Think Progress is “baffled”

President Obama almost broke his arm patting himself on the back over “Race to the Top” (RTT), so Think Progress is baffled that Congress cut it.  But the logic here is all over the map:

As Obama Praises Race To The Top’s Success, Congress Cuts Its Funding In Half

Earlier this week, a coalition of civil rights groups blasted the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program – which provides competitive grants to states that implement education reforms – saying that “by emphasizing competitive incentives in this economic climate, the majority of low-income and minority students will be left behind and, as a result, the United States will be left behind as a global leader.”

Today, Obama responded at the National Urban League Centennial Conference:

    I know there’s a concern that Race to the Top doesn’t do enough for minority kids, because the argument is, well, if there’s a competition, then somehow some states or some school districts will get more help than others. Let me tell you, what’s not working for black kids and Hispanic kids and Native American kids across this country is the status quo…So the charge that Race to the Top isn’t targeted at those young people most in need is absolutely false because lifting up quality for all our children – black, white, Hispanic – that is the central premise of Race to the Top. And you can’t win one of these grants unless you’ve got a plan to deal with those schools that are failing and those young people who aren’t doing well.  Every state and every school district is directly incentivized to deal with schools that have been forgotten, been given up on.

Of course, closing the achievement gap between white and minority students is a huge part of making the education system more effective. The College Board has set the goal of having 55 percent of 27-34 year olds holding a college degree by 2020 (currently 40 percent do), and “by eliminating the severity of disparities between underrepresented minorities and white Americans, it is estimated that more than half the degrees needed to meet the 55 percent goal would be produced.”

But Race to the Top has been a key driver for education reform across the country. So far, 32 states have implemented reforms in order to compete in the program. “While Race to the Top has only been in existence for a short time, it has yielded some of the most dramatic state education reforms the country has seen in many years,” said CAP’s Cindy Brown. “These changes include a new law in Colorado that ensures all teachers receive a meaningful evaluation, a raise in standards for teacher tenure, and measures that ensure that ineffective teachers who don’t improve are not teaching students.”

So it’s completely baffling that the Senate has seen fit to slice the program’s funding in half for 2011, after the administration itself requested far less than it had in 2010. The House cut the $1.4 billion request down to $850 million, and the Senate reduced it further to just $675 million. This year’s program had $4.3 billion, and with the country’s economic future at stake, it makes little sense to slice a program that’s showing tangible results.

Just one of the things that’s totally missing here–as the civil rights group tried to point out–is any realistic reason to believe that minorities will be helped rather than hurt–as seems to be far more likely.

In fact, this week one of the showcase high-stakes testing systems–NY City–was revealed to be a disaster, once realistic test evaluations were instituted. From Rise & Shine: Racial test score gap as wide as before Bloomberg, links to ten stories, while Rise & Shine: Test score drop even larger at charter schools links to an even dozen (both reproduced on the flip).

In short, there’s no mystery here if you just put down the Kool Aid and take a look at the evidence.

Rise & Shine: Racial test score gap as wide as before Bloomberg
  • The gap between black and white students’ test scores is as wide as it was in 2002. (NY1)
  • And because scores were inflated, there’s no way to know whether students are doing better. (Times)
  • Tenure denials are on the rise, slightly. (GothamSchools, Times, Post, WSJ, NY1)
  • The tenure and evaluation decisions were made with help from faulty test scores. (Daily News)
  • Thousands of students were promoted or retained on the basis of the scores. (GothamSchools)
  • Juan Gonzalez says misled students lose biggest in the test score recalibration. (Daily News)
  • The Daily News says it stands by its praise for city students, despite the lowered scores.
  • Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform says state Dems are better on ed policy. (Daily News)
  • President Obama said his education policies are meant to help, not castigate. (Times, L.A. Times)
  • PS 87 in Middle Village will get a new gym and classrooms to help with crowding. (Queens Chronicle)

Rise & Shine: Test score drop even larger at charter schools
  • New standards cut state test pass rates. (GothamSchools, Times, Post, Daily News, NY1, WNYC, WSJ)
  • The drop was disproportionately large at city charter schools. (Daily News)
  • Nearly 2,000 students assigned to summer school scored high enough to stop attending. (Insideschools)
  • Columbia professor Aaron Pallas says the scores show that city students need more help. (Daily News)
  • The principal of Brooklyn’s McKinley JHS says the scores will make him work harder. (Post)
  • The Post says the lower scores are only a first step toward strengthening education in New York.
  • A new charter school opening in the Bronx’s District 10 takes a progressive approach. (Riverdale Press)
  • The path to create new charter schools is likely to be crowded and bumpy this year. (The Capitol)
  • Joel Klein and Michael Mulgrew will tout New York’s Race to the Top bid in D.C. (GothamSchoolsNY1)
  • As in NYC, the least jarring school change plan is the most popular nationally this fall. (Education Week)
  • President Obama is responding to criticism that his reforms haven’t helped minority students. (AP)
  • Major changes in the Philly schools include the end of the city’s region divisions. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

(CO-Sen) How Bennet got rich and teachers lost their pension fund

From a Quick Hit early this week by counterspin:

(CO-Sen) How Bennet got rich and teachers lost their pension fund (counterspin)

From Cherry Creek News:

    A young Bud Fox leaves Washington for Colorado, lands a job with Gordon Gekko, tycoon and corporate raider. Only in this case, young Bud is future United States Senator Michael Bennet, and Gekko, billionaire Phil Anschutz.

    The job leaves Bennet wealthy, and allows him to take a giant pay cut and work for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, then the Denver Public Schools. It gives him financial experience, which in turn leads to a complicated interest rate swap that may leave Denver taxpayers in a billion dollar hole, as the fund for Denver teachers’ retirement looks in need of an AIG-style bailout.

    Ironically, the details of the source of Bennet’s wealth are revealed largely in a lawsuit by Louisiana teachers, whose investment in theater chain Regal Cinemas went south after Bennet and Anshutz gained control of the company through the purchase of debt, forced other debtors and shareholder into taking losses, then sped off with $1.4 billion in cash, while jobs were lost…

Unelected Freshman Senator Michael Bennet was the 8th highest recipient of Wall Street cash in the current election cycle.

Chatty Cathies: hotter than July edition

Babble on, Babylon!  We’re watching you!

It’s that time of week, once again, and the question of the hour is: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who can spot the most blathering idiot of them all?”

It COULD be you!  But only if you participate by entering your nomination in the comments below.

Last week’s winner was sb’s picture-perfect nomination of Politico‘s Kiki Ryan:

From Politico’s “50 Scenemakers” list:…

“Absence may or may not make the heart grow fonder, but blogger Andrew Breitbart says it definitely boosts his buzz.

“The secret sauce and the added value is the inadvertent mystery that is born from being absent from the scene,” Breitbart told POLITICO, explaining why his moments on the D.C. social scene become events to remember. The conservative writer and personality lives on the West Coast – a fact that gives him a certain mystique among Washingtonians accustomed to seeing the same faces again and again.

Breitbart says his political opposite, Arianna Huffington, has the same edge.

“Arianna and I have a similar dynamic,” he began. “We both live in L.A., so when we come to town on social business terms, we use it as a chance to finally get the face to face with the people you know through your BlackBerry. Then we go back to our lives.” For him, that includes being a husband and a father of four children.

Still, it’s more than rarity that makes Breitbart a party get. He’s an ideal guest.

“Andrew’s fun, provocative and obviously not afraid to speak his mind,” Huffington said about her conservative counterpart.

Raptor Strategies President David Bass, a Washington-based friend of Breitbart’s, echoed Huffington.

“He’s dead-on and witty at the same time,” said Bass.

That opinion may not be widely shared as a result of Breitbart’s posting of an edited – and misleading – video of Agriculture Dept. official Shirley Sherrod this week. While Breitbart seemed to revel in the ensuing controversy – “I am public enemy No. 1” he proclaimed in an interview with POLITICO – even some of his conservative allies said he had crossed a line.

Breitbart is in D.C. only sporadically, but every year he reliably shows up at one party: Tammy Haddad’s brunch on the weekend of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

“I remember missing it [twice],” he said, “and having that sick sense of ‘I can’t believe that everybody is over there having fun and I’m not.'”

Editor’s note: The item on Andrew Breitbart was written before this week’s controversy over his posting of a video of Agriculture Dept. official Shirley Sherrod. It has been updated to reflect that controversy.”

– Kiki Ryan

Rules on the flip.

The Rules:

(A) We’re looking for inane blather that is blissfully indifferent to the actual facts of the matter being commented on.

Remember Tea Party August? We need an August of Climate Parties.

The political process has failed.  Cap and trade legislation is dead in this Congress.  

Kerry and Reid said as much last week.  They said they don’t have the votes in the Senate, so instead of introducing the legislation before the August recess, Reid will introduce a very minor energy bill instead, and that’s it.  Technically, the comprehensive legislation could still be offered in September, but the vote becomes more difficult, and less likely, as the election approaches.  If they thought they had the votes, they would introduce it now.  They don’t have the votes, they don’t expect to get them, and barring a miracle, after this November there will be no chance to get them.  The legislative effort is dead.  Our political system has failed to respond to the greatest challenge of our time.  

We must do something.  

In the interest of brevity, I’ll skip all these citations from Reid, Boxer, Waxman, Dorgan, Carol Browner, the New York Times, and the Rolling Stone.  Suffice to say, they confirm the point that the conventional political process has failed and will fail to deliver a bill.  Leadership cannot deliver.

I will cite Joe Romm, because he’s the most legislatively-plugged-in, politically-astute, fiercest, and most optimistic climate blogger there is.  His analysis is here:

The mostly dead climate bill is now extinct.  It has passed on!   It is is no more!  It has ceased to be!

[Obama] has let any chance of comprehensive climate legislation die without a fight.

And finally, in Shakespearean dismay, he evokes the moment our leadership missed, when the BP explosion became a reason to kill the bill rather than a reason to pass it:

We at the height are ready to decline.

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.

Our leaders have missed the tide, failed to seize the window that the Democratic trifecta and the BP oil spill provided, and are dooming our civilization to flail in those shallows and miseries for centuries.  Ordinary politics has failed.

We must deliver extraordinary politics.

We must do something to change the narrative, change the environment, change the calculus by which this bill’s fate is determined.  

We in the grassroots must revive this effort and create the conditions that will start flipping votes.

We’ve seen it done before.  We know how it’s done.  Anyone who witnessed last August knows that an uprising on the right, much as we hate to admit, really did almost kill the health care bill and really did create conditions that dramatically limited its scope.

We need to take this August recess as hard as the right-wingers took last August.  

We need to answer their Tea Parties with C Parties.  And E Parties.

Climate Parties, and Energy Parties.

We need to stage a bunch of events in our own towns, while Congress is home.

We need to gather our people and show that this bill must pass, that this problem needs to be addressed, that Climate is the problem of our generation, and Energy is the solution.

We need to throw some street parties, with the creativity to attract the press, the messaging to get through to the public, and the commitment to get the attention of the politicians.

We need our grassroots energy to take over the narrative of August, to fill the media space with discussion of our arguments, our claims, and our demands.  We need to focus the national conversation on climate and energy, and raise the cost of inaction on swing votes and Democratic Leaders alike.  

Fortunately we’ve got an in.  The press hook is so obvious that if we put up anything halfway decent, they practically have to cover us.  After the absurd over-attention given to the Tea Parties, assignment editors are practically obligated to send people out to anything that makes a credible claim to be the “left-wing answer to the Tea Parties.”  And the more creative and more compelling (and better attended) our C Parties are, the more coverage we’ll get and the more impact we’ll have.

And unsurprisingly, when you actually have something constructive to offer, there are a million creative and compelling ways to do it.

To begin, I imagine a fairly simple demonstration, say in a grassy place near a major intersection with a lot of passing traffic.  On one side of the street, you have the C party: climate stuff.  Posters with 350 on them.  Big thermometers — real from the hardware store, and even bigger ones of cardboard.  Empty rain gauges.  Melting blocks of ice.  Beetle-killed trees (easy to find in the West).  Wilted crops — also easy to find this year.  A kiddie pool filled with water, vinegar, and shells, for the acidifying ocean.  Hurricanes — the cocktail!  (It’s a party, right?)  Hockey sticks.  A bunch of the little green houses from a Monopoly set.  Toy tanks and toy soldiers.  Bowls full of dust.  Mosquito nets.  You could even set up a coal barbecue, paint the backside of a cheap frypan with blue and green paint, set it over the fire, and watch the earth be cooked by coal.  Whatever ways we can come up with to visually and intriguingly communicate the problem: we are changing the climate, and we’re going to regret it.

And then on the other side of the street, the E Party, because new kinds of Energy is the answer.  And we likewise communicate that in as many eye-catching, camera-friendly ways as we can.  Paint cardboard black and put a grid of duct tape on it to look like solar cells.  Bring one of those garden windmills to represent wind power.  Remote-control cars can represent electric vehicles.  Train sets represent high-speed rail.  Bring CFL bulbs, caulk guns, and light switches to wave at passing cars.  If you want to get confrontational, you could buy some charcoal briquettes and make a big show of burying them, because we need to leave that shit in the ground.  Likewise, you could build a little oil derrick and stick a ballcap on it, cause we’re gonna have to cap the wells too.  Senate politics may dictate that we soft-pedal the attack on coal (aka West Virginia’s livelihood).  But we should make a big cardboard model of the bill, and then pass it around the E Party… get it, pass the bill!  And we should call out the votes we need by name, on homemade signs: Dorgan Conrad Rockefeller Goodwin Webb Bayh Landrieu Pryor Lincoln Nelson Graham Voinovich Snowe Collins McCain Murkowski Lugar LeMieux.  The E Party is for solutions, and these are the people we need to get both domestic and international solutions rolling.

Combined, these two parties make for a pretty reportable demonstration.  The contrast with the Tea Parties, and all the creative symbols we can muster, should help us get the attention of the press and then communicate our message through them to public and leadership: Climate is the problem, Energy is the solution, and we want ’em to pass a bill!


I think these C Parties and E Parties could really work, especially as a galvanizing moment to be followed by more focused efforts.  There is a hunger in our base to do something constructive, to answer the right-wingers who have resurged in such a disconcertingly short time, and to stand up for and advance a cause that we truly believe in.  Climate change is an issue on which our base is united, that affects us all equally, and that is a profound civilizational challenge and a moral responsibility.  It’s a politically clean issue, it cuts across generational lines, and it’s one where our leaders and the normal political process have admitted their own failure, and where our activism is very clearly called for.  We have the month of August to work with and the contrast to last August as an initial hook.  We have a clear case of urgency: September is quite likely our last chance in the next several years.  We have a base ready to be mobilized, an issue and a timeline that demands their mobilization, and an entire month of vacant media to play for.  I think it’s time to put our people in the streets.  It’s time to throw some Climate Parties, and make a last-ditch effort to save the world.

The Problem Isn’t Fast News, It’s Dumb News

An analyst has called for a more deliberate pace in the production and consumption of news.  He could have demonstrated his commitment to such improvement by shelving yet another exercise in media self-mortification and spending time with some primary sources.

For more on pruning back executive power see Pruning Shears.

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

Walter Shapiro picked this week to lament the sorry state of the media.  He believes we have become ignorant and easily distracted by an Internet-bred culture that cultivates short attention spans.  There have always been good and bad news sources, though, and that continues to be true on the Internet (which after all is just a technology).  Shapiro, however, seems to believe we should trust – or at least privilege – the institutions that have been around longest; presumably they will have the best practices.

He characterizes NPR and PBS’ NewsHour as “laudable enterprises,” but let me tell you:  When the Justice Department was melting down under Alberto Gonzales’ disastrous tenure, I listened in vain to NPR for ongoing, in depth coverage of the slow motion train wreck.  Instead there were brief recitations of conventional wisdom at the top of the news followed by unending doses of human interest pabulum.  I stopped listening entirely in the summer of 2007 out of sheer disgust with how poorly it was covering one of the biggest stories of the time.  Know who was prioritizing it?  Marcy Wheeler, Raw Story and other Internet outlets.  Does Shapiro recommend checking with them before NPR?  They certainly did a better job prioritizing on that issue.

Also consider NPR’s shameful coverage of torture, the New York Times’ failures on Iraq, or the Washington Post’s repackaging of’s scoops as their own.  There are valid reasons for being deeply skeptical of the biggest outlets.  They have misled their audience on some of the most important issues of the last decade, and more often than not never correct themselves.  (They will do so in a smug, self satisfied no-error-is-too-small kind of way: “Ms. Smith received a Bachelor of Science degree and not a Bachelor of Arts as reported,” but not on fundamental failures: “We repeatedly hyped a non-existent link between Iraq and the anthrax attacks, thus playing a vital role in advancing the Bush administration’s relentless march to war.  ABC News regrets the error.”)

Most astonishing is this:

We have lost sight of so many significant aspects of our age because they cannot be boiled down to bite-sized news nuggets. It is more than combat fatigue that produces the bizarre reality that — military families aside — most Americans appear to have almost forgotten that we are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are wars that defy easy answers, and the latest updates from the ever-shifting battlefields cannot be encapsulated in 140-character tweets.

He published this two days after the biggest wartime document dump ever!  He had just had laid out before him a trove of papers that might have allowed him to make sense of some of that complexity for his readers.  Instead he wrote about the media equivalent of a carny barker.  (Let’s not even go into the perversity of bemoaning the rise of such a creature while devoting a column to him, or launching a withering attack on the culture that glamorizes such a scumbag while approvingly linking to an interview of him in Shapiro’s own publication.)

The Wikileaks memos were immediately declared old news (sound familiar?) but you know what?  There’s a lot of data there!  Perhaps a reporter could look into that and see if such a vast store of data really is as mundane as is claimed by those with a vested interest in not talking about it!  I downloaded it myself (did Shapiro?) and picked a random document from the “sectarian violence” section:

Organization(s) Involved: HEZB E ISLAMI GULBUDDIN
21 NOV 2006- CJ2X INTSUM- N/I S
DOI: 21 Nov 06; OHR: IT CI FHT/1074
(N/I C) At the end of October, the following insurgents moved to KABUL from the village of QARIA TABLAH, PAKTIA province, near the village of ALI KHEYL (GRID: 42S YD 109 838) IOT carry out suicide attacks:
They have been trained in the area of CHORAT (PAKISTAN) adjacent to PESHAWAR and at this time, they might live in the vicinity of the bazaar of POL-E CHARKHI (around 20 km to the east of KABUL). They are receiving information about the targets from the following insurgents belonging to HIG:
– SAME, native of QARIA BAND NAGHLO (KABUL province, SUROBI district);  
– ZANULDEN, native of ANIF KHIL JORJE (SUROBI district),  
Currently, SAME and ZANULDEN are living in the SHINAH area (GRID: 42s WD 272 203).
This information MAY NOT be released to any portion of the Afghan Government

How does anyone know that is old news, or that it represents a situation that has vastly changed since president Obama claimed to have switched tactics?  “INSURGENTS IN KABUL”?  I thought they were in the tribal areas.  Are there lots in the capitol as well?  And what is that “HEZB” listed in the Organization(s) Involved?  As in, Hezbollah – the political/paramilitary organization funded by Iran?  Sounds like news to me!  

The problem Shapiro is attempting to describe is not one of unprincipled propagandists driving coverage, or a shallow populace dumbly mesmerized by sensationalists, or a chaotic and incomprehensible media environment in which a cacophony of bursts and links prevent the development of thoughtful understanding.  The problem is with media outlets so terrified of being accused of liberal bias that they reflexively blurt “how high?” whenever a sufficiently well placed wingnut starts shrieking for them to jump.  That, and reporters and commentators more concerned with lazy, rote jeremiads on our sadly fallen state than on challenging received talking points or breaking a sweat trying to make sense of complex issues.  Fix those and you’ll be amazed at how the discourse elevates.

DREAM Act, Harry Reid, Matias Ramos, Netroots Nation, National Council of La Raza, Congressional Hi

The “DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama” is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service.  With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for the White House and Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

Today marks the completion of the second week of the DREAM Now series. I am sorry I was not able to get a letter out on Wednesday.  Too much travel and not enough sleep led me to come down with a soar throat and a fever on Tuesday.  Thankfully, I’m starting to recover, today.  If you’re not getting enough of your DREAM Now fix I recommend reading Matias Ramos’ post on why he stood up during Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) speech at Netroots Nation.

Thanks in part to the supporters of the DREAM Now Series,  Reid is now on board with pushing DREAM Act this year.  Most of the credit for turning Reid, of course, should go to courageous undocumented youth activists for their civil disobedience in Reid’s office and making their presence known during his appearance at Netroots Nation.  While Reid still needs to be pushed, most of our efforts to get the DREAM Act enacted, this year, should now shift towards securing the last few mostly Republican Senate votes we need.  The National Council of La Raza has a list of Senators who have not yet publicly committed to voting for the DREAM Act.  If your Senator is on that list, you better start getting to work. 

Before all of our efforts move towards securing mostly Republican votes for the DREAM Act in the Senate, however, there is one last set of important supposed “allies” that have yet to voice their support for passing the DREAM Act this year and, according to Congressional leadership, are actually obstructing it from happening: the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). 

Those of us in the migrant youth movement have long known that the CHC has been a barrier to passing the DREAM Act on its own.  The supposed defenders of migrant rights in Congress can, in fact, be an enemy of migrant youth.  This uncomfortable fact was spotlighted for the entire progressive blogosphere to see during Nancy Pelosi’s remarks on the DREAM Act to Netroots Nation:

You mentioned the DREAM Act…There is a difference of opinion about how we go forward on that.  In our House we are committed to comprehensive immigration reform.  Our Congressional Hispanic Caucus doesn’t want us taking one piece, you know, taking a piece that might be appealing and leaving the undocumented behind. 

So we–our principles are secure our border, enforce our laws, protect our workers, don’t exploit workers coming in, but have a path to legalization for those who are here, not fully documented.  And if we take off some of the rosier pieces of it, the thought is that it would diminish the prospect for comprehensive immigration reform. 

Others have a different view, “let’s just run with it if we can get it passed.”  That’s a debate we have.  But our Hispanic Caucus is of the comp–[rehensive view?]–and I support that…That’s why we haven’t, while we’re all co-sponsors and all support the DREAM Act don’t want it to diminish our prospects for dealing with the undocumenteds in our country.

Nancy Pelosi – Netroots Nation (24 July 2010) 

If you want to hear this sort of rhetoric straight from the mouth of the CHC, watch this video and read this transcript put out by  In it Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says this:

Every time someone says the whole thing cannot pass, only part of it, it weakens us, it divides us, it confuses us, it scatters us all over the place. we once had a united movement for comprehensive immigration reform, now we don’t have a united movement, and that is causing, that is detrimental to the movement for all of us.
Luis Gutierrez – The DREAM Is Coming (20 July 2010)

There is a lot to dissect here but the most important points are the following. 

First of all, to force another generation of unauthorized migrant youth to give up their lives for the broader movement is exploitation, pure and simple.  This is especially true when undocumented youth themselves and many of their undocumented family members are against it.  Politicians using undocumented youth as the engines for comprehensive immigration reform are no better than the exploitative employers of undocumented workers. 

Second, not only is it exploitative to make this argument, but it is strategically wrong.  Getting the DREAM Act passed this year will not weaken the fight for immigration reform, it will strengthen it.  No one questions the fact that undocumented youth are the strongest and most sympathetic leaders of the migrant rights movement.  Why not allow them to earn legal status so that they can fight even harder for their family members and communities?  I know I’m not leaving this fight after the DREAM Act is passed and I can say that for just about everyone that I know whom I consider a leader of the undocumented youth movement. 

Finally, and this is a point that no one else talks about, everyday that we wait to pass the DREAM Act is another day where potential migrant youth leaders are being deported, lost to “attrition”, or even to death or suicide.  Anyone who stands in the way of some sort of relief from this violence, now, is not an ally, but an enemy. 

Within those three simple truths there is a lot of complexity, part of which I will try to address here. 

First, I will address Luis Gutierrez, specifically, since I quoted him as being representative of the CHC, and on immigration, for the most, part he is.  While I believe the CHC can be an enemy of migrant youth, as a whole, I don’t yet consider Luis Gutierrez, personally, an enemy of migrant youth.  I say this because there is no politician currently in U.S. Congress that has done more to advance the cause of migrant rights.  When he introduced CIRASAP he also co-sponsored the DREAM Act, a major nod to the migrant youth movement which I was appreciative of.  After some pressure, he also ended up doing the right thing by saying he’ll inclue LGBT families in CIR.  Many undocumented youth leaders also identify as queer.

Because of these extremely important steps, I’m willing to give Gutierrez some leeway, but I have to say that he was wrong in trying to talk down undocumented youth in the middle of a historic action.  His implication that undocumented youth are dividing the movement is also wrong.  Mohammad Abdollahi said it best:

Congressman Gutierrez, my name is Mohammad, I was one of the youth that was in the sit-in in Senator McCain’s office, on May 17 in AZ, as a result I have been placed in deportation proceedings so for you to sit here and talk to these 5, 6 youth that are sitting in this office, and to put them down, and to constantly tell them instead of supporting them, is a shame. You need to stand up for this community, this is going to continue to happen, and you need to be their ally.

Mohammad Abdollahi – The DREAM is Coming (20 July 2010)

Just because I am willing to give Gutierrez some leeway, however, does not mean that the rest of the CHC is off the hook.  This is especially true of Nydia Velasquez, the current chairwoman of the CHC who has refused to co-sponsor the DREAM Act.  It is absolutely ridiculous that the migrant youth movement has had to expend energy over this past year and a half trying to get CHC members to co-sponsor the DREAM Act when that energy could have been much better spent elsewhere.

I would like the CHC, as a whole, to come out with a statement in support of moving the DREAM Act on it’s own this year, but with all the egos involved, I doubt that is going to happen.  What we can do, as migrant advocates, though, is make very clear that the CHC does not stand for us when it comes to this issue.  Contrary to Gutierrez’s and Pelosi’s statements, much of the migrant rights movement has already united around pushing the DREAM Act this year.

While asking for a statement from the CHC as a whole might not be the best use of our energy in the short window we have to push the DREAM Act, I do not think it is too much to ask for the chairwoman of the CHC, Nydia Velasquez, to co-sponsor the DREAM Act.  Many CHC members who were previously slow to do so like Joe Baca, Loretta Sanchez and Henry Cuellar, are now co-sponsors of the DREAM Act.  If Nydia Velasquez were to do the same, it would be a huge signal to the migrant youth movement and the public at large that the CHC is ready to allow for the DREAM Act to move on it’s own.

If you haven’t signed the petition, yet, ask Nydia Velasquez to co-sponsor the DREAM Act.

UPDATE: While writing this I asked for a statement from Gutierrez’s office and received the following

From Gutierrez:

It is the whole immigration system that needs fixing, so I will keep fighting for the ten things that need to happen to fix it because I think they fit together and solve things in a holistic manner.  If the Senate or the Speaker tells me we can only get one, I will fight hard for that one thing, but continue to ask for ten because that is what is needed.

Luis Gutierrez (30 July 2010)

From Douglas Rivlin, Press Secretary to Gutierrez (D-IL-04):

The way the Speaker’s remarks were interpreted — that Members of the CHC don’t want DREAM to pass because it would take away power from CIR in the future — doesn’t ring true. I don’t think I have met anyone on the Hill or in the CHC that thinks passing a clean DREAM Act this year hurts CIR significantly.  Maybe a few worry that after any victory, the Democrats will say to the rest of the immigrant community, “okay, come back for more in about 5-10 years.” But that is not a huge concern. 

Winning DREAM would not significantly diminish the chances of winning CIR in the future or necessarily help them either.  Losing a vote for the DREAM Act is a different matter.  Losing a vote by a big margin would hurt CIR, especially if Democrats defect, and only a narrow loss in, say, the Senate, would cause no harm and may even help.

Douglas Rivlin (30 July 2010)

This statement from Rivlin is extremely important because it directly contradicts what Nancy Pelosi said at Netroots Nation.  As Rivlin said, passing the DREAM Act will not hurt our chances at passing CIR.  I disagree with Rivlin on other counts, such as the fact that passing the DREAM Act would not help immigration reform in the future, but the statement is still helpful. 

It would be even more helpful if the CHC as a whole were to come out with a statement saying that they wouldn’t oppose passing the DREAM Act on it’s own this year.  That way we’re not playing games with politicians intent on passing the blame to one another.  Still, this statement is a good start. 

The “DREAM Now” letter series is inspired by a similar campaign started by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Every Monday and Wednesday DREAM-eligible youth will publish letters to the President, and each Friday there will be a DREAM wrap-up.  If you’re interested in getting involved or posting these stories on your site, please email Kyle de Beausset at kyle at citizenorange dot com.

Approximately 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from U.S. high schools every year, who could benefit from passage of the DREAM Act.  Many undocumented youth are brought to the United States before they can even remember much else, and some don’t even realize their undocumented status until they have to get a driver’s license, want to join the military, or apply to college.  DREAM Act youth are American in every sense of the word — except on paper.  It’s been nearly a decade since the DREAM Act was first introduced.  If Congress does not act now, another generation of promising young graduates will be relegated to the shadows and blocked from giving back fully to our great nation.

This is what you can do right now to pass the DREAM Act:

  1. Sign the DREAM Act Petition
  2. Join the DREAM Act Facebook Cause
  3. Send a fax in support of the DREAM Act
  4. Call your Senator and ask them to pass the DREAM Act now.
  5. Email kyle at citizenorange dot com to get more involved

Below is a list of previous entries in the DREAM Now Series:

Mohammad Abdollahi (19 July 2010)
Yahaira Carrillo (21 July 2010)
Weekly Recap – Tell Harry Reid You Want the DREAM Act Now (23 July 2010)
Wendy (26 July 2010)
Matias Ramos (28 July 2010)

Civil rights groups top mounting wave of criticism for Obama’s education “reforms”

It’s been one helluva week on the education front, and I’m sure Jeff will have plenty to say in his Left Ed column this Sunday (new time, for those not paying quite enough attention: 1 PM, EST).  It began on Monday, when Jeff noted in a quick hit that a coalition of civil rights groups had issued a document critical of Obama’s education policies.  Although there would be a somewhat confusing walk-back of criticism afterwards–particularly as Arne Duncan and President Obama both addressed the Urban League–it seems clear that the cat’s out of the bag, and it’s going to be a whole lot harder going forward for Obama and Duncan to pretend there aren’t problems.  On Wednesday, data was released showing in the reform showcase NYC schools, the racial and ethnic achievement has shot back up to 2002 levels.  Links to a number of related stories can be found here, including one by Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzales. And speaking of Democracy Now!, today its first half-hour was devoted to a renewed look at Obama’s initiative and the mounting criticisms.  To start things off, here’s what Jeff wrote on Monday:

From Valerie Strauss at WaPo:
    “a 17-page framework for education reform  being released Monday by a coalition of civil rights groups amounts to a thrashing of President Obama’s education policies and it offers a prescription for how to set things right”

Excerpts from the report highlighted by Strauss . . .

on Race to the Top:

    “By emphasizing competitive incentives in this economic climate, the majority of low-income and minority students will be left behind and, as a result, the United States will be left behind as a global leader.”

on charter schools:

    “while some charter schools can and do work for some students, they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs.”

on so-called reform:

    “”Rather than addressing inequitable access to research-proven methodologies like high-quality early childhood education and a stable supply of experienced, highly effective teachers, recent education reform proposals have favored “stop gap” quick fixes that may look new on the surface but offer no real long-term strategy for effective systemic change.”

Right on!

An update to the blog post that Jeff linked to explained the first shift of the week:

Now we know why civil rights leaders suddenly cancelled today’s press conference at which they were going to talk about their new powerful framework for education reform, which includes a withering critique of the Obama administration’s education policies.

They met instead with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., head of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said in an interview that he and other leaders felt that meeting with Duncan to discuss policy differences was “a better use of our time” than holding a public press conference.

Considering that most press conferences are a waste of time, Jackson makes a point.

But in this case, the postponement — or, perhaps, cancellation — left the impression among some that the civil rights leaders chose not to publicly criticize President Obama’s education policies any more than the framework already does.

Later, on Wednesday, Edweek coverage of Duncan’s speech began:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the Obama administration’s education reform agenda before the National Urban League today, declaring that some of the arguments being made to justify a new framework that several civil rights groups released on Monday were flat out wrong.

The Urban League, which joined at least six other civil rights groups in calling for Duncan to reverse course on Race to the Top, charter schools, and turnaround models for low-performing schools, welcomed him with open arms. They interrupted his 30-minute speech several times with applause. Hugh B. Price, the former president of the Urban League, even called the Obama-Duncan education agenda the “most muscular federal education policy I’ve ever seen,” adding, “We’ve got your back.”

This is a fairly dramatic about-face from the run-up to Monday’s release of the highly critical framework, which was supposed to be unleashed with a public relations boom-complete with a press conference featuring prominent black leaders such as the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson calling for a new education direction. Instead, the whole thing fizzled, and left this blogger puzzled as to how strongly the groups still support their own framework.

After reporting on more confusion, particularly on the part of Al Sharpton, the account continued:

In answer to the group’s call that he forgo competitions like Race to the Top and concentrate on increasing spending on all students, Duncan said: “Some people say that grant programs like Race to the Top are bad for low-income and minority students. … But the fact is, Race to the Top has done more to dismantle the barriers to education reform … than any federal law in history.”

He said those who think the Education Department isn’t investing heavily in formula programs, too, are either “intentionally misleading or profoundly misinformed.”

And to answer their charge that he back off from his enthusiasm for charter schools, Duncan said: “Should we stifle the growth of high-quality public charter schools? … Absolutely not. Tens of thousands of minority parents are on waiting lists for these schools. … To suggest that charters are bad for low-income and minority students is absolutely wrong.”

Readers of Open Left know very well who is “intentionally misleading or profoundly misinformed.”  And it’s highly doubtful that this sort of empty bluster will prove successful over the long haul.

The Edweek report on Obama’s speech began:

President Barack Obama offered a forceful defense today of his signature education initiative, the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, which rewards states for making progress on raising standards, improving teacher quality, establishing data systems, and turning around low-performing schools.

The program-and Mr. Obama’s prescription for turning around those low-performing schools-has come under sharp criticism lately from civil rights groups, who say distributing funds through competitive grants hinders poor and minority students, whose schools may not have the resources to compete for the dollars. His speech to the National Urban League this morning offered a rebuttal to such criticism and echoed much of what U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan said to the same group yesterday.

Mr. Obama argued that the steps that Race to the Top encourages states to take, including lifting the cap on charter schools and using student data to inform teacher evaluation, are the right ones.

“None of this should be controversial. There should be a fuss if we weren’t doing these things,” Mr. Obama said.

In an end-of-the-week roundup, Valerie Strauss wrote:

It’s a little hard to make sense of what happened this week in the world of education, but, let’s give it a fast try:

*President Obama gave a speech to the Urban League convention in which he joked about the Jersey Shore’s Snooki and also said the following: “Now, over the past 18 months … I think the single most important thing we’ve done is to launch an initiative called Race to the Top.”

Yes, that’s what he said: His terribly misguided $4.35 billion competitive grant program is, apparently, more important than health care reform, the economic recovery program, improving the student loan program, increasing Pell Grant payouts, and, well, anything else he has accomplished since becoming president.

Does he read this stuff carefully before he says it?

Yes, folks, I’m not the only one who talks like this by this point in time.  The incoherence is getting to be positively Bushian.

She continues:

*The administration did its best to mute the power of a scathing critique of Obama’s education policies issued by a coalition of civil rights organizations, who also offered presciptive ways out of the mess.

According to several sources involved in the drama, the “Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn” was actually ready to be released about a month ago, but the administration has been holding meetings with civil rights leaders in an effort to ease the criticism.

A decision was made to finally release it on Monday, the same week as the Urban League convention, and a press conference was scheduled for leaders of the groups to discuss it publicly. The groups were: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Schott Foundation for Public Education, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Coalition for Educating Black Children, National Urban League, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

But pressure from the administration — including, apparently, a threat that Obama would not speak, as scheduled, to the convention — prompted the cancellation of the press conference and a hastily scheduled meeting between the civil rights leaders and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday.

That became news in our education world, along with a few statements released by some of the civil rights groups that talked about working cooperatively with Duncan.

What was missed in the coverage is that none of the civil rights leaders walked away from the powerful framework, except, that is, Rev. Al Sharpton, who was expected to sign onto the framework, but then didn’t at the last minute.

So, Obama intimidated his black critics, but only in the short run.  (Sharpton is actually more of a booster when it comes to charter schools.)  Forget what does or doesn’t want to do.  It’s increasingly hard to see how this “no carrot, all stick” approach to his one-time base can be a winning strategy over any sort of long run.  More and more I’m beginning to think that a primary challenge really could emerge.  And it doesn’t have to come anywhere close to winning in order to fatally wound the President.  Two dates for him to look up: 1952 and 1968.  

Finally, from Democracy Now!

JUAN GONZALEZ: …. In his address, Obama said his plan for education is working, but he acknowledged it has come under criticism.
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But I think the single most important thing we’ve done is to launch an initiative called Race to the Top. We said-we said to states, if you are committed to outstanding teaching, to successful schools, to higher standards, to better assessments, if you’re committed to excellence for all children, you will be eligible for a grant to help you attain that goal. And so far the results have been promising, and they have been powerful.

    I know there’s also been some controversy about Race to the Top. Part of it, I believe, reflects a general resistance to change. We get comfortable with the status quo, even when the status quo isn’t good. We make excuses for why things have to be the way they are. And when you try to shake things up, some people aren’t happy.

That sounded pretty damn clueless, arrogant and out of touch to me.  Downright Bushian, like I said before.  One Edweek commentator put it this way:

I watched on TV President Obama’s speech before the Urban League. As much as I still admire him, his defense of Arne Duncan and RttT was hard for me to take.

His dismisses legitimate concerns about his administration’s agenda as resistance to change or defense of the status quo. He is so insultingly wrong. Critics of RttT want to improve education just as much or more as he and the tycoons who pull Duncan’s strings.

Finally, here’s an extended comment from Diane Ravitch on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: …. Let’s begin with you, Diane Ravitch. Your response to President Obama’s major address yesterday on education?

DIANE RAVITCH: Well, I think that what happened in New York City is-shows that the direction he’s taking is wrong, because everything he is proposing in Race to the Top and also in his blueprint will rely on exactly the kinds of methods that led to a massive fraud in New York state-that is, that Race to the Top is requiring states to judge teachers by the student test scores, and we now know, based on this immense fraud in the city and in the state of New York, that the test scores are not reliable. So teachers will be judged by unreliable data, and we’re going to dismantle the teaching profession in pursuit of this mechanical fix that won’t work.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Diane Ravitch, one of the reasons President Obama gave that particular speech was that he’s coming under increasing fire even from civil rights organizations who are questioning not only the emphasis on testing, but the push for more and more charter schools regardless of the quality of those schools. And your sense of how the ground is shifting around the country, among parent groups, among civil rights groups, around the whole issue of school reform?

DIANE RAVITCH: Well, you know, I think this week, in the last week of July of 2010, turns out to be a pretty momentous week. First of all, six civil rights groups came together and issued a joint statement that blasted Race to the Top and also the blueprint, the Obama blueprint, because he is building-although he doesn’t admit it, he’s building his education agenda right on top of the Bush education agenda, which is to test and punish, to close schools, to evaluate teachers in ways that are unfair and unsound from a research point of view, to increase the number of privately managed charter schools. All this is going to be immensely destabilizing, and it’s going to hit hardest on minority communities, because most of the schools that will be identified as the lowest-performing schools will be in poor Hispanic and black communities. And there will be massive-excuse me, massive destabilization. This is not good. And the civil rights groups recognize this.

There was a second report out that came out this week from a group of community-from an organization of community groups from across the country, echoing the same complaints: we don’t want more community schools, we don’t want more charter schools, we want better public schools-help our public schools get better, not by more testing, not by more charters, but by sensible approaches like more pre-kindergarten, smaller class size, more support for the people who are teaching in those schools-commonsense approaches, which this administration seems to be avoiding and looking for the quick fix that George Bush pursued and that Mayor Bloomberg pursued, and it didn’t work. So I think there are immense implications here.

And we also saw in the Congress where Congressman Obey tried to strip money away from Race to the Top, away from merit pay and away from charter schools. And the administration’s response was, “Don’t take money from Race to the Top. Take it away from food stamps.” And Joel Klein said to take it away from Title I. These are all programs that benefit the neediest families in our society, and there were prepared to harm people who are in need of help in order to preserve the President’s favorite program.

So I think that the implications of this week, with the test score explosion, the blowup of the fraud in New York City, and these two grassroots groups saying, “This is not working, and take a more commonsense approach, and stop this destructive test and measurement and punishment approach,” this is big, because up ’til now everybody seems to have gone along with the rhetoric of President Obama. But you have to separate his rhetoric, which is always very elegant, from what his administration is actually doing, which is just more Bush, more No Child Left Behind.

What we’re seeing is still well below the radar of the braindead Versailles media.  But the push-back against Obama’s Bush-lite agenda is clearly growing at an ever-increasing rate, and things came to a sort of head this week.  With the mid-terms looming, there’s no telling what the short-term dynamic is going to be.  But it seems virtually certain that opposition is only going to grow stronger and stronger.

Just like with Afghanistan,  tweaking a fundamentally flawed policy that the Democratic base despises is simly not a viable strategy.  And the more you think about it, the more you just have doubt whether Obama is really anywhere near ready for the office he now holds.  He’s a great campaigner, there’s no doubting that.  But when it comes to governing, he just doesn’t seem to get it.

The sensible center outraged by the “sensible center”

As I’ve said before, Brad DeLong is well to the right of me politically. Matt Miller, too. (Miller used to hold down the “center” in KCRW’s “Left, Right and Center” back in the mid-90s when Arianna Huffington represented the “Right”, before the “Left” Robert Scher completed the work begun by Al Franken… ah, but I digress….)  Point is, Miller can actively participate in some pretty intense, creative, and ultimately mind-changing debates, and still not think anything terribly novel or surprising.

But what’s now being done by Obama and his appointees in the name of “sensible centrism” is about to give poor Matt a heart attack.  This is yet another, highly significant data point in the argument that Obama is not only not a progressive, but not even centrist or “third way” neoliberal as they were once understood.   Of course, I would argue that the “third way” never actually had any sort of firm foundations, and so sharp rightward slippage under Obama is not really all that surprising.

But even without deep, firm intellectual foundations, it’s possible to maintain some sort of pragmatic sense of direction, meaning and purpose.  It’s called “muddling through” and in some ways it’s a very admirable tradition.  But now–per Brad–it’s at wit’s end:

It Always Looked Like Alan Simpson Was a Mistake to Co-Chair a Deficit-Reduction Commission. Now It Looks Like Erskine Bowles Was an Even Bigger Mistake

Numerology is not a science. And there is no reason to think that 21% is a particularly auspicious number.

Matt Miller–like me, part of the sensible, technocratic bipartisan center–looks at what is coming out of the Obama deficit-reduction commission, and is as horrified as I am:

    A spending goal too small for aging America: I don’t want to overreact. I’d hate to prematurely diss President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which held its fourth public meeting Wednesday. But the commission’s Democratic co-chair, Erskine Bowles, may have already blown it…. Bowles suggested that the long-term goal the commission should adopt for federal spending should be 21 percent of gross domestic product. This sounds like a bookkeeping matter. But… federal spending under Ronald Reagan averaged 22 percent of GDP. Under Bowles’s view, therefore, the outer limits of the Democratic Party’s 21st-century aspirations would be to run government at a size smaller than did a 20th-century conservative icon. What’s more, Reagan ran government at this size at a time when 76 million baby boomers weren’t about to hit their rocking chairs. In 1988, 32 million retirees received Social Security and 33 million were on Medicare, our two biggest domestic programs. By 2020, about 48 million elderly Americans will receive Social Security, and 62 million Americans will be on Medicare (then the numbers really soar)…. [Total] health costs in the Reagan era were around 10 percent of GDP, while they’re now 17 percent, headed toward 20. Obviously we need a national crusade to make health-care delivery more efficient. But until there’s progress on this front, the 21 percent goal would be tantamount to Democrats agreeing that Uncle Sam should handle health care, pensions, defense and little else….

Bottom line: There isn’t anything remotely sensible about any of this.  And even sensible centrists are starting to notice that it’s not just a here-and-there problem–it’s utterly central to the new “third way” project under Obama.

I repeat my claim: The aim here is for an American version of the conservative welfare state, one whose overarching objective is to serves elites.  21% is more than enough to do that, provided nothing is “wasted” on anyone else.