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“Chris Christie’s Violent Fantasies”: National Teachers Union Deserves A “Punch In The Face”

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said during a television interview Sunday that the national teachers union deserves a “punch in the face.”

Christie made the over-the-top comment during CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper on Sunday after the host asked him about his longstanding advice on when to dole out a physical assault.

“During your first term as governor, you were fond of saying that you can treat bullies in one of two ways — quote — ‘You can either sidle up to them or you can punch them in the face.’ You said, ‘I like to punch them in the face.’ At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” Tapper asked.

“The national teachers union, who’s already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election,” Christie replied without hesitation.

The American Federation of Teachers endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this month, becoming the first national union to back any candidate in the 2016 primary. The other main teachers union, the National Education Association, has yet to back a candidate.

“They’re not for education for our children,” Christie complained to Tapper. “They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I have got the scars to show it. But I’m never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes.”

While campaigning for re-election in 2013, the New Jersey Governor scolded a local teacher after she challenged him on his claims that the state’s schools were failing. “I am tired of you people,” Christie yelled at the teacher, “What do you want?”

Reaction to Christie’s latest provocation has been swift and forceful. Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association — the local affiliate of the national NEA and New Jersey’s largest teachers union — called on Christie to “resign as governor immediately,” following the remarks.

“Chris Christie’s instinct is always to threaten, bully and intimidate instead of build consensus and show true leadership,” Steinhauer wrote in a scorching statement.

“That’s not news in New Jersey, where voters overwhelmingly reject his immature and inappropriate behavior as well as his failed policies and lack of leadership,” he wrote. “It is clear from polling that voters in the rest of the country also reject his rhetoric and his behavior.”

Christie placed ninth in the latest national polls and appears to have secured his podium on the main debate stage this Thursday but his approval rating with Garden State voters stands at only 30 percent.

In an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood published today, Christie said of his 16 other Republican primary opponents: “Some people are feeling the pressure to try to be outrageous to get on the news. If you think you’ve got the best product, you’ve got to be patient. Slow, steady progress. So I’m not going to get into the hyperbole.”

And of his own candidacy, Christie said, “How would I see myself in this race? As being the most specific, most substantive guy … so it is those communication skills, which are extraordinarily important for a president to be successful.”

Ahead of this week’s debates, Christie will be campaigning in the crucial early state of New Hampshire, but he was reminded this weekend of his troubles back in his home state as New Jersey journalist Steve Politi described the scene where Christie was not booed once, but twice: “It was one long happy celebration at Monmouth Park for the great American Pharoah’s latest victory. At least, that is, until Gov. Chris Christie stepped into the Winner’s Circle to present the trophy”:

And then, the record crowd of 60,983 booed.





By: Sophia Tesfaye, Salon, August 3, 2015

August 4, 2015 Posted by | American Federation Of Teachers, Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Truly Extraordinary Record Of Being Wrong”: In-Demand GOP Economist Says Kansas ‘Is Doing Fine’

The first big hint that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) was pursuing a dangerous economic course was when he hired economist Arthur Laffer to help shape the plan. Laffer, of course, rose to GOP prominence in the 1980s pushing the celebrated-but-wrong idea that tax cuts can pay for themselves.

The Washington Post profiles the conservative economist today and notes that his influence has not waned, despite the real-world effects of his policies. In fact, Laffer is evidently a go-to source for many of this year’s Republican presidential candidates.

No one has influenced Republican candidates’ thinking on the economy for the past four decades as much as Laffer, who is now 75. Laffer says he believes that limiting government and cutting tax rates, especially the rate levied on top earners, will unleash faster economic growth. Since he sold then-candidate Ronald Reagan on that prescription, every Republican presidential nominee has run on a Laffer-inspired economic platform.

As the 2016 GOP primary season takes off, Laffer is more in demand than ever before, with Republican candidates embracing tax-cut-for-the-rich policies even as they bemoan economic inequality. Candidates have been meeting with him in recent weeks, and on Friday in Nashville, he says, his schedule includes Rick Perry at 10 a.m., Ben Carson at noon, Jeb Bush at 1:15 p.m. and Bobby Jindal at 5. Dinner is scheduled with Ted Cruz. He has already met at least once with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

And this does not include the meeting Laffer has already had with Rand Paul, who asked him to look over a tax-cut plan the Kentucky Republican likes.

The conversation turned to Brownback’s radical experiment, and the Post’s article added this gem: “ ‘Kansas,’ Laffer declared over a five-hour lunch interview in Washington, ‘is doing fine.’”

“Fine,” I suppose, is a relative term. For those of us who care about the details, the economic plan Laffer created for Kansas has resulted in debt downgrades, weak growth, and state finances in shambles. It’s reached the point in which two Kansas public school districts are wrapping up the school year early because they don’t have the money needed to finish a full school year.

“Fine” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind.

Paul Krugman added some helpful context to Laffer’s record.

Since the 1970s there have been four big changes in the effective tax rate on the top 1 percent: the Reagan cut, the Clinton hike, the Bush cut, and the Obama hike. Republicans are fixated on the boom that followed the 1981 tax cut (which had much more to do with monetary policy, but never mind). But they predicted dire effects from the Clinton hike; instead we had a boom that eclipsed Reagan’s. They predicted wonderful things from the Bush tax cuts; instead we got an unimpressive expansion followed by a devastating crash. And they predicted terrible things from the tax rise after Obama’s reelection; instead we got the best job growth since 1999.

And when I say “they predicted”, I especially mean Laffer himself, who has a truly extraordinary record of being wrong at crucial turning points. As Bruce Bartlett pointed out a few years ago, Laffer was even wrong during the Reagan years: he predicted that the Reagan tax hikes of 1982, which partially reversed earlier cuts, would cripple the economy; “morning in America” promptly followed. Oh, and let’s not forget his 2009 warnings about soaring interest rates and inflation.

Looking ahead, Krugman added the broader question is “why this always-wrong economic doctrine now has a stronger grip on the GOP than ever before.” That need not be a rhetorical question. Indeed, it should matter quite a bit to the voting public given that so many Republican presidential hopefuls – including the entire current top tier – are eager to bring their economic plans in line with Laffer’s discredited thinking.

Or put another way, a wide variety of national GOP candidates are looking at recent developments in Kansas and thinking, “How can I impose this model on the entire United States?”

It’s a bit like turning to discredited neoconservatives for guidance on foreign policy and national security. Oh wait….


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 10, 2015

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Arthur Laffer, Kansas, Sam Brownback | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The True Foment Is Deeper And Broader”: Ferguson’s Schools Are Just As Troubling As Its Police Force

A day after his visit to Ferguson, Missouri, Attorney General Eric H. Holder stated in a press conference that, “History simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.” To what history was he referring? Many assumed General Holder meant the longstanding tensions between the mostly black residents of Ferguson and the mostly white police force, but I believe General Holder meant a deeper and broader history that goes well beyond policing. The anger in Ferguson is not just in reaction to shabby treatment by the police, but also the city’s housing, educational, and other civic institutions.

The history of racial mistrust in Ferguson can be found in the legacy of residential segregation in the St. Louis metropolitan area, enforced from the early to the middle twentieth century through mechanisms such as racially restrictive covenants, zoning laws, realtors agreements, and assessors ratings, as research by Professor Colin Gordon demonstrates. Because of these longstanding policies, black Ferguson residents today are disproportionately renters without a strong political stake in the town’s governance and geographically concentrated in areas without economic power.

The broader perspective can be found by looking to recent events surrounding the school district that serves Ferguson residents. Michael Brown graduated from Normandy High School, which was located, until recently, in the Normandy School District. The facts here are a bit complex, but note that I said “until recently.”  That is because the Normandy School district lost its accreditation in 2012 due to dismal standardized test scores. (Normandy was one of only three out of 500 school districts in Missouri to lose its accreditation.) The state school board took over the Normandy School District and renamed it the “Normandy School Collaborative.” By 2013, though, the new district also had lost its accreditation. Missouri law allows students of failed districts to transfer to higher-performing schools in surrounding suburbs, but the failing school district has to pay tuition and transportation costs to get the kids to their new schools. The 1,000 transfer students of Normandy obviously had no desire to remain in the “new” failed district, but the cost was high, so, incredibly, the state board voted to waive accreditation of the Collaborative rather than classify the new district as unaccredited. Ferguson’s teenagers were therefore trapped in a failed school because state politicians didn’t want to pay for them to transfer out.

These kinds of shenanigans put the policing of Ferguson into context.  The protests we have watched unfold there are not simply about unfair policing in that town; rather, they are the result of a deep and broad collection of official decisions that residents, not surprisingly, interpret as demeaning to them. Viewed in this light the analogies that some have drawn to the riots of the sixties make more sense. The Kerner Commission, charged with investigating urban unrest, hypothesized that conditions in slum living such as poor housing, schools, and jobs fueled the violent reactions of residents, but the reporters also fingered as a prime cause of every riot during the period tensions between police and residents of so-called racial ghettoes. The Commission noted specifically that public confrontations between law enforcement personnel and residents of segregated urban neighborhoods, usually ordinary arrests or stops, as opposed to extraordinary and tragic events like the one in Fergsuon, specifically sparked many riots. Policing incidents may trigger social unrest, but the true foment is deeper and broader.

The lessons that police can learn to prevent incidents such as these also have broader application. My colleague Tom Tyler and I have written that police legitimacy is a key to promoting compliance with the law and better cooperation between police and the public. Decades of social psychological research shows that the foundation of legitimacy is in four components of procedural justice. Legal authorities such as police promote legitimacy by (1) treating people with dignity and respect; (2) making decisions fairly, based on fact and not on illegitimate factors such as race; (3) giving people a chance to tell their side of the story, what psychologists call “voice;” (4) and acting in a way that encourages those with whom authorities deal to believe that they will be treated benevolently in the future. The research is quite clear. People care more about these factors than outcomes. That is, it is often more important to them to be treated with dignity and respect while receiving a negative outcome, such as a traffic ticket, than it is to be treated poorly and not receive a ticket even in a situation where they clearly violated the law. The bottom line? The citizens of Ferguson want to believe that the authorities they interact with believe that they, Ferguson residents, count. Instead, again and again the message the Ferguson residents have received through official action, word and deed is that they do not.

Those of us outside of Ferguson received a lesson in what I have sketched out here when Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol came to Ferguson. It is true that his race and the fact that he grew up in the town helped smooth the way for him. It is also true that the fact that he went out and spoke to the demonstrators, listened to them, and explained what he was doing and why are all textbook components of procedural justice.  When police authorities act in this way, if a tragic incident such as the shooting of Michael Brown occurs, police executives get a “moment of pause” rather than a riot.

City leaders and the Normandy School board can benefit from a greater commitment to legitimacy in their decision-making as well. Transparency and inclusiveness are keys. I believe that the citizens of Ferguson simply want to be treated as just thatcitizens. It is far past time to provide them with what they deserve.


By: Tracey Meares, The New Republic, August 22, 2014

August 23, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Missouri, Missouri Legislature | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Schools In The Crosshairs”: Parent-Trigger Laws Effort Has Become A Stealth Means To Privatize Public Schools

When her dyslexic second-grader landed in a failing public elementary school in Pittsburgh, single mother Jamie Fitzpatrick spotted trouble right away. Her daughter’s teacher spent class time shopping online for clothes while the kids bullied one another. Though other teachers wanted to do right by the kids, their union wouldn’t allow it; teachers were forbidden to offer any extra help to the students outside of class, and because their pay was based on seniority, some of the worst made the most. So despite working two jobs, Fitzpatrick somehow found the time to persuade other parents to sign a petition to turn the school into a nonunion charter. Most teachers joined the effort, perfectly content to give up their union protections. At the new charter school, magic happened. The kids began to get a proper education. Fitzpatrick’s daughter learned to read almost immediately.

It’s an inspiring tale. It’s also fiction—the plot of Won’t Back Down, a film released this fall starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as the supermom and Viola Davis as a frustrated teacher who becomes her ally. Like most people, you probably steered clear of this critically panned box-office flop. If so, you didn’t miss much—except a revealing glimpse into the Hollywood-style fantasies of education reformers who believe they have found a new panacea for saving public education: parent-trigger laws.

These laws sound appealingly straightforward. If enough parents sign a petition, they can get their children’s failing school shut down or converted into a charter. Seven states have passed a parent trigger over the last two years; more will likely follow suit next year. These laws are designed to make public education increasingly look like the free marketplace of parental “choice” that reformers long to see. The idea has powerful backers, including conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—best known for “stand your ground” self-defense laws—and the Heartland Institute, famous for challenging climate science. Walden Media, which produced Won’t Back Down and funded the charter—school documentary Waiting for Superman, is owned by Philip Anschutz, an ALEC supporter and prominent Tea Party funder.

Parent trigger is not solely a right-wing cause. Democratic legislatures in Connecticut and California have passed these laws, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has unanimously endorsed them, and 70 percent of Americans view them favorably. The broad support is no surprise. If parents organize to make radical changes to a failing school, who would want to stop them? But many who back parent-trigger laws don’t realize that the effort has become a stealth means to privatize public schools. Heartland, which owns the website, has crafted model legislation for trigger laws that apply to all schools—not just those that are failing. That might be a logical, if drastic, response if public schools were mired in the deep “crisis” that education reformers constantly cite. But they’re not: Many achievement gaps have narrowed substantially, test scores have risen, and high-school completion rates are at all-time highs.

Won’t Back Down, like the movement it champions, begins from the assumption that public schools are a hopeless mess. The complicated challenges that public educators grapple with—severe budget cuts, for instance, or health problems that make learning a particular challenge for low-income kids—are nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, parents are exempted from responsibility. Jamie Fitzpatrick never volunteers to help out at the school. She doesn’t go to PTA meetings. She never even asks about her daughter’s homework. Gyllenhaal’s character is not so much a parent as an unhappy customer demanding a better school.

Anyone who believes in the school-reform fairy tale of Won’t Back Down should be required to watch another film released this fall to much less fanfare. This one doesn’t feature an Academy Award winner or a soundtrack of No. 1 hits. Instead, Brooklyn Castle chronicles a messy reality—that of Intermediate School 318, a Brooklyn middle school where 70 percent of the kids live below the poverty line, and where funding cuts are threatening the after-school activities that are key to getting many of them engaged. That includes the school’s chess team, which is, improbably, among the best in the country.

In most respects, I.S. 318 is ordinary. It’s not a magnet school or a charter, but it’s also not failing. The kids featured in Brooklyn Castle have real problems: They struggle with ADHD, asthma, and hunger, and many must work after school to help their parents make ends meet. Teachers and administrators encourage the students, helping to set goals for each one. When after-school programs are endangered, the parents rally, launching a letter–writing campaign to state officials and organizing a walkathon to raise money. I.S. 318, like most public schools, succeeds because the community invests in it, without expecting perfection.

“I think this is a good thing for kids to be exposed to—the idea that truth isn’t quite so simple as right and wrong,” I.S. 318 teacher and chess-team coach Elizabeth Vicary says. “The answers aren’t really clear to anybody.” She’s talking about chess. She could just as well be talking about our entire approach to education. The quest for easy fixes is seductive. But the more we look for Hollywood-style magic bullets, the less we focus on what makes public schools work.


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, November 30, 2012

December 1, 2012 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Romney Is One Unique Acrobat”: The Rarely Seen, Hard-To-Execute Flip-Flop-Flip

Back in June, Mitt Romney offered an important insight into how he views economic policy.

“[President Obama] wants to hire more government workers,” Romney said. “He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Right. It’ll “help the American people” just as soon as we allow more layoffs of school teachers and first responders. Why will the economy benefit when these workers are unemployed? Romney never got around to explaining that, but the larger point was hard to miss: the president believes the country would benefit from fewer teacher layoffs; Romney believes the opposite.

At least, that’s the way it seemed. Four months later, in last week’s debate, President Obama brought this up, noting, “Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do.”

The Republican responded, “I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers.” In other words, Romney no longer seems to agree with what he said in June.

That is, until yesterday, when Romney sat down with the editors of the Des Moines Register. As Sam Stein noted, the former governor seemed to revert back to his original stance, arguing, “He wants to hire more school teachers. We all like school teachers. It’s a wonderful thing. Typically, school teachers are hired by states and localities, not by the federal government. But hiring school teachers is not going to raise the growth of the U.S. economy over the next three-to-four years.”

First, as a matter of economic policy, hundreds of thousands of public education jobs have been lost in recent years, and saving those jobs would, in reality, not only help schools, students, families, but also have a meaningful economic impact. Romney resists this, but teaching is a real job involving a real paycheck. Teachers who are employed can then use that paycheck to purchase goods and services, pay bills, make investments, etc. When those teachers are laid off and federal officials let it happen, the workers withdraw from the marketplace and hurt the economy. Why Romney struggles to understand this is unclear.

Second, we rarely see flip-flop-flips, but Romney, if nothing else, is unique.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow, Blog, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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