fresh voices from the front lines of change








Jeff Bryant

Epic Fail Of Charter Schools In Louisiana

Parents in New Orleans are sick of the instability temporary charter schools have brought to their community. Now they are organizing to repeal the state law that legalized charters, calling the schools an "illegal experiment” on their children. When Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, said Hurricane Katrina was the “best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” he was no doubt referring in part to how the storm and its aftermath led to the spread of charter schools across the city. But if he had looked more closely before making his remark (he eventually apologized for his poor word choice), he would have noticed some of the new charter schools being created in New Orleans were already failing. The annual budget for the Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), which provides grants to individual charter schools and charter school management companies, has ballooned to $440 million, and the total amount spent by the program since inception exceeds $4 billion. Up to $1 billion of the money given out nationwide by the CSP was wasted on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed because of fraud, poor performance, financial mismanagement, and other reasons. the legacy of the federal government’s charter school grants in Louisiana should not be understood just by the sheer waste of precious education funds, but also by the real human consequences of spreading makeshift charter programs that throw communities into confusion, distress, and a sense of betrayal. That’s probably something you won’t hear Arne Duncan apologize for.

Lightfoot Rings In New Era In Chicago Politics

Capping a stunning political rise, Chicago to inaugurate Lori Lightfoot as Mayor. NPR: "Chicago will make history Monday when Lori Lightfoot is sworn in as the city's first black woman mayor and first openly gay mayor. The 56-year-old is set to be inaugurated along with Chicago's two other city-wide elected officials and all 50 aldermen. Lightfoot's inauguration caps a stunning political rise for someone who has never before held elected office. On the campaign trail, Lightfoot promised to put an end to Chicago's political machine 'once and for all' and shine a bright light on corruption in City Hall. It's a message that resonated with voters, particularly as a burgeoning corruption scandal involving some of the city's longest-serving aldermen hit the headlines at the height of the mayor's race. In recent days, Lightfoot started to act on some of those campaign promises to clean up City Hall. She met with aldermen about an executive order she had said she'll sign on her first day in office that would curtail an unwritten custom, known as 'aldermanic prerogative,' that gives local aldermen the final say over permits and zoning in their wards. Critics have long said that unilateral power leads to corruption, but many aldermen were not on board with Lightfoot's proposed changes after last week's meetings."

Trade War Heats Up, Realigns

Tariff Man Trump just had himself a wild week. Bloomberg: "In the span of a week, President Donald Trump escalated a trade war with his biggest strategic rival, ended a steel tariff battle with the U.S.’s closest neighbors, and managed to both prolong and inflame yet another squabble among friends for at least six months. Trump’s attempted overhaul of the global trading system has reached a fever pitch and roiled financial markets again: On Monday, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office released a list of about $300 billion worth of Chinese goods including children’s clothing, toys, mobile phones and laptops that Trump is threatening to hit with a 25% tariff. If he proceeds, those new taxes, plus 25% duties on $250 billion of Chinese goods already in place, mean American consumers may start feeling the pinch of higher prices. Then, on Thursday, Trump extended his crackdown to include the Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. He issued an executive order that could effectively ban Huawei and Chinese sister firm ZTE Corp. from the U.S. market. He also placed Huawei on a blacklist that means U.S. suppliers will need licenses to sell the company components. China’s response dashed most hopes that the world’s two biggest economies would patch things up soon."

WH Ditches Plan To Offload Migrants

Uproar causes WH to pull back on plan to shift migrants. USA Today: "President Donald Trump on Sunday denied reports that hundreds of migrants would be flown from the Mexican border to Florida and other areas in the U.S. interior to lessen the workload at crowded Border Patrol facilities. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, also on Sunday, acknowledged that federal officials did initially alert local leaders of the possibility that migrants would be flown to two South Florida counties. The governor's spokeswoman, Helen Ferre, said DeSantis spoke with Trump on Saturday, two days after local officials reacted with alarm to a Border Patrol notification that 1,000 migrants could be sent on a weekly basis to Palm Beach and Broward counties, starting in about two weeks. After the plan was attacked by local leaders last week, federal officials initially said the flights were only being considered and nothing was happening immediately. On Sunday, McAleenan said that Florida and other cities in the interior were no longer in consideration. He said the plan 'wasn't going to be an effective use of government resources.'"

Detroit Bungles Pollution Hearings

Stop botching Detroit public meetings. The Detroit News: "The Detroit City Council had called a public hearing inviting Marathon Petroleum Corp. to clarify to citizens its stomach-churning odor release in February. As citizens filed into the 13th floor auditorium of the Coleman Young Municipal Center, eager to speak out about the horrific impact of Marathon’s pollution, an agitated Council President Brenda Jones said there was a legal meeting notice snafu and there would be no hearing. Then she admonished us to stay calm because she was in no mood to deal with negative feedback. Instead of a legal hearing, we would get a non-binding, off-the-record town hall meeting. That meant the four City Council members present would not be able to ask Marathon about its massive, stomach-churning odor release in February. Instead, Marathon was allowed to share a PowerPoint presentation about its good neighbor policies and 'decreasing' chemical emission releases in Detroit 48217, the most polluted ZIP code in Michigan. It was a déjà vu moment for some of us sitting in the audience. On March 12, citizens also ventured downtown to a canceled City Council hearing on Marathon’s February odor release. The excuse given was Marathon somehow was not aware of the public hearing. The refinery is 100% of our misery and discomfort and it is the facility most complained about to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from residents in my community. All one needs to do is drive by the refinery to get a dose of the stinky air we breathe throughout the year. When Marathon is called to answer questions about how it impacts our health and welfare and the city of Detroit can’t properly schedule a meeting, citizens pay the price for the ineptitude."

Greenpeace Blockades BP

We're shutting down BP because it's a climate emergency. Common Dreams: "As you read this, I’m sitting in a big container outside BP HQ in London, blocking one of the main entrances to the building. Along with a team of climbers on the roof, and more people in containers like mine, we’ve shut down the building. This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but I know it’s the right thing. We’re at a critical point in history. We have the science telling us that we are destroying our planet – that we’re facing a climate emergency. And one thing we know for sure is that oil and gas must become a thing of the past. But companies like BP are still exploring for new oil, getting us deeper and deeper into this crisis. They need to stop exploring for oil or wind down their business.Future generations will look back at this time and ask why we didn’t do more, and I will be able to say I did everything I could. Yes it may get me in trouble, but I was always taught to stand up to bullies and speak up when I think something is wrong. And while I know we can’t all afford to take the kind of action I’m taking today, we must all do something. Because the only thing needed for companies like this to get away with stealing our future is for most people to do nothing."

Pin It on Pinterest

Spread The Word!

Share this post with your networks.