Friday, February 28, 2020

Sidelining Scientists Can Only Make COVID-19 Worse

Sidelining Scientists Can Only Make COVID-19 Worse

Michael Halpern
February 28, 2020
Scientific American

We need to hear about the risks directly from the experts, not through the filter of politicians

Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Mark Wilson Getty Images

In 1918, World War I was raging, and the Spanish flu arrived on American shores. But the Sedition Act banned communications that might undermine the war effort, including information that might slow down the movement of people or goods.

In that political climate, “public health officials, determined to keep morale up, began to lie,” wrote John Barry in Smithsonian magazine. “Each day the disease accelerated. Each day newspapers assured readers that influenza posed no danger.” Congress repealed the Sedition Act in 1920, but the damage was done. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States would eventually die from the disease.

Over the next century, we developed complex disease monitoring systems. We created best practices for communicating disease risk. And we invested in the independence of government agencies, empowering government experts to openly share information about public health dangers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now well practiced at risk communication. A 65-page manual details how the agency should communicate during a health crisis like the one we currently face. That’s why it’s so troubling that the White House has taken over communication around the coronavirus COVID-19.

While this move would be worrisome under any president, this administration creates unique challenges. Under this president, global disease surveillance systems were weakened, research programs were abandoned, and senior global health experts left the government. The president’s budget requests routinely seek extreme cuts at federal health agencies, including CDC. In the midst of this leadership vacuum, the president will say whatever he wants about virtually any topic without evidence, sometimes even contradicting the experts standing at his side.

There are echoes of 1918. The Washington Post reported that a government employee faced retaliation for raising concerns about unsafe assessment of potentially-infected individuals. The New York Times reported that public communications about the virus from CDC scientists will need “clearance.”

Senior NIH official and physician-scientist Anthony Fauci had to cancel several television appearances after the vice president took over the response effort. Fauci has said that he was not gagged, and we should take him at his word. But let me be clear: under no circumstances should the distribution of public health information be subject to White House or any other political clearance.

Open communication is not just good practice; it’s also policy. CDC’s (now archived) media policy puts the agency’s scientific staff in control of clearance of information. The CDC’s scientific integrity policy promotes sharing scientific information “in an open, timely, and appropriate way.”The coronavirus is moving rapidly across the globe. Our response must be focused and clear, prioritizing public health rather than fluctuations in financial markets or political advantage. We should hear directly from the experts, not just from political appointees with a political axe to grind.

Sadly, high-ranking officials continue to confuse the public. On February 28, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested the media has an agenda. “The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is what’s going to bring down the president,” he told a conference audience. “That’s what this is all about.” If millions of Americans are misled about the seriousness of this threat, we’re in real trouble. 



Thursday, February 27, 2020

How Bloomberg Trashed Public Education in New York

How Bloomberg Trashed Public Education in New York

Jake Jacobs
February 24, 2020
The Progressive

I’m an art teacher. Mike’s policies gutted my school. During those years, I was lucky to have enough copy paper for my students to draw on. Bloomberg’s harmful education policies are today being papered over as his money cascades through the media.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona., Photo by Gage Skidmore, courtesy of Flickr // The Progressive

Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City now running for President, often brags about being one of the most prolific charter school creators in the United States. Bloomberg says he “absolutely” intends to expand charters in his federal education plan. This is a serious threat to public education, especially given Bloomberg’s history of using his fortune to shape policy.

Since 2013, Bloomberg has been one of the nation’s biggest donors to candidates and ballot initiatives promoting charters and vouchers, giving more than $4 million to candidates in New Jersey, Colorado, Minnesota, and Louisiana, often through “dark money” PACs. In California, Bloomberg spent a whopping $39 million, backing both Democrats and Republicans who support charters. In Pennsylvania, he gave $6 million to pro-charter incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who won re-election with a narrow 1.5 percent edge, and ended up casting a critical vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

New York City teachers are vocal critics of Bloomberg, who not only used public money for school privatization but usurped the power of elected community school boards as the state granted Bloomberg “mayoral control” of New York City schools in 2002.

Bloomberg proceeded to appoint corporate attorney Joel Klein as head of New York City’s education department. Klein began a "test-and-punish" regime, which led to the closure of 150 schools and earned him an 80 percent disapproval rating with teachers

Saturday, February 22, 2020

SCUSD Not Insolvent- It Just Can't Count

Sacramento City Unified says  due to its own financial crisis it will need to lay off about 50 certificated employees ( teachers, counselors, etc). for 2020/2021.  The district predicts a shortfall of  $ 28 million dollars for next year.   This is their fiscal recovery plan. 
Recall that the district predicted a similar emergency short fall for 2019/2020.  It never happened.  At the end of the year, the district had a deficit of some $100,000.  And, a budget surplus of $ 31,000,000.

The district projects that it will have a deficit of some 28,707, 835 for 20/21.  The projection of the Community Priorities Coalition is that the district will have a deficit of some $ 7,221,409.  A deficit of this size can be easily dealt with while the district has a budget surplus of $31 million.  

It is clear that the district can not count. Their  failure has been well documented in the FCMAT report(Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team) in 2018.   It is the job of the Board to require clear and open accounting. Instead of balancing the budget, they implement a public relations strategy.  They have failed. And, today, they continue to fail. 

In addition to the continuing claims and campaigns of insolvency of the district by the Board,  the local LULAC ( League of United Latin American Citizens) has notified the Board and the Superintendent in 2017, 2018, and 2019, that we are concerned about the misuse of funds provided to the district for assistance for English Language Learners.  The district receives some $ 6 million per year from the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) directed to improve the educational opportunities of English learners. The district budget is difficult to read. However as best we can read it, the district spends some $1.6 million per year for instruction of English learners.

We have been unable to trace where the remaining money goes.  However, in other districts with this similar pattern, the money is not spent it the year allocated on English learners.  Then, it is transferred to the general fund in the following year for any use that the district chooses.
Until demonstrated otherwise, we must assume that Sacramento City Unified is making similar transfers since they decline, or are unable to describe where the English learners money goes. Such funding transfers would become illegal under new pending legislation AB 1835 and AB 1834 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. 

Though Feb. 2020, the board of SCUSD has consistently failed or refused to respond to our proposed  changes in the budget of SCUSD in the LCAP plan to expand services for English learners.   Our proposal continues to be that the district use the funds received from LCFF for improved services to English learners be used  for improving the services to English learners. 

Dr. Duane E. Campbell
Education and Democracy Institute.
Education Committee , Sacramento LULAC.#2862.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bloomberg's Education Reforms Would be a Disaster for Public Schoos

Mike Bloomberg's Education 'Reforms' Would be a Disaster for Public Schools

Dr Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc
February 17, 2020  The Guardian

Like Trump, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg attends a campaign event at Buffalo Soldiers national museum in Houston, Texas, on 13 February., Photograph: Go Nakamura/Reuters

Nominating Michael Bloomberg would be a disaster for public schools – and for the Democrats’ chances at beating Donald Trump in 2020. Because when it comes to education policy, it is virtually impossible to tell the two billionaire politicians apart.

Like Trump and his inept secretary of education, Betsy Devos, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country. Education, in their view, should be run like a business.

While other establishment Democrats have begun changing their tune in response to the “Red for Ed” movement, Bloomberg’s campaign spokesman has made it clear that privatization will be a core message of his 2020 presidential run: “Mike has always supported charter schools, he opened a record number of charter schools as mayor of New York City, and he will champion the issue as president.”

Indeed, Bloomberg succeeded in massively expanding privately run but publicly funded charter schools during his term as mayor, increasing their number from 18 to 183. His controversial push to “increase school choice” closed over 100 schools in low-income communities and entrenched New York City’s education system as the most racially segregated in the country.

In contrast with Bloomberg’s too-little-too-late apology for imposing racist stop-and-frisk policies upon New York City – and its overwhelmingly non-white student body – the former mayor has doubled down on his rightwing education approach in recent years.

If anything, the main difference between Bloomberg and Trump is that the former has spent far more of his immense personal fortune to boost corporate “education reform” and local candidates driving this agenda. The New York Times reported last week that Bloomberg has spent millions to promote charters in the state of Louisiana alone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: Bloomberg’s foundation in 2018 announced its plan to spend $375m to promote charters, merit pay and the sacking of “failing” teachers, among other reforms.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Who Controls Our Schools? How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and Enriching the Charter School Industry

YDS Organizes for Green New Deal

Emma Edmund, City Editor
CHICAGO — Organizers from across the country came together to strategize and discuss advocating for and implementing a Green New Deal during the Young Democratic Socialists of America 2020 Winter Conference. 
The conference, which spanned the entire weekend, drew students from around the country and featured workshops to help attendees build skills in areas such as grassroots fundraising and creating a multiracial working class movement. 
On Saturday morning, attendees gathered for a panel about the Green New Deal with prominent members from Democratic Socialists of America, YDSA and Warehouse Workers for Justice, an organization that fights for labor rights in warehouse in distribution centers. 
The Green New Deal is an ambitious congressional resolution aimed at reducing the negative consequences of climate change. Among other objectives, the plan calls for the United States to source 100 percent of its power demand from renewable sources, and for the government to provide job training to communities who currently rely on jobs in the fossil fuel industry. 

Trump's Greatest Vulnerability is the Economy- Just Ask the Poor

RS Seminar- Economic Crisis: Trump's Greatest Vulnerability is the Economy- Jus...: Rev. William Barber Yes, the Dow is at a record high and unemployment rates are lower than they have been in decades – but 140 million pe...

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Bloomberg + Stop and Frisk

Let me plant the stake now: No black person — or Hispanic person or ally of people of color — should ever even consider voting for Michael Bloomberg in the primary. His expansion of the notoriously racist stop-and-frisk program in New York, which swept up millions of innocent New Yorkers, primarily young black and Hispanic men, is a complete and nonnegotiable deal killer.
Stop-and-frisk, pushed as a way to get guns and other contraband off the streets, became nothing short of a massive, enduring, city-sanctioned system of racial terror…
In 2002, the first year Bloomberg was mayor, 97,296 of these stops were recorded. They surged during Bloomberg’s tenure to a peak of 685,724 stops in 2011, near the end of his third term. Nearly 90 percent of the people who were stopped and frisked were innocent of any wrongdoing.
A New York Times analysis of stops on “eight odd blocks” in the overwhelmingly black neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn found close to 52,000 stops over four years, which averaged out to “nearly one stop a year for every one of the 14,000 residents of these blocks.”
In 2009, there were more than 580,000 stop-and-frisks, a record at the time. Of those stopped, 55 percent were black, 32 percent Hispanic and only 10 percent white. Most were young, and almost all were male. Eighty-eight percent were innocent. For reference, according to the Census Bureau, there were about 300,000 black men between the ages of 13 and 34 living in the city that year.
Not only that, but those who were stopped had their names entered into a comprehensive police database, even if they were never accused of committing a crime. As Donna Lieberman, then the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in 2010, the database became a place “where millions of completely innocent, predominantly black and Latinos have been turned into permanent police suspects.”
The state outlawed the keeping of these electronic records on the innocent, over the strong objections of Bloomberg and his police chief…
Bloomberg’s crime argument was dubious. The Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan produced a report that became part of a class-action lawsuit against the city in 2010. It found that: “[s]eizures of weapons or contraband are extremely rare. Overall, guns are seized in less than 1 percent of all stops: 0.15 percent … Contraband, which may include weapons but also includes drugs or stolen property, is seized in 1.75 percent of all stops.”

Monday, February 03, 2020

CA's Fair Funding Formula Makes More Possible for Schools

Note; LCFF is not currently serving Sacramento City Unified students well.

Here is the LULAC (Sacramento)  demand.

Legal Services Department,
Sacramento City Unified School District                        Jan. 29, 2020

We are submitting this request pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Govt. Code
§§ 6250 et seq.) for copies of certain records in the possession, custody, or control of SCUSD. Our request encompasses the documents falling within the specific categories set forth below.

Specifically, we request copies of the following documents:

1.     Documents showing the actual amount of funds received by SCUSD from LCFF funds, including supplemental and concentration funds designated for support of English Learners for 2016, 2017, 2018. Please disaggregate the indicated funding between LCFF support for base activities and LCFF funding for supplemental and concentration efforts.

2.    A list of the SCUSD budget categories (i.e. teacher salaries, teacher assistants, consultants, teaching materials and other services) that reveal the amount of dollars from the LCFF funds, including supplemental and concentration funds allocated and spent for services to English Language learners in the district. Include a document showing how the district decides on expenditures from supplemental and concentration funds. How does the district distribute the funds between designated target groups (i.e. English learners, Foster Children, Special education, low income students)?

3.    A listing of budget allocations and expenditures for each of the categories listed above (teachers, teacher assistants, administrators. consultants, as well as copies of the pages of documents where these allocations and expenditures are described.

More information to follow. 

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