special interests

Teachers on strike in Chicago are fighting for their students to get a quality education

When I was a kid, having a good teacher was the key ingredient to getting a good education, just as it is now. And when I was a kid my teachers were unionized, just as they are now. But now the same teachers who want the same decent wages and working conditions and the same promise of a reasonably secure retirement are accused of being the problem in our schools today. Special interests who want to push standardized testing and privatize our nation’s public schools are demonizing the teachers who oppose these measures.

…The Chicago teachers also object to their performance and jobs being tied to standardized tests. In March, education researchers from 16 universities sent a letter to Emanuel and the head of the Chicago Public Schools warning against such measures, pointing out among other things that such test-based teacher evaluations have been shown to be highly unreliable measures of teacher quality. Moreover, standardized test results are often influenced by poverty, homelessness, crime and other social issues beyond the influence of teachers. And we know this type of teacher evaluation risks creating teachers who “teach to the test” instead of the creative, dynamic teachers we need.

…Meanwhile, under the guise of “reform,” Emanuel wants to vastly expand charter schools in Chicago to eventually encompass half of the city’s education system. This amid evidence that charter school siphon taxpayer money and strong students out of public schools and leave poor students and students with disabilities worse off. But Rahm Emanuel actually hired protesters to make his proposals look good while demonizing teachers. But parents are standing with the teachers and their union.

To read this entire article which goes a long way to explaining the teachers’ strike in Chicago, I highly recommend that you click here

 

Carney–Did She Really Want to Override the Anti-Fracking Veto

A couple of days ago I wrote about how long time legislator NC Rep Becky Carney pushed the wrong button and ended up being the key vote to override the veto of legislation that would allow fracking in NC.  At the time I said I smelled a rat.

One of my colleagues here at VLTP who is brilliant with numbers and their analysis, took a look into Carney. I mean, just think about it.  How difficult is it to imagine a 5 term representative with literally hundreds of votes just in this past legislative session–perhaps thousands in her career–pressing the green “yea” button instead of the red “nay” button.

A person who has been fighting fracking very hard assures me that people “in the know” understand that she made a legitimate error.

Well, I’m not so sure about Carney’s mistake.  And here is why:

Our whiz looked at the career (public record) campaign financing of this 5 term Representative from Mecklenburg County which, with over 919,628 residents, is the largest county in North Carolina.  From these residents, Carney received $24,670 from “individual contributors”

But these “individual contributions  included funds that I would consider as being from business:

  • contributions from the president of Summit Hospitality Group (headquartered in Raleigh, Wake County being the second largest county in NC)
  • contributions from executives at the Speedway Motorsports Inc
  • contributions form executives at Performance Racing network
  • contributions from executives at Lowes Motor Speedway

That brings the total of her individual contributions down to $14,760.  Not a lot of money considering her 5 years in office and the patronage she should have built up among her constituents.  It works out to $12.46 per constituent per year.  That does not appear very impressive.

Over the course of her career in the Legislature, Carney has received total contributions of $281,469.57.   All of 5.2% coming from constituents, the rest coming from PAC and special interests. Included in the total contributions are monies from PACs with ALEC connections, with banking/finance connections, and with energy connections.  Here are some of the names on the list, from those with ALEC connections:

AT&T, Bank of America, Blue Cross / Blue Shield NC, CenturyLink, Coca-Cola. CSX. Dominium Resources Inc, General Electric, GlaxoSmithKline International Paper. John Deere, Microsoft. PepsiCo. Time Warner, WalPac (aka WalMart).

The Banking industry was well represented by PACs of Citigroup, First Citizens Bank Combined, North Carolina Bank, Resident Lenders of North Carolina, Security Finance Corp of Spartanburg, Wachovia NC Employees, Wells Fargo and Co

Energy companies were represented by PACs of  Dominium, Duke, Progress Energy, PSNC Energy.

And, of course, there is the PAC representing conservative stalwart the Chamber of Commerce.

95% from PACs and special interests.  5% from individual contributors.

In all honesty I have to admit that don’t know if this proportion of fundraising is normal or not.  But I do know that PAC donations–especially from ALEC–come with strings attached.  If this is the norm, then we need to throw out all our current legislators until comprehensive campaign finance reform is accomplished.  They are all far too beholden to corporate interests.  If this is not the norm, what does it say about Becky Carney?

Now, following the money, who do you really think she pushed that button for?

Why privatize education?

Something is wrong with conservatives’ free market argument for privatization of Utah’s public schools as promoted by several Republican legislators and their ally, the corporate lobbyist American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

…ALEC’s devious ways do not compute to this business owner. ALEC is bamboozling Utah state legislators into thinking school privatization is the right thing to do. But is it?

Our nation cannot afford a free market education system. Education of poor children, minority children, and children from large families will suffer. Children left in some form of public education will be neglected. They will fall through the cracks. In the long term our country will be devastated.

A well-educated society — poor to rich, boys and girls, all children — is the best investment our country could ever make.

Instead of privatization, why don’t we look at a successful public school system and employ its standards? Say, Maryland, the best in the country. Yes, it spends more per pupil than Utah; no cost-plus-profit, just cost. If we want results, we need to swallow the hard pill of the means for better education.

No ALEC-type organization should ever be able to place its own special interests over those of American families. No child should be left behind.

To read this fascinating article about how ALEC’s privatization of education in Utah flies in the face of their own corporate logic–complete with facts and figures, please click here