Trump against education, demonstrators against Trump


This video from the USA says about itself:

Public (School) Enemy No. 1: Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary

1 December 2016

Donald Trump has tapped conservative billionaire Betsy DeVos to serve as Education Secretary. DeVos is the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and a longtime backer of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools.

In response, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, “In nominating DeVos Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.” Since 1970, the DeVos family has invested at least $200 million in various right-wing causes. DeVos’s father-in-law is the co-founder of Amway and her brother is Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater. For more, we speak to former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, Center for Media and Democracy executive director Lisa Graves, and elected member of the Detroit Board of Education Tawanna Simpson.

By Esther Galen in the USA:

Trump’s voucher plan and the right-wing campaign to destroy public education

Part one

21 March 2017

President Trump’s budget proposal released Thursday cuts $9.2 billion from Department of Education funding. But there is one funding boost, the only increase in funding for domestic social programs in the entire Trump budget: a $1.4 billion increase for “school choice” programs. This includes $1 billion for the promotion of school vouchers, where families are given a set amount of money, which they can spend on private, charter, religious or even online schools.

Trump proposed $20 billion for school vouchers during his campaign last fall. He did not present any details except to say the funds would come from existing federal dollars spent on education. During his inaugural address, Trump denounced the public school system, saying it was “an education system, flushed with cash” that “leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge.”

The president is determined to accelerate the decades-long campaign, pursued by Democratic and Republican administrations alike, to dismantle public education and funnel even more money into the hands of private business interests. In choosing billionaire Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, Trump has selected someone with a clear record of seeking to destroy public education.

The United States government is in the process of turning back the clock for public education. CEOs of the largest corporations, the Democrats and Republicans, and the courts all agree that society does not have an obligation to provide all students with a high-quality education.

The mantra of “school choice” means that the capitalist market should determine how—and whether—students get educated. Parents, as “consumers,” will have a choice as to where they send their children to be educated and evaluate what they bought. If they’re not happy with the school giving the education they purchased, they can look for another one, as though they were buying a pair of shoes. And of course, just as when people shop, those who are wealthier can afford better products, in this case, schools. The working class and poor will not be able to afford quality education.

While private schools choose what students to admit and keep enrolled, public schools are legally bound to serve all children, including special education, English as a Second Language (ESL) and low-income students. The purpose of vouchers is to starve the public schools of desperately needed resources to finance private and parochial schools.

Trump says he plans to take the $20 billion for vouchers from already existing funds. Will the federal government end Pell Grants to low-income students to go to college ($22 billion in 2016)? Will it cut Title I state grants ($14.9 billion) that help improve learning of low-income elementary and secondary students and provide them with school lunches? Will special education state grants ($11.9 billion) be hit, or Head Start ($9.2 billion), which is technically funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and provides preschool and other family health services to low-income families?

There are many other federal grants to states that may be cut, including funds for School Improvement, Striving Readers, Math and Science Partnerships, and Rural Education.

Currently, public school funding comes from the federal government (10 percent), local government (45 percent, mostly through property taxes) and state government (45 percent). Much of federal funding has been for programs to assist low-income or disabled students. When these funds are ended, it will devastate whole working class communities.

As to state funding, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, “Most states provide less support per student for elementary and secondary schools—in some cases, much less—than before the Great Recession.”

But far from increasing funds to public schools, vouchers will destroy them. States have been implementing voucher programs since the early 1990s, starting with the first Bush administration and continuing with Clinton, Bush and Obama. All these administrations passed legislation on public education used to undermine public schools.

State voucher programs

Today, 27 states and Washington, D.C., have some sort of voucher program, and some have more than one type, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The vouchers are also called Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), Tax-Credit Scholarships, Individual Tax Credits and Individual Tax Deductions.

Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., have vouchers that give private schools state funding to pay tuition for students, primarily those who are low-income, have special needs or attend so-called poor-performing schools.

Seventeen states, including Indiana and Florida, have tax credit scholarship programs. A nonprofit scholarship-granting organization is formed to collect donations from individuals and/or corporations, who then get a tax credit; the nonprofit gives private school scholarships to eligible students.

Eight states give tax credits or deductions to parents who send their kids to private schools, according to EdChoice. In Indiana and Louisiana, families can deduct tuition on their taxes, while Illinois and Iowa let parents claim a tax credit for their children’s private school tuition.

In five states, including Arizona and Mississippi, education savings accounts let parents choose how to spend the state’s per-pupil allotment for their child’s education—whether it’s putting them in private school or paying for tutoring.

Vouchers in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is America’s longest-running private school voucher program, begun in 1990. About 28,200 Milwaukee students now use vouchers to attend private schools. A big spike in attendance occurred in 1998, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that families could use their state vouchers at religious schools.

The program has shifted public spending on education in the city. Milwaukee Public Schools will see a $52.1 million loss this school year to pay for its share of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. By 2014, it was expected the total amount of public money spent on vouchers in Milwaukee would surpass $1.7 billion.

Public school enrollment has declined and a fifth of the students who remain are classified as having disabilities, from learning to emotional to physical. Forty-one percent of all private schools that participated in the Milwaukee private school voucher program between 1991 and 2015 have closed.

Milwaukee Public Radio aired a series with many interviews on the voucher program’s 25th anniversary. Milwaukee School Board member Larry Miller, who has been involved with the district for the voucher program’s entire history, said, “It’s transformed the landscape in the sense of it becoming a free-market competition. This program, in my opinion, started as a program for low-income students and has turned into a movement now to dismantle public education. … I feel that the results that we’re seeing now are the results of a failed experiment.”

Barbara Miner, who wrote Lessons from the Heartland, about the history of education in Milwaukee, is a leading critic of the voucher program, saying it blurs the separation of church and state and leaves Milwaukee Public Schools facing the highest hurdles. “Private schools operate by completely different rules than public schools,” she told Milwaukee Public Radio. “They do not have to follow the federal special education law. They do not have to provide bilingual education,” Miner said. “They can kick kids out and there’s no constitutional right to free speech or due process.”

Alan Borsuk, a senior fellow at Marquette Law School and long-time education reporter, reviewed several sets of studies. He was asked, what have the scores shown since 2010? He responded, “The notion that the voucher program would lead to a major step forward for all students in the City of Milwaukee, unfortunately, has not been true.”

The New York Times recently reviewed research assessing student progress in voucher programs compared to public schools. In 2015, researchers published their assessment of the Indiana voucher program, which involved tens of thousands of students under Mike Pence, then the state’s governor. “In mathematics,” they found, “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement. They also saw no improvement in reading.”

More negative results

Researchers found similar results when they studied Louisiana’s voucher program and released the results in February 2016. “Students in the program were predominantly black and from low-income families. They came from public schools that had received poor ratings from the state department of education, based on test scores. For private schools receiving more applicants than they could enroll, the law required that they admit students via lottery, which allowed the researchers to compare lottery winners with those who stayed in public school. They found large negative results in both reading and math.”

Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, calls the negative effects in Louisiana “as large as any I’ve seen in the literature—not just compared with other voucher studies, but in the history of American education research.”

In June, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, released a third voucher study financed by the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation. It focused on a large voucher program in Ohio. “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools,” the researchers wrote.

To be continued

The sequel to this is here.

With over 630 killed in house fires so far this year. Trump budget proposes to end heating assistance, slash housing program: here.

This video from the USA says about itself:

20 January 2017

Protesters took to downtown Nashville in opposition of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Trump’s [March 15 2017] visit to Nashville attracted long lines of supporters together with some 2,500 demonstrators protesting his attacks on health care, education and immigrants: here.

The real target of Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing was Russia, not the Trump administration: here.

America’s Wars: Business As Usual. U.S. wars and conflicts across the Greater Middle East are being expanded and escalated, 03/21/2017 11:39 am ET: here.

President Trump’s refusal to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand during their photo-op in the Oval Office expressed the deepening tensions between the US and Germany: here.

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.

Senegalese children learn about birds


This 2010 German language video is about birds in the Djoudj National Park in Senegal.

From BirdLife:

Children taught to identify and count birds in Senegal

By Blandine Melis, 1 Feb 2017

Studies have shown that children learn to love and connect much more easily with nature than adults because they naturally explore and learn through social engagements.

In an effort to get children interested in bird conservation and provide practical and sustainable solutions that will benefit nature and people in the future, BirdLife International experts and other conservation stakeholders in Senegal have given kids the opportunity to develop a lasting interest in bird science.

On 15 January 2017, during events marking the International Waterbird Count Day in Senegal, ornithologists invited 16 students to participate and connect with nature. The children were selected from four schools in the Kalissaye Ornithological Nature Reserve in southern Senegal and they accompanied rangers to the field where they identified and counted birds in the Casamance area.

“The young people, accompanied by a Life and Earth Science teacher from Hillol Middle School were quick to grasp the skills and became ‘budding scientists’. They learned very quickly how to use binoculars, recognize criteria of bird identification and complete an observation collection protocol adapted to their capacity,” explained Blandine Mélis, BirdLife’s Conservation and Migratory Birds (CMB) Project Communications Officer for West Africa.

The children benefitted from the expertise of members of a potential BirdLife partner organisation in Senegal, the Association Nature-Communautés Développement supported by BirdLife’s CMB team in West Africa.

After the bird count exercise on the boat, a drawing competition took place on the beach where the children made very creative and high quality drawings inspired by their curiosity.

Through the CMB project, BirdLife international has strengthened networks and promoted the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along the west coast of Africa. The Casamance event was part of a bigger environmental education program within the project, expected to last for a period of about two years in the protected site.

The BirdLife CMB project partnership with the Association Nature-Communautés Développement, has committed to facilitate the discovery of the territory in the Kalissaye Reserve and ensure that young people are properly involved in the management of the Reserve.

The project has developed a sustainable plan to ensure that these young people participate in several other practical activities in the future. These activities will include the “I don’t like garbage day”, which is a day set aside for waste collection to keep the environment clean. The children will also take part in reforestation activities and establish tree nurseries, as well as other actions that promote the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along the west coast of Africa.

Wildlife clubs will also be created in schools outside the protected area to raise awareness and educate many more children on the importance of conserving birds and their habitats. Through these clubs, the school children will be encouraged to compete with their mates in different domains that can boost their curiosity and make them more resourceful. These competitions will guide the children to draw, write poems, sing and develop short sketches for conservation of nature and biodiversity, and protection of the ecosystem services.

British pro-badger children, ‘terrorists’?


This video from England is called Chester Badger Cull Protest March 10th Dec 2016 filmed by Diane Bartlett.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Ofsted puts pressure on teachers to report kids

Thursday 2nd February 2017

CHILDREN are being referred to the government’s anti-terror programme Prevent by teachers who fear their schools will be marked down by Ofsted, MPs heard yesterday.

The warning came from Tory MP Lucy Allan, also a school governor, who led a Westminster Hall debate on the implementation of the government’s Prevent strategy, which has been condemned as racist.

For focusing on Muslims, while letting white supremacists off the hook. Somewhat like Donald Trump’s new plans on ‘terrorism’ in the USA.

She said teachers are dreaming up scenarios which might justify referring a pupil as schools now have a legal duty to prevent children being drawn into terrorism.

Children who have been taken on anti-badger-cull marches or Fathers4Justice demonstrations are being suggested for referral, Ms Allan warned.

She said it is clear the government’s flagship anti-terror strategy “is not working” and felt to be intrusive by the communities affected.

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi said Prevent is a waste of money and time, and is stigmatising communities.