Republican attack on public education

The difficulties of getting young people engaged in political activism

Answering the question that has been circulating lately:

As Women's March organizers prepare for another round of events on Jan. 20 and 21, research shows that few young people share Hahn's excitement for political activism and public protests. Americans ages 15 to 24 are still figuring out their preferred approach to politics, according to the PRRI/MTV 2017 National Youth Survey, released this week.

"A majority of young people describe recent protests and marches negatively, as 'pointless' (16 percent), 'counterproductive' (16 percent), 'divisive' (12 percent), or 'violent' (11 percent.) Only about one-third ascribe positive value to them, saying they are 'inspiring' (16 percent), 'powerful' (16 percent), or 'effective' (4 percent)," the survey reported.

Some of these findings are not really surprising. As much as I hate to use the term "woke," that transformation did not really happen to me until I was in my forties. I may have voted regularly since my late teens, but my knowledge of what I was voting for (or against) was pretty thin, to say the least. At our County Party meeting last night, aside from a couple of small children, the youngest people there were in their thirties, and they were a distinct minority. But before we launch into a "What are we doing wrong?" exercise, it may be them and not us:

UNC Board of Governors contemplating move out of Chapel Hill

Apparently they're afraid of those notorious Liberal Cooties:

At both the October committee meeting and November’s full board meeting, members discussed a perception that having the general administration staff in Chapel Hill confuses the UNC system and UNC-Chapel Hill. It also makes it look as though the Chapel Hill campus is superior to the other schools, they said.

“That’s a very minor part of this, but it’s still a consideration,” Kotis admits. “Are we the Board of Governors for the UNC Chapel Hill or the UNC system? What does it say about the link between UNCGA and Chapel Hill? Is it the favorite school? It’s like having your house near one kid’s house but not the other.”

Dude, it's the Flagship University. It was the first public University chartered by the NC Legislature in 1789, and the first public University in the *entire country* operating when it opened its doors in 1795. By contrast, it wasn't until 1931 that a "Board of Trustees" was formed to oversee the combination of three state-chartered universities (UNC-CH, UNC-G, NC State), and the BOG itself didn't materialize until 40 years after that. So yes, UNC Chapel Hill is the natural location for such a body. But this move may have a lot more to do with having an antsy real estate developer on the Board than even ideological considerations:

House GOP tax plan especially painful for teachers

When making something more "simple" also makes it more costly:

Any full-time instructor at a public or private K-12 school is currently eligible for the $250 deduction. It’s an “above-the-line” deduction, meaning teachers don’t have to itemize to claim it. It’s listed on the part of the tax form alongside deductions for moving expenses, student loan interest and Health Savings Accounts. The House GOP bill does away with those popular deductions as well.

Richardson worries about other ways the legislation may affect education. The Senate bill scraps all state and local tax deductions. Most schools in the United States get their funding from property taxes. Atlanta’s public schools already had to make budget cuts this year after a property tax freeze. School funding could become even more contentious, especially in high-tax cities, if the GOP tax bills are enacted.

In a perfect world, negotiations between the Senate and the House would get rid of the bad parts of each, lessening the sting for teachers and others. But we don't live there. A closer look at some of the things this particular teacher has had to purchase out-of-pocket provides a glimpse of a much deeper problem:

Ralph Hise leads latest GOP attack on teacher's union

First you thin their ranks, then you question their membership numbers:

The legislature started requiring the audits in 2014, after a different Republican-backed law targeting the NCAE was struck down in court as unconstitutional. But each year, the NCAE simply refuses to cooperate. “... It certainly appears NCAE is refusing to respond because it does not meet the requirement and is violating the law,” Republican Sen. Ralph Hise said in an email. Hise is a critic of the NCAE who was a driving force behind the audit requirement.

The NCAE says it doesn’t have to comply with the audit. “The NCAE believe the law as written and being implemented by the state Auditor is overly intrusive in violation of the constitutional rights of the association and its members and further exceeds the authority of the state Auditor,” the group wrote in a letter to state officials earlier this year.

As usual, this is just another end-around attempt by Republicans to get something the courts refused to allow them, the discontinuation of payroll-deducted membership dues. But what nobody seems to want to talk about: Membership in the NCAE is voluntary. As in, the teachers in question have agreed to pay these dues, and are fine with that method of payment. This isn't just an attack on the NCAE as a monolithic entity, it's an attack on the individual teachers themselves. And frankly, Ralph Hise is the last person who should be criticizing people over non-compliance:

Republican Superintendent pushing trades instead of college

And misleading students in the process:

He said business leaders want schools to start letting kids know their options at a younger age, including vocational professions. Johnson said that any student who wants to go to college can, but they need to know there are other options.

For instance, he said that a student should know that he or she could become a lineman for a power company after high school, and within a few years he or she could be making more than $100,000. Or a student could graduate and work as a welder at a steel fabrication company and potentially be making $70,000.

Bolding mine, because the dude at the top of the education pyramid in NC should at least understand that a "few" years is 2-3, not the 10-15 years it would take to achieve journeyman status. And the top journeyman lineworkers make around $39 per hour, which is $83,120 before overtime. Entry level pay is about $16 per hour ($33,280 per year), and telling kids they can make $100,000 within a few years is astoundingly irresponsible. And considering that Duke Energy Carolinas is about 250 linemen short, the negatives likely outweigh the positives by a metric ton:

Pope Center slaps new coat of paint on crumbling structure

Different name, same tired old rhetoric:

Martin will be joined by Jenna Robinson, president of the former Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a conservative think tank that has been newly renamed for Martin. The change took effect Jan. 1, when the center officially became the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

On the center’s website, Robinson wrote that confusion between the Pope Center and the Pope Foundation prompted the name change. Both organizations were named for John William Pope but had different missions, she wrote: “The new name will allow us to create our own identity – focused on our mission of academic renewal.”

Yeah, I mean, no. There hasn't been any confusion. They may have (slightly) different missions, but the guiding principles are still the same. And they won't change with a new name, or a new logo, or a new Mission Statement, or whatever other facile tweaks to its appearance you try to make. A thorn by any other name. And just to give you an idea where Jenna Robinson stands on government helping families cope with higher education costs, check this out:

Koch Brothers on campus: HBCUs in the cross-hairs

KochBrothers.jpg

These aren't the opportunities you're looking for, move along:

The concept for the efforts the Koch gift will fund is in place, but many of the details have yet to be established. Broadly, the $25.6 million will go toward original research, creating three campus research centers and funding research efforts. It will also go toward scholarships and fellowships for students in education, sociology, economics and criminal justice. It will also support on-campus programming, funding speakers like educators and entrepreneurs. And it will pay for research and polling, helping Gallup create an opportunity index and survey fragile communities, which are defined as those where residents face barriers to economic advancement and which exhibit high crime rates, low-quality education options and limited mobility.

Attempts by the Koch Brothers to infiltrate universities and expand their free-market ideology has been spotty at best. Where they have succeeded, these entities have been under harsh scrutiny by faculty groups (rightly) concerned about interference and the reputation of the school itself. But Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been (for the most part) also historically underfunded, which presents a prime opportunity for the oil-drenched billionaires to poke their noses in. But not everybody is gung-ho for this "partnership" to proceed:

New documentary "Starving The Beast" a must-see

The right-wing's vigorous attack on higher education:

Who gains when public universities start to think of themselves more like businesses and treat students like customers? Are America's public research universities, long a magnet for brilliant students around the world, in need of reinvention by conservative businessmen? What is education for, anyway? These are just a few of the questions raised in Starving the Beast, Steve Mims' look at trends in higher education that are often poorly understood by a public whose attention is focused on skyrocketing tuition and student debt.

These stories are all so interwoven with statehouse politics that Mims finds himself discussing everything from Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's war on collective bargaining to the vast influence of Art Pope, a businessman described here as North Carolina's version of the Koch brothers.

I'm curious to see which of Pope's efforts to infiltrate universities will be explored. The fact that it could be one of several is in itself an interesting notion.

Subsidizing bigotry: Voucher-receiving Christian schools ban LGBT students

And Skip Stam thinks it's just fine:

The Bible Baptist handbook states: “The school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a current student. This includes, but is not limited to, living in, condoning or supporting any form of sexual immorality (or) practicing or promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”

N.C. Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Apex who sponsored the voucher program in the state legislature, said the program does not discriminate. “Parents choose where to send children. And parents are free to choose whatever school they want within the hundreds of possibilities,” he said.

While it's very likely Stam does understand the program allows for discrimination, he chooses to pursue the fallacy argumentum ad temperantiam (argument to moderation), in which the statistics are brought into play: More schools don't discriminate than those who do, so it's not a problem. The truth is somewhere in-between. It's actually a clever position (if we allow him to maintain it), because discrimination would have to rise to 50+% for him to admit there's a problem. Needless to say, we can't see the ass-end of him soon enough.

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