fresh voices from the front lines of change








Jeff Bryant

How Private Search Firms Skim Millions From Public Schools

The education world was rocked in 2015 when Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was convicted and sentenced to prison for accepting kickbacks from SUPES, a private search firm. But anyone who thought this story was an anomaly would be mistaken. Similar conflicts of interest among private superintendent search firms, their associated consulting companies, and their handpicked school leaders have plagued multiple school districts across the country. These businesses are often able to place their handpicked candidates in school leadership positions who then help make the purchasing decision for the same businesses’ other products and services, which often include professional development, strategic planning, computer-based services, or data analytics. The deals are often brokered in secrecy or presented to local school boards in ways that make insider schemes appear legitimate. The results of these scandals are often disastrous. School policies and personnel are steered toward products that reward private companies rather than toward research-proven methods for supporting student learning and teacher performance. And while media accounts generally frame these scandals as examples of corrupt school leaders who got caught and brought to justice, reporters rarely delve into the corporate-operated enterprises that undergird the whole system.

More Dems Back Calls For Impeachment

More Dems back impeachment action amid reports Trump ordered Ukraine aid frozen. NBC: "One hundred and fifty House Democrats — well over half the 235-member caucus — now back some type of impeachment action in light of President Donald Trump's burgeoning Ukraine scandal. Some on this list have called for an impeachment inquiry or hearings, some believe the House Judiciary Committee is already undertaking an inquiry and are supportive of that investigation, while others have gone further and called for drafting articles of impeachment. Lawmakers are using different terms when they talk about the issue. The fast-expanding list includes 13 lawmakers who have come out in favor of action since reports last week that the president pushed Ukraine to investigate the Biden family. In addition to the 151 House Democrats backing some type impeachment action, Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan independent, also favors an impeachment investigation, bringing the total number to 152. In a Monday night Washington Post op-ed article, seven freshman House Democrats called for impeachment hearings in response to the Ukraine scandal, which three sources told NBC News may give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the 'cover' she needs to back a formal impeachment proceeding against the president which she has not done to date. 'This is major. It seems to me like it's an inflection point,' one source said."

Trump Threatens City Funding

The ongoing clash between Trump and big cities. NPR: "President Trump's depiction of urban life in America is often grim, and the tension between the president and big city mayors is often filled with name-calling and lawsuits. For many mayors who end up in the president's crosshairs, it's a balancing act as they try to determine how to ward off criticism, as well as Trump administration policies they think may be harmful, while not jeopardizing federal funds earmarked for city projects. For example, Trump raised plenty of hackles with his recent comments about the homeless in California hurting the prestige of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Darrell Steinberg, chairperson of California's State Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing, calls the president's statements hypocritical. 'This is a president who is calling for the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant Program, which is a primary source of funding for affordable housing,' says Steinberg, who is also the mayor of Sacramento. Last week, Steinberg signed a letter on behalf of California's big cities along with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. It asked the president to increase housing vouchers by the thousands for the state's low income residents. Steinberg says it's time for any adversarial relationship between cities and the Trump administration to end. 'When it comes to homelessness, there's only one thing that matters and that is bringing as many people under a roof as possible and helping them reclaim their lives,' Steinberg says."

Sanders Promotes Extreme Wealth Tax

Sanders targets highest-income Americans with 'extreme wealth tax' and 'national wealth registry'. Politico: "Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday proposed an “extreme wealth tax” on the highest-income Americans, along with a “national wealth registry” that he said would help prevent them from avoiding the tax. The tax rate would start at 1 percent on net worth of more than $32 million and rise with income above that, topping out at 8 percent on wealth over $10 billion. Sanders’ Democratic presidential campaign said the tax would raise $4.35 trillion over a decade and would be used to fund 'Medicare for All', along with his plans for affordable housing and universal childcare. Several of the other Democratic presidential candidates have proposed slapping additional taxes on the highest-income households. Sanders, an independent from Vermont, had already proposed a major hike in estate taxes and raising the top marginal tax rate on income above $10 million. Beyond funding programs they have proposed, the candidates say their plans would combat income inequality."

Records Reveal Widespread GOP Racial Gerrymandering

GOP racial gerrymandering mastermind redistricted more states than previously revealed. The Intercept: "The reach of late Republican gerrymandering mastermind Thomas Hofeller may be longer than previously known, according to a review of thousands of documents and emails culled from his hard drives, obtained by The Intercept. While Hofeller was known for drawing maps to give Republicans an advantage and to limit the impact of voters of color in North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, and Virginia, the new documents reveal he also participated in the 2010 redistricting cycle in Alabama, Florida, and West Virginia. And, in those three states, it appears Hofeller and other Republican mapmakers experimented with using race as the primary factor in drawing districts in these states — a tactic ruled unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, which requires that people in similar circumstances be treated the same under the law. Among the trove of over 70,000 documents are draft maps with voter data broken down by race, spreadsheets that include the home addresses of members of Congress, travel plans, and legislation marked up by Hofeller himself. These new documents shed additional light on the coordinated national strategy behind maps that locked in a GOP advantage in Congress and in state legislatures nationwide. They reveal the sophisticated racial data that drove GOP mapmaking in several states, potentially opening new avenues for litigation challenging these plans as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders — including one Alabama case that will be heard in a U.S. district court in seven weeks — or as violations of state constitutional protections of free and fair elections. And they show that Hofeller intentionally failed to disclose his involvement in Florida redistricting in an affidavit filed with a court."

Iowa People's Forum Changes The Conversation

2020’s most in-depth, people-powered forum just happened in Iowa. The Nation: "The crowd was multiracial, multiethnic, urban and rural, all ages, mostly from Iowa but also from other states where People’s Action is working with its growing network of progressive organizations on a 2020 agenda that the group’s national director, George Goehl, sums up as 'defeating white nationalism and advancing a big, bold agenda.' They had all come to Des Moines for what would turn out to be the most grassroots-focused, poignant, and revealing forum so far in the campaign season. But how do the people who are tired of not getting their phone calls returned achieve the 'radical, total liberation' proposed by Bryce Fields, an organizer with Illinois’s One People’s Campaign as he roused an overwhelmingly working-class crowd? The answer was in the room, where so many of the people were members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Iowa Student Action. Because the vast majority of the 2,500 people who attended Saturday’s forum will participate in next February’s Iowa caucuses, Iowa CCI President Barb Kalbach was right when she told the crowd, 'We are a mighty force.'"

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