Trump Administration Disbands Advisory Panel on Climate Change

The Trump administration disbanded a federal advisory panel on climate change.

One way to deal with climate change is to pretend it isn’t happening, and to refuse to listen to any scientists.

The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.

The charter for the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment — which includes academics as well as local officials and corporate representatives — expires Sunday. On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s acting administrator, Ben Friedman, informed the committee’s chair that the agency would not renew the panel.

This is in keeping with the administration’s hostility to science. Remember this when you hear Secretary DeVos urging students to study STEM courses. She doesn’t mean it. She wants them to study religion and learn science from the Bible.

from sarah

Happy Anniversary to Peter Greene!

Wednesday was the four-year anniversary of Peter Greene’s blog.

Just as many people get kicked off the receiving end of this blog, I have been kicked off the receiving end of Peter’s blog, whose name I can’t spell. Curmudgacation?

Peter has a razor-sharp wit, and a battery of invented words that he deploys with grace.

He makes laugh. He informs us. He skewers pretension. He is indispensable. He reads the dreary reports and nonsensical studies that roll forth from the reformer industry and demolishes them with grace, style, and a finely honed verbal rapier.

Thank you, Peter!

from sarah

Dana Milbank: The Shame of Trump’s House Jews

Dana Milbank, a regular writer for the Washington Post, writes that the Jews who serve Trump have covered themselves in shame. While rabbis and Jewish organizations have unequivocally condemned the Nazi-KKK rally in Charlottesville, Trump says that there were “many fine people” marching with the Nazis.

This was a time when his Jewish relatives and cabinet members should have disagreed. Even James Murdoch, heir to the FOX News empire, called Trump out. His wife Kathryn regularly tweets anti-Trump messages.

But not Kushner, Cohn, or Mnuchin.

Most Jews have learned from history that when any minority is singled out for oppression, Jews are next. Except when they are first.

Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you.

Milbank writes:

“What Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kushner did this week — or, rather, what they didn’t do — is a shanda.

“They’ll know what that means, but, for the uninitiated, shanda is Yiddish for shame, disgrace. The three men, the most prominent Jews in President Trump’s administration, could have spoken out to say that those who march with neo-Nazis are not “very fine people,” as their boss claims. Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, and Cohn, the chief economic adviser, were actually standing with Trump when he said it. They said nothing.

“All three let it be known through anonymous friends and colleagues that they are disturbed and distressed by what Trump said — Kushner even got out word that he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, had counseled Trump otherwise — but none is speaking publicly about an outrage that makes millions of Americans feel as though they are living a nightmare.

“We have seen such a character before in Jewish history: the shtadlan. The shtadlan , or “court Jew,” existed to please the king, to placate the king, to loan money to the king. He would dress like other members of the court, and he would beg the king for leniency toward the Jews, but, ultimately, his loyalty was to the king….

“Certainly, Cohn, Mnuchin and Kushner have a particular obligation as Jews, because the violent white supremacists in Charlottesville were targeting Jews with their swastikas and chants of “Jews will not replace us” and “Sieg Heil.” One of their leaders told “Vice News Tonight” it was objectionable that Trump would “give his daughter to a Jew.” A few stood outside a synagogue brandishing rifles, forcing Sabbath worshipers to slip out a back door.

“But Jews, because of our recent history, know what results from silence in the face of any type of bigotry. Before Trump dabbled in anti-Semitism, he made scapegoats of immigrants, African Americans, Latinos and, especially, Muslims. Two years ago, when I described the many actions that made candidate Trump a bigot and a racist, I noted that he hadn’t yet gone after Jews. That followed soon: the tweeted image of a Star of David atop paper money, and the speech and ads linking Jews to a secret “global power structure.”

“This racist demagoguery now comes from the president of the United States. In tweets Thursday, Trump proclaimed his sadness at the removal of “our beautiful” Confederate statues, and he revived the bogus claim that, a century ago, Gen. John J. Pershing dipped bullets in pig blood before shooting Muslim prisoners.

“Why is it so hard to condemn such filth? David Shulkin did. Trump’s Veterans Affairs secretary, who is Jewish (and an Obama administration holdover), said what needed to be said: “I do feel like as an American and as a member of the Cabinet, that I can speak for my own personal opinions on this, and I am outraged by the behavior that I have seen with the Nazis and the white supremacists.”

“Shulkin said he will continue to speak. “Staying silent on these issues is not acceptable,” he said.

“Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Aug. 16 said “it is a dishonor to our country’s veterans to allow the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged.” (The Washington Post)


“Even the rabbi who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s conversion, Haskel Lookstein, joined in a statement saying he was “deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered.”


“Even Sheldon Adelson’s Republican Jewish Coalition called for “greater moral clarity” from Trump, saying “there are no good Nazis.”


“As I write this, my 13-year-old has come into my office and said the neo-Nazis at the Charlottesville synagogue make her reluctant to return to Hebrew school. She also asks if our family will be a target because people know I’m Jewish.

“This is what Trump has done to America. And this is what Cohn, Mnuchin and Kushner allow with their shameful silence.

“Do they prize their appointments so much? Well then, don’t quit. Speak out. Let him fire you. But don’t play the court Jew.”

from sarah

Russ on Reading: Expectations Should Be High But Reasonable

Russ Walsh is a literacy expert. In this post, he delves into the meaning of high expectations. Of course, he says, teachers should have high e pectations but they should not be out of reach. The four-minute mile was once a standard, but it was never achievable for most runners, only for the very very best.

No Child Left Behind set an unreasonable standard, that ALL children would be proficient readers by 2014. It didn’t happen, and it left behind many demoralized students and teachers.

Russ offers a few key principles for setting meaningful expectations. Here is one:

“Follow the Goldilocks principle. Work to find the amount of challenge that is “just right” for that individual student. This means working with the child in what Vygotsky called the “zone of proximal development”, that area slightly above where the student can function independently, but well below where the student becomes frustrated.”

Politicians confuse setting goals with achieving them. Teachers should not.

from sarah

San Antonio: Charter Leader Accused of Massive Theft from School

The Texas Education Agency accused the former board president of the San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity of stealing tens of thousands of dollars of electronic equipment from the school.

“Two members of SASIC’s state-installed board of managers, Judy Castleberry and Velia Minjarez, said Thursday that they believe that Denise Fritter took computers, televisions, video game consoles and other items from two school buildings Saturday, two days after the state took physical control of the district’s assets. The items were valued at $30,000 to $100,000.”

Don’t expect the TEA to acknowledge that the problem is lack of oversight or accountability for these unregulated charters.

Let the waste of taxpayer dollars proceed!

from sarah

Laura Chapman: The Marketing of Bridge International Academies

In the past couple of years, we have followed the fortunes of Bridge International Academies, the for-profit organization that is trying to make money by providing low-cost schools in Africa. It’s investors include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the World Bank. Why billionaires need to make money by collecting a few dollars a month from struggling families is unclear. The New York Times published a superb article by Peg Tyre about BIA, which continues to lose money.

Laura Chapman has compiled an excellent research summary of the marketing of BIA:

Long post. The American Enterprise Institute is using c-span to help market Bridge International in Liberia.

For Liberia, the marketing centers on “partnership schools” not really different from charter schoools here. If you don’t want to see and listen to the whole video, notice who participated.

George K. Werner, minister of education of the Republic of Liberia. Helped launch the for-profit “Partnership Schools.” Co-chair of Liberia’s Health Workforce Development Taskforce. Master’s in social work, University of Pennsylvania; B.A. Marist College, now the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.

Seth Andrew, founder of Democracy Builders NYC (enlists parents to promote educational choice) and Democracy charter schools. Helping Bridge International Academies launch charter-like schools in Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and India. Former senior adviser on technology for Arne Duncan. Began as a special educator in South Korea and Massachusetts. Ed.M. from Harvard University, B.A. from Brown University.

Amy Black, executive vice president of global education at Results for Development (R4D). Helped launch Teach For All, the international version of Teach for America. Former Washington, DC manager for Teach For America. Former State Department fellow for two years, including a six-month assignment in South Africa.

Alejandro Caballero, evaluates investments in private education companies for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector arm of the World Bank. A former vice president with Deutsche Bank AG (worked in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka). Previous positions with Booz Allen Hamilton, and Goldman Sachs. M.B.A. Stanford, master’s Stanford Graduate School of Education. Add B.A. degrees in law and in economic science/management from ICADE, Madrid.

Nat Malkus, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Specializes in school finance, charter schools, school choice, and the future of standardized testing. Former senior researcher at the American Institutes for Research. Ph.D. in education policy and leadership, University of Maryland; B.A. in historical studies, Covenant College, four years middle school teaching in Maryland

I downloaded and edited the text. I was struck by several claims about the costs, profitability, and virtues of Bridge International and the reasoning of the Liberian minister of education, George K. Werner. In the 2016-17 school year, 28,000 Liberian students attended 93 “partnership” schools run by international providers.

Seth Andrew: “I just left the Obama administration where we really spent a lot of time, chief technology officer and others, thinking about technology in government. I can tell you we’re still way behind where the private sector was in thinking about technology. Most of us don’t use government tech in our daily lives. We use private tech in our lives.”

“Bridge has taken best practices from the developed world, American charter schools and delivered it through a very low-tech solution, very cheap e-reader, black and white tablet (costs $50 to manufacture in China). You get content that is the same content as kids might be getting in Washington, D.C., Boston or Cambridge, Massachusetts. You’re getting it on a 2-g signal in black and white in a rural Liberian classroom. That is not a thing the government of Liberia figured out to do….That is one of the reasons Bridge has potential not to be just an incremental change but a leapfrogging change.”

Seth Andrew. “I will say quickly about Bridge, the bulk of their schools, 500 across the world, are low fee private schools, $7 a month. They’re getting a world-class education.”

George Werner: “Let me just … add to what Seth said. With the exception of maybe of Singapore and Vietnam, I don’t know any country that educates poor children with perfection. Not the United States, not the UK. In the U.S., if government would deliver perfect public schools you would have no need for charter schools. If the UK government could do similarly, there would no need for the academies in the UK.”

“What that tells me is that governments are failing to educate poor children. There is a need for the private sector. …We’re educating a majority of our children for the private sector, for the jobs of today, and the jobs of tomorrow. All the more reason why the private sector needs to get involved in how we educate our children. “

“We chose the word ‘partnership.’ There are things government does really well, policy platform, regulation, and education as a public good. Those things government can do well. But day-to-day management—assessments, planning outcomes, systems of accountabilities—government doesn’t do as well as the private sector does. We partnered with private providers to strengthening government where it is weakest if you like. That is the essence of the partnership with us.”

Seth Andrew: (On the need for profits in the private sector). Take $50, per student for a year, $2,000 a classroom of 40 kids for a classroom a year. Wage bill, $140 a month. $1500 a year, $500 total for materials, textbooks, technology, everything else. … the tablet (for the teacher) is $50. This is doable. This is absolutely possible. We’ve shown it at scale in Kenya. Starting to get there in Liberia. But it requires a lot more students to be in systems like this…before you get to the scale point where it is actually sustainable (and profitable).
…Let me give you one more example…In Liberia, they don’t have resources for science labs….In the developed world you can see a virtual reality science lab for the cost of a $50 head-set. In the developing world we can’t imagine that, because that math doesn’t add up. But you can get a cardboard version of the same thing for $3…bringing quality down a little bit; but the content being delivered to my students in Washington, D.C. is actually the same exact content delivered to kids in Liberia and for a $3 cardboard head-set and a phone, the principal gets to download lessons plans. It is a matter of thinking how we spend money and what we spend money on.”

Here are some visual examples of the Bridge curriculum resources. (The exact same content as in the US?). This website also lists 16 key investors in Bridge International including Bill Gates Investments, the Chan/Zuckerberg Initative, International Finance Corporation of the World Bank

Liberia will still have teachers to deliver the curriculum, but in the US professional credentials are being diminished in importance, especially by cuts in funding for public schools and the promotion of low-cost online, computer-based and teacher-proof programs, “brought to scale” for profitability.

Consider Early Learning Academy for children ages 2–8. For a subscription fee of $7.99 per month or $79.99/year you receive an app (for ipad or iphone) that can be used by up to three children. The app offers “a standards-aligned curriculum (reading, math, social studies, art, music, more) intended to build “a strong foundation for academic success.”

The curriculum is being expanded to higher ages/grades levels and for use internationally through a program that teaches English as a second language. This is a patented delivery system build on a legacy of programming from the creators of the NeoPets online, sold in 2005 to Viacom’s MTV Networks Groups. Patents are noted at

In effect, the US could well be the next big market for Bridge International, with some clever up-scaling in stylistics of the “same exact content” they are delivering in Africa and elsewhere.

from sarah

Jeff Bryant: The Democrats’ Growing Divide and Confusion Over “Reform”

Jeff Bryant assesses the confusion within the Democratic party over “education reform.”

Some Democrats (too few) have realized that preservation of public schools are part of the party’s fundamental agenda. Others (like New York Governor Cuomo, Colorado’s Congressman Jared Polis, and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy have embraced charter schools and other parts of the rightwing agenda).

The bottom line, however, is that teachers in public schools and union members can’t be expected to turn out to vote for politicians, regardless of their party, who share the agenda of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.

So, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for elected officials like Cuomo to acknowledge, their advocacy for charter schools mirrors the views of ALEC, the anti-union Walton family, the Koch brothers, and DeVos.

Trump said that there are “many sides” to the events in Charlottesville. Charter advocates would have us believe that privately managed schools should be embraced by Democrats; they would have us forget that more than 90% of charters are non-union.

The reality is that public school teachers and their unions are a core element of the Democratic party base. If the Democrats abandon their base, they can’t win elections. The hedge fund managers may fund their campaigns, but they can’t turn out the vote.

from sarah

Texas: What Matters Most in Education: Football!

In 2011, the Texas legislature cut more than $5 billion from the state’s public schools, which enroll 5.3 million children. Over the past six years, that amount was never restored, and once again this year the legislature failed to act on a funding program for the schools.

According to data from the Texas Education Agency, the majority of students of students are Hispanic and poor. Whites account for less than 30 percent of students in public schools. Is that why the Legislature doesn’t want to fund the schools?

Here is what taxpayers are willing to fund: football stadiums. The new Katy high school football stadium cost $70.3 million, making it the most expensive in the United States.

Texas is also home to other expensive high school football stadiums, including a $63 million dollar one McKinney, Texas, voters approved last year, and a $60 million stadium in Allen, Texas, according to the New York Times.

Football stadiums matter more than teachers, the arts, class size, science, mathematics, or history.

That is not a good sign for the future of Texas.

from sarah

Longview, Texas: The State Senate Doesn’t Care About Public Education

The leader of Pastors for Texas Children, Charles Foster Johnson, spoke in Longview, Texas, where he told a crowd of educators and local officials that the State Senate doesn’t care about public schools. Led by the obstinate, narrow-minded Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the State Senate wants vouchers. It opposes funding public schools, attended by some 90% of the children in Texas, unless he gets a voucher bill. No vouchers, no funding.

Pastor Johnson told his audience that the Texas House was reasonable and did its best, but there is no getting any funding bill passed by the State Senate.

He told the truth. The State Senate doesn’t care about public schools.

Pastor Johnson said it is time to elect legislators who care about the public schools and the children who attend them: their constituents.

“The Texas Senate’s original budget was this,” Johnson said, making an “O” with his right hand. “Zero. And ultimately, fast forward to the end of the special session. Basically the Senate said if you’re not going to give us vouchers, we’re not going to give you funding. In other words, we’re going to starve your schools until you cave in and let us privatize them. Let us make money off your children. Let our donors — out-of-state donors — make money off your Longview kids, and the House said no, and that’s the stalemate.”

from sarah