Supreme Court Decision in “Janus v. AFSCME” Will Undermine Teachers Unions and the Common Good

“In my opinion, those who think the Janus ruling is irrelevant are fooling themselves. So are those who think this decision will kill all public employee unions.

The factors that pushed teachers to unionize in the past century will not go away. The tools at their disposal may change – but the drive to improve their careers and workplaces will continue.” – Sherman Dorn, Professor of Education, Arizona State University
https://theconversation.com/teachers-activism-will-survive-the-janus-supreme-court-ruling-98443

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Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court released its long anticipated decision in Janus v. AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees). The decision undermines workers’ rights by threatening the fiscal viability public sector unions, including teachers unions.

The same issue—union agency (fair share) fees—was heard in 2016 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, but after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court split 4-4, and the issue at the heart of the case was left unresolved.  After President Donald Trump appointed conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, and after the new case of Janus v. AFSCME was appealed to the high court, yesterday’s decision ending fair share fees had been expected.

Yesterday’s 5 to 4 decision was written by Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence…

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NAACP holds rally in front of Bethany Christian Services offices, draws attention to the separation of immigrant families in detention

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Yesterday, the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP came to Grand Rapids to hold a rally in front of the offices of Bethany Christian Services, because of the current crisis surrounding the separation of immigrant families in detention.

The event also included a spokesperson from the Grand Rapids NAACP, members of the UAW from Detroit, La SED and several pastors who addressed the crowd of roughly 100 who stood across from the offices of Bethany, holding signs.

There was some important points that were made during the rally. First, one of the pastors who spoke made the point that the children who were brought to Bethany and other agencies in the state, were brought in between 11pm and 7am, “during the cover of night. What is it that the government was hiding that caused them to transport these children in the middle of the night?”

The representative from La SED (Latin…

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D.C.’s New Emergency Attendance Policy: A Compassionate Plan or Just a Way to Get Kids Over?

“If your school or district has an unusually high rate, it’s time to start asking why. Are socioeconomic factors — poor health, unstable families, high pregnancy rates — to blame?
Are enforcement efforts lacking?
Are the schools perceived as unsafe — or just boring?
And if your school or district has an abnormally low rate, then it’s time to start asking a different set of questions.”
– Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center

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The Washington Post‘s Perry Stein reports that the Washington D.C. Public School District has instituted a new, emergency attendance policy to cope with chronic absence by many students—a policy that will also allow some students to graduate this year even though they missed many days of school. The District’s creation of this emergency policy surfaces some serious issues about what it means to go to school, what it means to graduate, and how schools can work with masses of students experiencing the disruptions caused by deep poverty.

It’s an important debate to have, but a graduation crisis is probably not the right context for a thoughtful resolution.

You’ll remember that in Washington, D.C., under Michelle Rhee and her successor Kaya Henderson, teachers’ and principals’ evaluations depended on educators’ capacity to produce metrics-driven deliverables—higher test scores at first, and later an ever-rising high school graduation rate. You’ll remember that…

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Another attack against those on government assistance in Michigan and the people paying for this new state law

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Yesterday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder passed legislation known as the Medicaid Workforce Engagement Act

The title of this legislation was designed to pacify people, since the real focus of this legislation is to make people who receive government assistance with Medicaid be required to work 80 hours a month in order to continue receiving this assistance.

There are several exceptions listed within the newly adopted legislation, but according to an estimate cited in the Detroit News, “540,000 able-bodied adults” would be required to fulfill the work requirements.

Organizations that are part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, like the GR Chamber of Commerce and the West Michigan Policy Forum, endorsed the legislation.  On their facebook page, the WMPF stated:

The West Michigan Policy Forum supports this plan, as it will help employers struggling to find workers fill open jobs, and put people in need of assistance…

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White Savior Politics and the current immigration crisis

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The recent news that the US government, through the Department of Homeland Security, has been detaining children of immigrant families. The detention centers are cruel manifestations of the nation’s immigration policies, which are punishing immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants.

The images that we have all been seeing of immigrant children being separated from their families are awful, traumatic and gruesome. Therefore, it is not surprising that people have been outraged. All one has to do is look at social media and these images of children in detention all everywhere.

In the past few weeks, there has also been a variety of responses to this revelation that families are being separated. People have been calling members of Congress, holding protests and attempting to raise awareness about what is happening at this moment. Wanting to do something is understandable, in fact it seems rather natural for many people, since humans will respond to…

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2018 Farm Bill will punish those on food assistance, reward corporate agriculture and continue to take advantage of unjust immigration policies

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The US House of Representatives passed the 2018 Farm Bill, with a vote of 213 – 211.

The 2018 version of the Farm Bill, will continue to perpetuate an agribusiness-driven food system, by providing massive subsidies. Large, agribusiness growers will continue to benefit from the 2018 Farm Bill, while small farmers and farmers that practice diverse, ecologically sustainable methods will not be recipients of taxpayer support.

Like the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2018 version will include significant cuts to $867 Billion piece of legislation. The House farm bill includes cuts of more than $20 billion in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits over 10 years. The legislation also contains provisions that could see more than 2 million low-income Americans lose their benefits or experience declines in financial assistance. 

These cuts to food assistance is just one more attack against working class people and those experiencing poverty. However, the House version…

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Heartless Administration Proposes Government Overhaul; Defines Education as Workforce Prep

The restructuring is for workforce training the serfs and peasants.
The royals send their children to private boarding schools and thus have little need or use for such public institutions.

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People my age remember that before there was a U.S. Department of Education, the work relating to education was located in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Now the Trump Administration has proposed collapsing the Department of Education and the Department of Labor into one agency. Where you locate a department in the organizational chart says something about how you understand that agency’s purpose.

When President Jimmy Carter established the Department of Education in 1970, the dominant view was that government had an obligation on behalf of society to protect the welfare of children and had a responsibility to our poorest citizens. The Washington Post‘s Lisa Rein reports that yesterday’s proposed government restructure was designed by Mick Mulvaney, who leads the Office of Management and Budget, to reflect President Donald Trump’s view that the federal government is bloated. But in advance of the White House’s announcement, the Washington…

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Judge Rejects Plan to Allow New York Charter Schools to Certify Their Own Teachers

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On Tuesday, a judge in New York blocked a 2017 rule made by the Charter Schools Committee of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) to allow charter schools and chains of charter schools sponsored by SUNY’s Board of Trustees to certify their own teachers.  Charter school certification programs were required, under the now-banned rule, to have included at least 160 hours of classroom training plus 40 hours of practice teaching.  The rule had been approved by New York’s state legislature as part of a political deal to favor Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies.

ChalkBeat‘s Monica Disare describes the significance of Tuesday’s ruling banning the practice: “The judge’s ruling upends the plans of the city’s largest charter school network, Success Academy, and wipes out a legislative victory that New York’s charter sector thought it had won…. The regulations, approved by the State University of New…

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Peters and Stabenow vote with majority of Senate to approve $716 Billion Military Budget

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Monday, the US Senate voted in favor of adopting the National Defense Authorization Act,  by a margin of 85 – 10

The vote adopts $716 billion defense bill that boosts military spending by over $80 billion and authorizes another $21.6 billion for nuclear weapons programs.

If adopted by the House, the 2019 Budget for US militarism would be an increase of roughly $82 billion from last years defense budget.

Both Michigan Senators voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act. As member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Gary Peters released a statement on why he voted for the military budget, stating: 

“At a time when our nation faces new and wide-ranging security threats, it is critical that our brave men and women in uniform have the support, tools and technologies necessary to complete their mission safely and effectively, Michigan is conducting groundbreaking research…

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Despite ECOT’s Death, Ohio’s Unscrupulous Charter Schools Gobble Up State and Local Tax Dollars

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Despite the death last January of the notorious Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, Ohio’s charter schools continue to suck money out of their host school districts, and, at the same time, many fail to educate the students for whom they are responsible.

The giant Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) was finally shut down after the state tried to collect $80 million the Department of Education calculated ECOT had overcharged taxpayers for the past two school years alone.  ECOT, which had been billing taxpayers (on a per-pupil basis) for thousands of phantom students the school had enrolled but who were not logging on to use the school’s curriculum, couldn’t pay the bill when the state demanded that the school return the money.  ECOT descended into bankruptcy.

Because of the way Ohio funds charter schools, not only the state but also the local school district loses money when a student leaves for a…

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