When most people think of the words “Georgia” and “segregation”, most people in this country think of racial segregation of the Jim Crow era of American history.
However, segregation still exists in Georgia, although it’s a different kind of segregation: segregating schoolchildren with behavioral disabilities from non-disabled schoolchildren and giving the disabled schoolchildren a far inferior educational experience than the non-disabled schoolchildren. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice has stepped in, and they’re using the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to try to end this form of segregation in Georgia schools:
The Justice Department has accused Georgia of segregating thousands of students with behavior-related disabilities, shunting them into a program that denies them access to their non-disabled peers and to extracurricular activities and other basic amenities, including gymnasiums, libraries and appropriately certified teachers.
The department’s years-long inquiry into Georgia’s programs, and the pressure it is now putting on state officials to revamp the way they educate students with disabilities, have brought hope to advocates in the state who have long tried unsuccessfully for change.
Justice did not investigate Georgia’s lapses under the nation’s main law for protecting the interests of special education students — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Instead, the department focused on the state’s failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a much more powerful civil rights tool, according to legal experts.
Once again, the school system in Georgia is running a separate and unequal scheme, but, this time, it involves giving students with behavioral disabilities an educational experience that is far inferior than the educational experience that non-disabled students receive. That is absolutely disgusting, and I hope that the Justice Department succeeds in its effort to bring an equal education experience to all Georgian schoolchildren.
The first bill to be introduced in the Wisconsin State Assembly for the 2015-2016 session is a school shaming bill by Republican Wisconsin State Assemblyman Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac. Theisfeldt’s bill would allow millionaire charter school operators to take over “failing” K-12 schools in Wisconsin.
While Republicans and the corporate media in Wisconsin are referring to this legislation as “school accountability” legislation, in reality, it’s school shaming, takeover, and segregation legislation. This is because the legislation does absolutely nothing to fix the root causes of why some public schools perform worse than other public schools, allows millionaire charter school operators to take over “failing” Wisconsin public schools (which does nothing to improve the quality of education and makes them less accountable to the public), and, in effect, could leave poor areas and areas with large minority populations in Wisconsin without any service from public schools, effectively resulting in segregation of Wisconsin’s education system along both racial and economic class lines.
You’re not going to fix the poorly performing schools problem in Wisconsin until you fix the poverty problem in Wisconsin. If one were to compare the average household income of families who send at least one child to particular Wisconsin public schools to the performance of said Wisconsin public schools, you would probably find at least a rough correlation, if not a strong correlation, between household income and public school performance, with schools in wealthier areas of Wisconsin performing better than schools in poorer areas. Raising the minimum wage, restoring collective bargaining rights to public employees, and replacing the corrupt Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) by creating a state economic development bank to make it easier for people to start up new businesses and hire people would be a good start toward eliminating the poverty problem in Wisconsin. Sadly, Republicans in Wisconsin aren’t even remotely interested in fixing the poverty problem or improving public education, and Democrats in Wisconsin aren’t much better than the Republicans when it comes to education (Jennifer Shilling, the leader of the Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate, wants more accountability for school voucher programs, which means that she effectively supports school vouchers because she’s not publicly supporting repealing school voucher programs in Wisconsin).
Wisconsin deserves legislation that values all public schools (such as legislation setting statewide K-12 academic standards in Wisconsin and using methods other than standardized testing to make sure that schools are teaching to the standards) and strengthens the state’s economy, not shames certain public schools.
The author of Wisconsin Soapbox and Heather DuBois Bourenane of Monologues of Dissent have written more about this subject.
With the possibility of Republicans winning control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the first two years of George W. Bush’s second term in the White House looming over the November 4 elections, I want to remind everybody how frightening Republicans winning control of the U.S. Senate and retaining control of the U.S. House is.
Should Republicans win control of the Senate and retain control of the House, Republicans will probably pass a sweeping, Wisconsin-style far-right agenda, including legislation like:
- Passing a nationwide right-to-work-for-less bill, allowing workers to benefit from collective bargaining agreements without paying union dues for collective bargaining (if not completely banning labor unions altogether)
- Passing restrictions on abortion, contraception, and other women’s health procedures, up to and including attempting to propose a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion, contraception, and many other women’s health procedures
- Repealing the federal Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states to implement voter suppression schemes
- Repealing the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, allowing many forms of racial discrimination
- Eliminating Pell grants and other programs that help people pay for college, making it harder for young people to go to college
- Completely repealing the Affordable Care Act, taking away health insurance from millions of Americans who were recently uninsured
- Eliminating regulations on banks and other financial institutions, making it easier for them to engage in risky practices that were the primary cause of the Great Recession
- Allowing mining and drilling in National Parks and other federally-protected lands, destroying the value of our country’s natural wonders and hurting the tourism industry
- Handing out tax cuts and other tax breaks to wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests, resulting in a bigger federal budget deficit and national debt (if not implementing a full-blown regressive taxation scheme by completely repealing the federal income tax and replacing it with a federal sales tax, shifting the tax burden to poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans)
- Completely repealing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs, leaving millions of seniors without a source of income and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance
- Eliminating all federal campaign finance restrictions, making it even easier for wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests to buy federal elections and have an even bigger undue influence over federal politicians
- Repealing the federal minimum wage, putting millions of working Americans into poverty and driving millions more into even deeper poverty
- Eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and federal environmental regulations, allowing corporations to pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink
- Repealing federal laws mandating equal pay for equal work, allowing employers to discriminate against women by paying men more than women
Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the right-wing legislation that a fully Republican-controlled Congress could pass. Don’t think for one second that people like Pat Toomey, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and Susan Collins would oppose some or most of the far-right agenda just because they represent states/constituencies that usually vote for Democratic presidential candidates. The Ted Cruz-types in the Republican Party are going to demand that they pass as much far-right legislation as possible, and the so-called “moderates” in the GOP would go along with them every time and rubber stamp everything they do.
Should Republicans win control of the Senate, they will be hell bent on turning America into a third-world country. The only thing that would stop them from doing is President Barack Obama, who would likely veto nearly everything the Republicans pass. If you don’t want Republicans passing a destructive far-right agenda, go vote against the Republican bastards on November 4.