spring has startled America in these discouraging times, but nowhere was it as moving as in Oklahoma. The teachers walked out, and, grateful that teachers had figured out a way to expose desperate conditions in the schools, school superintendents and school boards—the management—shut down school for two weeks and walked with their teachers in gratitude. At the statehouse itself the protestors walked into a brick wall.  More than just demonstrating what is missing from their classrooms, they showed what decent concern for our children would require of us as citizens and what—across too many of our states—one-party, anti-tax state legislators and governors are quite satisfied to deny.

Rivka Galchen profiles the Oklahoma walkout in this week’s New Yorker magazine. Galchen, who accompanied and learned to know many teachers, reflects on her own experience of the strike and on the lives of teachers she came to…

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More evidence that Rick DeVos embraces his family’s ideological legacy

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

For years I have been hearing from people in the community, some who even identify as progressives, that Rick DeVos is different from his parents and grandparents.

The first time that someone suggested that Rick DeVos was different than his family’s right-wing history, was just before the first year of ArtPrize. I was told that I just needed to sit down and talk with him and I would see that he was different.

I responded to this claim that unless he has distanced himself from his family’s money and was willing to publicly come out against their stance on issues like gay marriage, labor unions, public education, religion, politics and capitalism, then he is not really operating any differently than the rest of his family.

Rick solidified his continuation of the DeVos Family ethos, when he founded (with Dick & Betsy’s money) 5 x 5 Night and Start Garden. Venture…

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DeVos Seems Unaware of Supreme Court’s Protection of Undocumented Students’ Right to Public Education

Unaware? I almost wish she was. Unfortunately I’m convinced she knows precisely what she is doing. Sigh.

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The 1982, U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe established 14th Amendment protection of the right to primary and secondary education for children of undocumented immigrants.  Writing for the majority, Justice William Brennan renounced those who had advocated against the protection of the rights of undocumented children, declaring: “It is difficult to understand precisely what the state hopes to achieve by promoting the creation and perpetuation of a sub-class of illiterates.”

At the Law Professor Blogs Network last week, Derek Black explains further: “This flows from the general principle that ‘all persons within the territory of the United States,’ including aliens unlawfully present, may invoke the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to challenge actions of the Federal Government…. The Fourteenth Amendment was designed to afford its protections to all within the boundaries of a State.”

The Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe has been in the news because…

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U. of Chicago Researchers Document Damage to Communities and Students from 2013 School Closures

Neighborhood community schools are called neighborhood community schools for a reason.

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Ever since Chicago closed 50 schools in May of 2013, we have listened to teachers worrying about the effects on the children who were transferred to so-called welcoming schools. And we have continued to hear laments from the community after neighborhood institutions were shuttered.

Corporate school reformers always claimed that school disruption would save us from the old 20th century status quo. Disruptive school turnarounds—fire the principal, fire half the teachers, charterize or privatize the school, close the school—were the final prescription in the No Child Left Behind Act as the supposed cure for low performance. They were also at the heart of Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants.

In Chicago, where a growing charter school sector has been actively competing with neighborhood schools, competition from privatized charters has exacerbated an already-declining school enrollment.  School closures in Chicago have been justified both as the way to…

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Grand Rapids Power Structure: Part III

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

This is our third article in our series on the Grand Rapids Power Structure. In the first piece, we provided an overview of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, along with a framework for how those with power function in this city. 

In our second piece, we looked at the most powerful family in Grand Rapids, the DeVos Family. In today’s post we are going to identify the other members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure and what role they play in influencing the economy, politics and social dynamics in this community.

There are numerous individuals and families that also wield tremendous power in Grand Rapids. In fact, there are too many to name, but we want to provide some insight into those who have a higher profile within the local power structure.

Meijer Family

Next to the DeVos Family, the Meijer Family has the largest economic and political impact…

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Teachers’ Walkouts Define the Danger of the Corporate Agenda to Destroy Public Education

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In his fine book, The One Percent Solution, political economist Gordon Lafer explains how powerful, moneyed interests have quietly taken advantage of the relatively invisible politics of state government to undermine public education.  Public school governance and funding is established in the state constitutions, and corporate interests, for decades, have been strategically manipulating state politics to starve the public schools our children attend and drive their own priorities: slashing government and growing privatization.

Why the states? “(M)any of the factors that strengthen corporate political influence are magnified in the states. First, far fewer people pay attention to state government, implying wider latitude for well-funded organized interests… If most people can’t name their legislators, how many are likely to have a well informed opinion on whether prevailing wages should be required on public construction projects worth more than $25,000?…  Apart from labor unions and a handful of progressive activists, the…

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Betsy DeVos Watch: Promoting Private Education, New York fundraisers and references to Acton Institute founder Fr. Robert Sirico

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On May 16th, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, was once again speaking at an event hosted by an organization that funds private, religious education.

DeVos was the featured speaker at a fundraiser for the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, a foundation that supports Catholic Education. Named after a former New York Governor, the Alfred E. Smith Foundation not only supports Catholic education, they provide grants to other Catholic social service agencies.

In her comments at the annual fundraiser by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, DeVos cites Pope Leo the 13th: 

The contention that the civil government should — at its option — intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.Pope Leo was right! Government can’t know the needs of individuals better than a parent, a pastor or a friend.

Not surprising that DeVos would use such a quote…

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What is the Forum for Government Accountability? Farm Bill Debate in Congress Exposed FGA Role

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Thank goodness the Farm Bill failed in the U.S. House of Representatives last week. The House’s despicable bill to punish the poor fell victim to division and rancor among House Republicans—division mostly about another fraught issue: immigration.

The Farm Bill includes food stamps—SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—and the bill that failed would have punished poor families by imposing strict and punitive work requirements for the adults who qualify for SNAP—including millions of  parents with children.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us: “In 2016, some 19 million children received SNAP each month, accounting for 44 percent of all SNAP participants.”

SNAP matters not only for individuals but also for public schools for two primary reasons. Twenty years after welfare reform utterly failed to end poverty, SNAP is among our society’s few remaining anti-poverty programs, and we know that school achievement and children’s life chances are closely…

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Proposed Trump Immigration Policy would further punish immigrant families, especially children

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The US government’s war on immigrants just added a new component. The Trump administration will soon be issuing a new regulation that would:

“jeopardize the status of millions of immigrants who use—or whose children use—health, housing, nutrition, and other key services and supports. It would do this by radically altering the way in which federal officials evaluate whether certain immigrants are—or are likely to become—a “public charge.”  

The concept of “public charge” first appeared in U.S. immigration law in the Immigration Act of 1882, which prohibited any immigrant “unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge” from being admitted to the United States. Since 1903, the Immigration and Nationality Act has included public-charge considerations in two contexts: (1) whether immigrants seeking entry to the United States or seeking legal permanent residency are at risk of becoming a public charge and thus deemed inadmissible and (2)…

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Journey4Justice Alliance Documents Unequal Access to Rich Curriculum and Arts Enrichment across U.S. Schools

“There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got… because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now… the real owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests…”
George Carlin (2005) Life Is Worth Losing.

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Last week, to mark the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Journey4Justice Alliance released a report, Failing Brown v. Board: A Continuous Struggle Against Inequity in Public Education.

The Journey4Justice Alliance is a founding member of the #WeChoose Campaign, a broader coalition of organizations: the Alliance for Education Justice, Advancement Project, Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, Badass Teacher’s Association, Data for Black Lives, Dignity in Schools Coalition, Institute of Democratic Education in America, Network for Public Education, NAACP, Moms Rising and Save Our Schools.

In his “Forward” to the new report, Jitu Brown, Director of the Journey4Justice Alliance, reflects on his own learnings from 20 years of providing leadership development programs in public schools across the state of Illinois: “I implemented programs in schools that served middle class and low income Black and Brown communities where there…

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