Saturday, February 25, 2023

Who Wants to Teach in Florida?

Who Wants to Teach in Florida?: Gov. Ron DeSantis’s culture warmongering has helped produce the highest teacher vacancy rates in the country.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Banning Books is Fascism


Banning ideas and authors is not a ‘culture war’ – it’s fascism

Jason StanleyFeb 14, 2023

The media’s framing of measures like Florida’s African American studies ban is a dangerous falsification of reality

A wave of Republican enthusiasm for banning concepts, authors and books is sweeping across the United States. Forty-four states have proposed bans on the teaching of “divisive concepts”, and 18 states have passed them.

Florida’s Stop Woke Act bans the teaching of eight categories of concepts, including concepts that suggest that “a person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex”. Many of the laws also target Nikole Hannah-Jones’s influential 1619 Project.

These laws have already started to take effect. Administrators and teachers have been forced out of their positions on the suspicion of violating these laws, and what has started as a trickle may soon become a flood.

A wave of Republican enthusiasm for banning concepts, authors and books is sweeping across the United States. Forty-four states have proposed bans on the teaching of “divisive concepts”, and 18 states have passed them.

Florida’s Stop Woke Act bans the teaching of eight categories of concepts, including concepts that suggest that “a person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex”. Many of the laws also target Nikole Hannah-Jones’s influential 1619 Project.

These laws have already started to take effect. Administrators and teachers have been forced out of their positions on the suspicion of violating these laws, and what has started as a trickle may soon become a flood.

In January, Florida’s board of education banned AP African American studies, on the grounds that it included concepts forbidden by Governor Ron DeSantis’s law, including critical race theory and intersectionality, as well as authors such as KimberlĂ© Crenshaw, bell hooks, Roderick Ferguson, Angela Davis and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The College Board chose to remove these authors and subjects from its curriculum, claiming, as it turns out dubiously, that it did so independently of Florida’s pressure.

These laws have been represented by many as a “culture war”. This framing is a dangerous falsification of reality. A culture war is a conflict of values between different groups. In a diverse, pluralistic democracy, one should expect frequent conflicts. Yet laws criminalizing educators’ speech are no such thing – unlike a culture war, the GOP’s recent turn has no place in a democracy. To understand why, consider their consequences.

The concepts these laws centrally target include addressing structural racism, intersectionality and critical race theory.

Structural racism is the view that certain persisting structures and practices have resulted in unjust racial outcomes, for example the American racial wealth gap, where Black Americans have 10% of the wealth of white Americans.

In a celebrated essay for the Atlantic, Coates – one of the banned authors – investigated banking and mortgage practices of redlining and lending that left Black Americans for generations unable to acquire wealth through purchasing homes. 

Intersectionality, introduced by KimberlĂ© Crenshaw in widely cited and impactful work, is the concept that certain groups are at the intersection of multiple oppressions – for example, Black women face discrimination not just for their race but also for their gender (and that such discrimination takes its own unique form).

Finally, critical race theory is, in essence, the study of these concepts: the ways practices in various domains – in housing, schooling, banking, policing, and the criminal legal system – entrench persisting racial disparities and inequalities (such as the racial wealth gap, or segregated schools), even when there is no individual racist intent.

The laws are manifestly incoherent. The failure to teach about structural racism will make Blackchildren born into poverty feel that their parents and grandparents are responsible for their own impoverished position relative to white children, and so will make Black children feel “anguish or other forms of psychological distress” because of “actions … committed in the past by other members of the same race”. The “anguish” and “psychological distress” these laws forbid are only anguish felt by the dominant racial group, white Americans.

In other national contexts, everyone would clearly recognize the problematic nature of laws of this sort. Germany’s teaching of its Nazi past creates clear anguish and guilt in German children (and perhaps for this reason, Germany is the world’s most stable liberal democracy). If the German far right passed laws forbidding schools from teaching about the sins of Nazism, on the grounds that such teaching does in fact quite obviously cause anguish and guilt in German children, the world would not stand for it for one moment. Even Israel’s far-right government strenuously objected when Poland drafted a law that would make it illegal to suggest that Poland had any responsibility for Nazi atrocities on its soil. Why isn’t there greater outcry when such laws are passed to protect the innocence of white Americans?

It is frequently claimed by proponents of such laws that banning discussion of structural racism and intersectionality is freeing schools of indoctrination. And yet indoctrination rarely takes place by allowing the free flow of ideas. Indoctrination instead rather takes places by banning ideas. Celebrating the banning of authors and concepts as “freedom from indoctrination” is as Orwellian as politics gets.

So what is the ultimate goal of these bans? In the first instance, these laws are there to protect white innocence – that is why they are so popular with many white parents, who carry their own burdens of guilt (similar laws would be popular with many Germans, for the same reason). But there are deeper and more problematic aims of these laws.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Teacher Pay: A national Issue

 Earlier this week I held a town hall meeting to discuss the teacher pay crisis in America, what's going on with education today, and what teaching has been like during the pandemic. I was joined by Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Senator Ed Markey, and public school teachers from across the country. 

Let me be very clear: Each and every day, teachers do extraordinarily important work to improve the lives of our kids. They are true heroes and heroines of our country. And it is about time that they are treated with the respect and the dignity that they deserve. 

It’s also about time that we got our national priorities right. If we understand that the children of our country are our future then we understand that we should not have the highest childhood poverty of almost any major nation on earth. 

If we understand that we live in a competitive global economy and that we need the best educated workforce in the world, we must understand that it is absurd that there are school districts throughout the country where there are major shortages of teachers. 

And if we understand the enormously important work that teachers do, that means, in my view, among many other things, that we should be paying public school teachers a minimum of at least $60,000 a year — and I will soon be introducing legislation to do just that.

Teachers today are experiencing high levels of stress and burnout all of which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In fact, new data from the EdWeek Research Center shows that almost 20% of teachers, principals, and district leaders have indicated that they have contracted long COVID and are still suffering from that disease.

The result is that some 300,000 public school educators and staff left their jobs during the pandemic and we now have a shortage of some 200,000 public school teachers throughout the country.

In America today, over half of our public schools are under-staffed. And to make matters even worse, these teacher shortages disproportionately impact schools that primarily serve students of color and students in low-income neighborhoods.

In America today, 44% of public school teachers quit the profession within 5 years.

Why is that? Why are so many public school teachers leaving the profession they love?

Well, there are many reasons. But one of the primary reasons is the pathetically low pay teachers receive.

In America today, the starting pay for teachers in almost 40% of our school districts is less than $40,000 a year. Further, 43% of all teachers in America make less than $60,000 a year. The situation has become so absurd that the top 15 hedge fund managers on Wall Street make more money in a single year than every kindergarten teacher in America — over 120,000 teachers.

Wages for public school teachers are so low that in 36 states throughout America, the average public school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing and other government benefits. That is simply disgraceful. 

In America today, hundreds of thousands of public school teachers are forced to work two or three jobs during the school year. Maybe they are driving an Uber. Maybe they are waiting tables. Maybe they are parking cars. 

In the richest country in the history of the world, we have got to do better than that. It is time to end the international embarrassment of America ranking 29th out of 30 countries in the pay middle school teachers receive. 

If we are going to have the best public school system in the world, we have got to radically change our attitude toward education and make sure that every teacher in America receives the compensation that she or he deserves for the enormously important and difficult work that they do. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

AMLO Argues for Ending "U S" Embargo of Cuba

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Saturday, February 11, 2023

Parents Fear Culture Wars Have Hijacked K-12 Learning

Parents Fear Culture Wars Have Hijacked K-12 Learning: While candidates battle over book lists, kids fall behind in the classroom and worry about bullying and school shootings.

Will the Education Culture War Backfire on Republicans?

Will the Education Culture War Backfire on Republicans?: Conservative screaming about wokeness is a substitute for the old priorities of school vouchers and weakening of public education. Polls show that parents don’t agree.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

You have got to be carefully taught !


Stephen Rohde 
January 25, 2023
How U.S. history textbooks and prominent American universities justified slavery, perpetuated racial stereotypes and promoted white supremacy.

John Gast's 1872 painting "American Progress," seen as an allegory for Manifest Destiny and American westward expansion. The painting serves as the cover for Donald Yacovone's “Teaching White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of Our N, 


You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear

You’ve got to be taught from year to year

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade

You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late

Before you are six or seven or eight

To hate all the people your relatives hate

You’ve got to be carefully taught

With these haunting words from the 1949 Broadway musical “South Pacific” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Donald Yacovone opens his startling new book “Teaching White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of Our National Identity” (Pantheon). Equally revealing, and an important partner to Yacovone’s book, is Jessica Blatt’s “Race and the Making of American Political Science” (University of Pennsylvania). These impressive books describe how the institution of American education trained its teachers and taught its students to believe slavery was good for the enslaved, that Reconstruction was a disaster, that African Americans were innately inferior and that the destiny of the United States was to be ruled by the descendants of White Europeans.

These books would have been welcome whenever they appeared, but they take on added urgency today as Republicans in Congress and several state legislatures across the country actively seek to turn back the clock by passing new laws to erase history and reimpose  a white supremacist narrative in American education and by banning certain books and curriculums because they offer a thorough account of the ongoing struggle throughout American history to overcome racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry.

On January 12,  the Florida Department of Education informed the College Board, which administers Advanced Placement exams, that Florida would not allow a new A. P. course on African American studies to be offered in its high schools, claiming the course is not “historically accurate,” “significantly lacks educational value” and violates state law.  Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed legislation that restricted how racism and other aspects of history can be taught in schools and workplaces. The law’s sponsors called it the Stop WOKE Act. Among other things, the act prohibits instruction that could make students feel responsibility for or guilt about the past actions of other members of their race. The College Board said the course, a multiyear pilot program that has been used in 60 high schools across the country, including at least one in Florida, is multidisciplinary and addresses not just history but civil rights, politics, literature, the arts and geography.

Florida law prohibits schools from teaching “critical race theory,” an academic framework for understanding racism in the United States, and does not allow educators to teach The 1619 Project, a classroom program developed by The New York Times that seeks to reframe the country’s history by putting the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the national narrative.  Henry Louis Gates Jr., a former chair of Harvard’s Department of African and African American Studies and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, who was a consultant to the College Board as it developed the A.P. course, said last year that he hoped the curriculum would not shy away from such topics that spur debate, not as a framework, but as a way of studying different theories of the African American experience.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

MLK. There Is Nothing New About Poverty


“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it…Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know‐how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?…There is no deficit in human resources, the deficit is in human will…The time has come for an all‐out world war against poverty.”

– “Where Do We Go from Here?” 1967


Monday, February 06, 2023

Remembering the LATTIMER Massacre


Here on September 10, 1897, nearly 400 immigrant coal miners on strike were met and fired upon by sheriff's deputies. Unarmed, they were marching from Harwood to Lattimer in support of higher wages and more equitable working conditions. Nineteen of the marchers were killed, and 38 were wounded. This was one of the most serious acts of violence in American labor history.

Erected 1997 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Anthracite coal miners of Polish, Slovak, and Lithuanian origin marched five miles to Lattimer, Pennsylvania on Sept. 10, 1897. Sheriff's deputies fired at them without warning killing 19 men and wounding 38 others; many were shot in the back. The marchers who died were all foreign-born.
  • Eastern and Southern European immigrants lived in communities around Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) was established in 1890 and the union was still in its infancy. 
  • On August 21, 1897 Pennsylvania's anti-immigrant Campbell Act went into effect taxing employers three cents a day for each adult immigrant on their payroll. The anthracite mine owners responded by shifting the burden to the immigrant miner, deducting the tax from his wages.
  • The Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company discharged twenty young mule drivers who refused to obey a new work rule. The company consolidated its mule stables, forcing the teenage mule drivers to travel much farther each day to pick up their mules, time for which they were not compensated. The mule drivers struck and set up a picket line.
  • Miners marched from colliery to colliery urging others to join the strike in a show of solidarity. Two hundred and fifty men left Harwood on Sept. 10, 1897 for the march to Lattimer; their numbers would grow to 400. UMWA organizer John Fahy advised them not to carry weapons, only the American flag.
  • At Lattimer the marchers were met by Luzerne County Sheriff James Martin and his deputies, armed with rifles and pistols. The deputies opened fire killing 19 men and wounding 38 others.
  • The deceased miners became martyrs, symbols of the labor struggle in the Anthracite Region. A Polish newspaper in Scranton extolled those who died as "the patron saints of the working people in America." In February 1898 Sheriff Martin and his posse stood trial in Wilkes-Barre but all were found innocent.
  • Outraged by the shooting thousands of immigrant miners flocked to the UMWA, adding 15,000 new names to union membership rolls. Two years later John Mitchell, UMWA president, would call a strike of all anthracite miners stating "the coal you dig isn't Slavic or Polish or Irish coal. It's just coal."

  • In 1972 a historic marker and memorial rock were put in place to remember the fallen miners and the great miscarriage of justice at Lattimer. Union members from throughout the state attended the dedication. Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers of America delivered the first speech; he connected the miners' fight for unionization to the struggles of farm laborers in California, many of whom were immigrants.
Anti immigrant politics has consequences. 

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Thursday, February 02, 2023

New poll: Voters prioritize school basics over culture wars


The AFT released a poll on Jan. 13 and the message is clear. Voters are rejecting the culture war that has recently saturated education policy and instead want to see political leaders prioritize what kids need to succeed in school: strong fundamental academic skills and safe and welcoming school environments. 

Poll participants are not interested in an agenda prioritizing political fights over things like book bans and limitations on how to teach about race and gender—an agenda favored by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy—“and instead support real solutions, like getting our kids and teachers what they need to recover and thrive,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“Rather than reacting to MAGA-driven culture wars, voters overwhelmingly say they want lawmakers to get back to basics: to invest in public schools and get educators the resources they need to create safe and welcoming environments, boost academic skills and pave pathways to career, college and beyond,” Weingarten says.

“One key weakness of the culture war agenda is that voters and parents reject the idea that teachers today are pushing a ‘woke’ political agenda in the schools,” says Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, the organization that conducted the poll. “Most have high confidence in teachers. Voters see the ‘culture war’ as a distraction from what’s important and believe that politicians who are pushing these issues are doing so for their own political benefit.”

The poll was conducted from Dec. 12-17, 2022, among 1,502 registered voters nationwide, including 558 public school parents, and shows that support for and trust in public schools and teachers remains strong: 

  • 93 percent of respondents said improving public education is an important priority for government officials.
  • 66 percent said the government spends too little on education; 69 percent want to see more spending.
  • By 29 points, voters said their schools teach appropriate content, with an even greater trust in teachers.
  • Voters who prioritized education supported Democrats by 8 points.
  • Top education priorities for voters include providing: 
    • students with strong fundamental academic skills;
    • opportunities for all children to succeed, including through career and technical education and greater mental health supports, as examples; and 
    • a safe and welcoming environment for kids to learn.

According to voters, the most serious problems facing schools include teacher shortages, inadequate funding, unsafe schools and pandemic learning loss. Voters and parents are looking forward to finding solutions: By 85 percent to 15 percent, they want Congress to focus on improving schools through greater support, rather than through McCarthy’s investigation agenda.

“COVID was terrible for everyone,” says Weingarten. “Educators and parents took on the challenges of teaching, learning and reconnecting and are now asking elected officials to focus on the building blocks of student success. Instead, legislators in 45 states have proposed hundreds of laws making that harder—laws seeking to ban books from school libraries; restrict what teachers can say about race, racism, LGBTQIA+ issues and American history; and limit the school activities in which transgender students can participate. Voters are saying that not only are these laws bad policy—they’re also bad politics.”

In state after state in the November midterms, voters elected pro-public education governors and school board candidates and rejected far-right attacks on teachers and vulnerable LGBTQIA+ students. 

Click here for a slide deck further describing the poll, here for a summary and here for sample questions from the summary.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Defending Public Education _ How To

 Defending Public Education.

Engaging in struggle on the terrain of civil society: defending unions, public education, free and independent communications media, and o 0ppressed and marginalized communities under attack.



Leo Casey 

5. Democratic governance does not stand on its own. It is rooted in democratic society and culture, and it relies upon them for its sustenance and its survival. The neo-fascist offensive of the MAGA forces has not simply attacked democratic government; it has sought to undermine the societal and cultural underpinnings of democracy. The defeat of the authoritarian danger requires that we understand this component of the danger, and that we develop a strategic approach which prioritizes this front of the struggle with meaningful campaigns.


Civil society has the capacity to confound authoritarianism in fundamental ways: it brings working people together in associations and organizations outside of the direct control of the state, making possible democratic collective action from below. For this reason, authoritarian movements and states invariably seek to eviscerate and dominate the independent spaces and institutions of civil society. Perhaps nowhere is this authoritarian impulse more evident than in the attacks on unions, as unions have been at the center of democratic movements and insurgencies across the globe over the last century.


Despite a decades-long decline in the size and density of U.S. unions, they continue to be the largest and most significant mass organizations on the broad left, without any meaningful competitors. If U.S. unions had the economic and social power they possessed at their height, when one-third of the workforce was organized, we would be at a quite different political crossroads today. Consider the fact that when white workers are organized in unions and involved in common cause with people of other races, they are much less likely to embrace racist views. If the once great industrial unions were still the potent forces that provided the political muscle for the passage of the New Deal and the Great Society, there would be many fewer white male workers that being drawn into the MAGA base through appeals to white racial resentment. As it is, even in their current form U.S. unions – especially public sector and service sector unions – have put into the field the most substantial campaign operations to defeat the MAGA Republicans in recent elections. This is why the MAGA forces which now control the U.S. House of Representatives will put unions in their cross-hairs, as will MAGA controlled state governments in places such as Florida and Texas. Teacher unions will be a particular target, because they are among the largest and most organizationally substantial of U.S. unions, because they have mounted especially effective electoral campaigns, and because they are at the intersection of another critical front in the MAGA forces offensive against democratic civil society, public education.[iii]


Public education – both preK-12 and higher education – contains the civil society institutions with the greatest capacity to educate young people into the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of democratic citizenship. Public schools can impart to their students the ability to think critically and independently, to reason logically and problem solve, and to question authority, all of which are inimical to authoritarian rule. At their best, public schools can bring together youth from different races and ethnicities, different social and economic backgrounds, different religious faiths, and different sexes, sexual orientations, and gender identities, and teach them how to work with each other in common purpose, toward the achievement of common goods. Even when public education fails to realize its full promise on these counts, which occurs far more than it should in the U.S., the fact that it has this democratic potential makes it a constant threat to authoritarian movement and states. And that has made public education in the U.S. into a target of MAGA forces.


The MAGA offensive against public education is being fought on two fronts. First, there are moves to eviscerate public education institutionally, primarily through the establishment and expansion of voucher systems which would shift government preK-12 funding to private religious schools and home schooling – education delivery systems which are better aligned with the politics of the right. (This is a shift from the prior conservative focus on establishing charter schools.) Second, there are attempts to mire public education in various ‘culture wars’ with attacks on the teaching of complete and accurate U.S. history and civics (the misleading assaults of ‘critical race theory’ and the 1619 Project), attacks on policies that have been used to mitigate transmission of Covid in public schools during the pandemic, and attacks on equity and inclusion programs for students of color and LGBTQ students. On this last front, the attacks on public education have become a major vehicle for inciting moral panics against marginalized communities, with particularly virulent attacks on transgender students and drag queen story hours designed to create interest in books and reading. The objective is to use these moral panics to delegitimize public education: hence, the claim – simultaneously absurd and outrageous – that teachers who make their classrooms welcoming places for LGBTQ students are sexually ‘grooming’ students.[iv]


While many on the left are familiar with some of the different elements of the MAGA offensive against public education, its full scope is not generally appreciated, as it operates primarily on the terrain of the state – rather than federal – governments, and so receives less attention. Perhaps the best illustration of how it operates is found the state of Florida, where through his vigorous pursuit of this offensive, Governor DeSantis has become the champion of those on the right who seek an autocratic ‘Trumpism without Trump.’ Just last week, Florida Republicans unveiledproposed legislation which would institute a universal K-12 voucher program, putting the state’s public education system in jeopardy; two years ago, DeSantis shepherded a major expansion of Florida’s voucher system into law.[v]


This voucher initiative follows closely on a spate of recent legislation and state regulations designed to reshape the instruction of Florida’s schools in fundamental ways – the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the Stop W.O.K.E. act,  and a ban on teaching “critical race theory” and the 1619 Project. The common objective of these measures is to restrict how educators can teach the history and the contemporary reality of race, sexuality, and gender identity, as well as how schools can address discrimination which students of color and LGBTQ students face. To maximize their chilling effect on educators, these laws and regulations are general and vague in their proscriptions, and they establish an individual right of action modeled after the Texas anti-abortion law, so that literally anyone who decides that they don’t like what is being taught can sue a school district and seek to have an educator fired. DeSantis and his Department of Education has made it clear that they will pursue the most expansive definitions of these prohibitions: we have now seen state directed ‘trainings’ of school librarians on the many books that must be kept from the shelves of their libraries (Florida ranks second in the nation on book banning); the rejection of almost half of the standard textbooks used to teach K-12 Mathematics in the U.S. on the grounds that they “indoctrinate” because they included references to vaccines, climate change, and socio-emotional learning; and the prohibition of a new Advanced Placement course in African-American Studies, which is being developed through a rigorous peer-reviewed national process, because it “lacks education value” and is “contrary to Florida law.”


Attacks on fundamental academic freedoms are taking place in Florida’s public colleges and universities. In recent years, University of Florida political scientists were told by their state university administrators they could not serve as expert witnesses for plaintiffs challenging the state’s voter suppression laws.[vi] In response to a recent DeSantis demand that state colleges and universities provide information on courses and programs that include any mention of “diversity, equity and inclusion” and “critical race theory,” the heads of those institutions immediately caved, issuing a joint statement in which they announced that they would “not fund or support any institutional practice, policy, or academic requirement that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.” Just as K-12 teachers in Florida are pulling books from their class libraries out of fear that they will be criminally prosecuted, faculty in Florida’s colleges and universities have also begun to self-censor, dropping courses on race and racism that could conceivably trigger disciplinary action and lead to the loss of their jobs.


With DeSantis’ sponsorship, Florida has become ground zero for a national MAGA effort to overwhelm and capture the democratic governance of public education. Led by the proto-fascist Moms for Liberty, which originated in Brevard County, Florida with DeSantis’ support, chaotic – and on occasion, violent – disruptions of school board meetings were organized across the country. Individual board members were personally targeted for their positions on issues of Covid prevention measures such as masking, and the rights of transgender students and students of color. Much like the far right attacks on those who administer local elections, the point of these efforts was to drive out with vitriolic attacks those who had run for school boards simply to make a positive difference in schools. Insofar as the MAGA forces were also successful in bullying school boards into banning books and undoing educational efforts that addressed questions of race, sexuality and gender identity, it was a bonus – the immediate objective was not so much to change policy, but to capture control of the school boards. It was all a prelude to the 2022 mid-term elections, in which far right poured large amounts of dark money into an all-out campaign to win control of local school boards across the country. Like much of the far right’s efforts in the 2022 mid-term elections, this campaign came up short: Moms for Liberty itself admitted that it lost a majority of the school board races where it had endorsed candidates. But the successes were far too many to see this MAGA offensive to gain control of school boards as anything but an ongoing threat. And in Florida, the efforts of the far right were largely successful: 24 of the 30 candidates endorsed and financed by DeSantis won. No sooner did these candidates take office this month than they begin to fireincumbent school district superintendents. 


In Florida’s college and universities, DeSantis has now installed a wide swath of conservative trustees and officials. In a particularly shocking move, these trustees – led by far right provocateur Chris Rufo – have announced their intentions to remake Florida’s New College, a small four year institution with a long tradition of progressive education, into a version of Hillsdale College, an outpost of strident Trumpian ideology in higher education.


At every step, Florida’s teacher union – a merged federation of the two national teacher unions, AFT and NEA – has opposed DeSantis’ educational agenda and opposed him electorally. In retaliation, DeSantis is now sponsoring legislation that would prohibit union members from having their dues automatically deducted from their pay cheques; if passed, this measure would force the union to spend time and resources to solicit dues on a regular basis from every individual member.


Let me conclude by explicitly noting what is absent from this account of the MAGA offensive against public education in Florida and across the country, and of the larger MAGA offensive against civil society – the organized U.S. left. That is because the organized left itself has yet to understand the character of this front in the struggle against authoritarianism from the far right, and is largely absent from the primary battles in it, which have been left to teacher unions and educational progressives to fight on their own. That must change, if the larger battle is to be won.  



[i] It is worth pointing out, if only parenthetically, that the most substantial progressive advances in American history, from the Reconstruction to the defeat of Jim Crow, from the New Deal to the Great Society, have relied upon broad center-left coalitions.


[ii] This DSA policy is not even successful on its own terms: there are now more DSA members in Congress who have been elected without the endorsement and support of the organization than those who have been elected with it. As ultra-left and sectarian attacks from within its ranks on DSA’s elected members have grown, and as ever more purity litmus tests have been imposed for endorsement, DSA members who are viable candidates for national office are increasingly choosing to not seek the organization’s endorsement. It is only a matter of time, I would suggest, before they part ways with the organization.


[iii] The recent attack of former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on AFT President Randi Weingarten – calling Weingarten the “most dangerous person in the world,” more dangerous than “Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un” – is a striking example of the MAGA Republican attacks on teacher unions. Pompeo’s characterization came in the midst of a long diatribe of his against “critical race theory” and the 1619 Project. 


[iv] DeSantis’ press sectary, Christina Pushaw, would accuse opponents of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law of being sexual “groomers.”


[v]  Arizona recently adopted such a system, and the Republican governor of Iowa has also proposed one. Voucher use is currently concentrated in battleground states where MAGA Republicans have control of the state legislature: Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 


[vi] Under public pressure, the administrators would eventually withdraw this directive.



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