fresh voices from the front lines of change








Jeff Bryant

Charter Schools’ Billion-Dollar Fraud Stinks Worse Than We Thought

When members of Congress repeatedly confronted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about a study finding the federal government’s charter school grant program had wasted an estimated $1 billion on schools that had never opened or opened and quickly closed, she dismissed the findings and accused the report authors of having a “political agenda against charter schools.” On December 10, the same authors issued a more detailed examination of waste in the government’s charter grant program, and concluded the $1 billion figure was indeed likely not correct: it was an underestimate. This report, Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste by the Network for Public Education (NPE), calculates approximately $1.17 billion in federal funding has been spent on charters that either never opened or that opened and have since shut down. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the four front-runners in the race, has proposed “halting the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools.” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, another front-runner, has pledged to, if elected, “eliminate” the federal charter school grant program and “end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools.” Warren in particular has been taking the brunt of the pushback from charter supporters, who contend her call for ending the federal grant program for charter schools is “threatening the freedom” charters enjoy.

House Judiciary To Vote On Impeachment

House panel delays vote on impeachment articles until Friday. NYT: "House Judiciary Committee Democrats on Thursday abruptly put off a pair of historic impeachment votes after a drawn-out battle with Republicans stretched late into the night, setting up final action on Friday to approve charges that President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called off the votes moments before they were expected to take place, announcing just after 11 p.m. that he wanted lawmakers to have time to 'search their consciences' before the final roll call. The chairman said the committee would reconvene Friday at 10 a.m. to promptly finalize two articles of impeachment, with the outcome certain. Before Mr. Nadler brought down his gavel on the session, Democrats had been poised to approve along party lines an article of impeachment that accused Mr. Trump of abusing the powers of his office by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals. They were also on track to adopt a second article of impeachment against Mr. Trump for obstructing Congress, based on an across-the-board defiance of their subpoenas that Democrats branded an attempt to conceal the Ukraine scheme. Gathered in the Ways and Means Committee room for the second consecutive day, lawmakers had feuded over the two articles of impeachment all day, their tempers flaring and patience wearing thin as the 14-hour session wore on."

Progressive Donors Dump Buttigieg

#RefundPete trends as early backers request donations back after learning Buttigieg not so progressive after all. Common Dreams: "Though they initially viewed South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg as an intriguing and progressive newcomer when he began his presidential campaign early this year, the #RefundPete hashtag began trending Thursday morning on social media as a growing number of former donors started requesting their donations back in the wake of recent revelations about the 2020 Democratic candidate. Kristen Hill, a volunteer community leader for the presidential primary campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in North Carolina, was one of the first voters to kick off the viral hashtag #RefundPete. 'If Pete Buttigieg fooled you into thinking he was a progressive at the beginning of his campaign and you donated what he thinks is pocket change, you can ask for a refund by emailing your receipt to,' Hill tweeted. In October, Buttigieg criticized his progressive opponents, Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for running their campaigns on "pocket change" by accepting mostly small donations of under $200. Buttigieg has raised 52% of his $50 million campaign dollars through large contributions, and has so far been outraised by both Sanders and Warren. 'Just got my refund from Pete's campaign,' wrote one social media user as the #RefundPete hashtag took off. 'It was just pocket change so he won't miss it.'"

Pentagon To Audit $400m Wall Contract To Trump Crony

Pentagon inspector general to review $400 million border wall contract given to firm Trump favored. WaPo: "The Defense Department’s inspector general’s office will audit a $400 million border wall contract that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded to a North Dakota construction company run by a GOP donor whom President Trump repeatedly urged military officials to hire. Glenn A. Fine, the top official at the Pentagon office, authorized a review of the contract in response to a Dec. 4 letter from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, asking inspectors to take a closer look. Fine informed Thompson of the audit in a letter Thursday. 'You raised concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence on USACE’s contracting decision, and questioned whether the bid submitted by Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. met solicitation standards,' Fine wrote in his letter to Thompson. 'You also questioned whether USACE made the award in accordance with federal procurement law and regulations. 'In response to your request, we have decided to initiate an audit of the solicitation and award of this contract. We are assessing the methodology of that audit and will formally announce the audit soon.' On Dec. 2, the Pentagon announced a contract worth up to $400 million to Fisher Sand and Gravel for the construction of 31 miles of new border barriers along the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona."

Cop25 Dithers On Climate Goals

Talk is just more hot air as emissions keep rising, climate activists tell politicians. Reuters: "Climate activists demanded that governments put science above narrow political interests on Friday as negotiators battled to secure stronger commitments on the last day of a U.N. summit aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic global warming. Extinction Rebellion, a civil disobedience campaign that has rallied thousands of protesters courting arrest this year, delivered its call after meeting senior officials at the gathering, where negotiations are going down to the wire. 'We’ve had 25 years of talks and the only thing that really matters is global emissions are still rising,' said Tim Crosland, a prominent member of Extinction Rebellion, which launched it campaign by occupying bridges and blocking roads in Britain just over a year ago. 'We say you have to shift the conversation to what’s necessary, to what has to be done to avert disaster and that’s the only conversation that really matters,' he told reporters. With the annual negotiations entering the traditional phase of last-minute brinkmanship, which can stretch deep into the night, some negotiators said they feared that the conference would end with weak resolutions. 'We are seeing regression not progression, specifically because some countries are not willing to come forward on climate finance,' said Mohamed Nasr, chair of the Africa bloc of negotiators. 'There is a very big question on the commitment of the parties to the Paris Agreement.'"

Sen. Harris Slams Barr, Giuliani

Kamala Harris Aims Her Truth-Seeking Missiles At Barr And Giuliani. Crooks and Liars: "The DOJ's Inspector General's report came out on the origins of the Mueller report. Led by IG Michael Horowitz, the report's findings concluded that the investigation into Russia's interference in our 2016 elections WAS justified, and not predicated on political bias. This made Republicans SAD, so the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings to try to discredit the Mueller report ANYWAY. Republicans forgot they had people like Senator Kamala Harris on the opposing team, and she subjected them to her lethal witness-questioning, all designed to tie the GOP into knots, paint them into corners. Sen. Harris took the opportunity to go after Bill Barr's slavish and completely improper devotion to Trump, Rudy Giuliani's despicable and illegal activity as Trump's personal lawyer, and even got the Inspector General to come out in favor of legislation that would change the law to give the IG even MORE power to investigate the Attorney General. Probably not exactly what the Senate Republicans were hoping for."

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