Ignore the Spin: Liberal Bullies Failed in North Carolina

Photo credit: Mr. TinDC via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The spin has begun from the results of the North Carolina governor’s race. Even as the votes are still being counted, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is suggesting that Governor Pat McCrory’s tight re-election race should warn Georgia officials against pursuing religious-freedom legislation in the 2017 session. This conclusion, though entirely predictable coming from the AJC, isn’t supported by the facts.

McCrory catapulted into the national spotlight last spring by signing a bill protecting the privacy of women and girls in taxpayer-funded restrooms. This thoroughly unremarkable action provoked the rage of wealthy radical interests from outside the state, who vowed to pull out all stops to defeat him in his re-election bid.

McCrory currently trails challenger Roy Cooper by a paper-thin margin, a few thousand votes, after 70,000 votes belatedly appeared from liberal Durham County. (The media had predicted McCrory would lose by several percentage points. Oops.) Results won’t be known until all provisional, military, and absentee ballots are counted, and there are more than enough votes there to erase Cooper’s tiny lead. But regardless of which way the election tilts, there is no basis for claims that McCrory’s action to protect privacy either hurt the state or violated the wishes of North Carolinians.

Despite the propaganda, North Carolina’s economy is humming along quite nicely. The state has welcomed dozens of new companies even since the privacy controversy erupted in the spring of 2016. In fact, other than PayPal, pretty much the only enterprises that have chosen to punish the state for exercising common sense are taxpayer-funded sports events, aging musicians, and leftist Hollywood types looking to make a political statement. Continue Reading

Clinton Moves from One Religion to Another – You Must Come Too

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (photo credit: Lorie Shaull via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

It has been observed that secular progressivism is at its core not secular but rather deeply religious, replacing the Christian doctrine of redemption with a redemptive idea of politics. Even progressive (primarily mainline Protestant) churches frequently seem to suggest a political mode of atonement: The sins of bias, intolerance, and judgmentalism can only be washed away by embracing progressive dogmas. Go and sin no more.

Hillary Clinton grew up an “old-fashioned Methodist” and presumably still considers herself part of that denomination. But as Paul Kengor relates, over the last few years she has vocally abandoned many of the moral rules of her old-fashioned faith, gravitating toward the progressive fringe beliefs roiling the Methodist church as they are so many others.

And she brooks no dissent from her new beliefs. Clinton’s pronouncements on issues related to Americans’ religious freedom demonstrate that she adheres with equal devotion to the creed that elevates sexual freedom above all others.

Perhaps the most extreme example is Clinton’s rigid, uncompromising position on abortion. As they say, if progressivism is a religion, abortion is its sacrament – and she genuflects at the altar.

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Read the full article at the Religious Freedom Institute’s Cornerstone blog.

Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project. Continue Reading

Obama Touts Education Legacy, But Ignores Dismal Reality

President Barack Obama (photo credit: Daniel Borman via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Susan Berry of Breitbart reports on President Obama’s recent speech to an audience of high-school students, describing the state of his administration’s education policy. Parts of the speech obviously emerged from his parallel universe. Other parts provided warnings, disguised as promises, about what the federal government might do to children and families in the future.

Obama claimed “real progress” in educational achievement during his almost eight years in office. He bragged about his Race to the Top program, which “inspired students to set higher, better standards [Common Core] so that we could out-teach and out-compete other nations.” Like his comrade-in-arms Jeb Bush in a Harvard speech last week, Obama didn’t explain why he considers Common Core “higher” or “better.” Maybe because college-dropout and well-known education expert Bill Gates says so.

As evidence of the effect Common Core has had on educational achievement, Obama could have cited scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP, called the “nation’s report card”). But he chose not to, perhaps because NAEP scores have stagnated or fallen since most states fully implemented Common Core.

But what about his claim that his Common Core and other policies will improve college-readiness, especially for minority students? NAEP college-readiness scores also declined last year. And in Kentucky — the state that has implemented Common Core longer than any other — the achievement gap between white and non-Asian minority students is increasing. Well done, Mr. Obama.

Now for the threats. Continue Reading

Schools Ditch Academics for Emotional Manipulation

This summer the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) announced it had chosen eight states to collaborate on creating K-12 “social emotional learning” (SEL) standards. All students, from kindergartners through high-school seniors, would be measured on five “non-cognitive” factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Under such a system teachers become essentially therapists, and students become essentially patients. Supposedly this will clear away the psychological deadwood that obstructs a student’s path to academic achievement.

But less than two months later, two of the CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have withdrawn from the initiative. Parents have begun to realize the dangers of SEL and to challenge their schools’ lemming-like march toward psychological manipulation of children.

Federal Government Probes Students’ Psyches

We’ve written about the push by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the rest of the progressive education establishment to transform education from academic content instruction to molding and assessing children’s attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors. The infamous “outcome-based education” (OBE) in the 1990s began the trend, and Head Start and the Common Core national standards advance the same foundational principles.

The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ramps up the trend in several ways. ESSA requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors, which may include measures of SEL. It also pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” (i.e., home visits by bureaucrats).

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Read the full article at The Federalist. Continue Reading

Frustrated Jeb Bush Still Won’t Give Up on Common Core

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Michael Vadon, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jeb Bush is disgruntled. The grand Common Core edifice is crumbling around him, and he can do little other than lash out at the people responsible. He did so last week in a forum held at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he has spent several weeks co-teaching a class on education reform.

During the 93-minute conversation, Bush advocated a number of reform-y ideas, such as school choice (the tax money should follow the child), digital learning (technology should be “integral to the learning experience”), expanded preschool (with training for teachers to handle “every interaction with a four-year-old”), and competency-based training (as opposed to genuine liberal-arts education). But nothing engaged his emotions — primarily anger and frustration — more than discussion of the politics of the Common Core national standards.

When asked about his support for Common Core, Bush doggedly repeated and expanded on his mantra: “I’m for higher standards. High standards, assessed faithfully, will yield college- and/or career-readiness after 12th grade.” He didn’t explain why the Common Core standards are “higher,” but then he never has.

Interestingly, Bush also admitted that the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards were “probably” higher than Common Core: “I’m not sure why Massachusetts had to change — that was their decision.” If Bush really isn’t sure why Massachusetts ditched its superior standards for Common Core, he’s the only one in the education universe who is still puzzling over that one. A federal payout of $250 million can be a powerful inducement. Continue Reading

WikiLeaks Emails Expose Details on Hillary’s $225,500 Common Core Speech

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (photo credit: Lorie Shaull via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

WikiLeaks emails reveal that Hillary Clinton is either as ignorant of, or as deceptive about, the Common Core scheme as most politicians are. Susan Berry of Breitbart News reports that in July 2014, the creepy, mind-mapping project Knewton, Inc., paid Clinton $225,500 to spout nonsense about Common Core. Imagine what the going rate must be for the truth.

Clinton first repeated the usual claim that the standards were “negotiated by a bipartisan group of governors” (But could she even name one of these governors?). The problem, in her account, was that this imaginary group of governors “had no real agreed-upon program for explaining it and selling it to people . . . .” She especially identified as misguided the decision to evaluate teachers based on Common Core test results “when everybody knew it was going to be complicated to implement” (And whose idea was that? Perhaps Arne Duncan, her co-conspirator in the Obama administration?).

So Clinton claimed the problem with the national standards isn’t that they replace genuine education with workforce training, or that they gut classic literature, or that they focus on “empty skills” rather than academic content, or that they confuse young children with “alternative math” rather than establishing the foundation of standard algorithms, or that they delay Algebra I until high school, or that they stop with an incomplete Algebra II course, or that they fail to prepare students for further STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies, or that they were created by unknown, unaccountable, unqualified people with no input from parents and other citizens, or that they’re part of an ominous system of student data-collection and governmental data-sharing, or that they were pushed onto the states through federal bribery, or that they make a mockery of the Constitution — no, the problem is that implementation was poorly planned. Continue Reading

New Report: Winners and Losers of Common Core

Photo credit: Red Maxwell (CC BY-NC 2.0) / Wilson Dias (CC BY 3.0 BR)

Teresa Mull of the Heartland Institute writes about a new report analyzing the enormous funding of the Common Core national standards — where the money came from, what it was used for, and especially, who benefited from the entire endeavor. Hint: It wasn’t the students.

The report, “Smart Money? Philanthropic and Federal Funding for the Common Core,” was produced by scholars at Penn State University. Unlike many academic discussions of Common Core, it recognizes that the national standards are designed for technical, data-driven outcomes rather than genuine education. It also recognizes the dearth of evidence that the Common Core-type of “standards-based reform” actually elevates student achievement.

The report combines these insights with a wealth of information about the federal programs (such as Race to the Top) and private foundation grants (such as the millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others) that poured into the Common Core scheme from development to implementation. From this data the report draws conclusions about Common Core winners and losers.

Winners

  • Philanthropic foundations, which “further rooted their preferences for . . . metrics, big data, measurable growth, and competition, in the education sector. . . . Venture philanthropists’ broad and strategic funding enabled them to purchase increased influence over public policy and public institutions without incurring any accountability for the policies they advanced” — policies that have no evidentiary basis for success. And crucially, the report notes that the foundations’ expenditures “empowered them to install public policies without democratic processes.” No one has ever voted for Bill Gates, but as even Common Core proponents have admitted, his “agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.”
  • The federal government, whose showering of money on states during a deep recession enabled the U.S.
Continue Reading

Obama Administration Wants to Kiss Your Local Schools Goodbye

President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom in Georgia (photo credit: The White House via Flickr)

If the Obama administration and its supporters have their way, the suburban neighborhood school could be headed for extinction. In a veritable symphony of bureaucratic coordination, the administration has figured out how to recruit three cabinet departments, liberal non-profits, and deep-pocketed foundations to this effort. It can be tough even to follow the sophisticated strategy for accomplishing this (and the president prefers it that way), but if we value our liberty, it’s worth a bit of effort to understand this scheme.

The administration is maneuvering to replace local control in education (and in other areas) with school systems that extend across entire metropolitan regions. This effort is bolstered by advocacy groups promoting “economic integration” to force suburban jurisdictions to either admit low-income students from outside their districts or redistribute the tax money that supports their schools to less affluent nearby districts. Lurking behind this plan—as with practically every nationwide education policy—is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The pincer created by Obama’s coercion from coordinated federal agencies on the one hand and Gates’s advocacy of supposedly social-justice taxing and redistribution on the other could squeeze the life out of the suburbs and suburban schools.

We Don’t Like Your Neighborhood

First, let’s have a look at the Obama coercion scheme. This ambitious plan is bound up with a new rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

Continue Reading

Civil Rights for Me, But Not for Thee

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration’s campaign to force schools to open up restrooms, locker rooms, overnight sleeping accommodations, and probably sports teams to students of either sex is not going well. The latest opposition comes from several brave students in Minnesota’s Virginia Public Schools, who are reminding the administration that they, too, have rights.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of these students and their parents, alleging the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Justice (DOJ) and the Virginia Public Schools are endangering student privacy and safety by instituting the DNA-denying policies. The complaint describes in shocking detail what the female students have encountered since the schools caved to USED and DOJ pressure. For example, “a biologically male student who identifies as a female — and who is allowed to enter the girls’ locker room under the district’s policy — went on to dance in the locker room in a sexually explicit manner — ‘twerking,’ ‘grinding’ and dancing like he was on a ‘stripper pole’ to songs with explicit lyrics . . . .” When not gyrating, he commented on the girls’ body parts and suggested he would like to “trade.”

Determined to defend their dignity, the plaintiffs complained to school authorities about this harassment and invasion of privacy. But instead of removing the male, the authorities forced the girls into less convenient restrooms and locker rooms. One of the plaintiffs was so upset by these developments that she chose to attend a different school this year. Continue Reading

E-Rate Is Another Failed Big Government Program, Why Not Double Down?

Among the silver bullets loaded into the education chamber has been, for many years, Internet access for schools. In the mid-1990s federal officials including President Bill Clinton, Internet inventor Al Gore, and Cool-Idea Guy Newt Gingrich all touted the educational benefits that were certain to flow from connecting every classroom to the worldwide web. This bipartisan enthusiasm led to the E-Rate program, enacted in 1996 as part of the Telecommunications Act. Paid for with a tax on long-distance telephone service, E-Rate provides subsidies for schools to help them access broadband service.

Twenty years and $40 billion later, how’s that working out? According to a recent study from Clemson University (Go Tigers!) and the Technology Policy Institute, not particularly well. The researchers analyzed data from North Carolina schools and found that the educational benefits of increasing Internet connections are approximately zero. In fact, there’s a small but statistically significant decrease in student achievement in schools that have used E-Rate funds to improve broadband access.

This E-Rate study was prompted by President Obama’s 2013 citation of the Mooresville, NC, school district as a success story – when computer facilities were upgraded, according to the President, student achievement soared. He thus proposed expanding the E-Rate budget from $2.25 billion to $4 billion a year. So the researchers gathered data from all N.C. public schools from 2000 to 2013 and analyzed if and how SAT scores in math and verbal reasoning changed as schools received E-Rate funding. They discovered, as researcher Dr. Thomas Hazlett reported, that “the more E-Rate funding a school received, the worse its students performed.”

According to Hazlett, this finding is consistent with previous studies. Continue Reading