Drain the swamp? Lobbyists are filling it up

President Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp. Instead, it’s filling up.

For the first time since 2007, the number of registered lobbyists along with federal lobbying expenditures went up, reversing annual declines in both registrations and spending that began a decade ago.

In all, $3.34 billion was spent on federal lobbying last year, up 6 percent from $3.15 billion a year ago. The increase comes after lobbying expenditures had declined five of the past six years — spending rose less than 1 percent the other year… Read More

by Geoff West


Campaign funding from Health Insurance and Pharma blocks hopes for Single-Payer enthusiasts

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont hosted a town hall recently to discuss the Medicare for All Act, during which he emphasized a conflict of interest around involving the private sector in healthcare.

“Right now, we have a healthcare system that is not designed to provide quality care to all people in a cost effective way,” Sanders said. “Let us be frank, we have a healthcare system designed to make enormous profits for insurance companies and drug companies. And disease prevention is not very high on their lists.”…Read More by Josh Finkelstein


Trump’s state in the eye of the Union

We expected the phrase “America First.” The name Gorsuch. And multiple uses of the word “great.”

In the days before President Trump’s first State of Union all we could do was guess what achievements he would highlight and what goals he would line out for 2018.

Reports had suggested Trump’s speech would center on four topics: the economy, immigration, infrastructure, trade and defense. And he delievered

Here’s our primer on what we expected Tuesdaynight… Read More  by Geoff West

O’Rourke’s no-PAC campaign paying off against Cruz

After voting against the 2014 Farm Bill, El Paso Democrat Beto O’Rourke was asked to apologize. Not to the voters, but to a political action committee (PAC) that donated to his campaign.

“At that moment, I just said ‘You know what, I don’t want to take PAC money anymore,”  O’Rourke said. “This is crazy.”
Now, as Rep. O’Rourke campaigns to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) in the upcoming midterm election, his pledge to not “take a dime from PACs or special interest groups” may have paid off.The Center for Responsive Politics requested quarter four fundraising information from both campaigns ahead of Federal Election Commission’s deadline. Information provided shows that O’Rourke outraised Cruz and did so largely through smaller, individual contributions…. Read More by Megan Janetsky

Chan Zuckerberg Priorities, Including “Personalized” Learning, Are Veiled in a Haze of Rhetoric

Excellent post Jan. Personalized Learning…what a gawdawful” term. Used and abused with so many definitions and lengthy descriptions to make impossible to nail down that even the most experienced of educators can agree on what it means. Surely non-educators like the Zuckerbergs ought not even bother trying. Great article here explaining the explanations. http://edglossary.org/personalized-learning/
There’s so many meanings that it’s like going to a hardware store and trying to buy a gallon of white paint.


We shouldn’t be entirely surprised by the sales pitch from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) about the glories of so-called “personalized” learning.  When tech giants push education theory, one always needs to watch for ideas that embody the use of technology. But in the case of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, there is another reason to be careful.  Jim Shelton leads the education work of CZI, a limited-liability corporation that will also be granting gobs of money to develop and promote its education agenda.

In a piece at CHALKBEAT last week, Matt Barnum reports: “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a bold statement in a recent essay: By giving students individual help, average students can be turned into exceptional ones. ‘If a student is at the 50th percentile in their class and they receive effective one-on-one tutoring, they jump on average to the 98th percentile,’ Zuckerberg wrote.  It’s a remarkable claim…

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West Michigan Elite amongst the largest contributors to the 2018 Election in the State

Michigan GOP: bought and paid for by select few…

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is already making it clear that the 2018 Elections in Michigan will be one of the most expensive in state history

In the 2018 Election we will see contributions from numerous sectors, including Political Action Committees (PACs), Caucus Committees, Super PACs, outside funding and an increase in individual candidate contributions.

One area, Caucus Committees, not only demonstrates the outrageous amounts of money that have already been raised in Michigan, the data also shows that West Michigan elites are amongst the top contributors to purchasing the 2018 elections.

According to the data collected by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the top two contributors to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee are listed as: 

  1. DeVos Family, Windquest Group and RDV Corp, $240,000
  2. Kennedy family, Autocam, $60,000

This amount of money is just what was raised in 2017 and we can expect even higher numbers for 2018.


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David Sciarra’s Prescription for Curing Chris Christie’s Education Malaise in New Jersey

Once upon a time Chris Christie, Cory Booker and Mark Zuckerberg had themselves an education plan. In the end they’re the ones who got schooled.


A lot of us worry about how far backward our society is falling in its commitment to public responsibility. It seems overwhelming to try to imagine how states and the federal government can crawl out from a deep hole dug by tax cutting, privatization, and elimination of services and programs many of us have assumed government will provide. Kansas during Sam Brownback’s tenure as governor has stood out for the failure of his experiment in tax slashing and supply side, trickle-down economics.  But despite that Governor Chris Christie was checked by Democratic legislative majorities, he also left a stain on public education.  Christie formally left office on January 15.

Here is how the executive director of the Education Law Center, David Sciarra describes Christie’s problematic public education legacy: “He set the tone in the 2010 state budget—his first—when he pushed through a $1 billion school-funding cut, wiping out two years…

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Koch Network Plans 2018 Investment Across the States to Promote Privatization of Education

“A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, Bern as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” – James Madison


Here is how political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson describe the influence of the Koch brothers in American Amnesia, their 2016 book about the essential role of government for balancing the power of private interests: “The… array of Koch-related organizations was no Rube Goldberg machine.  It was more like an offshore holding company, designed to shield donors and to make it all but impossible to determine whether money designated for ‘social welfare purposes’—exempt from campaign finance rules—found its way into electoral politics… They built a rich people’s movement.  Beginning in 2003, Charles began to form a social network that could intervene in politics on a grand scale.” (American Amnesia, pp. 234-235)

This past weekend the Kochs convened their top givers, their Seminar Network, at a retreat center in Indian Wells, California.  Here is Associated Press reporter Steve Peoples’ description: “The Koch network’s chief lieutenants renewed…

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Chicago Organizes to Confront Portfolio School Reform, Stop School Closures and Disruption


Consider the following description, from The ‘Portfolio’ Approach to School District Governance, a 2016 policy brief from the Network for Public Education, of a school governance practice known as “portfolio school reform.” While you are reading about this school governance practice, think about the city school districts you may know where portfolio school reform is the operational theory—maybe Chicago, or Washington, D.C., or Cleveland, or Detroit, or Indianapolis, or Nashville, or Denver, or Los Angeles.

“As policy makers and the courts abandoned desegregation efforts and wealth moved from cities to the suburbs, most of the nation’s major cities developed communities of concentrated poverty, and policymakers gave the school districts serving those cities the task of overcoming the opportunity gaps created by that poverty. Moreover, districts were asked to do this with greatly inadequate funding.  The nation’s highest poverty school districts receive ten percent lower funding per student, while…

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Policy Brief Explores SES Measures Used by Researchers and Policymakers

BOULDER, CO (January 30, 2018) – Measures of socioeconomic status (SES) are widely used in educational research and policy applications, in large part due to overwhelming evidence linking SES to student achievement. SES is usually conceptualized as an unobservable factor—a construct—measured using variables such as parental education, occupation, income/wealth, and home possessions to take into account disparities between students, classrooms, and schools.

The National Education Policy Center released a brief today that examines the usefulness of common SES measures. Researchers and policymakers agree on the importance of SES in educational settings, but the available measures that we use belie that importance.

Professor Michael Harwell of the University of Minnesota authored the brief, titled Don’t Expect Too Much: The Limited Usefulness of Common SES Measures and a Prescription for Change. He explores the factors that undermine the usefulness of common SES measures in ways that can bias or muddy research and policy conclusions, and he considers what changes might promote a deeper understanding and more effective use of SES in research and policy.

Professor Harwell’s recommendations include the following:

  • A theory-grounded model of SES should be adopted to define this construct in ways consistent with the purpose of the research or policy application.
  • Correlations between SES measures and outcomes should be examined to assess the usefulness of these measures as control variables in statistical analyses.
  • Researchers and policymakers wishing to employ existing SES measures should consider a composite index of SES, perhaps in conjunction with common measures, or turn to alternative measures such as either students’ perception of their SES or poverty estimates at the district level. Those interested in developing new measures should use a theory-grounded SES model as a guide to help ensure new SES measures do in fact measure what they are intended to (i.e., show evidence of construct validity).
  • The development of new SES measures guided by a theory-grounded model of SES requires assembling a multidisciplinary team with expertise in a substantive area of education (e.g., mathematics education) as well as expertise in psychometrics, statistics, and the SES literature.
  • Eligibility for a free- or reduced-price lunch should not be used as a student-level SES measure, but aggregating this variable to reflect the percentage of students receiving subsidized meals produces a crude but useful index to compare the economic need of a school or district with other schools or districts.

Find Don’t Expect Too Much: The Limited Usefulness of Common SES Measures and a Prescription for Change, by Michael Harwell, at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/SES

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (greatlakescenter.org).

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu