fresh voices from the front lines of change








Jeff Bryant

How Corporations Force Their Way Into America’s Public Schools


In the expanding effort to privatize the nation’s public education system, an ominous, less-understood strain of the movement is the corporate influence in Career and Technical Education (CTE) that is shaping the K-12 curriculum in local communities. An apt case study of the growing corporate influence behind CTE is in Virginia, where many parents, teachers and local officials are worried that major corporations including Amazon, Ford and Cisco — rather than educators and local, democratic governance — are deciding what students learn in local schools. CTE is a rebranding of what has been traditionally called vocational education or voc-ed, the practice of teaching career and workplace skills in an academic setting. While years ago, that may have included courses in woodworking, auto mechanics, or cosmetology, the new, improved version of CTE has greatly expanded course offerings to many more “high-demand” careers, especially in fields that require knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). What has folks in Chesterfield County, Virginia, concerned is the particular brand of CTE that has come to their district. “We’re being hijacked in Virginia,” Kathryn Flinn explained to me. Flinn is a 20-year resident of Chesterfield and mother of two children, one a special-needs child, who both have attended Chesterfield County Public Schools. “We’re not against teaching students career skills” that could eventually help them find employment, Flinn explained. “We’re against corporations writing the curriculum.”

Bloomberg Stumbles In First Debate

6 takeaways from the Nevada Democratic debate. NPR: "In Las Vegas — a city known for prize fights — the Democrats were gloves-off. And there was a new entrant in the ring, who took a lot of incoming: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent more than $300 million of his own money on ads to raise his profile. All that money bought Bloomberg a raised profile – and a slot on the debate stage. But he had a spotty debate. Bloomberg, 78, hasn't debated in 11 years, and it showed. He was off balance now and again, and had a hard time defending himself, especially when it came to his past comments about women and non-disclosure agreements with some of his employees. 'None of them accuse me of doing anything,' Bloomberg said, 'other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told.' That, in response to a line of attack from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was clearly out of step with today's Democratic Party. Bloomberg missed a lot of opportunities to take credit for his personal spending on political issues. A more practiced candidate might have pivoted to talk about the $100 million he spent in 2018 trying to elect women candidates. And he made no mention of the substantial sums he's spent on promoting gun control. Bloomberg may have become the most polarizing figure in the party with this debate performance, and that's not what he wanted to accomplish."

Bloomberg Entry Widens Lane For Sanders

The billionaire former mayor further divides a fragmented Democratic field. The Atlantic: "If the Democratic National Committee is trying to rig the presidential race against Bernie Sanders, it’s doing a lousy job. By letting Michael Bloomberg into last night’s debate in Nevada, the DNC did the Vermont senator an enormous favor. Sanders is clearly the Democratic front-runner. He tied for first place in Iowa; he won New Hampshire; he’s ahead in national polls; he’s way ahead in Nevada, and he’s way ahead in California, the biggest Super Tuesday prize. As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump recently noted, Sanders is en route to finishing the Super Tuesday primaries—which occur in less than two weeks—with an “uncatchable” lead. FiveThirtyEight gives him a 56 percent chance of winning a plurality of pledged delegates. That’s more than three times as high as Michael Bloomberg’s. Yet in the second-to-last debate before Super Tuesday, the other candidates didn’t gang up on Sanders. They ganged up on Bloomberg—and one another. Even Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar—who between them have a roughly 3 percent chance of winning the most pledged delegates—endured harsher attacks than Sanders did. Elizabeth Warren showcased her extraordinary rhetorical talent. But, for the most part, she did so not at Sanders’s expense but at Bloomberg’s."

Trump Names Far-Right Loyalist As New Spy Chief

Trump names Richard Grenell as Acting Head of Intelligence. NYT: "President Trump on Wednesday named Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany who quickly antagonized the establishment after arriving in Berlin in 2018, to be the acting director of national intelligence overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies. By choosing Mr. Grenell, who has little experience in intelligence or in running a large bureaucracy, the president signaled that he wants a trusted, aggressive leader atop an intelligence community that he has long viewed with suspicion and at times gone to war against. As ambassador, Mr. Grenell made public statements that some German officials took as expressing opposition to the government there, an extraordinary intervention into domestic affairs that diplomats typically avoid. He attacked what he called 'failed' open-border policies in Germany, which has resettled hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, and criticized Berlin’s stances on Iran, military spending and Chinese investment in global telephone networks. He also expressed an eagerness to empower conservatives throughout Europe. 'I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders,' Mr. Grenell told Breitbart, a far-right website, in an interview shortly after his arrival in Germany. 'I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left.'"

FL Must Restore Voting Rights, Court Says

Florida loses appeals court ruling on felon voting law. Politico: "A legal and political battle over voting rights in Florida reached another milestone on Wednesday when a federal appeals court ruled that a law limiting the voting rights of people with felony convictions was unconstitutional. Delivering a defeat to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a lower court decision that found the state could not deny ex-felons the right to vote just because they can’t afford to pay outstanding court fines, fees and restitution, as required by the 2019 law. 'These plaintiffs are punished more harshly than those who committed precisely the same crime — by having their right to vote taken from them likely for their entire lives,' states the ruling issued by a three-judge panel. 'And this punishment is linked not to their culpability, but rather to the exogenous fact of their wealth.' It’s not clear if the legal battle will get resolved ahead of this year’s presidential election in the battleground state, which could decide whether President Donald Trump wins a second term. The battle over felon voting rights is just one of several still going on in Florida. Lawsuits over early voting sites, Spanish-language ballots, and the placement of Trump’s name on the ballot are pending in federal courts. In 2018, more than 5 million Florida voters cast ballots in favor of Amendment 4, which automatically restored voting rights to convicted criminals who had served their time, with exceptions for murders and sex offenders."

Trump Diverts CA Water To Big Ag

Trump signs order diverting water to California farmers against state wishes. The Hill: "President Trump on Wednesday signed an order in California to re-engineer the state’s water plans, completing a campaign promise to funnel water from the north to a thirsty agriculture industry and growing population further south. The ceremonial order comes after the Department of the Interior late last year reversed its opinion on scientific findings that for a decade extended endangered species protections to various types of fish — a review that had been spurred by the order from Trump. Trump said the changes to the 'outdated scientific research and biological opinions' would now help direct 'as much water as possible, which will be a magnificent amount, a massive amount of water for the use of California farmers and ranchers.' The state is expected to fight the order. 'California won’t allow the Trump Administration to destroy and deplete our natural resources,' California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said in a statement after the speech. 'We’re prepared to challenge the Trump Administration’s harmful attack on our state’s critical ecosystems and environment.'"

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