Trump’s anti-education DeVos and United States teachers


This satiric video from the USA says about itself:

10 February 2017

Jimmy [Fallon] speaks with new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about her plans for America’s public schools, including getting rid of textbooks.

By Nancy Hanover in the USA:

“If you don’t have an education, you don’t have a life”

Teachers speak out on the schools crisis and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

23 February 2017

New US Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos has lost no time in making known her ideological opposition to public education, contempt for educators and hostility to democratic rights.

Her installation has evoked strong opposition to teachers, who rightly see DeVos as the spearhead of a ramped up attack at all levels on public education.

Following her narrow Cabinet confirmation, DeVos’ first appearance was a brief visit to a public school, Washington DC’s Jefferson Middle School Academy, on February 10. Her arrival was greeted with protests by parents and teachers, temporarily preventing her from entering into the school.

Speaking to the press after the visit, DeVos insulted the teachers, haughtily characterized them as in “receive mode” … “waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child.” She has routinely referred to public schools as a “dead end”.

In a subsequent interview with the right-wing news site Townhall, DeVos alleged the protests were “not genuine”. “We’ve seen enough written that they want to make my life a living hell”, she added. …

DeVos has now made the highly unusual and expensive demand that she be accompanied by US federal marshals for the foreseeable future. No Cabinet-level secretary has requested a similar level of protection since at least 2009.

The secretary is not just fearful of protesting teachers, she also issued a not-so-veiled threat that any Education Department employees who try to “subvert the mission” (her pro-privatization agenda) would be attended to “swiftly and surely”, according to Townhall.

For his part, President Trump reiterated his support for privatization at a White House “listening session” with a handpicked group of parents on February 14. Trump, with DeVos at his side, described charter schools as “fantastic”, “amazing” and “unbelievable”. He has pledged $20 billion of federal dollars for school vouchers through block grants to the states or a federally funded scholarship tax credit program written into the tax code.

In an interview with Axios published February 17, DeVos stated that she would “be fine” with the abolition of the Department of Education and predicted the flowering of all types of schools except public ones. “I expect there will be more public charter schools. I expect there will be more private schools. I expect there will be more virtual schools. I expect there will be more schools of any kind that haven’t even been invented yet.”

Teachers spoke to the WSWS describing their reactions to the Trump administration’s privatization policies, DeVos, the threat to close nearly half of Detroit’s public schools, the failure of the teachers’ unions to stand up for educators and the broader political issues involved in defending democratic rights and public education. …

In the city of Detroit, the DeVos family’s policies have resulted in a wide battery of pro-privatization legislation and the control of 80 percent of charters by for-profit businesses. The growth of charter schools and edubusinesses in DeVos’ home state of Michigan, as elsewhere, proliferated under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

A young first-year teacher in a Detroit public schools said, “I am not originally from Michigan so I didn’t know much about Betsy DeVos before now. Working in Detroit schools and talking with other educators, I see the effects of her policies already.

“They are trying to shut between 8-10 of the Education Achievement Authority schools and dozens of Detroit Public School Community District schools, some this year and some next.

“From what I heard, the charter districts are already looking to buy these schools. That’s how underhanded things are already. Charters have had a terrible effect on Detroit. With DeVos in office, what I’ve seen will happen all around the nation.

“In my district, the neighborhood is the worst of the worst. The homes are abandoned; there are fires everywhere. These are ‘forgotten’ neighborhoods, those in poverty.

“We’re got seven-year-olds at pre-K reading levels. Seeing children two years behind is common. Our school is severely underfunded with computers. My children get no time with computers, but they need to because the tests are all online. The computer testing starts in kindergarten.

“Then bonuses are paid to the teachers based on the test scores and if there has been ‘student growth’. Attendance is a big problem. Often kids are gone for six or seven days, then in school for two. It’s really hard to make gains like that.”

The elementary teacher added her strong opposition to the administration’s attacks on immigrants. “As an undergraduate, I studied Spanish and my parents suggested I become an ICE officer. I wouldn’t because I didn’t want to send anyone back. It’s so deplorable. No one is a native here, unless you are Native American, and we see how they are treated.

“The claims that immigrants are taking jobs are just used to fuel the fire. They want to use this hot button issue to change what people are focusing on, like cutting the EPA, women’s rights or the national parks. Deporting people goes against basic fundamental human rights and even how our country was founded. I can’t even believe this is happening in 2017.”

Beverly, a Detroit Community Public Schools District teacher, said: “I am in one of the priority schools but it’s not on the list for closure. I try to speak out and be positive.

“What a lot of people fail to understand about the school closures is that it is not just academics which can put a school on the list, but also attendance. If the children don’t come to school for whatever reason—their transportation breaks down, their parent has to go to work—the school can be put on the list and the school be closed.

“A school can have most of the children improving, say 90 percent, but if that other 10 percent falls, this will pull the scores down. That can be another reason the school is judged not to meet Annual Yearly Progress.

“If there is no education and people don’t have financial means, a sociological change takes place. They can turn to stealing to find food. I try to be positive, but the powers-that-be, the political people in charge, are more concerned with their riches.

United States Muslim solidarity with vandalized Jewish cemetery


This video from the USA says about itself:

Muslims Organize Fundraiser For Vandalized Jewish Cemetery

22 February 2017

An anti-semitic act of vandalism is being fought with love and solidarity. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss.

“There has been an outpouring of support around the vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery.

“There is a concept in Jewish teaching and thought known as tikkun olam — It translates literally into ‘repairing the world,’ but what it means more broadly is that we all have an obligation to one another and to be of service,” wrote Greitens. “It is in moments like this that the world is in most need of repair, and we must do our part.”

A fundraising campaign organized by Muslim Americans — Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy — has raised more than $64,000 in support of the rebuilding efforts, more than triple the initial goal of $20,000. The funds remaining after the cemetery is restored will be contributed to repair other vandalized Jewish centers, the campaign said.

“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the campaign wrote on its fundraising landing page. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”

On Wednesday, Missouri’s governor and community members will gather at the cemetery to help clean and repair the damage. As of Tuesday afternoon, the cemetery was able to reset about 50 headstones.”

Read more here.

Australian government emulating Trump


This TV video from the USA says about itself:

Alec Baldwin mocks Trump and his Australia phone call on tonight’s episode

On tonight’s episode of Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin returned to portray President Donald J. Trump in a blistering cold open, skewering all the top stories that plagued the administration this week.

Including Trump’s advisor Stephen Bannon as the Grim Reaper.

Though Trump bullied Australian Prime Minister Turnbull in that phone call, that does not seem to stop the Turnbull administration from emulating Trump.

By Anna Pha in Australia:

‘Fortress Australia’- Government seeks Trump-like powers against immigrants

Thursday 23rd February 2017

CLAIMS by Australian media outlets last week that the country’s immigration and border protection minister Peter Dutton is seeking “Trump-like” powers to target visa-holders are not far-fetched.

Amendments to the Migration Act that gained support in the House of Representatives on February 9 and US President Donald Trump’s attempts to ban people from seven Muslim majority countries have strong similarities.

There are differences in form though, with Trump attempting to directly use his presidential powers and Dutton seeking to gain similar powers through thinly disguised parliamentary legislation.

If passed, the Migration Amendment (Visa Revalidation and Other Measures) Bill 2016 would give Dutton and future ministers unchecked discretionary powers to subject any group based on race, nationality or other trait holding a visa — regardless of whether the visa is permanent or temporary — to a revalidation test and possible cancellation of their visa.

Trump’s attempts to ban Muslims from the countries on his hit list have little to do with countering terrorism.

For example, the list does not include Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, which has played a major role in training and funding terrorists.

This is not surprising as Saudi Arabia is also one of the largest importers of armaments from the US and Trump is reported to be set to approve large orders from the Saudi regime that had been blocked by former president Barack Obama.

Trump’s attempted bans have much more to do with the reactionary politics of anti-Islam, xenophobia and authoritarian and demagogic politics of the far-right.

The amendments to the Act share the same politics as Trump’s ban.

They were supported by the Australian Labour Party on the senate legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee. The Australian Greens issued a dissenting report opposing the Bill. Labour did, however, vote against the Bill and it is now before the Senate.

The Bill seeks to introduce a system of online visa revalidation. Visa holders would be required to update information and answer other questions as and when determined by the minister. Failure to meet requirements set by the minister would result in loss of their visa.

The claimed objective of the new visa provisions is a new, 10-year, “longer validity” visitor visa to be used by business people and tourists.

This visitor visa is explained as necessary to compete with other countries offering longer visas to tourists. It would allow multiple visits with a limit of three months each time.

The Bill provides for a trial of the 10-year visa for Chinese nationals only. The concept was raised as a means of making it easier for business people and tourists from the People’s Republic of China to come and go at short notice.

It is suggested that nationals of other countries would progressively be allowed to apply for the 10-year visa.

Dutton argues that over a period it would be necessary to require visa holders to routinely update the information they have previously provided to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Hence the need for the changes. According to the memorandum of understanding accompanying the Bill, visa revalidation “is designed to manage the risks to the Australian community that may arise in the context of longer validity visitor visas, including a person’s individual circumstances changing over time, or in the event of a serious incident occurring overseas which may create a situation where it is in the public interest to reassess a visa holder’s individual circumstances in light of such an event. The amendments will allow the government to ensure that visa holders continue to meet the health, character, security and other requirements for entry to Australia.”

As well as providing for a routine revalidation system, the Bill also gives the minister the power to personally decide that an individual or class of individuals must have their visas revalidated.

The minister could exercise his or her powers on the basis of which country they are from, their ethnicity, religion, etc. This is referred to as “public interest” revalidation.

The minister’s powers apply to all visa holders, not just to those on a 10-year visa, even though the argument for their necessity was based on monitoring changes over 10 years.

The “public interest revalidation check [is] to manage specific, serious, or time-critical risks in relation to an identified cohort of visa holders,” Dutton said in his second reading speech.

“In such circumstances, issuing a personal ministerial revalidation requirement will immediately prevent specified visa holders from being able to travel to and enter Australia until they successfully revalidate their visa,” Dutton said.

The wording of the Bill leaves it wide open as to what groups could lose their visas and be denied visas in the future.

Already there is legislation on the books that restricts areas Australian visa holders can visit without good reason such as visiting their family.

The revalidation check will require the visa holder to provide information via their secure online account that will allow the minister to assess whether the visa holder passes the revalidation check.

For example, it could result in the loss of visa and denial of entry for people who live in or have travelled through a specific country or a particular area of a country; have travelled through a particular area; have contact with people in a designated region or country; are of a specific nationality or even are the children of immigrants from certain countries.

It could also be applied to specific religious beliefs or races.

It contains the potential for loss or denial of visa retrospectively if the offending behaviour occurred prior to it being considered a security risk or what the minister considers undesirable.

This raises the question of why the government would make provisions for the banning of “cohorts” of people, maybe even nationals from a whole country, along similar lines to Trump, unless the intent is to use them.

Trump makes no pretence about his agenda of banning Muslims or nationals from those seven countries that are on the US’s hit list.

Dutton is not so honest about his intentions. A visa holder will pass a revalidation check if there is “no adverse information” relating to the person, or if there is, that it is reasonable to disregard that information.

“No adverse information” is not defined in the legislation. It is left to the minister to determine what is adverse information.

The minister can delegate power to deny and cancel visas. The minister also has complete discretionary power to determine who is required to undergo revalidation.

While the process is under way, their visas cease to be in effect, denying entry until they pass revalidation.

If someone is in Australia at the time, they would not become unlawful non-citizens at the time, but if “adverse information” is found, then they would have to leave Australia.

The Bill also provides for new classes of visas making it far more difficult to gain citizenship.

Recently leaked documents reveal plans for new types of visas, a longer and more difficult process to gain permanent visas and citizenship and delays in gaining access to social security.

The current government is getting away with these laws after years of successive governments demonising asylum-seekers, then Muslims, and increasingly giving prominence to and normalising the politics of the far-right.

The Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph, a Sydney tabloid, recently launched a campaign to collectively demonise Muslim immigrants, refugees and welfare recipients. It led with a front-page article claiming that “Middle Eastern migrants are piling up the dole queue”: here.

Trump declares war on transgender people


This video about the USA says about itself:

22 February 2017

Donald Trump is to scrap landmark guidelines telling schools to let transgender students use toilets matching their gender identity rather than their gender at birth.

The move reverses guidance introduced by the Obama administration and stands to inflame passions in the latest conflict between believers in traditional values and the socially progressive.

Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) said the Obama guidelines had saved lives.

Read more here.

From Reuters news agency:

Thu Feb 23, 2017 | 4:01am EST

Trump revokes Obama guidelines on transgender bathrooms

By Daniel Trotta

President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday revoked landmark guidance to public schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

Reversing the Obama guidelines stands to inflame passions in the latest conflict in America between believers in traditional values and social progressives, and is likely to prompt more of the street protests that followed Trump’s Nov. 8 election.

Obama had instructed public schools last May to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. Transgender people hailed the step as victory for their civil rights.

Trump, a Republican who took office last month, rescinded those guidelines, even though they had been put on hold by a federal judge, arguing that states and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without federal interference.

The Justice and Education departments will continue to study the legal issues involved, according to the new, superseding guidance that will be sent to public schools.

About 200 people gathered in front of the White House to protest against Trump’s action, waving rainbow flags and chanting: “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”

The rainbow flag is the symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, people.

“We all know that Donald Trump is a bully, but his attack on transgender children today is a new low,” said Rachel Tiven, chief executive of Lambda Legal, which advocates for LGBT people.

Transgender legal advocates have criticized the “states’ rights” argument, saying federal law and civil rights are matters for the federal government to enforce, not the states.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration was pressed to act now because of the pending U.S. Supreme Court case, G.G. versus Gloucester County School Board.

That case pits a Virginia transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, against officials who want to deny him use of the boys’ room at his high school.

Although the Justice Department is not a party in the case, it typically would want to make its views heard. The Trump administration action on Wednesday also withdrew an Education Department letter in support of Grimm’s case.

“I’ve faced my share of adversaries in rural Virginia. I never imagined that my government would be one of them. We will not be beaten down by this administration,” Grimm, 17, told the protest outside the White House.

COURTS MAY HAVE FINAL SAY

The federal law in question, known as Title IX, bans sex discrimination in education. But it remains unsettled whether Title IX protections extend to a person’s gender identity.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the Obama guidelines “did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman vowed to ensure Title IX and his state’s civil rights protections are enforced.

“President Trump’s decision to rescind anti-discrimination protections for transgender students is yet another cruel move by an administration committed to divisive policies that roll back the clock on civil rights,” he said in a statement.

The courts are likely to have the final say over whether Title IX covers transgender students. The Supreme Court could pass on that question in the Virginia case and allow lower courts to weigh in, or go ahead and decide what the law means.

Obama’s Education Department issued the guidance in response to queries from school districts across the country about how to accommodate transgender students in gender-segregated bathrooms.

It also covered a host of other issues, such as the importance of addressing transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns and schools’ responsibility to prevent harassment and bullying of transgender children.

Thirteen states led by Texas sued to stop the Obama guidelines, and a U.S. district judge in Texas temporarily halted their full implementation.

The White House previously boasted of Trump’s support for LGBT rights, noting in a Jan. 31 statement that he was the first Republican presidential nominee to mention the community in his nomination acceptance speech.

“Revoking the guidance shows that the president’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric,” James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union‘s LGBT project, said in a statement.

(Reporting and writing by Daniel Trotta in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Jeff Mason, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Mana Rabiee and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ROLLS BACK PROTECTIONS FOR TRANSGENDER STUDENTS “President Donald Trump’s administration announced on Wednesday that it will no longer bar schools from discriminating against transgender students, rescinding a policy put in place by the previous administration.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was reportedly against rescinding the order and initially resisted signing off on it. Inauguration singer Jackie Evancho, whose sister Juliet is a transgender teenager, said she wanted to meet with the president about the need for transgender equality, and other celebrities spoke out against the change. [HuffPost]

In May 2016 President Barack Obama instructed public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom they felt most comfortable using; schools refusing to comply with the instructions risked losing federal funding. The guidelines also included instructions for teachers to use students’ preferred names and pronouns in class. On Wednesday, February 22, President Trump rescinded the instructions, arguing that states and public schools have a right to discriminate against transgender students without interference from the federal government: here.

HERE’S HOW MUCH IT COSTS TO PROTECT TRUMP TOWER IN NYC EACH DAY Where the first lady currently resides. [HuffPost]