Tag: education

Bruce Rauner’s education funding hypocrisy

In yesterday’s State of the State of Illinois address, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner publicly criticized funding cuts to education and called for fully funding public education in Illinois.

There’s one problem with that…the guy who cut funding to public education in Illinois is…you guessed it, Bruce Rauner. In fact, a few months ago, Rauner gave away corporate welfare to food producing conglomerate ConAgra Foods while public education was being starved of funding:

As fate would have it, Governor Bruce Rauner revealed his plan to fork over as much as $1.26 million a year in tax credits to ConAgra Foods at roughly the same time parents were packing a Board of Education hearing room to protest the latest CPS cuts in special education.

So our dead-broke state has millions for Fortune 500 corporations but not enough money to educate our poorest, most vulnerable children. 

It’s something to keep in mind the next time the governor tells you it’s all about the kids.

Not only is Bruce Rauner dropping g’s, he’s dropping the ball when it comes to funding public education here in Illinois.

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The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R) thinks that public schools fail because black kids attend them

A few days ago, Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) made overtly racist remarks about public education in Michigan. To paraphrase Knollenberg, he basically said that he thinks that public schools are failing in Michigan because black children attend them.

You can view a video of Knollenburg’s actual remarks here:

Marty Knollenberg, by opening his racist mouth, single-handedly exposed the fact that the right-wing movement to gut public education in this country by way of charter schools, school vouchers, and other neoliberal/right-wing education policies is entirely motivated by racism against people of color.

It’s time to abolish charter schools in America

Charter schools are schools that are run with varying levels of autonomy from laws, rules, and regulations that apply to traditional public schools and are granted a charter by either a government entity of some kind (in the U.S., this is either a state-level education authority, a public higher education institution, or a local school district) or a private entity granted charter authorization power by a state or local government entity. In recent decades, charter schools have opened en masse in many U.S. states.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a Wisconsin-based progressive watchdog group, recently conducted research of both a federal program designed to provide funding to charter schools, and they released their report on their findings last month. For supporters of public education and American taxpayers, the findings are not good at all.

At the federal level, there is a little-known federal government program that provides taxpayer-funded grants to charter schools, called the Charter Schools Program State Educational Agencies (CSP SEA). Out of a total of over $3.7 billion in federal funds given out to charter schools since 1995, over $3 billion of that has been given out via the CSP SEA program. Federal charter school grant programs operate with very little accountability or transparency. In fact, the federal government has passed off the primary responsibility of accountability for federal charter school grants to the states, which, in turn, have passed off responsibility for the federal grants to charter school authorizers, some of which are public entities and some of which are private entities. Additionally, there wasn’t anything resembling a public list of charter schools that received CSP SEA funds until CMD repeatedly asked for the federal government to give them a list of such charter schools.

In addition, CMD researched charter school practices in eleven states (California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, New York, Utah, Wisconsin, and Indiana), as well as the District of Columbia. Here’s how federal funding in those jurisdictions was wasted:

  • In California, home to one-fifth of the nation’s charter school students, a total of 13 charter schools closed after receiving a total of over $4.7 million in federal grants.
  • In Indiana, two charter schools that received a total of over $1.4 million in federal grants were closed due to poor student performance, one charter school received a $702,000 federal grant before becoming a private religious school, one charter school that never opened was awarded a $193,000 federal grant, and one charter school that has yet to open was awarded $193,000 federal grant.
  • In Michigan, which provided CMD with the least amount of information regarding charter school funds, nearly $1.75 million in federal grants was paid out to 21 “ghost schools”, or charter schools that never opened.
  • In Ohio, a total of over $4.6 million in federal grants was awarded to a total of 19 charter schools that either closed or never opened.
  • In New York, a nearly $200,000 net discrepancy in 2011-2012 and an over $300,000 net discrepancy in 2012-2013 existed between New York state records on federal charter school grants and federal records on federal charter school grants awarded to New York charter schools.
  • In Texas, a $600,000 federal grant was awarded to a charter school created by the founder of a religious education association.
  • In Utah, the state hasn’t accepted any federal grants for expanding or replicating charter schools, although the state has spent millions in state taxpayer money on charter schools.
  • In Arizona, the federal government has granted roughly $69 million in federal funds for charter schools since 2009, and, from mid-2010 to mid-2014, more than 100 Arizona charter schools closed their doors.
  • In Colorado, the federal government has awarded up to $81 million in federal grants for charter schools. More than a dozen charter schools have closed in Colorado.
  • In Florida, the federal government awarded the state up to $104 million in federal charter school grants to the state in 2011. Since Florida authorized charter schools over a decade ago, more than 120 charter schools have closed down.
  • In Wisconsin, a total of over $2.5 million in federal grants were awarded to a total of 10 charter schools that closed.
  • In the District of Columbia, where charter schools operate a short distance away from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters, the federal district’s charter school authorizer has landed a total of over $37 million in federal charter school grants since 2010, despite the fact that, up until 2013, the federal district saw 30 charter schools close their doors.

That’s just the waste of federal taxpayer dollars on charter schools. There are many more problems with charter schools and agencies responsible for authorizing and regulating them. While problems with charter schools and their regulation vary from state to state, they include the following:

  • lack of government oversight and transparency
  • financial mismanagement
  • charter school supporters getting into positions of government power over charter schools
  • refusing to respond to open records requests in a timely manner
  • poor academic results and learning conditions
  • low enrollment numbers
  • at least in California, unsafe charter school buildings
  • misreporting charter school data, such as enrollment figures, to governmental authorities
  • charter schools violating laws, rules, regulations, and their charters
  • at least in Indiana, racial segregation
  • in Michigan, criminal activity, including felony fraud and tax evasion, by charter school operators
  • religious schools operating as charter schools and receiving taxpayer funding for charter schools
  • for-profit companies running charter schools
  • charter schools that closed or never opened receiving taxpayer funding
  • in Ohio, scrubbing performance data of online charter schools
  • charter school operators having undue political influence over regulators
  • in Colorado, sexual misconduct
  • in Colorado, at least one charter school operator not following multiple federal and state employment laws
  • state legislators and executives advocating for charter schools and implementing pro-charter school legislation
  • lack of efforts by regulators and authorizers to ensure that charter schools are non-religious in nature
  • taxpayer money that should go to traditional public schools going to charter schools instead

While CMD has recommended much stronger accountability measures for charter schools, I think that the problems that are inherent with charter schools are too serious to justify their continuation, and I support completely abolishing charter schools and giving the taxpayer money that would otherwise go to charter schools to traditional public schools instead.

BREAKING NEWS: University of Mizzouri president Tim Wolfe resigning, Mizzou graduate student Johnathan Butler ends hunger strike

AUTHOR’S NOTE: In this blog post, “Mizzou” refers to the University of Missouri-Columbia, and “Mizzou System” refers to the entire University of Missouri System.


Tim Wolfe, the President of the University of Missouri System, is resigning amid a hunger strike by Mizzou graduate student Jonathan Butler, a strike by 32 members of the Mizzou football team, and a pervasive racist culture at Mizzou. Upon Wolfe’s resignation, Butler ended his hunger strike and has stated that Wolfe’s resignation should be the first step towards ending racism in the Mizzou System:

However, the president of the Mizzou System stepping down should be only the first step when it comes to ending the racist culture at Mizzou and in the Mizzou System.

Make no mistake about it, racism is a serious problem at Mizzou. The student body at the flagship Mizzou campus, located in Columbia, Missouri, is predominantly white, and black students have had to deal with racial slurs directed at them regularly. In one instance, someone drew a swastika, a symbol on the flag of Nazi Germany during Adolf Hitler’s fascist dictatorship, on a dormitory wall using human feces. That is just one of many racist incidents at Mizzou.

Just because Tim Wolfe stepped down doesn’t change the fact that racism is still a problem in the Mizzou System. The next Mizzou System president should take racism a lot more seriously and fight to make the Mizzou System campuses welcoming to all Mizzou System students and faculty.

PETITION: Tell President Obama and members of both houses of Congress to oppose the Campus Rapist Protection Act

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a link to an online petition; the link is located at the bottom of the blog post.


U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District of Arizona, has proposed federal legislation, officially called the Safe Campus Act (H.R. 3403), that, if enacted, would require colleges and universities in this country to effectively cover up sexual assaults that occur on campus, unless police become involved with a particular case.

I’m not making this up at all…that is an actual bill that has been proposed in Congress.

While the bill is officially called the Safe Campus Act, it might as well be called the Campus Rapist Protection Act, as that’s a more accurate description of what the proposed legislation would do. The legislation would make it a lot easier for college students to get away with the criminal act of rape, and, therefore, make college campuses far more dangerous than they currently are. Furthermore, the legislation would, if enacted, result in fewer people attending college out of fear that they might be raped on campus.

The legislation is backed by numerous fraternity groups, which apparently think that their members have an unfettered right to have sex with every woman they can find, even if the women don’t consent to sexual activity. No person in this country has an unfettered right to sexually assault anyone. In fact, sexual assault is a crime, and it should be treated seriously, not swept under the rug.

I’ve created a petition calling for President Barack Obama and members of both houses of Congress to oppose H.R. 3403. You can sign the petition here.

Former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott now lobbying for pro-rape legislation in Congress

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains extremely strong and profane language referring to sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.


This is one of the most repulsive ideas I’ve ever heard of…a group of Republicans in Congress, including Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), have proposed legislation that would prohibit colleges and universities from disciplining students who rape someone, unless law enforcement becomes involved in a rape case.

Guess who is lobbying for this ridiculous piece of legislation? Chester Trent Lott, Sr., the former Senate Majority Leader who is more commonly known as Trent Lott. You might remember Lott from his infamous remarks from 2002, in which he publicly defended segregationist Strom Thurmond’s third-party 1948 presidential campaign (Thurmond lost to President Harry Truman). Those remarks forced Trott to resign from the leadership of the Senate Republicans. Now, Lott is lobbying for pro-rape legislation that would make it much easier for college students to rape someone, which is a criminal act in every jurisdiction in this country, and not get caught.

While the proposed legislation is called the Safe Campus Act (SCA), this legislation would actually make college campuses far more dangerous for students. What this legislation would do is effectively force college and universities in this country to give a free pass to rapists if nobody reports the criminal act to law enforcement. Congressional Republicans and Trent Lott are supporting the idea of forcing institutions of higher education to cover up sexual assaults perpetrated by their students.

Anyone who supports this ridiculous legislation apparently believes that male college students have an unfettered right to fuck every woman they want to, even if the women don’t consent to the sexual acts. No person in this country has an unfettered right to perform sexual acts on someone else without their consent, in fact, it’s a crime to rape someone.

I’ve seen the Republican Party do incredibly asinine things in my lifetime, but this is the single most repulsive thing I’ve ever seen the Republicans do.

Hillary Clinton’s higher education affordability plan? Ridiculous work requirements!

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said this to the editorial board of the far-right Des Moines Register, a newspaper that endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election for president:

Make no mistake about it, work requirements for college students would encourage less Americans to attend college and would make America even more of a low-wage economy than it currently is. It’s extremely difficult for college students to work even a part-time job while attending several college classes per day. Furthermore, the vast majority of college students who do work while in college work low-wage jobs, such as flipping hamburgers at fast food restaurants. People go to college to work a good-paying job after graduation, not work a low-wage job while attending college.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has a real plan to make college more affordable by taxing Wall Street speculation to pay for truly affordable higher education without a ton of strings attached. With countries like Germany moving to steal our nation’s future by making higher education more affordable, America can’t afford another Clinton workfare scheme.

Does the Democratic establishment overemphasize student loan reform and college affordability?

Make no mistake about it, the growing student debt problem in this country is one of the most serious problems facing this country. However, I believe that heavily emphasizing student loan reform and other college affordability measures hurts Democrats electorally.

There are two reasons why I believe that making student loan reform and other college affordability measures a key part of a Democratic campaign’s message, as Hillary Clinton has done, runs the risk of being an electoral loser for Democrats. First, most Americans don’t really care about student debt, unless they’re directly impacted by it. Secondly, emphasizing college affordability as a key part of a campaign message only resonates with voters that are directly impacted by student debt (mostly younger voters who are either in college or recently graduated from college), in effect, leaving blue-collar voters, such as poor minorities and white working-class people, essentially abandoned by the political party that best represents their interests, which is the Democratic Party.

Would I suggest that Democratic candidates drop college affordability plans altogether? Absolutely not. Would I suggest that Democrats not talk about student loan reform and college affordability? Absolutely not. In fact, I believe that the student debt problem in this country needs to be seriously addressed, as Bernie Sanders has done with his plan to tax Wall Street speculation to pay for a plan for more affordable higher education in America. However, Democrats cannot afford to abandon poor and working-class voters by overemphasizing an issue that few people in this country seem to care about.

Scott Walker completely ignores request from Wisconsin teacher to quit talking about her story

Megan Sampson, an English teacher at Wauwatosa East High School in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has repeatedly been used by Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker as the face of his union-busting Act 10 bill. Act 10, among other things, stripped teachers and most Wisconsin public employees of the vast majority of their collective bargaining rights.

However, Walker has been using Sampson’s story, which I’ll explain in detail in the following paragraph and only mention once on this blog, without permission from Sampson. Sampson has repeatedly denied Walker permission to use her story because she doesn’t want to be seen as a political figure, and she’s offended by Walker using her as a posterchild for Walker’s far-right political agenda.

In 2010, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) laid off Sampson, and Sampson was hired by the Wauwatosa school system not long afterwards. Both of those events occurred before Act 10 became law in Wisconsin in 2011. After she was hired to teach in Wauwatosa, MPS offered Sampson to return to MPS as a teacher, but Sampson refused the offer because she was employed to teach in Wauwatosa.

Walker has claimed that Sampson was hired in Wauwatosa after Act 10 became law in Wisconsin. As I stated in the above paragraph, this claim by Walker is false. Additionally, Walker has claimed that Sampson was honored by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with a Outstanding Teacher of the Year award for her work for MPS. In reality, DPI gave four Wisconsin teachers outstanding teacher awards for 2010, but not Sampson, and Sampson received an outstanding first-year teacher award from the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English (WCTE), a non-profit organization whose membership is composed of English teachers in Wisconsin who wish to join the organization.

Since I started blogging a few years ago, there have been instances where people have contacted me and asked me not to use their name, likeness, quotes, stories, etc. in my blog posts, and I have respected their wishes. The fact that Scott Walker has continued to use the story of Megan Sampson in an inaccurate manner and, more importantly, without her permission proves that Walker has zero respect for his fellow Wisconsinites. If Walker can’t respect the people of his own state, he’s not going to respect the American people if he’s elected president.