John Hope Bryant Quote Of The Day

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“You cannot subcontract your own democracy. You must claim this for yourself, and work at sustaining it everyday. This is the ongoing work, that defines your life. Fight for HOPE.”

– John Hope Bryant | Founder, Chairman and CEO, Operation HOPE

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Law Professor: Trump Must Relinquish Lease on DC Hotel

Donald Trump must give up his 60-year lease on the Trump Hotel near the White House in D.C., says a law professor who studied the terms of the lease.  The building is owned by the federal government and was known as the Old Post Office Building; it was home to federal agencies, such as the Nation Endowment for the Humanities. After it was closed, Trump leased it and turned it into a luxury hotel.

 

The lease specifically says that no federal official may benefit from the proceeds generated by the building.

 

NPR reports:

 

“After Donald Trump is sworn in as president on Jan. 20, he will follow a time-honored tradition and make his way from the U.S. Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Along the way, just a few blocks before he reaches the White House, he’ll pass the Trump International Hotel. The 263-room luxury hotel is becoming the focus of a debate over conflict of interest between Trump and his business dealings.
“Trump doesn’t actually own the landmark building, which was once the headquarters of the U.S. Post Office. In 2013, he signed a 60-year lease for the building with the General Services Administration, which helps manage and support federal agencies. The Trump Organization spent upwards of $200 million on renovations and reopened it as a hotel about a month before the Nov. 8 presidential election.
“But there’s a hitch, according to Steven Schooner, a government procurement expert who is also a law professor at the George Washington University School of Law. Schooner has studied the 100-plus-page contract and says there’s a clause that clearly states elected officials should have no role in the lease.
“The contract between GSA and the Trump Organization specifically says that no elected official of the United States government shall be party to, share in, or benefit from the contract,” he says, citing clause 37.19 of the contract.
“That clause reads:
“No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”
“Schooner says the GSA should terminate the lease before Trump becomes president.
“Many potential conflicts
“There are a host of reasons to cancel the deal besides the specific language in the contract, according to Schooner. He says foreign diplomats or special-interest groups could book rooms at the Trump International as a way to curry favor with Trump.
“Once Trump becomes president, he will effectively be both the tenant and the landlord of the building. The administrator of the GSA, an independent body, is also a political appointee.
“So the Trump transition team would be naming the person responsible for the agency that’s managing Trump’s lease. Obviously that’s a problem,” he says.
“The Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment.”

 

Will Congress overlook this legal and ethical breach? Will anyone enforce the law?

 

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Yong Zhao: “It Must Be the Chopsticks”! East Asian Nations Top TIMSS Scores Again

Yong Zhao, born and educated in China, is one of our  most perceptive scholars of schools and society. He holds a professorship at the University of Kansas.

In this article, he reports the results of the latest international test, TIMSS. Once again, the East Asian nations topped the charts. Aside from 8th grade math, which are up, U.S. scores are unchanged.

TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) beat PISA by two weeks. It just released its 2015 results. Within hours of the release, Google News has already collected over 10,000 news stories reacting to the results from around the world, some sad, some happy, some envious, and some confused. The biggest news is, however, nothing new: Children in East Asian countries best at maths. They were the best 20 years ago when TIMSS was first introduced in 1995. They were the best in all subsequent cycles.

Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan are the top performers. In 4th grade, the lowest East Asian country is 23 points above the next best country, Northern Ireland for 4th grade, the same gap as was in 2011, and in 8th grade, a whopping 48 points lead ahead of the next best country, Russia, a 17 point increase from 31 in 2011.

Yong Zhao analyzes the reasons for their high scores.

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Paul Krugman: We Are in For Four Years of Corruption by Conflicts of Interest

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, predicts an unprecedented level of corruption during the Trump years, related to Trump’s refusal to separate himself from his business empire. Will foreign diplomats reserve the $20,000 a night suite at the Trump hotel in D.C. to impress the President? Will governments grant permits expeditiously to build new Trump hotels, casinos and golf courses to curry favor? Will the President appoint members of the National Labor Relations Board to prevent his hotels from being unionized (there is a labor dispute at a Trump hotel in Las Vegas before the NLRB right now).

He writes,

Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.

The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.

True, we could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results.

Normally, policy reflects some combination of practicality — what works? — and ideology — what fits my preconceptions? And our usual complaint is that ideology all too often overrules the evidence.

But now we’re going to see a third factor powerfully at work: What policies can officials, very much including the man at the top, personally monetize? And the effect will be disastrous.

Let’s start relatively small, with the choice of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Ms. DeVos has some obvious affinities with Mr. Trump: Her husband is an heir to the fortune created by Amway, a company that has been accused of being a fraudulent scheme and, in 2011, paid $150 million to settle a class-action suit. But what’s really striking is her signature issue, school vouchers, in which parents are given money rather than having their children receive a public education.

At this point there’s a lot of evidence on how well school vouchers actually work, and it’s basically damning. For example, Louisiana’s extensive voucher plan unambiguously reduced student achievement. But voucher advocates won’t take no for an answer. Part of this is ideology, but it’s also true that vouchers might eventually find their way to for-profit educational institutions.

And the track record of for-profit education is truly terrible; the Obama administration has been cracking down on the scams that infest the industry. But things will be different now: For-profit education stocks soared after the election. Two, three, many Trump Universities!

Moving on, I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

Krugman previously wrote that Trump’s proposal to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure would privatize many of our public assets and become a goldmine for the private sector.

Buckle your seat belts. The next four years will make Teapot Dome look like a tea party.

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Post-Election Report: Betsy DeVos’ Organization Counts Its Victories Over Public Schools

Betsy DeVos, billionaire and Trump nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, is chairman of the board and chief funder of the American Federation for Children. 

The organization advocates for charters and vouchers. If you scan its activities and news releases, you won’t find any mention of public schools. On her website, they are the invisible dragon that the AFC wants to slay.

When the election was over, the staff compiled a list of the victories for school choice. School choice means schools choose; school choice means segregation. School choice means privatization. In DeVos’ world, school choice means autonomy without accountability. School choice means the death of public education.

Read the AFC memo here.

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Gary Rubinstein: What TFA Said about the DeVos Appointment

Gary Rubinstein entered teaching via Teach for America, but unlike most TFA recruits, he made teaching his career. He is also TFA’s most incisive critic, sometimes a critical friend, other times a critic of TFA hypocrisy.

In this post, Gary deconstructs TFA’s statement on Trump’s nomination of choice zealot Betsy DeVos. TFA, like other reform organizations, is in a dilemma because they want to be on the side of social justice, but they also want to be on the side of the new administration, which will be very good indeed for TFA. More charters mean more jobs for young recruits. Billions of dollars for school choice are heading the way of the “reformers,” and it is hard for them to seem sad about that. Gary wishes the TFA statement had included a few good words on behalf of public schools and on behalf of teachers. It didn’t.

The TFA statement includes 11 policy priorities, and Gary analyzes each of them. He wishes TFA had called on DeVos to stop the teacher bashing. It didn’t. He wishes it had called on DeVos to protect the funding of public schools while promoting choice. It didn’t.

Read the whole post for links and analysis.

Gary concludes:

Accountability has been used as a weapon to fire teachers and close schools throughout the country based on highly flawed metrics. Obama and Duncan did a lot of damage with this one and maybe TFA feels that they used it in a fair way, even if I don’t. But that same weapon in the hands of Trump and DeVos should be something that TFA should be concerned about. I don’t think that this was something that TFA needed to ask the new Secretary to be vigilant. Based on the contempt she has shown for public schools and teachers over the years, it’s pretty clear that DeVos will use her power to try to make it even easier to fire teachers and close schools. This could have a negative effect on not just all the TFA alumni who are still working in public schools, but also for the ones who are at the few charter schools that try to keep their most needy students and whose test scores suffer for it. In the bigger picture, I think that having DeVos too strong on accountability will negatively affect so many students in this country.

Finally there’s policy number nine about using “evidence and data” to ‘drive’ “teacher improvement and development over time.” This is code for trying to use test scores and value-added metrics to rate teachers, no matter how inaccurate those metrics are.

More telling than the policies TFA chose to include on this list is the ones they chose to exclude. Knowing that DeVos is planning to use her power to divert funds from the public schools (and charter schools too) for vouchers for private schools, perhaps TFA could have asked that she not cut funding to schools. Knowing how much contempt DeVos has shown toward public school teachers, TFA could asked her not to bash teachers so much. Knowing that DeVos has funded reform propaganda sites like Campbell Brown’s The Seventy Four, TFA could have suggested that she spend time in public schools and see what great work is being done.

There’s a lot they could have said to help stave off the at least four year battle everyone in non-charter schools is going to have to fight daily. Instead they padded their valid concerns about discrimination with a bunch of reform code.

Of their nine policies that TFA is urging DeVos to consider (three of the eleven are basically saying, make schools safe for all students), six of them are things that she was already on board with. It’s the TFA way of saying “We are already in agreement with you on most things so you can trust us and work with us to help you out in general.” They seem to care more about their own survival and the continuation of Duncan’s reform strategies than they do about the potential damage that the Trump / DeVos duo can wreak on the children of this country.

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